Biography of Graham Swift

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Short introduction to the author`slife and style.

Short introduction to the author`slife and style.

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  • 1. BIOGRAPHYNovelist Graham Swift was born in London in 1949. He was educated at Dulwich College, Queens College,Cambridge, and York University. He was nominated as one of the 20 Best of Young British Novelists in the BookMarketing Councils promotion in 1983.He is the author of eight novels. The first, The Sweet Shop Owner (1980), is narrated by disillusioned shopkeeperWilly Chapman, and unfolds over the course of a single day in June. The narrator of his second novel, Shuttlecock(1981), winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, becomes obsessed with his fathers experiences during theSecond World War.Waterland, his acclaimed third novel, was published in 1983. Narrated by history teacher Tom Crick, it describeshis youth spent in the Norfolk fens during the Second World War. These personal memories are woven into agreater history of the area, slowly revealing the seeds of a family legacy that threatens his marriage. The book wonthe GuardianFiction Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. It was followed by Out of this World(1988), thestory of a photojournalist and his estranged daughter, and Ever After (1992), in which a university professormakes a traumatic discovery about his career.Swifts sixth novel, Last Orders (1996), which won the Booker Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black MemorialPrize (for fiction), recounts a journey begun in a pub in Londons East End by four friends intent on fulfilling apromise to scatter the ashes of their dead drinking-partner in the sea. A film adaptation of the novel starringMichael Caine and Bob Hoskins was first screened in 2001. His novel, The Light of Day (2003), is the story of amurder, a love affair and a disgraced former policeman turned private detective. Tomorrow (2007), explorescomplex themes of parenthood, coupledom and identity via the personal thoughts and memories of theprotagonist, Paula, as she lies awake one night in bed.His first non-fiction book is Making an Elephant: Writing from Within (2009).Graham Swift is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He lives in London. Top of pageGENRES (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)Fiction, Short storiesBIBLIOGRAPHYThe Sweet Shop Owner Allen Lane, 1980
  • 2. Shuttlecock Allen Lane, 1981Learning to Swim and Other Stories London Magazine Editions, 1982Waterland Heinemann, 1983The Magic Wheel: An Anthology of Fishing in Literature (co-editor with David Profumo) Picador /Heinemann, 1985Out of this World Viking, 1988Ever After Picador, 1992Last Orders Picador, 1996The Light of Day Hamish Hamilton, 2003Tomorrow Picador, 2007Making an Elephant: Writing from Within Picador, 2009 BUY BOOKS BY GRAHAM SWIFT AT AMAZON.CO.UK Top of pagePRIZES AND AWARDS1981 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize Shuttlecock1983 Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) Waterland1983 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize Waterland1983 Guardian Fiction Prize Waterland1983 Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy) Waterland1983 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize Waterland1992 Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger (France) Ever After1996 Booker Prize for Fiction Last Orders1996 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) (joint winner) Last Orders Top of pageCRITICAL PERSPECTIVEWhen Graham Swift was awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction for his sixth novel Last Orders in 1996, it was seenby many critics and readers as long overdue acknowledgement of his status as a contemporary novelist. GrahamSwifts novels are all ambitious in their own ways in their thematic and narrative scope. Swift tackles ideas ofnarrative, history, conflicts between the generations, the place of an individual in the larger scale of events. Hisnovels are frequently organised around an underlying mystery, and his oblique and non-linear narrative techniquelends itself to a gradual revelation of events in a manner reminiscent at times of the nineteenth century detectivenovel.
