literary journalism

‘Coventry’ by Rachel Cusk

The author’s voice emerges loud and clear in a collection of essays that slowly chisel away at the truth

To be “sent to Coventry” is a quaint English expression, of uncertain origin, which means to be frozen out by means of being ignored. “If other people pretend you’re not there,” asks Rachel Cusk in the titular essay of her first collection, “how long can you go on believing you exist?”

The question is particularly interesting coming from Cusk, whose acclaimed trilogy of novels, Outline (2014), Transit (2016) and Kudos (2018), featured a deliberately intangible narrator, a woman who is given shape by the contents of the conversations she relays.

In “Coventry”, originally published in Granta in 2016, Cusk explains that her parents periodically withdraw contact without explanation. When her mother reaches out to reconnect after one such absence, Cusk decides not to re-engage, preferring to take up permanent residence in Coventry. It is from this place of exile that she observes the workings of the world…

Read the full article online in The Financial Times.

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