Graham Swift Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Graham Swift is best known for his novels, The Sweet Shop Owner (1980), Shuttlecock (1981), Waterland (1983), Out of This World (1988), Ever After (1992), and Last Orders (1996).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Graham Swift’s best-known novel, Waterland, was a finalist for England’s Booker McConnell Prize and was named best English novel of 1983 by the newspaper The Guardian. His novel Last Orders won the Booker McConnell Prize in 1996 as well as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his long fiction, Graham Swift has published numerous short stories in various magazines such as the London Review and Punch. With the success of his first novels, some of his early short fiction was collected in Learning to Swim, and Other Stories (1982). Swift’s short stories offer in microcosm a number of themes and techniques subsequently explored in his novels; indeed, they often constitute excerpts from novels in progress. For example, “About the Eel” appeared in Granta in 1983 and subsequently became a chapter in Waterland; similarly, “Plastic,” published in Granta in 1991, was incorporated into Ever After. Swift has also published a few nonfiction essays, but he has in general devoted his writing career almost exclusively to long fiction.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Graham Swift’s work has been recognized with a number of the most prestigious international literary awards and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Although some of his contemporaries are more prolific, few have achieved Swift’s status in the literary world. In 1983, Swift was identified by the literary journal Granta as one of twenty of the best young British novelists, in the company of such writers as Martin Amis, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Salman Rushdie. His second novel, Shuttlecock, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. With his third novel, Waterland, Swift won numerous accolades, including the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, and Italy’s Premio Grinzane Cavour. Waterland was also nominated for the Booker Prize, the most prestigious literary award presented to novelists from Britain and the Commonwealth, and it is widely viewed as the best novel of the 1980’s not to win the award. A year later, Swift was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 1992, his novel Ever After was awarded France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, and with his sixth novel, Last Orders, Swift won the Booker Prize that had eluded him thirteen years earlier. Several of Swift’s novels have been transformed into films notable for the prestigious actors they have attracted. Waterland (1992), for example, stars Jeremy Irons and Ethan Hawke, and Last Orders (2001) includes such actors as Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, and Bob Hoskins.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Broich, Ulrich. “Muted Postmodernism: The Contemporary British Short Story.” Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 41 (1993): 31-39. Discusses the market conditions of the contemporary British short story, surveys three major types of British short fiction: the feminist story, the cultural conflict story, and the experimental, postmodernist story. Discusses Swift’s story “Seraglio” as a story in which postmodernist narrative strategies are used in a muted way.

Cooper, Pamela. Graham Swift’s “Last Orders.” New York: Continuum, 2002. A short guide for readers’ groups, offering background and discussion topics.

Decoste, Damon Marcel. “Question and Apocalypse: The Endlessness of Historia in Graham Swift’s Waterland.” Contemporary Literature 43 (Summer, 2002): 377-399. Discusses the element of historical narrative in Swift’s novel.

Frumkes, Lewis Burke. “A Conversation with Graham Swift.” The Writer 111 (February, 1998): 19-21. Swift discusses the plot of his highly praised novel Last Orders, talks about the symbolic value of water in his fiction, comments on how he evolved as a writer, and gives some advice to young, beginning authors.

Higdon, David Leon. “Double Closures in Postmodern British Fiction: The Example of Graham Swift.” Critical...

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