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Anansi International

The Long Take

Written by Robin Robertson

Published October 30, 2018 | ISBN 9781487006242
FICTION / Literary

Cover of The Long Take

Regular price $22.95 CAD

240 pages | 8 in × 6 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

The Long Take

Robin Robertson

A stunning modern epic that innovatively combines noir narrative and lyrical poetry, The Long Take follows Walker, a survivor of D-Day, from bucolic Cape Breton to an America beset by paranoia and corruption.

Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity, and repair. As he finds his way from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco, we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had gone sour but — as those dark, classic movies made clear — the country needed outsiders to study and dramatize its new anxieties. Both an outsider and, gradually, an insider, Walker finds work as a journalist, and tries to piece his life together as America is beginning to come apart: riven by social and racial divisions, spiraling corruption, and the collapse of the inner cities.

An epic for the modern world, it is a tale of damaged people trying to find kindness in the world, of cynicism and paranoia, and of redemption. Robin Robertson's fluid verse pans with filmic immediacy across the postwar urban scene — and into the heart of an unforgettable character. The Long Take is a genre-crossing work of stunning originality, beauty, and immediacy.

About the Author

Robin Robertson

ROBIN ROBERTSON was born and raised in Scotland. His previous collections of poetry have won the Roehampton Poetry Prize, the E.M. Forster Award, and three Forward Prizes, among others, and have been nominated for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. He lives in London, U.K.

Awards and Praise


The Long Take offers a wholly unique literary voice and form. A verse novel with photographs, it manages to evoke with exceptional vividness aspects of post-World War Two history that are rarely parsed together. Swinging effortlessly between combat with its traumatic aftermath, and the brute redevelopment of American cities, The Long Take shows us the ravages of capitalism as a continuation of war-time violence by other means. It is also a bold, eloquent homage to cinema as perhaps the only medium in which the true history of America has been preserved. This is a genre-defying novel. Cutting from battlefield to building demolitions in San Francisco and LA, to the killing of black men on the streets of America today, it imports into the very form of the writing one of the most famous film techniques: cross-cutting. You could be in the cinema, or listening to an elegy, or reading the story of one man’s devastating experience as he tries to rebuild the shards of his life after the war. A pageant of loss, The Long Take is also a lyrical tribute to the power of writing and image to convey, and somehow survive, historic and ongoing suffering and injustice.” — Man Booker Prize Judges’ Citation

The Long Take recounts the inner journey of Canadian veteran Walker as he travels from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco attempting to rebuild his life after living through the horrors of war in Europe. In poetry of the utmost beauty, Robin Robertson interweaves themes from the great age of black and white films, the destruction of communities as cities destroy the old to build the new, the horrors of McCarthyism and the terrible psychological wounds left by war. Robertson shows us things we’d rather not see and asks us to face things we’d rather not face. But with the pulsing narrative drive of classic film noir, the vision of a poet, and the craft of a novelist, The Long Take courageously and magnificently boosts the Walter Scott Prize into its next decade.” — Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction Judges’ Citation

“Composed in a mixture of verse and prose, The Long Take is a book with a big heart. The beauty of the language will seduce the reader from the very start. How do we put ourselves back together in a damaged world? How do we keep our conscience alive and ourselves well-balanced when everything else is slipping away, changing too fast? How much of the past should we allow ourselves to even remember when all that matters is to stay in the present moment, to stay afloat? By taking this long journey west — across New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles — Robin Robertson tells a universal story. With its undeniable beauty; quiet, modest but strong pull, this book will shift something in your soul. By the time you have finished reading it, you won't quite be the same.” — Goldsmiths Prize Judges’ Citation

“A propulsive verbal tour de force … The Long Take is an audacious and often brilliant book. Poetry needn’t be a call to action but this one raises many questions, not the least of which is: What and whom should we root for in today’s world of diminished dreams?” — Washington Post

“A blisteringly beautiful vision of America rotting in the aftermath of the Second World War … Robertson’s book is stylish, daring, high concept, and amazing.” — Evening Standard

“As a work of art, this dreamlike exploration is a triumph; as a timely allegory, it is disturbingly profound … Robertson’s The Long Take is one of the first major achievements of twenty-first-century English-language literature.” — Financial Times

“A blisteringly beautiful vision of America rotting in the aftermath of the Second World War … Robertson’s book is stylish, daring, high concept, and amazing.” — Evening Standard

“Robin Robertson, one of the finest lyric poets of the age, flexes his artistic reach in a continuous narrative of more than two hundred pages, a beautiful, vigorous, and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring. Here we have a poet, at the peak of his symphonic powers, taking a great risk, and succeeding gloriously … The Long Take is a masterly work of art, exciting, colourful, fast-paced — the old-time movie reviewer’s vocabulary is apt to the case — and almost unbearably moving.” — Guardian

The Long Take shows it is perfectly possible to write poetry which is both accessible and subtle, which has a genuine moral and social conscience … Robertson manages a remarkable strike rate for keeping the language unsettling and honed, often by judicious assonance and alliterations … This is a major achievement and will linger long in the reader’s mind.” — Scotsman

“The Long Take remarkably captures linguistic styles of 1940s American writing — Saroyan and Steinbeck. As it progresses into the mid-50s we’re hearing Ginsberg and Baldwin … you will be washed in all these when you read this poem … Robertson has chosen a supremely uncomfortable, recognizable flashpoint in U.S. history, an almost perfect mirror image of the nation today: crude, newly unleashed material ambitions mix with off-the-chart levels of fear and paranoia. The only difference is that then it was Russkies and immigrants, and now, uh …” — Sunday Herald

