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About Rachel Cusk
Rachel Cusk is the author of nine novels, three non-fiction works, a play, and numerous shorter essays and memoirs. Her first novel, Saving Agnes, was published in 1993. Her most recent novel, Kudos, the final part of the Outline trilogy, will be published in the US and the UK in May 2018.
Saving Agnes won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Country Life won the Somerset Maugham Award and subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Whitbread Prize, Goldsmiths Prize, Bailey’s Prize, and the Giller Prize and Governor General’s Award in Canada. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. Her version of Euripides’ Medea was directed by Rupert Goold and was shortlisted for the Susan Blackburn Smith Award.
Rachel was born in Canada in 1967 and spent her early childhood in Los Angeles before moving to the UK in 1974. She studied English at Oxford and published her first novel Saving Agnes when she was twenty six, and its themes of femininity and social satire remained central to her work over the next decade. In responding to the formal problems of the novel representing female experience she began to work additionally in non-fiction. Her autobiographical accounts of motherhood and divorce (A Life’s Work and Aftermath) were groundbreaking and controversial.
Most recently, after a long period of consideration, she attempted to evolve a new form, one that could represent personal experience while avoiding the politics of subjectivity and literalism and remaining free from narrative convention. That project became a trilogy (Outline, Transit and Kudos). Outline was one of The New York Times’ top 5 novels in 2015. Judith Thurman’s 2017 profile of Rachel in The New Yorker comments “Many experimental writers have rejected the mechanics of storytelling, but Cusk has found a way to do so without sacrificing its tension. Where the action meanders, language takes up the slack. Her sentences hum with intelligence, like a neural pathway.”
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Longlisted for the Booker Prize
On O, The Oprah Magazine’s list of 55 of the Most Anticipated Books of 2021
On a sun-soaked Parisian street, M, a mother on the brink of rebellion, wanders into a famous artist’s gallery show. The artist’s paintings speak—quite literally—to her, promising a liberation usually reserved for men. She returns to the coastal home she shares with her husband, but the unsettling impression of the art, and the evasive artist, remains. So she writes to him, inviting him to stay in their second place, a modest cottage salvaged from the land.
When historical catastrophe upends daily life, M’s daughter returns to the marsh, along with her prim, privileged boyfriend. The painter arrives too, accompanied by a lithe, cosmopolitan lover. As the couples become resigned to the perilous indoors, fissures form within the strange group. The painter’s quietly demonic presence wreaks havoc with M, plunging her into existential disarray. As secrets, alliances and private desires come to light, she is forced to choose between her deepest impulses: to comply or to rebel completely.
Like her acclaimed Outline trilogy, Rachel Cusk’s Second Place transcends its form. Inspired by Lorenzo in Taos, Mabel Dodge Luhan’s 1932 memoir about the writer D. H. Lawrence’s fraught visit to her communal property, the novel hovers between past and present, Gothic and contemporary, fable and truth—and continues to haunt us long after we’ve looked away.
Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner. She goes swimming with an elderly Greek bachelor. The people she encounters speak, volubly, about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss. Outline is Rachel Cusk’s finest work yet, and one of the most startling, brilliant and original novels of recent years.
In 2003, Rachel Cusk published A Life's Work, a provocative and often startlingly funny memoir about the cataclysm of motherhood. Widely acclaimed, the book started hundreds of arguments that continue to this day. Now, in her most personal and relevant book to date, Cusk explores divorce's tremendous impact on the lives of women.
An unflinching chronicle of Cusk's own recent separation and the upheaval that followed—"a jigsaw dismantled"—it is also a vivid study of divorce's complex place in our society. "Aftermath" originally signified a second harvest, and in this book, unlike any other written on the subject, Cusk discovers opportunity as well as pain. With candor as fearless as it is affecting, Rachel Cusk maps a transformative chapter of her life with an acuity and wit that will help us understand our own.
The acclaimed winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, by the author of The Country Life
Chronically confused, terminally middle class, hopelessly romantic, Agnes Day lives with her two best friends in the London suburbs and works at an obscure trade magazine. Life and love seem to go on without her. But she gives a convincing performance that everything is alright--that is, until she learns that her roommates and her boyfriend are keeping secrets from her, and that her boss is quitting and leaving her in charge. In great despair, she decides to make it her business to set things straight.
Rachel Cusk explores the business of growing up and moving on with a deftly comic, surprisingly moving touch, confirming her reputation as one of England's smartest and most entertaining young writers.
Rachel Cusk’s second novel is a ruthless, surprising story of work, gender, and control.
Ralph Loman is working in an unsatisfying job at a free London newspaper when Francine Snaith, a temporary secretary for a corporate finance firm, unexpectedly crosses his path at a party. Her beauty ignites a blaze of excitement in his troubled heart. But Francine is ravenous for attention, driven by a thirst for conquest, and when Ralph tries politely to extricate himself, he finds he is bound by chains of consequence from which it seems there is no escape. In The Temporary, Rachel Cusk paints a merciless portrait of the cut and thrust of modern romance, work, and life.
A vivid and elegant account of a family's season abroad by one of our finest contemporary authors
Casting off a northern winter and an orderly life, a family decides to sell everything and go to Italy to search for art and its meanings, for freedom from routine, for a different path into the future. The award-winning writer Rachel Cusk describes a three-month journey around the Italy of Raphael and rented villas, of the Piero della Francesca trail and the tourist furnace of Amalfi, of soccer and the simple glories of pasta and gelato. With her husband and two children, Cusk uncovers the mystery of a foreign language, the perils and pleasures of unbelonging, and the startling thrill of discovery -- at once historic and intimate.
