For readers of Jenny Offill, Deborah Levy, and Olivia Laing, an exquisite debut novel about a classics academic researching prophecy in the ancient world, just as the pandemic descends and all visions of her own family’s future begin to blur.
Covid-19 has arrived in London, and the entire world quickly succumbs to the surreal, chaotic mundanity of screens, isolation, and the disasters small and large that have plagued recent history. As our unnamed narrator—a classics academic immersed in her studies of ancient prophecies—navigates the tightening grip of lockdown, a marriage in crisis, and a ten-year-old son who seems increasingly unreachable, she becomes obsessed with predicting the future. Shifting her focus from chiromancy (prophecy by palm reading) to zoomancy (prophecy by animal behavior) to oenomancy (prophecy by wine), she fails to notice the future creeping into the heart of her very own home, and when she finally does, the threat has already breached the gates.
Brainy and ominous, funny and sharp, Delphi is a snapshot and a time capsule—it both demythologizes our current moment and places our reality in the context of myth. Clare Pollard has delivered one of our first great novels of this terrible moment, a mesmerizing story of our pasts, our presents, and our futures, and how we keep on living in a world that is ever-more uncertain and absurd.
About the Author
Clare Pollard lives with her husband and two children in London. At nineteen, she published her first book of poetry, The Heavy Petting Zoo. She has since published four more collections of poetry with Bloodaxe, most recently Incarnation. Her play The Weather (Faber, 2004) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre. She has been involved in numerous translation projects, including co-translating The Sea-Migrations by Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf (Bloodaxe, 2017) which received a PEN Translates award, and translating Ovid’s Heroines (Bloodaxe, 2013), which she toured as a one-woman show in the UK. She is the poetry editor for The Idler and the former editor of Modern Poetry in Translation. Her most recent book was a nonfiction title, Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books (Penguin). Delphi is her first novel.
“We need the ancients to explain today to us, and we need Clare Pollard. In brief, brilliant passages, Pollard confronts the shadow-play of our screen-entranced lives, and offers this simultaneous comfort and curse: we are not the first to live these griefs and these bewilderments. Delphi is the strangest, best thing I’ve read in ages.” —Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink
“Clare Pollard’s Delphi delivers an urgency unlike any I’ve experienced. I loved this book so much; the language, the humor, the style, which reminded me of both Patricia Lockwood and Sheila Heti. A brilliant novel born of searing eloquence and sinister wit.” —Jackie Polzin, author of Brood
“A compact miracle of a book.” —Evie Wyld, author of All the Birds, Singing
“Vivid as fireworks, the brief chapters of Delphi explode with the ambivalence, rage and dread of middle years lived within a world of pandemic and climate collapse. Both terrifying and exhilarating.” —Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A Ghost in the Throat