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.
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.
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.
Dans un paysage dominé par une usine chimique abandonnée, au milieu de bois empoisonnés, l'Intraville, aux immeubles hantés de bandes d'enfants sauvages, aux adultes malades ou lâches, est devenue un modèle d'enfer contemporain.
Année après année, dans l'indifférence générale, des écoliers disparaissent près de la vieille usine. Ils sont considérés par la police comme des fugueurs.
Leonard et ses amis vivent là dans un état de terreur latente et de fascination pour la violence. Pourtant Leonard déclare que, si on veut rester en vie, ce qui est difficile dans l'Intraville, il faut aimer quelque chose. Il est plein d'espoir et de passion, il aime les livres et les filles.
Il y a dans ce roman tous les ingrédients d'un thriller mais le lecteur est toujours pris à contrepied par la beauté de l'écriture, par les changements de points de vue et leur ambiguïté, par le raffinement de la réflexion sur la façon de raconter les histoires et les abîmes les plus noirs de la psychologie.
On a le souffle coupé, mais on ne sait pas si c'est par le respect et l'admiration ou par la peur. On est terrifié mais aussi touché par la grâce d'un texte littéraire rare.
"Un joyau exceptionnel qui va au-delà d'une histoire déconcertante et troublante pour éclairer les possibilités infinies du roman." - Irvine Welsh
John Burnside est né le 19 mars 1955 dans le Fife, en Écosse, où il vit actuellement. Il a étudié au collège des Arts et Technologies de Cambridge. Ancien écrivain en résidence à l'université de Dundee, il enseigne aujourd'hui à l'université de Saint Andrews.
Poète reconnu, il a reçu en 2000 le prix Whitbread de poésie.
Il est l'auteur des romans La Maison muette (Métailié, 2003), Une vie nulle part (Métailié, 2005), Les Empreintes du diable (Métailié, 2008) et Un mensonge sur mon père (Métailié, 2009).
Mon père a passé sa vie à dire des mensonges et, parce que je ne savais pas faire autrement, je les ai répétés. Mon monde était un tissu de mensonges, grands et petits, sur tout.
Le mensonge dans le titre de cet étonnant récit est né de la honte. En voyageant au nord de l'Etat de New York dans les années 90, John Burnside ne peut pas supporter de partager la vérité sur son père lors d'une conversation de rencontre avec un autostoppeur. Il dissimule son malaise sous un mensonge. Ce qui lui est naturel.
Son père, abandonné quand il était bébé devant la porte d'un inconnu, a créé un remarquable réseau de mensonges pour effacer cet événement insupportable. John, dès son enfance, a représenté tout ce qui n'allait pas dans le monde et il est devenu le destinataire de la haine de soi, de son père sous la forme d'une violence furieuse et, pire, d'une humiliation mesquine et cruelle. John a grandi au contact rude de la classe laborieuse écossaise puis ensuite anglaise ; il a appris à mentir à son père, puis, plus tard, sur son père.
"Un livre écrit par un maître de la langue, qui pousse le langage à ses limites. Minutieux, souple et généreux, c'est un livre sur le mensonge qui est plus vrai que tout ce qu'on peut dire." - Hilary Mantel, London Review of Books
John Burnside est né en 1955 dans le Fife, en Ecosse, où il vit actuellement. Il a étudié au Collège des Arts et Technologies de Cambridge. Ancien écrivain de la Résidence de l'Université Dundee, il enseigne aujourd'hui à l'Université de St Andrews.
Son premier recueil de poésie, The Hoop, est publié en 1998, et lui vaut de nombreuses récompenses. Il est aussi l'auteur d'un recueil de nouvelles et de plusieurs romans, tels que La Maison muette (Métailié, 2003), Prix Charles Baudelaire de la Traduction, Une Vie nulle part (Métailié, 2005), et Les Empreintes du Diable (Métailié, 2006).
