Kate, étudiante à la dérive, fait des « enquêtes » cinématographiques dans les rues désertées des banlieues pavillonnaires. Son père vient de mourir brutalement et elle noie son chagrin dans la défonce. Au cours d'une de ses déambulations, elle rencontre Jean, une vieille dame en pleine forme qui coupe son bois et prépare des thés délicats. Jean propose un étrange marché : elle veut bien raconter ses histoires, mais à condition que Kate cesse de boire.
Tandis que Jean déroule le mirage du rêve américain et règle ses comptes avec quelques fantômes, Viêtnam, guerre froide, mouvements contestataires, Kate affronte enfin son deuil impossible et retrouve une place dans le monde.
Avec sa prose magnétique et tendre, John Burnside rend le monde aux vivants et rappelle que seules les histoires nous sauvent.
« Nul ne pourrait dire que ce fut un choix de ma part de tuer les jumeaux, pas plus qu'une décision de les mettre au monde. Ces événements s'imposèrent l'un et l'autre comme une nécessité inéluctable, un des fils dont est tissée la toile de ce que l'on pourrait appeler destin, faute de mot plus approprié... un fil que ni moi ni personne n'aurait pu ôter sans dénaturer le motif entier. » Premier roman d'un auteur reconnu comme un grand poète, ce texte d'une violence clinique exceptionnelle est le récit d'une « expérimentation » sur deux enfants jumeaux élevés sans contact avec la parole humaine. La violence s'infiltre peu à peu dans le récit amoral conduit sur un ton détaché, sans recherche d'effet spectaculaire, d'une écriture précise et ciselée de poète.
Plongée dans les méandres les plus noirs de l'esprit humain, réflexion sur la perversion du pouvoir paternel, vertige du désir de la connaissance, réflexion sur le langage, un roman troublant.
Dans une île du nord de la Norvège, un endroit désert, magnifique et spectral où l'été est miraculeusement doux et radieux, Liv vit avec sa mère, un peintre qui s'est retiré là en pleine gloire pour mieux travailler. Son seul ami est un vieil homme qui lui raconte des histoires de trolls, de sirènes et de la huldra, une créature surnaturelle qui apparaît sous les traits d'une femme à l'irrésistible beauté, pour séduire les jeunes gens et les conduire à affronter les dangers et la mort. Noyades inexplicables et disparitions énigmatiques se succèdent au cours des nuits blanches de cet été arctique qui donne aux choses un contour irréel, fantasmagorique. Incapable de sortir de l'adolescence et de vivre dans le monde réel, Liv erre dans ce paysage halluciné et se laisse dangereusement absorber dans la contemplation des mystères qu'il recèle. Voici un livre d'une intense poésie. Lyrique. Féérique. Dérangeant. Comme souvent chez Burnside, on est à la limite - difficile à appréhender - entre ce qu'on sait et ce qu'on rêve. On est aussi dans un grand thriller.
Des adolescents disparaissent mais ici ça n'a aucune importance. Ici, c'est l'Intraville, lieu de pluie et de brouillard où les vapeurs toxiques des usines embrument les esprits et dégradent les corps. Malgré ce marasme, Leonard, 14 ans, a soif de vivre. Brillant et passionné, il dévore les livres, aime les filles et affectionne les virées entre amis. Dans les limbes, l'espoir scintille.
Parfois, mieux vaut mentir. Lorsqu'on l'interroge sur son père, John pourrait raconter la colère qui pue le whisky, le désespoir d'une mère et l'abîme de sa propre honte. Il n'a rien oublié ; devenu père à son tour, il cherche à pardonner. Pour s'astreindre au bonheur, il décide d'inventer une histoire, un mensonge qui soit vrai, un mensonge pour son fils...
Kate, a grieving, semi-alcoholic film student, invites an elderly woman to take part in an oral-history documentary. Jean declines, but makes her a bizarre counter-offer: if Kate can stay sober for four days, she will tell her a story. If she can stay sober beyond that, there will be another, and then another, amounting to the entire history of one family's life.
