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The Swells

Written by Will Aitken

Published January 04, 2022 | ISBN 9781487009694
FICTION / Literary

Cover of The Swells

Regular price $19.99 CAD

176 pages | 8 in × 5.25 in
Print Format

About this book

The Swells

Will Aitken

In this darkly hilarious satire by the inimitable Will Aitken, class war erupts aboard a luxury cruise ship.

A boatload of white privilege, The Emerald Tranquility is the most luxurious cruise liner afloat, its passengers some of the richest people in the world. Meanwhile the ship’s crew, overworked and underpaid, live packed tightly together in airless below-deck cabins.

Briony Paget, globetrotting luxury travel writer, emulates the rich — though homeless and penniless herself — as she hops from gig to all-expenses-paid gig. 

The passengers encounter a great number of cataclysms at sea, but no matter the catastrophe, the great ship always sails on.

On her own personal voyage, Briony encounters Mrs. Moore, an enigmatic old woman clandestinely fomenting a mutiny on this bountiful ship. With the captain overthrown, roles quickly reverse: the crew become the ship’s new leisure class and the aged passengers learn how to mop floors and scrub toilets. 

Briony, confused and terrified by the resultant chaos, must decide which lot to cast her fate with, in this savage satire of the way we live now.

About the Author

Will Aitken

WILL AITKEN has written three novels – Realia, A Visit Home, Terre Haute – and the nonfiction book Death in Venice: A Queer Film Classic and Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo van Hove, and the Art of Resistance, which was shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction.He lives in Montreal.

Awards and Praise


“Somewhere between Ovid and Jonathan Swift lies Realia, as lucid as a Japanese paper clip but slightly more real. Will Aitken is my favorite novelist writing in English today.” ? Ann Carson, author of Autobiography of Red

“Aitken weaves in elements from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, drawing the characters into a tight, dramatic climax that comes close to eclipsing the original.” ?The Globe & Mail

“In Louise, Aitken has created a character to be proud of ? loud, large, lusty and … utterly out of place [in Japan]. Both her voice and her personality are resonant.” ? National Post

“Aitken overlaps pop culture and ancient myth to create a gritty, unsentimental love story with operatic dimensions. … Realia is a quirky novel, part modern myth, part demystification.” ? Montreal Gazette

“This is a finely written book, the prose clean. Aitken’s sentences are chopped just enough to produce quick sinuous forward momentum while maintaining internal integrity.” ? Malahat Review

“Japan's reinvention of Western pop culture is rich territory for an outsider satirist, and Aitken reveals its curiosities through Louise's own inimitable and short-tempered voice. The richness of Louise’s character is what makes Realia such a triumph ? her painful and familiar story animates Aitken's jokes and intellectual myth-pop games. Realia is a rare bird indeed: an ironic piece of smart postmodern pop that has genuine emotional depth.” ? Montreal Mirror

“Excellent. ... the dizzying heights of Japanese pop culture are beautifully presented, and so intrinsically surreal that the very distinction between real and surreal blurs.” ? Montreal Review of Books


Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction

“For author Will Aitken, the classics are very much alive. His Antigone Undone is about what happens to us when supposedly dusty works of art don’t just resonate but skewer us straight through. By the end of his brief, brilliant book, Aitken himself is nearly undone ? and Antigone emerges as a 2,500-year-old juggernaut more mysterious and magnetic than before.” ? 2018 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction Jury

“Aitken’s inspiring autobiographical odyssey, which centers on Sophocles’s Antigone, translated by Anne Carson, is a testimony to the power of art. He champions a way of making and seeing the arts that heightens their relevance and brings Sophocles’s 2,500-year-old play into readers’ contemporary lives and World.” ? Publishers Weekly

“This is a work of brilliance and intimacy. Will Aitken shows us up close what happens when some of the most ingenious and learned minds working in the performance arts immerse themselves in a masterpiece of the Greek stage. The result is raw, intellectually engaging, and exhilarating.” ? Sarah Nooter, The Mortal Voice in the Tragedies of Aeschylus

“This thoughtful and disturbing memoir poignantly illustrates how, for good or ill, the power of art can transform human understanding.” ? Laurel Smith, Quill & Quire

“From my perspective as a Cree, Antigone represents the voice of our women and Creon is colonialism. Antigone Undone forces us to look at ourselves, a timeless challenge speaking to everyone, in all eras.” ? Floyd Favel Starr, playwright

“Not for people who can resist being shattered.” ? Laurie Anderson, artist