Author Susan Swan’s ouevre gained some worthy recognition recently when her latest novel, What Casanova Told Me, made the shortlist for the regional Commonwealth Writers Prize.
The novel, published last September and expected out this spring in the United States, vied for the regional Caribbean and Canada prize against Alice Munro’s Runaway, Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness and four others. On Feb. 2, judges pronounced Munro’s volume of short stories the regional winner.
Other contenders for the Caribbean and Canada prize this year were Lawrence Scott’s Night Calypso, Lisa Appignanesi’s The Memory Man, Pauline Holdstock’s Beyond Measure, Greg Hollingshead’s Bedlam and Michael Helm’s In the Place of Last Things.
In What Casanova Told Me, Swan presents Luce Adams, a 28-year-old Toronto archivist charged with delivering to Venice’s Sansovinian Library a document box filled with ancient manuscripts, one of which is the diary of her own Puritan ancestor, Asked For Adams, written in 1797. Asked For Adams travelled with Casanova during the last years of his life, abandoning her plans to marry for a chance at adventure in a trip from Greece to Istanbul, which she records in intimate detail in her journal. But the diary ends abruptly and mysteriously, and Luce, in a parallel modern-day journey, tries to unravel the story.
Left: Susan Swan
Swan, who teaches a fourth-year fiction class and a second-year course in creative writing at York, has written several novels. The Wives of Bath (1993) was a finalist for the Guardian Fiction Award and Ontario’s Trillium Prizes. It was made into the feature film Lost and Delirious and was recently picked by a US reader’s guide as one of the best novels of the ’90s. Swan has also written The Biggest Modern Woman in the World (1983); Stupid Boys are Good to Relax With (1996); The Last of the Golden Girls (1989) and Unfit for Paradise (1981).