  • 3. Swift revels in complex narrative strategies; his characters debate, and their accounts reflect, a rejection of thechronologically linear view of narrative. Swift questions the nature of narrative through questioning the reality ofhistory, a theme that is central toShuttlecock (1981), Waterland (1983), Out of This World (1988), and EverAfter (1992). In all these novels Swift considers the nature of the relationship between personal and publichistories, between self-created and orderly narratives and the disorderly nature of actuality. In Shuttlecock theprotagonist Prentis struggles to identify how much reality there is in his fathers self-declared World War IIheroism. In a similar fashion in Ever After the central character, Bill Unwin, becomes aware that his own vision iscolouring his allegedly factual reconstruction of the life of his great-great grandfather from his ancestorsnineteenth-century notebooks. In Waterland Crick the history teacher interlaces an account of the seminal eventsof his own life with an account of events and personalities from the Industrial Revolution to the present. Crickinterweaves the personal, the regional and the national, and sets all these against the historical perspective of thenatural world and the landscape of the Fens. In Out of This Worlddifferent generations look back from differingstances on the professional activities of their parents in wartime situations, creating narratives which are mediatedthrough memory and personal resentments so that they have no objective existence.History as narrative is for Swift primarily a personal rather than a factual reality, a fact reflected in his use of apredominantly first person narration in what is almost a stream of consciousness manner. Story telling is centralto Waterland, as Crick debates the very nature of history and the relationship between past and present. The novelis essentially a dramatic monologue, the history teacher in the classroom recounting his own life story as well asthat of his ancestors. Swifts narrators generally interact to a minimal degree with their addressees, although theawareness of their presence can create a distinctive tone of voice. The schoolboys of Waterland are addresseddirectly, if not always aloud, as children, and the fact that Cricks tale is full of adult horrors (suicide, murder andabortion) makes the contrast between his narrative mode and the tale he tells all the more unsettling.Both Shuttlecock and Ever After (1992) play with the idea of the narrative within thenarrative. Shuttlecock contains the memoirs of the apparently heroic father and his World War II exploits. Thenarrator in Ever After finds himself in possession of his great-great grandfathers nineteenth century letters, andtemporal boundaries are further blurred by the way in which the narrator within the narration becomes a presencein the novels present tense.Narrative in Last Orders is carried by an even greater multiplicity of voices. The four central characters of the novelcome together to carry out the last wish of their recently deceased friend by scattering his ashes from the end ofMargate Pier. Their day is presented in an interwoven series of first person narratives, shifting between times andtenses, as memories of and revelations about the dead man are woven into the recriminations and irritations oftheir immediate situation. The blackly farcical events of a day in which four men come together in a processiontowards the final resting-place of their friend is unmistakably reminiscent of the Hades episode in Joyces Ulysses;Swift creates something of the same sense of unease, coloured with the same grim humour.The significance of history and the presence and influence of earlier narratives is evident in the way in which Swift
  • 4. himself makes use of previous literary traditions in his work.Last Orders alludes not only to Ulysses but also toFaulkners As I Lay Dying. Waterland, set in the East Anglican Fens, conjures up the similar landscape of GreatExpectations, and in its epigraph explicitly draws on Dickens to reinforce the powerful presence of the flatmarshland. Also in the background of the novel is George Eliots The Mill on the Floss, with its lock setting andemphasis on the place and power of water in mans working life.Ever After, with its account of a recoverednineteenth-century manuscript, and the depiction of the rivalries and intrigue of the academic world, presents adark and conspiratorial world reminiscent of Henry Jamess The Aspern Papers.Swifts emphasis on personal history and the subjective nature of memory leads him to raise questions about thediffering perspectives of the generations. In Shuttlecock three generations of the Prentis family meditate activelyon their interactions, while in the fourth generation the central protagonists sons are a passive and silently criticalpresence. Women are often peripheral in Swifts novels to the interaction between the men. In Last Orders thedead mans wife is present chiefly as adjunct to and cause of the competition and secrecy among the four men.Relations between fathers and sons in particular form a recurrent strand in Swifts novels; the way in which machoposturing, whether over wars, careers or women, is crucial