Gradually, Jean offers a heart-breaking account, not only of her own history - a lost lover, a family scarred by war - but of the American century itself; as a deep connection emerges between the women which will transform both of their lives.
Une nuit d'hiver, il y a très longtemps, alors que la neige venait de tomber, le diable a traversé le village de pêcheurs de Coldhaven en laissant la trace de ses pas dans les rues et sur les toits.
Michael a toujours vécu à Coldhaven et il s'y est toujours senti étranger, mais lorsque Moira, une de ses anciennes petites amies, décide que son mari violent est le diable et qu'elle se tue avec ses deux plus jeunes enfants en épargnant son aînée Hazel, elle met en marche un terrible enchaînement de faits qui va tout changer. Séduit et fasciné par la jeune Hazel, Michael va se laisser entraîner dans un voyage au bout duquel il sera forcé de faire face à ce qu'il est, d'affronter les démons de son passé.
Dans un style qui a la force limpide des contes traditionnels, l'auteur nous raconte l'histoire d'un homme marqué par la peur et la culpabilité et nous révèle ce que peut cacher une vie ordinaire. John Burnside écrit là un roman d'une beauté aussi mystérieuse et terrifiante que les traces de pas sur la neige.
Modern fictionEvery year, a boy from Innertown vanishes, disappearing forever into its chemical wastelands. Local boy Leonard must unravel the mystery of these losses, helped and hindered along the way by a mildly corrupt policeman and a series of possible hallucinations. Vintage will publish The Devil's Footprints simultaneously. 'I doubt I will read a more unsettling and memorable book this year.' Scotland On Sunday.
Modern fictionA story of friendship and loss set in an industrial new town built around a vast steel works. Thrilling book from the author of The Asylum Dance which won the Whitbread Prize.
A memoir that follows the author's hopeless quest for peace and mental security as the ghosts and terrors close in and the illusion of Surbiton falls apart.
At a critical point in her career, painter Angelika Rossdal moves to Kvaloya, a small island deep in the Arctic Circle, to dedicate herself to the solitary pursuit of her craft. With her, she brings her young daughter, Liv, who grows up isolated and unable or unwilling to make friends her own age. Now 28, Liv looks back on her life.
In the early 80s, after a decade of drug abuse and borderline mental illness, a man runs away to the suburbs, to live what he hopes will be a normal life. With the aid of his last remaining friends he finds a regular job, goes to AA meetings and resolves to 'disappear into the banal' - to escape his addictive personality and find a 'Surbiton of the mind'- but he can't seem to outrun his own demons and, before long, he is back where he started.
The suburbs, though, are not quite as normal as he had imagined and, as he relapses into chaos, he encounters a homicidal office worker who is obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock and Petula Clark, an old lover, with whom he reprises a troubled, masochistic relationship and, finally, the seemingly flesh-and-blood embodiments of all his private phantoms - as he drifts further and further into unreality.
The sequel to his haunting, celebrated account of a troubled childhood, A Lie About My Father, John Burnside's startling new memoir follows his hopeless quest for peace and mental security as the ghosts and terrors close in and the illusion of Surbiton falls apart. Unsettling, touching, oddly romantic and unflinchingly honest, this is the story of one man's search for sanity - but it is also, in its own way, the true story of an impossible, unmanageable love.
Twenty five years ago, during the spring and summer of 1975, a rapist stalked the streets of Cambridge, attacking young, single women in their bed-sits and flats and subjecting them to horrifying and increasingly violent assaults. For several months the city endured a climate of fear and suspicion, where the old assumptions about sexual relations and civic decency fell into question, and no male could be taken at face value. These events for the background to The Locust Room, John Burnside's extraordinary new novel, in which a young photographer is forced by circumstances to examine his relations with women, with other men and with his family at home. Over one dramatic summer, he becomes involved in a series of sexual intrigues and acts of subtle violence as he journeys towards tentative self-definition and what he comes to see as honourable isolation. What emerges from this atmosphere of tension and terror is Burnside's finest novel so far; an exquisitely written, beautifully observed fiction - and a moving examination of the possibilities of male tenderness, individual autonomy and personal grace.
