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Amina Cain

  • awardShortlisted, First Novel Prize, Center for Fiction, United States, 2020
  • awardShortlisted, Rathbones Folio Prize, United Kingdom, 2021
  • awardLonglisted, Joyce Carol Oates Prize, United States, 2022
  • A ghostly feminist fable, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy is the story of a woman navigating between gender and class roles to empower herself and fulfill her dreams.

    In ‘a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch’ (Blake Butler), a cleaning woman at a museum of art nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained. Not only has she taken up different forms of time-consuming labor—social and erotic—but she is now, however passively, forcing other women to clean up after her. Perhaps another and more drastic solution is necessary?

    Reminiscent of a lost Victorian classic in miniature, yet taking equal inspiration from such modern authors as Jean Rhys, Octavia Butler, Clarice Lispector and Jean Genet, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy is at once a ghost story without a ghost, a fable without a moral and a down-to-earth investigation of the barriers faced by women in both life and literature. It is a novel about seeing, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship and the battle to find one’s true calling.


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    Vol. 1 Brooklyn

    Amina Cain
    About the Author

    Amina Cain is the author of two collections of short fiction, Creature and I Go to Some Hollow. Her essays and short stories have appeared in n+1, Paris Review Daily, BOMB, Full Stop, Vice and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles and is a contributing editor at BOMB.

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    3 March 2020
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    Praise for Amina Cain

    ‘There’s something calmly erotic about Cain’s writing, a treatment of sex as both a source of energy and a supremely unfascinating part of life.’

    ‘There are no stakes, no rising action, no arc. Just a wild kind of lostness that’s as alluring as it is unsettling.’

    ‘Cain takes a lot of risks in her book by redefining plot and creating so many narrators who are unknowable and generally unfamiliar. But the risks pay off in sheer beauty, and in Creature, she has created a beautiful monster indeed.’

    ‘In Indelicacy we meet a woman who spends time studying landscape paintings and then walking inside the landscapes where she lives. She looks at a landscape then moves inside another, and as we read it begins to seem that the landscapes in paintings and in fiction are eerily the same. In a deeply pleasing way, reading this novel is a bit like standing in a painting, a masterful study of light and dark, inside and out, freedom and desire. Amina Cain is one of my favorite writers. I loved reading this book.’

    ‘With simplicity and wisdom, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy strips away the clutter of the modern novel, leaving only her narrator’s concentrated attention and yearning. As a tribute to the history of its own form, Indelicacy manages to expand our ideas of both the classic and the contemporary.’

    ‘Acutely observed, Indelicacy is an exquisite jewel box of a novel with the passion and vitality found only in such rare and necessary works as The Hour of the Star and The Days of Abandonment. Through this timeless examination of solitude, art and friendship, Amina Cain announces herself as one of the most intriguing writers of our time.’

    Indelicacy is a novel like the tolling of a great bell. It will move your heart. Amina Cain’s writing is the rarest kind: it creates not only new scenes and characters, but new feelings.’

    ‘Bewitching…Cain’s concentrated, subtle, and intriguing portrait of an evolving artist resolutely rejecting gender and class roles, with its subtle nods to Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, and Octavia Butler, explores the risks and rewards of a call to create and self-liberate.’

    ‘With its short, spare sentences, Cain’s writing seems simple on the surface―but it is deeply observant of the human condition, female friendships, and art. A short, elegant tale about female desire and societal expectations.’

    ‘Amina Cain redefines strangeness and freedom in this beautiful and unusual novel, which resembles fairy tales and ghost stories but feels intensely contemporary.’

    ‘Amina Cain’s diligence, patience, and clarity of vision are unparalleled. This is a writer profoundly aware of the impact and import of silence. Her sentences echo long after they’ve landed on the page.’

    ‘I was spellbound by Amina Cain’s Indelicacy, partly because it is a lucid novel about human relationships, the soul, art, and change; partly because it is an intelligent yet raw tale about what ruptures are required to grow room for oneself; partly because of its witty juxtaposition of good and bad; but mostly because it is deeply original, like nothing I’ve ever read before.’

    ‘Reading Amina Cain’s Indelicacy is akin to donning magnifying spectacles that distill a woman’s past into modern reality. These lucid and uncanny lenses remain on the eye far beyond her pages.’

