The Swan Book

I’m trying to work out if a book hasn’t been talked about (one that really ought to be talked about, for I strongly suspect it changes the way we read post apocalyptic SF) or if I’ve simply missed the conversation. I’ve seen discussions and reviews in Australia but if there have been serious ones outside, I’ve missed them. Can anyone help me? The novel is Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book.

I’ve been writing about it this week and in the writing, I’ve come to the realisation that this is one of those novels that could change the way we see SF. Only if we recognise it as SF, of course. It has been recognised as SF (just) within Australia. I can’t see the reception outside this country, though, and I’m curious.

One of the reasons I’m curious is because it’s such a very literary work and so beautifully polemical. Wright is Australia’s Margaret Atwood or Doris Lessing. I want to know how The Swan Book reads to someone who doesn’t know the politics and the history and has to access these through the novel itself. I want to know how the extraordinary language and the unpicking of the fairytale and European realities operate as a way into story.

What I really want right now (because I’m hungry for it) is a volume where SF scholars talk about this book, but it’s too early and I’ll have to wait. In the meantime, if the scholarly end of the SF community has written about it and anyone can point me in that direction, I’ll be most grateful.

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