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Rachel Cusk

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Rachel Cusk
Born (1967-02-08) 8 February 1967 (age 57)
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
EducationNew College, Oxford
Notable worksAftermath: On Marriage and Separation (2012)
The Outline Trilogy: Outline (2014), Transit (2017) & Kudos (2018)

Rachel Cusk (born 8 February 1967)[1] is a British novelist and writer.

Childhood and education[edit]

Cusk was born in Saskatoon to British parents in 1967, the second of four children with an older sister and two younger brothers, and spent much of her early childhood in Los Angeles.[1][2] She moved to her parents' native Britain in 1974,[1] settling in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.[3] She comes from a wealthy Catholic family, and was educated at St Mary's Convent in Cambridge.[1] She studied English at New College, Oxford.[4]


Early works[edit]

Cusk published her first novel, Saving Agnes in 1993 which received the Whitbread First Novel Award.[5] Its themes of femininity and social satire remained central to her work over the next decade. She followed this in 1997 with The Country Life, a comedic novel inspired by Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. It won a 1998 Somerset Maugham Award.[6][7] In 2003 she published The Lucky Ones, a novel of linked stories about five different people, loosely connected to each other.[8] That same year, Cusk was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'.[9]

Her seventh novel, Arlington Park, was shortlisted for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.

In responding to the formal problems of the novel representing female experience, she began to work in non-fiction: A Life's Work, a memoir of motherhood published in 2001, and 2012's Aftermath, which chronicled her marriage to and divorce from her second husband, the photographer Adrian Clarke.[10][3] Cusk has been a professor of creative writing at Kingston University.[1][11]

Trilogy and later works[edit]

After a long period of consideration, Cusk began working in a new form that represented personal experience while avoiding the politics of subjectivity and literalism and remaining free from narrative convention. That project became a trilogy of "autobiographical novels":[12] Outline, Transit, and Kudos. The books largely consist of an unnamed narrator chronicling the conversations she has with others, as she goes about her life as a writer.[13]

Judith Thurman in The New Yorker wrote: "Many experimental writers have rejected the mechanics of storytelling, but Cusk has found a way to do so without sacrificing its tension."[5] Outline was one of The New York Times's top 5 novels of 2015.[14] Reviewing Outline in The New York Times, Heidi Julavits wrote: "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."[15] Outline, was shortlisted for the Folio Prize,[16] the Goldsmiths Prize[17] and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.[18]

Reviewing Cusk's 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".[19] 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.[20]

Reviews of Kudos, the last novel of Cusk's trilogy, were largely positive.[21][22] Writing for The New Yorker, Katy Waldman called it "a book about failure that is not, in itself, a failure. In fact, it is a breathtaking success."[23]

In 2015, the Almeida theatre commissioned and originally produced Cusk's adaption of Medea as Medea - Euripides, A New Version.[24] In Cusk's adaptation, Medea does not murder her children.[5] Reviewing Medea, the Financial Times commented: "Rachel Cusk is known as an unsparing writer in the territory of marital break-up".[25]

Cusk’s novel Second Place was published in 2021. It is inspired by the memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan, who hosted D.H. Lawrence at her property at the Taos art colony in New Mexico, in 1924. In this work, Cusk’s experimentation with the form of the novel continued. Andrew Schenker, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, wrote: "If the Outline trilogy had seemed to push beyond the novel while still working within the form, then Second Place suggests that Cusk may have outgrown the genre entirely."[26] Cleveland Review of Books reviewed the book, saying that "the narratorial absence is part of what compels one through the novels, for it acts like a filter, distilling all other people’s tales down to their most philosophically bare, their most ethically ambiguous, their most painfully isolated."[27] The novel was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize,[28] and shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for English-language fiction at the 2021 Governor General's Awards.[29] Blandine Longre's French translation was awarded the 2022 Prix Femina étranger.[30]

Personal life[edit]

After a brief first marriage to a banker,[1] Cusk was married to photographer Adrian Clarke, with whom she has two daughters.[31] The couple separated in 2011. Their divorce became a major topic in Cusk's writings.[3]

Cusk is married to retail consultant and artist Siemon Scamell-Katz.[32][33] In 2021, the couple moved from residence in London and Norfolk[5] to Paris,[34] a protest in part against the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.[35]





  • Medea, Euripides - A new Version, 2015, Commissioned by and originally produced at the Almeida theatre in London, UK.
  • Marble in Metamorphosis (2022)

