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Literary Collections Essays

Voice of the Fish

A Lyric Essay

by (author) Lars Horn

Initial publish date
Jun 2022
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
    List Price

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Lars Horn’s Voice of the Fish, the latest Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize winner, is an interwoven essay collection that explores the trans experience through themes of water, fish, and mythology, set against the backdrop of travels in Russia and a debilitating back injury that left Horn temporarily unable to speak. In Horn’s adept hands, the collection takes shape as a unified book: short vignettes about fish, reliquaries, and antiquities serve as interludes between longer essays, knitting together a sinuous, wave-like form that flows across the book.
Horn swims through a range of subjects, roving across marine history, theology, questions of the body and gender, sexuality, transmasculinity, and illness. From Horn’s upbringing with a mother who used them as a model in photos and art installations—memorably in a photography session in an ice bath with dead squid—to Horn’s travels before they were out as trans, these essays are linked by a desire to interrogate liminal physicalities. Horn reexamines the oft-presumed uniformity of bodily experience, breaking down the implied singularity of “the body” as cultural and scientific object. The essays instead privilege ways of seeing and being that resist binaries, ways that falter, fracture, mutate. A sui generis work of nonfiction, Voice of the Fish blends the aquatic, mystical, and physical to reach a place beyond them all.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Lars Horn holds MAs from the University of Edinburgh, the École normale supérieure, Paris, and Concordia University, Montreal. Their work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Write Across Canada, and New Writing Scotland. They live in Miami, Florida.

Editorial Reviews

“This book left me stunned. Breathtaking in its scope and generosity, Voice of the Fish is that rare work that defies easy categorization. At once a personal memoir and an examination of ancient worlds and marine life, Voice of the Fish also becomes a luminous and compassionate reckoning with borders and boundaries. And all of this written in achingly beautiful prose that catches the light in even the darkest of moments. We are in the midst of a rare and transcendent talent, and how lucky we are that Lars Horn exists.”—Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize
“Ocean-deep and brimming with beauty, Voice of the Fish is a wondrous book, formed with the expansiveness and strong currents of a vast body of water. I didn't want to leave until I'd seen every glowing image.”—Elissa Washuta
“Voice of the Fish is a mighty and innovative work unshackled from the patriarchal and heteronormative syntax and prose of the accepted literary cannon, and scalpled into a new way of writing, and therefore understanding, great literary work and memoir. Adventurous, bold, antiauthoritarian, and physical, we would all be well served to take note of this generation of new writers to which Horn belongs, sending us missives from the future of language and storytelling—more exacting, broad and excellent than we have yet imagined.”—Casey Legler
“Casting a wide net into the realms of knowing and existing, trawling the depths of the past and the body, Lars Horn steers us in pristine and ponderous prose to places where the body is washed up, transformed, reborn. Voice of the Fish is a dazzling assemblage of essaying at its finest, a unique dive into history, philosophy, memory, and wonder. It is a voice that swims bravely against the current, finds its origin, and emerges with sequined scales of sparkling language, brilliant in its inked imaginative form.”—Jenny Boully