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Fiction Literary

The Origin of Waves

by (author) Austin Clarke

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Feb 2003
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2003
    List Price

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Austin Clarke’s luminous novel, written in vivid, hypnotic prose, reveals the dislocations of place and the nature of memory and the past. Two elderly Barbadian men, childhood friends who haven’t seen each other in fifty years, collide in a snowstorm on a Toronto street. In the warmth of a nearby bar, through the afternoon and into the night, they relate stories, exchange opinions, and share memories of a past in Barbados when, as children, neither could conceive any other place existed for them. As these two men confess to each other their innermost truths, their exploits and their love affairs, one tells the haunting story of a young Chinese woman, the other of the real reason for his visit to Toronto. Infused with pathos and humour, and with an affecting nostalgia for the idea of home, The Origin of Waves is a stunning and original novel by one of the country’s most gifted writers.

About the author

Culminating with the international success of The Polished Hoe in 2002, Austin Clarke has published ten novels, six short story collections, and three memoirs in the United States, England, Canada, Australia, and Holland. Storm of Fortune, the second novel in his Toronto Trilogy about the lives of Barbadian immigrants, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award in 1973. The Origin of Waves won the Rogers Communications Writers’ Development Trust Prize for Fiction in 1997. In 1999, his ninth novel,The Question, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. In 2003 he had a private audience with Queen Elisabeth in honour of his Commonwealth Prize for his tenth novel, The Polished Hoe. In 1992 Austin Clarke was honored with a Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, and in 1997, Frontier College granted him a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1998 he was invested with the Order of Canada, and he has received four honorary doctorates. In 1999 he received the Martin Luther King Junior Award for Excellence in Writing.

Austin Clarke's profile page


  • Winner, Viacom Canada Writers' Trust

Editorial Reviews

“As tough and uncompromising as it is tender and compassionate.…A glorious work of imagination and such a masterful piece of writing that it is impossible to overlook.”
–Kitchener-Waterloo Record
“A tough, raucous, bittersweet peeling-away of decorum, infused with ruminations on memory, history and the role of the past.”
Globe and Mail
“Exquisite and moving.”
“There is a wonderful cadence to both the narrative and dialogue in this book, a seamless rhythm that seduces the reader and makes it impossible to put down.”
Edmonton Journal
“A vital, exquisitely written, and memorable novel.”
Quill & Quire
“An extraordinarily rewarding read.…The Origin of Waves is such a glorious work of imagination and such a masterful piece of writing that it is impossible to overlook.”
–Kitchener-Waterloo Record
“Uncommonly talented, Clarke sees deeply, and transmits his visions and perceptions so skillfully that reading him is an adventure.”
Publishers Weekly
“A book built to stand the dual tests of tradition and time.…Clarke’s prose shines.…”
Toronto Star
“Compelling.…Clarke writes a truly engaging story that’s hard to put down.”
Word Magazine

“A work of love, charm, wit.…Enchanting.…”
St. Catharine’s Standard
“Clarke is magnificent in transferring to print the music, the poetry, the complete aptness of the West Indian dialogue.…as near poetry as prose can become.”
Charlotte Observer
“He succeeds in making his pages brilliant.”
Boston Globe

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