Novelist Shirley Hazzard is returning to Hong Kong for the first time since she lived in the city as a teenage spy in 1948. Hazzard, 73, often described as one of the greatest living authors, has accepted an invitation to take part in next year's Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which will also include Thomas Keneally, Booker Prize-winning Australian author of Schindler's Ark, the novel that became the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List. 'I feel that it's time to return, and I am enormously excited by it,' Hazzard said from her New York home. Her most recent novel, The Great Fire, won the National Book Circle Award in the US last year and was on the longlist for this year's Man Booker Prize, as well as the shortlist for the Orange Prize, the top award for women writers. Partly set in Hong Kong, the novel depicts an affair between a 17-year-old girl and a 33-year-old British soldier soon after the second world war. Born in Australia, Hazzard was living in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1947 when her father was appointed Australian trade commissioner. When the family sailed to Hong Kong, Hazzard, then 15, was asked by a commander to work for a branch of Special Operations, part of British Intelligence. She has described her time monitoring the civil war in China as her education. Working with her were older people who loved literature. She has avoided returning to Hong Kong for 56 years, fearing it would erase her memories of the place she remembers as 'a polyglot, international, romantic, green place, seething with change but retaining as yet a measure of simplicity. Beautiful, without skyscrapers'. 'One has one's memories, and when you see the place transformed, completely unrecognisable, it affects those memories,' she said. Also confirmed for the festival are non-fiction writer William Dalrymple, children's author Jeremy Strong and Hari Kunzru, last year's Somerset Maugham Award winner.