Rachel Cusk (born 8 February 1967) is a Canadian-born novelist and writer who lives and works in the United Kingdom.
Childhood and educationEdit
Cusk was born in Canada in 1967 and spent much of her early childhood in Los Angeles. She moved to the United Kingdom in 1974. She read English at New College, Oxford.
Cusk has written ten novels and three works of non-fiction. She published her first novel, Saving Agnes, at the age of 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 both groundbreaking and controversial. She has won and been shortlisted for numerous prizes: her 2014 novel, Outline, was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Baileys prize. In 2003, Rachel Cusk was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'.
After a long period of consideration, Cusk 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’s top 5 novels of 2015.
Reviewing Outline in The New York Times, Heidi Julavits writes: "While the narrator is rarely alone, reading Outline mimics the sensation of being underwater, of being separated from other people by a substance denser than air. But there is nothing blurry or muted about Cusk’s literary vision or her prose: Spend much time with this novel and you’ll become convinced she is one of the smartest writers alive."
Reviewing her novel, Transit, critic Helen Dunmore writing for The Guardian commended Cusk's "brilliant, insightful prose", adding, "Cusk is now working on a level that makes it very surprising that she has not yet won a major literary prize".
In The New York Times review of Transit, Dwight Garner said the novel offers "transcendental reflections", and that he was waiting more eagerly for Kudos, the last novel of Rachel Cusk's trilogy, than for that of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle series.
A lengthy profile in the New Yorker says this of Cusk: "Critics have hailed these books, which are the first volumes of a trilogy, as a “reinvention” of the novel, and they are certainly a point of departure for it, one at which fiction merges with oral history. Each witness has suffered and survived a version of the same experience, but uniquely, and the events that are retold don't build toward a revelation. The structure of the text, a mosaic of fragments, mirrors the unstable nature of memory. It is worth noting that “Outline” was published in 2014, a year before Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature. (“Transit” was published two years later.) Alexievich interviews women and men who have lived through cataclysms—the Second World War, Chernobyl, the Soviet gulags—and she distills their testimony into what the Swedish Academy cited as a “history of emotions.” Cusk has been chastised for ignoring politics and social inequities, and the central catastrophe in her fiction is family life. But her imaginary oral histories are exquisitely attuned to the ways in which humans victimize one another."
Reviews of Kudos, the last novel of Cusk's trilogy, have been admiring. Writing for The New Yorker, Katy Waldman calls it, "a book about failure that is not, in itself, a failure. In fact, it is a breathtaking success."
Cusk is married to the artist Siemon Scamell-Katz. The family live in London and Norfolk with their two daughters.
- Saving Agnes (1993)
- The Temporary (1995)
- The Country Life (1997)
- The Lucky Ones (2003)
- In the Fold (2005)
- Arlington Park (2006)
- The Bradshaw Variations (2009)
- The Outline Trilogy
- A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother (2001)
- The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy (2009)
- Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation (2012)
- Coventry: Essays (2019)
- Introductions and Forewords
- Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan (Penguin, 2008)
- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (Folio Society, 2009)
- The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence (Vintage, 2011)
- Complete Stories by Kingsley Amis (Penguin Classics, 2011)
Awards and prizesEdit
- 1993 Whitbread First Novel Award - Saving Agnes
- 1997 Somerset Maugham Award - The Country Life
- 2003 Whitbread Novel Award (shortlist) - The Lucky Ones
- 2005 Man Booker Prize (longlist) – In the Fold
- 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction (shortlist) - Arlington Park
- 2014 Goldmiths Prize (shortlist)
- 2015 Folio Prize (shortlist)
- 2015 Bailey's Prize (shortlist)
- 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize (shortlist)
- 2015 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction (shortlist)
- 2016 Goldsmiths Prize (shortlist)
- 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize (shortlist)
- 2018 Goldsmiths Prize (shortlist)
- "Suburban Worlds: Rachel Cusk and Jon McGregor." In B. Schoene. The Cosmopolitan Novel. Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
- Barber, Lynn (30 August 2009). "Rachel Cusk: A fine contempt". The Observer. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- Cusk, Rachel (21 March 2008). "I Was Only Being Honest". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- Kellaway, Kate (24 August 2014). "Rachel Cusk: 'Aftermath was creative death. I was heading into total silence'". The Observer. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- "The Folio Prize announces 2015 shortlist". The Folio Prize. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Flood, Alison (1 October 2014). "Goldsmiths book prize shortlist includes crowd-funded first novel". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Flood, Alison (13 April 2015). "Baileys women's prize for fiction shortlists debut alongside star names". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Granta list of Best Young British Novelists". 2003.
- "The 10 Best Books of 2015". The New York Times. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- Julavits, Heidi (11 January 2015). "Rachel Cusk's Outline". The New York Times.
- Dunmore, Helen (28 August 2016). "Transit by Rachel Cusk – a woman's struggle to rebuild her life". The Guardian.
- Garner, Dwight (17 January 2017). "Rachel Cusk's Transit Offers Transcendent Reflections". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
- Smee, Sebastian (29 May 2018). "With Kudos, Rachel Cusk completes a literary masterpiece". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- Garner, Dwight (21 May 2018). "With Kudos, Rachel Cusk Completes an Exceptional Trilogy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- Waldman, Katy (22 May 2018). "Kudos, the Final Volume of Rachel Cusk's "Faye" Trilogy, Completes an Ambitious Act of Refusal". The New Yorker. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- Cusk, Rachel (17 February 2012). "Rachel Cusk: my broken marriage". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- "Whitbread Winners 1971-2005" (PDF). Costa Book Awards. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- "Previous winners of the Somerset Maugham Awards". The Society of Authors. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
- "Whitbread 2003 shortlists". The Daily Telegraph. 10 November 2003. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "In the Fold". The Man Booker Prizes. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
- "The Scotiabank Giller Prize Presents Its 2015 Shortlist". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Canada. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "The Scotiabank Giller Prize Presents Its 2017 Shortlist". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Canada. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
- Gatti, Tom (26 September 2018). "Rachel Cusk makes Goldsmiths Prize shortlist for the third time". New Statesman. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- Julavits, Heidi (7 January 2015). "Rachel Cusk's Outline". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2019.