Kate Kellaway arrived in literary journalism after several years teaching English at a school in newly-independent Zimbabwe, where she gained the class nickname ‘Sssh Everybody’.

Although she became disillusioned with the direction of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe she did teach one pupil who surprised her with ‘a bold essay on the similarity between Comus and JR in Dallas’. In London, she worked with Auberon Waugh on the Literary Review before joining the Observer, where she has held a selection of roles. As an interviewer, she recalls weeping with humiliation after an encounter with Vanessa Redgrave and being bawled out by the novelist Anthony Powell. Such incidents, however, are rare low points in a distinguished career.