From internationally acclaimed and Governor General’s Award-winning author Steven Heighton comes a passionate novel of buried secrets, the repercussions of war and finding love among the ruins
Elias Trifannis is desperate to belong somewhere. To make his dying ex-cop father happy, he joins the military—but in Afghanistan, by the time he realizes his last-minute bid for connection was a terrible mistake, it’s too late and a tragedy has occurred.
In the aftermath, exhausted by nightmares, Elias is sent to Cyprus to recover, where he attempts to find comfort in the arms of Eylül, a beautiful Turkish journalist. But the lovers’ reprieve ends in a moment of shocking brutality that drives Elias into Varosha, once a popular Greek-Cypriot resort town, abandoned since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Hidden in the lush, overgrown ruins is a community of exiles and refugees living resourcefully but comfortably. Thanks to the cheerfully corrupt Colonel Kaya, who turns a blind eye, they live under the radar of the Turkish authorities.
As he begins to heal, Elias finds himself drawn to the enigmatic and secretive Kaiti while he learns at last to “simply belong.” But just when it seems he has found sanctuary, events he himself set in motion have already begun to endanger it.
STEVEN HEIGHTON's work has been translated into ten languages and been published in Best English Stories, London Review of Books, Tin House, Best American Mystery Stories, TLR, Poetry, and Zoetrope. He is also a fiction reviewer for The New York Times Book Review. His novel Afterlands is in pre-production for film. He won the 2016 Governor General's Award for Poetry and has recieved three gold National Magazine Award for fiction. The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep is his fourth novel.
“In North America today, there are few novelists like Heighton, an award-winning poet and essayist who also writes carefully plotted literary adventures . . . [He has] inherited a post-Conrad tradition, which extends from E.M. Forster to Graham Greene to John Le Carré . . . literary practitioners and epic storytellers. The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep is a novel about big, global forces and small, intimate moments. Politics, for Heighton, happens on all levels: the international and the interpersonal . . . Heighton is as attuned to the micro-politics of the village as to the macro-politics of Europe and the Middle East . . . His focus is sometimes hermetic, sometimes global, and he balances violent passages with lyrical descriptions of intimacy . . . The novel is full of beautiful asides. It’s also full of memorable characters whose friendships are fraught and rich . . . For Heighton, there is no place that’s removed from history; there are only people who dream of living in such places.” —The Walrus
“The lingering shadows of war — physical, emotional, psychological and cultural — loom heavily over The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep, the powerful fourth novel by Canadian writer and poet Steven Heighton. As a counter to that darkness, though, there is a faltering sense of light, a glimmer, not quite of hope, but of humanity, home and love, family and community. The combination makes for an unsettling, affecting read…The specificity and physicality of the language is evocative and, in context, electrifying…In the ruins of modern civilization, in the aftermath of atrocities and within the continuing conflict over arbitrary borders and clashes of cultures, Heighton has created a novel about the meaning of home, the search for belonging, and the ongoing creation — and understanding — of the self. The novel serves as a stirring reminder that the fences we build can serve as both barriers and prisons, and may, at any time, be torn away.” —The Toronto Star
"His stories ruminate on the question of whether, and how, we can commit to practising brotherhood within our multicultural nation and in the conflict zones of the wider world. Such exquisite, powerful meditations on who we are place Heighton among the great Canadian writers...For all Heighton’s obsession with foreign borders and personal boundaries, it is Canada that seems to be his central concern: the fact that we are not a nation united by mother tongue or customs or race, but strenuously—vociferously—multicultural, individuals with roots in hundreds of nations with hundreds of borders. Is it really possible to be our multiple selves—true, strong and free—and, at the same time one, united country? This is a question frequently posed by Canadian writers of colour, and one Heighton ponders most elegantly as well." - Literary Review of Canada
“In scintillating prose and with masterly control of his plot and characters, poet and novelist Heighton (Afterlands) weaves a spellbinding tale of love, loyalty, and betrayal . . . highly recommended to all readers.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“This book won’t let the reader sleep… a rich and disturbing literary thriller.” —Annie Proulx, author of Barkskins
"Steven Heighton writes with a beauty and a precision and a soul that's always astounded me. He captures the shock and trauma of war in a way that only a novelist at the height of his powers can. And he captures mid-leap that act of giving oneself completely to another in all its fragility and fear and grace that only a poet at the height of his powers can." —Joseph Boyden, author of The Orenda
“This is a thrilling story, set in an abandoned and 'forbidden' village in Cyprus. Each character is uniquely drawn; the interactions between characters carefully nuanced. Steven Heighton creates an unexpected and absorbing cast, thrown together as a result of war and circumstance. He shows that despite the very real effects of trauma, individuals are capable of experiencing a world that can also be gentle, and forgiving. This is a book you will not put down!” —Frances Itani, author of Deafening
"Heighton is an experienced adventurer in literary form....A novel of big ideas and beautiful language." —The New York Times Book Review
"I can't think of another writer, not even Ondaatje, who can be so real while being so mannered. And musical." —The Globe and Mail
"Any novel by Heighton is important." —Winnipeg Free Press
“External forces encroaching on self-sufficient territories are as much a signature of Heighton’s novels as the carefully considered words and observations that lend his lines their voltage . . . The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep demonstrates the vitality that marks all his fiction, verse and criticism.” —The National Post
“As rendered in Steven Heighton’s The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep, Varosha is fantastically alluring, a place to seek refuge from the intrusive terrors of the 21st century—a ruin-as-paradise. Its spectral avenues and skyline of “dead hotels” invoke the collapsed civilizations of J.G. Ballard or the discreetly inhabited post-disaster landscapes found in David McMillan’s photographs of Chernobyl and Pripyat . . . [Colonel] Kaya is a memorable, contradictory, despicable rogue who could easily be afforded a novel all his own.” —Quill & Quire