Both sharp and humane in its exploration of the desire to travel and to escape, of art and its inspirations, of beauty and ugliness, and of the challenge of balancing domestic life with creativity, The Last Supper is an astonishing memoir.
The stunning new novel from the author of Outline, a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year
In the wake of family collapse, a writer moves to London with her two young sons. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, practical—as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.
Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed novel Outline, and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change. In this precise, short, and yet epic novel, Cusk manages to describe the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life, through a narrative near-silence that draws language toward it. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one’s life and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real.
Rachel Cusk, the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of Outline and Transit, completes the transcendent literary trilogy with Kudos, a novel of unsettling power.
A woman writer visits a Europe in flux, where questions of personal and political identity are rising to the surface and the trauma of change is opening up new possibilities of loss and renewal. Within the rituals of literary culture, Faye finds the human story in disarray amid differing attitudes toward the public performance of the creative persona. She begins to identify among the people she meets a tension between truth and representation, a fissure that accrues great dramatic force as Kudos reaches a profound and beautiful climax.
In this conclusion to her groundbreaking trilogy, Cusk unflinchingly explores the nature of family and art, justice and love, and the ultimate value of suffering. She is without question one of our most important living writers.
A selection of her non-fiction writings that offer both new insights on the themes at the heart of her fiction and forge a startling critical voice on some of our most personal, social and artistic questions.
Coventry encompasses memoir, cultural criticism and writing about literature, with pieces on family life, gender, politics, D.H. Lawrence, Francoise Sagan and Elena Ferrante. Named for an essay in Granta (“Every so often, for offences actual or hypothetical, my mother and father stop speaking to me. There’s a funny phrase for this phenomenon in England: it’s called being sent to Coventry”), this collection is pure Cusk and essential reading for our age: fearless, unrepentantly erudite and dazzling to behold.
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book, A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother is multi-award-winning author Rachel Cusk’s honest memoir that captures the life-changing wonders of motherhood.
Selected by the New York Times as one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years
The experience of motherhood is an experience in contradiction. It is commonplace and it is impossible to imagine. It is prosaic and it is mysterious. It is at once banal, bizarre, compelling, tedious, comic, and catastrophic. To become a mother is to become the chief actor in a drama of human existence to which no one turns up. It is the process by which an ordinary life is transformed unseen into a story of strange and powerful passions, of love and servitude, of confinement and compassion.
In a book that is touching, hilarious, provocative, and profoundly insightful, novelist Rachel Cusk attempts to tell something of an old story set in a new era of sexual equality. Cusk’s account of a year of modern motherhood becomes many stories: a farewell to freedom, sleep, and time; a lesson in humility and hard work; a journey to the roots of love; a meditation on madness and mortality; and most of all a sentimental education in babies, books, toddler groups, bad advice, crying, breastfeeding, and never being alone.
“Funny and smart and refreshingly akin to a war diary—sort of Apocalypse Baby Now…A Life’s Work is wholly original and unabashedly true.”—The New York Times Book Review
Devenir mère, c’est faire la découverte de la contradiction. La maternité est à la fois une expérience courante et impossible à imaginer. Elle est prosaïque et auréolée de mystère. Tour à tour banale, bizarre, fascinante, épuisante, drôle et désastreuse. Devenir mère, c’est être l’actrice principale d’un drame existentiel auquel personne n’assiste. C’est le basculement soudain d’une vie ordinaire à un fouillis de passions étranges et puissantes, d’amour et de servitude, d’isolement et de compassion.
Dans L’Œuvre d’une vie, Rachel Cusk dissèque avec un humour cinglant la condition de mère moderne. Le récit aussi honnête qu’impitoyable qu’elle livre de sa première année de maternité se déploie en une multitude d’histoires, d’intrigues et d’anecdotes : un adieu à la liberté et au sommeil; une leçon d’humilité et de dévouement; un voyage jusqu’aux confins de l’amour; une méditation sur la folie et la mortalité; et surtout une initiation brutale au monde des nourrissons, des pleurs incessants aux coliques en passant par les difficultés d’allaitement, les mauvais conseils des manuels de puériculture ou le mépris de certains médecins. Et toujours cette impression d’être dépossédée du temps qui autrefois lui appartenait.
Ce livre percutant, écrit dans une langue qui refuse toute simplification, offre un portrait sans concession des débuts de la maternité, trop souvent réduits à un état de symbiose vécu dans le confort du cocon familial. C’est aussi la réflexion lucide d’une romancière devenue mère qui s’interroge sur le rapport trouble et à jamais transformé qu’elle entretient avec l’acte de créer.
Arlington Park, a modern-day English suburb very much like its American counterparts, is a place devoted to the profitable ordinariness of life. Amidst its leafy avenues and comfortable houses, its residents live out the dubious accomplishments of civilization: material prosperity, personal freedom, and moral indifference. In Arlington Park, men work, women look after children, and people generally do what's expected of them. It's a world awash in contentment but empty of belief, and riven with strange anxieties. How are they to know right from wrong? How should they use their knowledge of other people's sufferings? What is the relationship of politics to their own domestic arrangements?
Set over the course of a single rainy day, the novel moves from one household to another, and through the passing hours conducts a deep examination of its characters' lives: of Juliet, enraged at the victory of men over women in family life; of Amanda, warding off thoughts of death with obsessive housework; of Solly, who confronts her own buried femininity in the person of her Italian lodger; of Maisie, despairing at the inevitability with which beauty is destroyed; and of Christine, whose troubled, hilarious spirit presides over Arlington Park and the way of life it represents.
Darkly comic, deeply affecting, and wise, Arlington Park is a page-turning imagining of the extraordinary inner nature of ordinary life, by one of Britain's most exciting young novelists.