Harper Lee, author of the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, one of the greatest literary successes of the last century and the basis for a classic 1962 film of the same name, has died.
She was 89.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960), the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in an Alabama town in the 1930s who defends a black man accused of killing a white man, and his daughter Scout Finch, won the Pulitzer Prize.
It has sold 30 million copies and been translated into 40 languages. It has never been out of print since its initial publication.
Gregory Peck starred as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film adaptation directed by Robert Mulligan. Robert Duvall, in his bigscreen debut, played Boo Radley, and Brock Peters portrayed Tom Robinson, the black man unjustly accused but in the end still found guilty.
The film was nominated for 8 Oscars, winning for best actor (Peck), adapted screenplay (Horton Foote) and art direction.
Lee was happy with Foote’s adaptation of her novel: “I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made,” she declared. “In that film the man and the part met. That film was a work of art.”
Lee returned to the public eye in July 2015 with the publication of a second book, “Go Set a Watchman,” which had actually been written before “To Kill a Mockingbird”. “Go Set a Watchman” is the story of an adult Scout Finch, who lives in New York in the 1950s, like Lee, and goes South to visit her father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer who, as the civil rights movement is developing, has become a segregationist.
Despite the controversy, or perhaps because of it, “Go Set a Watchman” sold more than 1 million copies in its first week.
In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Lee to the National Council on the Arts, while in 2010 President Barack Obama awarded Lee the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given by the U.S. government for “outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts.”
Three years earlier, President George W. Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.