Cover image for Cleanness
Title:
Cleanness
ISBN:
9780374124588
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
223 pages ; 22 cm.
Summary:
Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south, and political protesters flood the streets with song. In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he's come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student's confession recalls his own first love, a stranger's seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with another foreigner opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with our own fugitive selves.
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Summary

Summary

In the highly anticipated follow-up to his beloved debut, What Belongs to You , Garth Greenwell deepens his exploration of foreignness, obligation, and desire

Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south, and political protesters flood the streets with song.

In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he's come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student's confession recalls his own first love, a stranger's seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with another foreigner opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with our own fugitive selves.

Cleanness revisits and expands the world of Garth Greenwell's beloved debut, What Belongs to You , declared "an instant classic" by The New York Times Book Review . In exacting, elegant prose, he transcribes the strange dialects of desire, cementing his stature as one of our most vital living writers.


Author Notes

Garth Greenwell is the author of What Belongs to You , which won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year, was long-listed for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for six other awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, it was named a Best Book of 2016 by more than fifty publications in nine countries, and is being translated into a dozen languages. Greenwell's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review , A Public Space, and VICE , and he has written criticism for The New Yorker , the London Review of Books , and New York Times Book Review , among other publications. He lives in Iowa City.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A young American teacher's reckonings with intimacy and alienation compose the through line of Greenwell's elegant and melancholy volume (after What Belongs to You). Nine stories track the unnamed narrator, who teaches literature in Bulgaria's capital, Sofia. Documenting the narrator's relationship with R., a Portuguese university student, and its dissolution, the stories are touchstones in his emotional development, from an attempt to shepherd a student through the crisis of first love in "Mentor," to an encounter with homophobia in the midst of an outpouring of national solidarity in "Decent People." As the teacher's hopes of a life with R. fade, he returns to sex with men he meets online, which proves both dangerous, as in the chilling "Gospodar," and revelatory, as in his encounter with the self-abnegation of the young man he calls Svetcheto, "Little Saint." Unresolved regarding his own character, "how little sense of myself I have, how there was no end to what I could want or to the punishment I would seek," the narrator struggles to guide the young people he teaches, conscious of the chasm of experience and expectation between them. Greenwell writes about sex as a mercurial series of emotional states and is lyrical and precise in his descriptions of desires and motivations he suggests are not subject to control or understanding. This is a piercingly observant and meticulously reflective narrative. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (Jan.)


Kirkus Review

Greenwell depicts the emotionally haunted life of an expatriate American teacher in Sofia, Bulgariawho seems to be the same unnamed character who narrated his highly praised debut novel, What Belongs to You (2016).At the heart of that last novel was Mitko, a gay hustler who fueled the narrator's pained desire, then disgust, and ultimately empathy, but he doesn't appear here. The narrator pushes more sexual boundaries this time, and Greenwell admirably pushes them too by depicting those desires with an unflinching frankness. Sadomasochism, unprotected sex, the narrator's voyeuristic attraction to one of his students: They are all elements of the story, portrayed in Greenwell's precise, elegant style. The narrator's experience seems to align with Greenwell's; the writer has acknowledged the autofictional nature of his writing. Depictions of rough sex bookend the novel, but it's the narrator's relationship with Portuguese student R., who appeared briefly in What Belongs to You, that occupies most of Greenwell's attention. Both marooned in Sofia, the men are happy together until they acknowledge the futilities both of staying in Bulgaria and in a long-distance relationship. One of Greenwell's talents is making everyday occurrences feel dramatic and full of ambivalence and nuance, but the scenes featuring the relationship at the heart of the novel suffer a bit in comparison to the dramatic sex depicted in other sections. Still, the simple beauty of the writing is something to behold. Here he is evoking a wind from Africa that assaults Sofia: "There was something almost malevolent about it, as if it were an intelligence, or at least an intention, carrying off whatever wasn't secure, worrying every loose edge."Brave and beautiful. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Greenwell's What Belongs to You won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year and was long-listed for the National Book Award, so pay attention to this new work. In Sofia, Bulgaria, as protestors swarm the streets, an American teacher preparing to leave after many years recalls significant events--e.g., a queer student's confession evoking his own first love--which helps him understand how we find ourselves, our beloveds, and our place in the world.