The first ever collection of poems by the acclaimed author of the Aubrey/Maturin series of Napoleonic naval adventures.
As we have stood with Jack and Stephen on the deck of the Surprise and other ships, readers around the world have been transported to a place and time at once familiar and exotic, routine and dramatic.
At all times, Patrick O’Brian’s deep knowledge of the period and profound empathy with the landscape of the sea has ensured there is always a firm hand on the tiller. The writer’s command of language is combined with the poet’s eye for visual detail to remarkable, and unforgettable effect.
In The Uncertain Land and Other Poems, those same strengths are vividly displayed as O’Brian leads us on a journey through his own life. Here, we see a writer full of a young man’s spirit, challenging life, and here an author reflecting an old man’s melancholy at youth gone; in between, as he describes the places that he lived and people that he encountered, are poems of sly observation, wry humour and delicate beauty.
Through more than 100 poems, O’Brian reveals insights into the world that captivated him while he was at work on a succession of novels that would reach its apotheosis in the Aubrey/Maturin adventures, which would secure his reputation as ‘the Homer of the Napoleonic Wars’. Intensely personal, allusive and unique, this is the work of a lifetime, published now for the very first time.
'You are in for the treat of your lives. Thank God for Patrick O’Brian: his genius illuminates the literature of the English language, and lightens the lives of those who read him' Irish Times
‘O’Brian’s narrative pace is always gripping: it shifts its speed and provides endlessly varying shocks and surprises – comic, grim, farcical and tragic.… The writing is as strong and delightfully various as the people and plots. And everything – skies and seas and ports and creatures – is vivid and sensuously present.’ A. S. Byatt, Evening Standard
‘O’Brian writes like a man to whom writing comes as easily as breathing: precisely, fluently, economically… perfect cadences’ Jane Schilling, Sunday Telegraph
‘A man of poetic sensibility with a plain-teller's instinct. At best, that resounds with authority in a late Yeatsian way’ George Szirtes
About the author
Patrick O’Brian, until his death in 2000, was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey–Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He is the author of many other books including Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime’s contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate of letters from Trinity College, Dublin. He lived for many years in South West France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.