As he sets out on his first adventure in life, a young man enters the dark realm of adult violence; a married suburbanite longs for the wide, mysterious world that seems to hover just beyond the next turn in the road; a pair of disturbed twins commit a pointless crime; and the boy of the title story, at once appalled and beguiled by the glamour of others, has all his hopes and expectations exposed by a senseless murder.
Burning Elvis is a book about innocence and fear, about boys and men who have no idea who they are, or what they are supposed to do, but are haunted by a vague apprehension of possible grace. In their differing ways they are lost, scared and, at the same time, caught up in a quest, a search for the real Graceland -- 'an idea of home, something in black and white, the smell of cheap lilac soap and a radio playing in the kitchen...and a mouthful of trick blood on the bathroom floor, to keep the night away.' Already celebrated as a prodigiously gifted novelist and poet, John Burnside now extends his range to the shorter form, in a collection of stories written with the same beautiful control, the same power to ravish and disturb.
Over seventeen years and nine collections, John Burnside has built - in the words of Bernard O'Donoghue - 'a poetic corpus of the first significance', a poetry of luminous, limpid grace. His territory is the no-man's-land of threshold and margin, the charmed half-light of the liminal, a domestic world threaded through with mystery, myth and longing. In this Selected Poems we can see themes emerge and develop within the growing confidence of Burnside's sinuous lyric poise: the place of the individual in the world, the idea of dwelling, of home, within that community, and the lure of absence and escape set against the possibilities of renewal and continuity.
This is consummate, immaculate work born out of a lean and agile craftsmanship, profound philosophical thought and a haunted, haunting imagination; the result is a poetry that makes intimate, resonant, exquisite music.
From memories of childhood and personal loss to the quiet celebration of a lover's navigational skills, from meditations on nature and sexuality to the fantasy world of aquarium fish, the poems in A NORMAL SKIN cover a wide range: lyrical in tone, and highly visual, they express once again the poet's sense of wonder at the world, while exploring some new preoccupations, including love and identity the tension between masking and self-revelation, and the writer's pleasure at returning to Scotland after a long absense. Most significant, however, is the continuing exploration of the relationship between self and other, and of the constant shifting of territory and boundaries, seen through the prism of love and home.
A breakthrough book of poetry by one of the most exciting young poets in Britain. Dealing with issues of childhood, betrayal and domestic and sexual violence, SWIMMING IN THE FLOOD is Burnside's darkest and most powerful collection yet.
The children of Innertown exist in a state of suspended terror. Every year or so, a boy from their school disappears, vanishing into the wasteland of the old chemical plant. Nobody knows where these boys go, or whether they are alive or dead, and without evidence the authorities claim they are simply runaways.
The town policeman, Morrison knows otherwise. He was involved in the cover-up of one boy's murder, and he believes all the boys have been killed. Though he is seriously compromised, he would still like to find out the killer's identity.
The local children also want to know and, in their fear and frustration, they turn on Rivers, a sad fantasist and suspected paedophile living alone at the edge of the wasteland. Trapped and frightened, one of the boys, Leonard, tries to escape, taking refuge in the poisoned ruins of the old plant; there he finds another boy, who might be the missing Liam and might be a figment of his imagination. With his help, Leonard comes to understand the policeman's involvement, and exacts the necessary revenge - before following Liam into the Glister: possibly a disused chemical weapons facility, possibly a passage to the outer world.
A terrifying exploration of loss and the violence that pools under the surface of the everyday, Glister is an exquisitely written, darkly imagined novel by one of our greatest contemporary writers.