“An inter-genre tour de force, The Long Take is a restless reimagining of conventional poetics. Through the poem’s protagonist, Robertson has cast a national, cultural, psychological, and class outsider of vibrant and seedy post-war America into a palpable anti-hero eerily resonant with our contemporary world. With syncopated rhythms, staccato dialogue, and jump-scenes, the book weaves dizzying, jazz-like meditations on PTSD, masculinity, betrayal, and salvation by embodying, in sound, scent, and sixth-sense, one of America’s most hopeful and devastating decades. The result is a ravishing achievement.” — Ocean Vuong, author of the T.S. Eliot Prize winner Night Sky with Exit Wounds

“Like all of Robertson’s work, I approached The Long Take with great anticipation, for few writers so expertly pull the curtains back on the many collective fictions, both ancient and new, that constitute our understanding of the world. All of Robertson’s extraordinary gifts as a writer are on display here: his probing intelligence and wit, the strangely tactile beauty of his lines, and his stubborn refusal to ignore all that lingers unaccounted for at the edges of our vision. I was genuinely bowled over by it.” — Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds

The Long Take is a bullet of a book. It is deeply noir, scything open post-war Los Angeles to show us a living, breathing city: a complicated social setting with cinema layered into its very fabric, a place growing at the expense of many of its most vulnerable citizens. It is a bold book — both imaginative and brave — but, more than that, it is a book that hits its target. It flies. It feels true.” — Ryan Gattis, author of All Involved

“Robin Robertson is instantly recognizable as a poet of vivid authority, commanding a surprised, accurate language of his own. The evocative truth and the crystalline ring of his words, line by line, make a kind of hope in themselves.” — W.S. Merwin, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner The Shadow of Sirius

“The words flow like the frames of a classic film masterpiece.” — Mike Hodges, director of Get Carter

“The lyric poem, common to these times, can be said to contain a tiny story. Having held his readers in the grip of many small tales, Robin Robertson now launches into a full narrative telling, which is alive with the details of post-war American life as well as the jumpy subjective life of its protagonist. The Long Take will thrill you with its shadowy mysteries and cinematic intensity.” — Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States

“In this remarkable new book, Robin Robertson has combined the relentless flow of the best city poems with his skill for precise and staggering imagery; ‘everyone wants to be somewhere else,’ one character says, and we feel that movement, of film, of migration, of gentrification. The horrors of war are juxtaposed against the casual violences of the city, the deliberate destruction of war is held up against the deliberate destruction of gentrification. Here we are given the city as delirium, the city as a body, the city as a series of closing doors, the city as something vast but also personal. Like all the best poetry, The Long Take has found its own unique form for what it wants to say.” — Andrew McMillan, author of Physical


“Robin Robertson is one of the finest contemporary poets, as this collection amply shows. His is a wonderful hard clear music, and the muscularity and toughness of his verse is everywhere counterpointed by a deep-lying tenderness. Sailing the Forest is a marvelously buoyant vessel.” — John Banville, author of the Booker Prize winner The Sea


Finalist, Costa Poetry Award
Finalist, T.S. Eliot Prize
Finalist, Forward Prize for Best Collection

“Whether in his extraordinarily fresh renderings of Ovid or his own imaginings, Robertson’s lives have the luminosity of myth. The Wrecking Light is a work of extraordinary visionary power, its music bleak and beautiful, spare and unsparing. If there were justice in the world, it would win every prize going.” — Guardian

“The plaintive tone of The Wrecking Light is wholly convincing and the poems are written with a cold, exacting, and imaginative awe … It’s still early in the year, but this surely will be one of the outstanding collections of 2010.” — Irish Times

“There is an acuity of loss in Robin Robertson’s work, both in the clarity in which it is expressed and in the sharp relief it throws on other things.” — Financial Times

“Robertson doesn’t give ground to the illusory comfort of the ordinary, and he has a sardonic humour of his own … Poetry matters a good deal, though it has little obvious comfort to offer, just the compelling evidence of its own serious attention and its shaping impulse, which ought to be enough.” — Sunday Times

“Robin Robertson continues to explore the bleak, beautiful territory that he has made his own. His stripped-bare lyricism, haunted by echoes of folksong, is as unforgiving as the weather and poems such as ‘At Roane Head’ show him writing at the height of his considerable powers.” — The Times

“Robertson’s view of human nature is unremittingly bleak and startling in its honesty … It comes as little surprise that Robertson is drawn to classical works, particularly Ovid, whose bloodthirsty episodes he updates with flinty contemporary imagery. It’s this shifting of pace and form throughout that makes this collection so compelling.” — The List


Winner, Forward Prize for Best First Collection

“A superb debut … darkly chiselled poems haunted by mortality and the fragility of life’s pleasures.” — Nobel Prize for Literature winner Kazuo Ishiguro, Sunday Times

“The best new poet in Britain is Robin Robertson.” — Andrew O’Hagan, Independent on Sunday

“A poetic voice of quiet yet charged maturity: lyrical and complex, transparent and gravid, it can treat both the public theme and the intensely personal with the same serenely wrought fire.” — William Boyd, Scotsman