In the early 80s, after a decade of drug abuse and borderline mental illness, John Burnside resolved to escape his addictive personality and find calm in a 'Surbiton of the mind'. But the suburbs 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 embodiemnts of all his private phantoms.The sequel to his haunting, celebrated account of a troubled childhood, Waking Up in Toytown is unsettling, touching, oddly romantic and unflinchingly honest.
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.
Lucid, tender, and strangely troubling, the poems in The Asylum Dance - which won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry - 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.
As a child, Luke's mother often tells him the story of the Dumb House, an experiment on newborn babies raised in silence, designed to test the innateness of language. As Luke grows up, his interest in language and the delicate balance of life and death leads to amateur dissections of small animals - tiny hearts revealed still pumping, as life trickles away. But as an adult, following the death of his mother, Luke's obsession deepens, resulting in a haunting and bizarre experiment on Luke's own children.
Taking its title from Uccello's famous painting of a band of men - on foot and on horseback - massing for the chase, John Burnside's new poems take us on a journey out of the light and into the darkness, where we may just as easily lose ourselves as find what we are looking for. In these poems of hunting and predation, Burnside explores our most deep-rooted and primeval pursuits: romantic love, memory, selfhood, grief, the recollection of the dead. Yet just as we seek, so are we sought out: at any moment we may slide into loss or be gathered in by some otherworldly light; at any moment, the angel of the annunciation may seek us out and demand some astonishing transformation. Even in the pursuit of love, or in the exercise of memory, we fall into snares and become entangled in veils; just as we are always on the point of discovery, so we are always a hair's-breadth away from being lost. Concerned with love and mourning, with what we discover and what remains hidden - with learning how to follow the trail through the forest and find the way home - above all, these poems are about the quest: knowing that whatever we bring back from the hunt, it is always hard-won and never fully our own.With this extraordinary collection of fleet and deftly beautiful poems, John Burnside confirms his place at the forefront of writing, as one of a handful of truly important British poets working today.
To the Shakers, a good song was a gift; indeed the test of a song's goodness was how much of a gift it was. In their call to 'labour to make the way of God your own', Shaker artists expressed an aesthetic that had much in common with the old Japanese notion, attributed to Hokusai, that to paint bamboo, one had first to become bamboo. In his tenth collection, John Burnside begins with an interrogation of the gift song, treating matters of faith and connection, the community of living creatures and the idea of a free church - where faith is placed, not in dogma or a possible credo, but in the indefinable - and moves on through explorations of time and place, towards a tentative and idiosyncratic re-ligere, the beginnings of a renewal of the connection to, and faith in, an ordered world. The book closes with a series of meditations on place, entitled 'Four Quartets', intended both as a spiritual response to the string quartets of Bartok and Britten (as Eliot's were to Beethoven's late quartets), and as an experiment in the poetic form that the finest of poets, the true miglior fabbro, chose as a medium for his own declaration of faith. The poems in this collection are true gifts: thrillingly beautiful, charged with power and mystery, each imbued with the generous skills of a master of his craft.
Once, on a winter's night many years ago, after a heavy snow, the devil passed through the Scottish fishing town of Coldhaven, leaving a trail of dark hoofprints across the streets and roofs of the sleeping town. Michael Gardiner has lived in Coldhaven all his life, but still feels like an outsider, a blow-in. When Moira Birnie decides that her abusive husband is the devil and then kills herself and her two young sons, a terrible chain of events begins. Michael's infatuation with Moira's teenage daughter takes him on a journey towards a defined fate, where he is forced to face his present and then, finally, his past...
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.