A moving, unforgettable memoir of two lost men: a father and his child.
He had his final heart attack in the Silver Band Club in Corby, somewhere between the bar and the cigarette machine. A foundling; a fantasist; a morose, threatening drinker who was quick with his hands, he hadn't seen his son for years. John Burnside's extraordinary story of this failed relationship is a beautifully written evocation of a lost and damaged world of childhood and the constants of his father's world: men defined by the drink they could take and the pain they could stand, men shaped by their guilt and machismo.
A Lie About My Father is about forgiving but not forgetting, about examining the way men are made and how they fall apart, about understanding that in order to have a good son you must have a good father.
Saltire Scottish Book of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year.
At a critical point in her career, painter Angelika Rossdal suddenly moves to Kvaloya, a small island deep in the Arctic Circle, to dedicate herself to the solitary pursuit of her craft. With her, she brings her young daughter, Liv, who grows up isolated and unable or unwilling to make friends her own age, spending much of her time alone, or with an elderly neighbour, Kyrre Jonsson, who beguiles her with old folk tales and stories about trolls, mermaids and - crucially for the events that unfold in the summer of her eighteenth year - about the huldra, a wild spirit who appears in the form of an irresistibly beautiful girl, to lure young men to their doom.
/> Now twenty-eight, Liv looks back on her life and particularly to that summer when two boys drowned under mysterious circumstances in the still moonlit waters off the shores of Kvaloya. Were the deaths accidental, or were the boys, as Kyrre believes, lured to their deaths by a malevolent spirit? To begin with, Liv dismisses the old man's stories as fantasy, but as the summer continues and events take an even darker turn, she comes to believe that something supernatural is happening on the island. But is it? Or is Liv, a lonely girl who has spent her entire life in the shadow of her beautiful, gifted mother, slowly beginning to lose touch with reality?
Set in the white nights of an Arctic summer, the novel has the heightened, hallucinogenic atmosphere of a dream, but culminates in a oment of profound horror. Intensely imagined and exquisitely written, A Summer of Drowning is a play of dark and light, of looking and seeing, that will hold and haunt every reader.
Lucid, tender, and strangely troubling, the poems in The Asylum Dance - which won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry in 2000 - are hymns to the tension between the sanctuary of home and the lure of escape. This is territory that Burnside has made his own: a domestic world threaded through with myth and longing, beyond which lies a no man's land - the 'somewhere in between' - of dusk or dawn, of mists or sudden light, where the epiphanies are.
Using the framework of four long poems, 'Ports', 'Settlements', 'Fields' and 'Roads', the poet balances presence with absence; we are shown the homing instinct - felt in the blood and marrow - as a pull to refuge, simplicity, and a safe haven, while at the same time hearing the siren call from the world beyond: the thrilling expectancy of fairground or dancehall, the possibilities of the open road. With a confident open line and complete command of the language, John Burnside writes with grace, agility and profound philosophical purpose, confirming his position in the front rank of contemporary poetry.
In Persian myth, it is said that Akbar the Great once built a palace which he filled with newborn children, attended only by mutes, in order to learn whether language is innate or aquired. As the year passed and the chidren grew into their silent and difficult world, this palace became known as the Gang Mahal, or Dumb House. In his first novel, John Burnside explores the possibilites inherent in a modern-day repetition of Akbar`s investigations. Following the death of his mother, the unnamed narrator creates a twisted varient of the Dumb House, finally using his own chidren as subjects in a bizarre experiment. When the children develop a musical language of their own, however, their gaoler is the one who is excluded, and he extracts an appalling revenge.
The Mercy Boys are four Dundee men who meet every day in their local pub and drink: first to find order, then oblivion. Each has his own ghosts, his dreams of escape. But when death comes to the Mercy Boys it comes suddenly and with staggering violence, and their dreams of leaving bleed into nightmares.