    ‘Amina Cain is a phenomenal writer. I adore her work, and sensibility. Indelicacy isn’t merely a book, it’s a world; a world I wanted to live in, forever. Its near-and-far atmosphere is partly due to Cain’s unfazed handling of discrepant essences and qualities. Arch, yet warm; aspiring and impervious; confiding and enigmatic; reposing and intrepid; Cain has conjured a protagonist who purged my mind and filled my heart.’

    ‘I read it slowly, in a kind of reverie, wanting to savour every page. It is so exquisite and precise that I felt I wanted to read it constantly, to live inside it … A completely absorbing, luminous account of a woman inhabiting her life and creativity.’

    ‘What would a Vermeer look like painted by its subject? Measured, intense, precise, explosive, sensual, violent, mesmerising.’

    ‘The story of a marriage is generally meant to impose order on the novel, to subordinate each moment to a larger design. In Indelicacy, this story finds itself subordinate to other forms of female pleasure and desire: friendship, sex, dancing, writing, daydreaming. Vitória’s detours, her attention to her own inattention, to the still, sensuous details of daily living, become gentle acts of defiance—against not only the marriage plot but plot altogether.’

    ‘Cain’s prose vibrates with fear and wonder. This is a novel I read three times slowly, basking in each phrase.’

    ‘A sort of arthouse Cinderella story…Each detail haunts with the way it solidly exists in the midst of a conjured dream world.’

    ‘[A] chilling, beautiful novel about a woman who marries a near stranger, expecting their life together to deliver the freedom and creativity she craves. What she learns is not what you think it will be—and it serves as the perfect starting point for a memorable conversation.’ N

    ‘Written with an elegance that might remind the reader of the classics of the late nineteenth century…Indelicacy is the kind of novel that creeps up on the reader, with a depth and complexity of ideas that belie its length.‘

    ‘Haltingly beautiful…Indelicacy reverberates with an inner, luxe-hazed reflection of moral consciousness.’

    ‘Cain’s jewel-like book catches the light from many angles: Indelicacy is at once a playful and enigmatic meditation on art, a fable about gender and class and how they influence the way we read the pursuit of power, as well as a glittering engagement with writers from Jean Rhys to Jean Genet.’

    ‘Though Indelicacy does not announce itself as autofiction, it shares with autofiction what I find to be the most fundamental aspects of the genre: the act of writing becomes inextricable from the story being told.’

    ‘Cain works with insight and finely crafted writing, making Indelicacy perfect for fans of Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham.’

    ‘A serious, humorous and wildly beautiful novel.’

    ‘This sparse, elliptical novel finds new complexities in the familiar conflict between creative independence and the lures of traditional domesticity…Stripped of all inessential details, the narrative has the simplicity of a parable—one whose images lodge themselves uneasily in the mind.’

    ‘Cain’s writing is succinct in a way that conjures Dickinson or Duras, with her swift and deliberate delivery. Reading Indelicacy feels like inhabiting a painting. Or to play with the metaphor that writing a book is like building a house, my experience of reading Amina Cain is akin to wandering through a series of exquisite rooms where I’m surprised by a decisively placed fixture or an oblique passageway. They are rooms I’d like to return to again and again.’

    ‘A strange, haunting, unusual novel…[Amina Cain] assembles her narrative with sparse and lateral prose. Hard to put down and impossible forget.’

    ‘A taut, tender evocation of the power of art in an existence driven by work…A novel of smooth surfaces and engulfing depths.’

    ‘Written before any hints of a pandemic, Indelicacy includes a particularly vivid description of the isolation and introspection of lockdown…Intense, condensed writing…[The novel is] a form of inspired literary mindfulness.’

    ‘[Amina Cain’s] bone-clean prose creates a sense of immersion in a story that feels both mythic and true…A woman’s search for creativity is not a new subject, yet Cain has made it so.’

    ‘A thing of real delicacy, with a fine, distilled quality to the writing, every word precisely chosen, precisely placed…There’s a slyness to Cain’s writing that cuts through, and makes the tale increasingly engrossing. By the end, you walk in step with her heroine as she finds her own path towards freedom.’

    Indelicacy has a timeless and slippery quality that keeps the reader hovering on a precipice…This book made a quiet impact on me at first, but it is one I keep coming back to as the year draws to an end.’

    ‘I loved Cain’s precise and stylish account of the social structures that tear us apart, and intimacies that—like a shared meal—hold us together.’

    Other editions ofIndelicacy
    • Indelicacy
      ISBN: 9781925923124
      3 March 2020
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