John Burnside's remarkable book is full of strange, unnerving poems that hang in the memory like a myth or a song. These are poems of thwarted love and disappointment, of raw desire, of the stalking beast, 'eye-teeth/and muzzle/coated with blood'; poems that recognise 'we have too much to gain from the gods, and this is why/they fail to love us'; poems that tell of an obsessive lover coming to grief in a sequence that echoes the old murder ballads, or of a hunter losing himself in the woods while pursuing an unknown and possibly unknowable quarry. Drawing on sources as various as the paintings of Pieter Brueghel and the lyrics of Delta blues, Black Cat Bone examines varieties of love, faith, hope and illusion, to suggest an unusual possibility: that when the search for what we expected to find - in the forest or in our own hearts - ends in failure, we can now begin the hard and disciplined quest for what is actually there.Full of risk and wonder, Black Cat Bone shows the range of Burnside's abilities, but also strikes out for new territories. He remains consistently, though, one of our finest living lyric poets and each of these astonishing poems is as clear and memorable as 'a silver bracelet//falling for days/through an inch and a half/of ice'.
A young girl, Liv, lives with her mother on a remote island in the Arctic Circle. Her only friend is an old man who beguiles her with tales of trolls, mermaids, and the huldra, a wild spirit who appears as an irresistably beautiful girl, to tempt young men to danger and death. Then two boys drown within weeks of each other under mysterious circumstances, in the still, moonlit waters off the shores of Liv's home.Were the deaths accidental or were the boys lured to their doom by a malevolent spirit?
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.
Corby, the industrial new town built around a vast steel works, draws many to the fires of its furnaces - in the hope of steady work, a better house, a fresh start. Amongst them are Francis Cameron, from Scotland, and his friend Jan Ruckert, the son of Latvian refugees. Alienated, intelligent and curious, they form a strong and lasting bond: two teenage boys finding their feet in a foreign place. But violence hangs in the Corby air like the ash and the stench from the steel works, and when it comes down it is sudden and lethal - with repercussions that will last a lifetime. Living Nowhere is a story of friendship and loss - a resonant, thrilling book that carries at its core a beautiful and terrible secret.
In these remarkable stories, John Burnside takes us into the lives of men and women trapped in marriage, ensnared by drink, diminished by disappointment; all kinds of women, all kinds of men - lonely, unfaithful, dying - driving empty roads at night. These are people for whom the idea of 'home' has become increasingly intangible, hard to believe - and happiness, or grace, or freedom, all now seem to belong in some kind of dream, or a fable they might have read in a children's picture book. As he says in one story, 'All a man has is his work and his sense of himself, all the secret life he holds inside that nobody else can know.' But in each of these normal, damaged lives, we are shown something extraordinary: a dogged belief in some kind of hope or beauty that flies in the face of all reason and is, as a result, both transfiguring and heart-rending. John Burnside is unique in contemporary British letters: he is one of our best living poets, but he is also a thrillingly talented writer of fiction. These exquisitely written pieces, each weighted so perfectly, opens up the whole wound of a life in one moment - and each of these twelve short stories carries the freight and density of a great novel.
Shortlisted for the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection'There are lines in All One Breath for instance, that brand themselves into your brain with the fire of painful recognition. And yet it is also part of his genius to be ever alert to beauty, too.' - Sebastian Barry, a New Statesman Book of the YearIn this absorbing, brilliant new collection - his first since Black Cat Bone - John Burnside examines our shared experience of this mortal world: how we are 'all one breath' and - with that breath - how we must strive towards the harmony of choir. Recognising that our attitudes to other creatures - human and non-human - cause too much damage and hurt, that 'we've been going at this for years: / a steady delete / of anything that tells us what we are', these poems celebrate the fleeting, charged moments where, through measured and gracious encounters with other lives, we find our true selves, and bring some brief, insubstantial goodness and beauty into being. He presents the world in a series of still lifes, in tableaux vivants and tableaux morts, in laboratory tests, anatomy lessons, in a Spiegelkabinett where the reflections in the mirrors, distorted as they seem, reveal buried truths. All the images are in some sense self-portraits: all are, in some way, elegies.One of the finest and most celebrated lyric poets at work today, John Burnside is a master of the moment - when the frames of our film seem to slow and stop and a life slips through the gap in between - and each poem here is a perfect, uncanny hymn to humanity, set down 'to tell the lives of others'.