in creating these relationships forms a central strandof Shuttlecock, Out of this World and Last Orders.Graham Swifts novels deal with the extraordinary in the ordinary. In their settings, language and characterisationsSwifts novels are sparse and consciously drab. His protagonists are often ordinary men, middle-aged clerks orteachers or accountants. In their voices Swift ponders some of the bigger issues of life - death, birth, marriage andsex - as well as the everyday politics of relationships and friendships. His intricate narrative patterns raisequestions about the relationship between personal histories and world events, between personal and publicperceptions. He highlights the impossibility of creating a single objective reality, fictional or otherwise, and throughfiction investigates the very nature of fiction.Cora Lindsay, 2002 Top of pageAUTHOR STATEMENTI believe it would be a bad day for a writer if he could say, "I know exactly what Im doing", and I am wary ofmaking statements about my work. If I have any abiding allegiance in my writing it is to the power of theimagination, and I hope my imagination will always surprise and stretch me and take me along unsuspected paths,just as I hope it will continue to bring me up against certain things which I will have to recognise as my ownpeculiar territory - though that too is a process of discovery, not of preconception.I have no wariness about the potential of fiction as such, or the privilege and joy (despite many an agony!) ofwriting it. Where else can you have such licence of expression? Where else can you combine so richly and
  • 5. intimately the world of ideas with the world of concrete reality? And where else can you know - or at least hope -that for each individual reader, each act of collaboration between author and reader, the experience will besomething different? I have enormous faith in that invisible collaborative experience, though when I write I neverthink of the reader. Fiction seems to me only to do in a specialised, concentrated way what we all need to do: toenter, in our minds, experiences other than our own. That is no small or simple thing - all our moral and socialpretensions rest upon it. So I have no wariness about fictions importance either.CRITICAL PERSPECTIVEWhen Graham Swift was awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction for his sixth novel Last Orders in 1996, it was seenby many critics and readers as long overdue acknowledgement of his status as a contemporary novelist. GrahamSwifts novels are all ambitious in their own ways in their thematic and narrative scope. Swift tackles ideas ofnarrative, history, conflicts between the generations, the place of an individual in the larger scale of events. Hisnovels are frequently organised around an underlying mystery, and his oblique and non-linear narrative techniquelends itself to a gradual revelation of events in a manner reminiscent at times of the nineteenth century detectivenovel.Swift revels in complex narrative strategies; his characters debate, and their accounts reflect, a rejection of thechronologically linear view of narrative. Swift questions the nature of narrative through questioning the reality ofhistory, a theme that is central toShuttlecock (1981), Waterland (1983), Out of This World (1988), and EverAfter (1992). In all these novels Swift considers the nature of the relationship between personal and publichistories, between self-created and orderly narratives and the disorderly nature of actuality. In Shuttlecock theprotagonist Prentis struggles to identify how much reality there is in his fathers self-declared World War IIheroism. In a similar fashion in Ever After the central character, Bill Unwin, becomes aware that his own vision iscolouring his allegedly factual reconstruction of the life of his great-great grandfather from his ancestorsnineteenth-century notebooks. In Waterland Crick the history teacher interlaces an account of the seminal eventsof his own life with an account of events and personalities from the Industrial Revolution to the present. Crickinterweaves the personal, the regional and the national, and sets all these against the historical perspective of thenatural world and the landscape of the Fens. In Out of This Worlddifferent generations look back from differingstances on the professional activities of their parents in wartime situations, creating narratives which are mediatedthrough memory and personal resentments so that they have no objective existence.History as narrative is for Swift primarily a personal rather than a factual reality, a fact reflected in his use of apredominantly first person narration in what is almost a stream of consciousness manner. Story telling is central
