A comprehensive look at one of Britain's most honored contemporary novelists
Graham Swift has published to widespread acclaim since his literary debut in 1980. He has won an impressive array of literary prizes, including the 1996 Booker Prize, and three of his novels have been produced as films. Understanding Graham Swift introduces readers to the entirety of the novelist's career, including his lesser-known short stories. Through close readings, David Malcolm explains the central importance Swift places on the role of history in human life—and on the difficulties of giving an adequate account of that history.
In separate chapters Malcolm considers each of Swift's seven novels, from The Sweet Shop Owner, published in 1980, through The Light of Day, published in 2003. Malcolm explores Swift's presentation of family conflict and emotional and psychological disturbance, his use of complex narrative technique and genre mixture, and his interest in metafictional issues. Malcolm underscores the novelist's debt to earlier writers, most especially George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and William Faulkner, and his recurrent concern with the lives of socially humble characters.
Malcolm discusses the novelist's use of major twentieth-century historical events to shape and deform the lives of his characters; his focus on the distortions and evasions that characterize the discussion of personal, local, and national histories; and his fascination with the complexities, sufferings, and joys that mark individual lives. Malcolm suggests that despite Swift's dark vision of human suffering, he tempers his writing with an intermittent focus on that which can redeem our failures, our losses, and our cruelties.
David Malcolm is a professor of English literature at the University of Gdansk. His books include Jean Rhys: A Study of the Short Fiction; That Impossible Thing: The British Novel, 1978–1992; and Understanding Ian McEwan, published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2002. Malcolm's translations of Polish and German poetry and prose have been published in Great Britain, Austria, and the United States. Malcolm lives in Sopot, Poland.