News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore
At once a travel book, an autobiographical novel and free-floating meditation on Europe and the Antipodes, News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore begins with its narrator suspended in the salty, tideless waters of the Mediterranean.
Adrift on an ocean of art history, literature and music, of memories and a dream-like present, OBrien introduces a cast of underwater characters that includes Jacques Cousteau, the French secret service agent Dominique Prieur, Henri Matisse and the naked river-swimming nineteenth-century nun Mother Aubert.
Modernism, the politics of French nuclear testing, swimming, drowning and underwater explosions are twined together with the life of a family in an innovative and engaging exploration by one of New Zealands most celebrated writers.
Praise for News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore
From Le Corbusier to Thoreau to the Rainbow Warrior: O'Brien's 'Guide To French Usage' ranges wide but is always compelling - and occasionally surreal.
Greg O'Brien is a New Zealand poet of translucent meditations that curl from the moving plane, twist, and reconnect to form Möbius strips of endlessly circulating enigma... News of the Swimmer reads as the booklet of a self-curated, stand-alone installation of memories and reflections on the parenthood of South Pacific culture, put together from scrapbooks of a family stay at Menton....
PN REVIEW (UK)
Overall, this is an unusual and imaginatively brave piece of writing. OBrien attempts to insert his imaginative musings into the minds of his non-fictional characters, from famous French architects to skinny-dipping nuns. Personal details about the writers epileptic son co-exist with descriptions of solid French cathedrals crumbling and floating away. There is a quality of unreality and magic in the experiences OBrien relates - a freedom that perhaps comes from his other life as a poet and artist.
Gregory OBrien is one of the leading New Zealand writers of his generation. He is primarily a poet, but is also very active as essayist, editor, curator and art writer. His collection of essays, After Bathing at Baxters, was published to acclaim in 2002. His introduction to New Zealand art for children, Welcome to the South Seas, won a New Zealand Post Award for Children and Young Adults in 2005.
In 2005 he was a guest writer at the Poetry International Festival, Rotterdam, and travelled to Moscow for the launching of Land of Seas, an anthology of New Zealand poetry translated into Russian. OBrien is a contributing editor to the American literary annual Fulcrum.