  • 6. to Waterland, as Crick debates the very nature of history and the relationship between past and present. The novelis essentially a dramatic monologue, the history teacher in the classroom recounting his own life story as well asthat of his ancestors. Swifts narrators generally interact to a minimal degree with their addressees, although theawareness of their presence can create a distinctive tone of voice. The schoolboys of Waterland are addresseddirectly, if not always aloud, as children, and the fact that Cricks tale is full of adult horrors (suicide, murder andabortion) makes the contrast between his narrative mode and the tale he tells all the more unsettling.Both Shuttlecock and Ever After (1992) play with the idea of the narrative within thenarrative. Shuttlecock contains the memoirs of the apparently heroic father and his World War II exploits. Thenarrator in Ever After finds himself in possession of his great-great grandfathers nineteenth century letters, andtemporal boundaries are further blurred by the way in which the narrator within the narration becomes a presencein the novels present tense.Narrative in Last Orders is carried by an even greater multiplicity of voices. The four central characters of the novelcome together to carry out the last wish of their recently deceased friend by scattering his ashes from the end ofMargate Pier. Their day is presented in an interwoven series of first person narratives, shifting between times andtenses, as memories of and revelations about the dead man are woven into the recriminations and irritations oftheir immediate situation. The blackly farcical events of a day in which four men come together in a processiontowards the final resting-place of their friend is unmistakably reminiscent of the Hades episode in Joyces Ulysses;Swift creates something of the same sense of unease, coloured with the same grim humour.The significance of history and the presence and influence of earlier narratives is evident in the way in which Swifthimself makes use of previous literary traditions in his work.Last Orders alludes not only to Ulysses but also toFaulkners As I Lay Dying. Waterland, set in the East Anglican Fens, conjures up the similar landscape of GreatExpectations, and in its epigraph explicitly draws on Dickens to reinforce the powerful presence of the flatmarshland. Also in the background of the novel is George Eliots The Mill on the Floss, with its lock setting andemphasis on the place and power of water in mans working life.Ever After, with its account of a recoverednineteenth-century manuscript, and the depiction of the rivalries and intrigue of the academic world, presents adark and conspiratorial world reminiscent of Henry Jamess The Aspern Papers.Swifts emphasis on personal history and the subjective nature of memory leads him to raise questions about thediffering perspectives of the generations. In Shuttlecock three generations of the Prentis family meditate activelyon their interactions, while in the fourth generation the central protagonists sons are a passive and silently criticalpresence. Women are often peripheral in Swifts novels to the interaction between the men. In Last Orders thedead mans wife is present chiefly as adjunct to and cause of the competition and secrecy among the four men.Relations between fathers and sons in particular form a recurrent strand in Swifts novels; the way in which machoposturing, whether over wars, careers or women, is crucial in creating these relationships forms a central strandof Shuttlecock, Out of this World and Last Orders.
  • 7. Graham Swifts novels deal with the extraordinary in the ordinary. In their settings, language and characterisationsSwifts novels are sparse and consciously drab. His protagonists are often ordinary men, middle-aged clerks orteachers or accountants. In their voices Swift ponders some of the bigger issues of life - death, birth, marriage andsex - as well as the everyday politics of relationships and friendships. His intricate narrative patterns raisequestions about the relationship between personal histories and world events, between personal and publicperceptions. He highlights the impossibility of creating a single objective reality, fictional or otherwise, and throughfiction investigates the very nature of fiction.Cora Lindsay, 2002 Top of pageAUTHOR STATEMENTI believe it would be a bad day for a writer if he could say, "I know exactly what Im doing", and I am wary ofmaking statements about my work. If I have any abiding allegiance in my writing it is to the power of theimagination, and I hope my imagination will always surprise and stretch me and take me along unsuspected paths,just as I hope it will continue to bring me up against certain things which I will have to recognise as my ownpeculiar territory - though that too is a process of discovery, not of preconception.I have no wariness about the potential of fiction as such, or the privilege and joy (despite many an agony!) ofwriting it. Where else can you have such licence of expression? Where else can you combine so richly andintimately the world of ideas with the world of concrete reality? And where else can you know - or at least hope -that for each individual reader, each act of collaboration between author and reader, the experience will besomething different? I have enormous faith in that invisible collaborative experience, though when I write I neverthink of the reader. Fiction seems to me only to do in a specialised, concentrated way what we all need to do: toenter, in our minds, experiences other than our own. That is no small or simple thing - all our moral and socialpretensions rest upon it. So I have no wariness about fictions importance either.Source: British Source