Introductions and forewords

Short stories

Awards and prizes[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • "Suburban Worlds: Rachel Cusk and Jon McGregor." In B. Schoene. The Cosmopolitan Novel. Edinburgh University Press, 2009.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barber, Lynn (30 August 2009). "Rachel Cusk: A fine contempt". The Observer. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  2. ^ Bethune, Brian (26 October 2015). "Rachel Cusk: 'On a winding road in the dark'". Maclean's. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Kellaway, Kate (24 August 2014). "Rachel Cusk: 'Aftermath was creative death. I was heading into total silence'". The Observer. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  4. ^ Heti, Sheila. "The Art of Fiction No. 246". The Paris Review: 35–63.
  5. ^ a b c d Thurman, Judith (31 July 2017). "Rachel Cusk Gut-Renovates the Novel". The New Yorker. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  6. ^ Garan Holcombe (2013), Rachel Cusk: Critical perspective, British Council, retrieved 29 December 2016
  7. ^ "The Country Life", Publishers Weekly, 4 January 1999, retrieved 29 December 2016
  8. ^ "Fiction Book Review: THE LUCKY ONES by Rachel Cusk, Author". Publishers Weekly. 26 January 2004. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Granta list of Best Young British Novelists". 2003.
  10. ^ Cusk, Rachel (21 March 2008). "I Was Only Being Honest". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Rachel Cusk". Poets & Writers. 19 June 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  12. ^ Blair, Elaine (5 January 2015). "All Told". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  13. ^ Lasdun, James (3 September 2014). "Outline by Rachel Cusk review – vignettes from a writing workshop". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  14. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2015". The New York Times. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  15. ^ Julavits, Heidi (11 January 2015). "Rachel Cusk's Outline". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  16. ^ "The Folio Prize announces 2015 shortlist". The Folio Prize. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  17. ^ Flood, Alison (1 October 2014). "Goldsmiths book prize shortlist includes crowd-funded first novel". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Dunmore, Helen (28 August 2016). "Transit by Rachel Cusk – a woman's struggle to rebuild her life". The Guardian.
  20. ^ Garner, Dwight (17 January 2017). "Rachel Cusk's Transit Offers Transcendent Reflections". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  21. ^ Smee, Sebastian (29 May 2018). "With Kudos, Rachel Cusk completes a literary masterpiece". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  22. ^ Garner, Dwight (21 May 2018). "With Kudos, Rachel Cusk Completes an Exceptional Trilogy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Rachel Cusk interview: 'Medea is about divorce … A couple fighting is an eternal predicament. Love turning to hate'". The Guardian. 3 October 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  25. ^ "Medea, Almeida Theatre, London — review". Financial Times. 4 October 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  26. ^ "Los Angeles Review of Books". Los Angeles Review of Books. 10 May 2021. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  27. ^ "Where Life Ends and Art Begins: On Rachel Cusk's "Second Place"". Cleveland Review of Books. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  28. ^ Flood, Alison (26 July 2021). "Booker prize reveals globe-spanning longlist of 'engrossing stories'". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  29. ^ a b "Ivan Coyote, David A. Robertson & Julie Flett among finalists for $25K Governor General's Literary Awards". CBC Books, October 14, 2021.
  30. ^ Dupuy, Éric (7 November 2022). "Claudie Hunzinger, Rachel Cusk et Annette Wieviorka primées au Femina 2022". Livres Hebdo (in French). Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  31. ^ Cusk, Rachel (17 February 2012). "Rachel Cusk: my broken marriage". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  32. ^ Carponen, Claire. "The $2.7 Million English Coastal Home Of Author Rachel Cusk Hits The Market". Forbes. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  33. ^ "Rachel Cusk's house is an austere, experimental, hyper-modern masterpiece. (Shocking, right?)". Literary Hub. 28 August 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  34. ^ "Rachel Cusk won't stay still". Atlantic. 24 October 2022.
  35. ^ Hitchens, Antonia (4 May 2021). "Rachel Cusk's 'Second Place' Might Be the First Pandemic Novel". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  36. ^ Laing, Olivia (24 January 2009). "Review of The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk". The Guardian.
  37. ^ Begley, Adam (28 May 2009). "Review of The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk". The New York Times.
  38. ^ "C38 Quarry". Sylph Editions. April 2022. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  39. ^ ""After Caravaggio's Sacrifice of Isaac," by Rachel Cusk". Granta. 14 April 2003. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  40. ^ Cusk, Rachel (17 April 2023). ""The Stuntman," by Rachel Cusk". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 June 2023.
  41. ^ "Whitbread Winners 1971-2005" (PDF). Costa Book Awards. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  42. ^ "Previous winners of the Somerset Maugham Awards". The Society of Authors. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  43. ^ "Whitbread 2003 shortlists". The Daily Telegraph. 10 November 2003. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  44. ^ "In the Fold". The Man Booker Prizes. September 2005. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  45. ^ "2007 Shortlist". Women's Prize for Fiction. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  46. ^ "The Scotiabank Giller Prize Presents Its 2015 Shortlist". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Canada. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  47. ^ "The Scotiabank Giller Prize Presents Its 2017 Shortlist". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Canada. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  48. ^ Gatti, Tom (26 September 2018). "Rachel Cusk makes Goldsmiths Prize shortlist for the third time". New Statesman. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  49. ^ Dupuy, Éric (7 November 2022). "Claudie Hunzinger, Rachel Cusk et Annette Wieviorka primées au Femina 2022". Livres Hebdo (in French). Retrieved 8 November 2022.

External links[edit]