Cleanness revisits and expands the world of Garth Greenwell’s beloved debut, What Belongs to You, declared ‘an instant classic’ by the New York Times Book Review. In exacting, elegant prose, Greenwell transcribes the strange dialects of desire, cementing his stature as one of our most vital living writers.
‘This is an exceptional work of fiction, which places Greenwell among the very best contemporary novelists.’ – Independent
Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south, and political protesters flood the streets with song.
In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he’s come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student’s confession recalls his own first love, a stranger’s seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with a younger man opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with our own fugitive selves.
Chosen as a book of the year in the New Yorker, Daily Telegraph, Observer and Irish Times.
Greenwell may be the finest writer of sex currently at work. He is certainly the most exhilarating . . . If the book is imagined as a body, then cleanness – a total lack of shame in putting sexual passion on the page – is what it achieves in these refreshing depictions. In one brilliant passage, Greenwell even redeems pornographic language itself . . . a glorious, affirmative vision.
Michael LaPointe, TLS
Cleanness is stunning, provocatively revelatory and atmospherically profound. Here is love and sex as art, as pulse, as truth.
Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women
a brilliant examination of love and intimacy
SJ Watson, The Times