University of Virginia Library


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David Leon Higdon and Russell (Rusty) Reed

In early 1983, England's William Heinemann and America's Poseidon Press, a
hardback division of Simon and Schuster, introduced their readers to Gra-
ham Swift's Waterland, a novel reviewed so positively and read so enthusiastically
that it quickly began to appear on reading lists, to become central to discussions
of postmodernism, and to be recognized, along with D. M. Thomas's The White
(1981) and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981), as one of the most
important British novels of its decade.[1] General discussions of contemporary
fiction such as Allan Massie's The Novel Today and Malcolm Bradbury's The Mod-
ern British Novel
have singled it out for considerable praise. Massie called it "a
masterly and intricate narrative" that is "profoundly and unmistakably English"
and concluded that Swift "is undoubtedly one of the writers … [who] it may be
asserted with real confidence … will play a large part in the future of the Eng-
lish novel."[2] Bradbury, discerning that Swift always writes about "an aftermath,"
praised Waterland's "fascination with fiction as history, history as fiction, that has
been important in the novel certainly since the Sixties."[3] Taking the novel as a
crucial example of the new historiographic metafiction, Linda Hutcheon viewed
its protagonist as "in some ways an allegorical representative of the postmodern
historian who might well have read, not just [R. G.] Collingwood, with his view
of the historian as storyteller and detective, but also Hayden White, Dominick
LaCapra, Raymond Williams, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard."[4]

Since 1992, however, discussions, interpretations, and generalizations about
this novel's literary worth and its significance to literary movements have often


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been using a text of Waterland that differs significandy from the one used by the
earlier reviewers, historians, and theoreticians, because while reading proofs for
the second British edition Swift was tempted into making numerous revisions,
unguided by any articulated plan. The currendy available text differs substan-
tively in approximately four hundred and fifty instances from the first edition in
ways that reflect its author's concern for vocabulary and syntax but that diminish
key features of its narrator-protagonist. In a complicated manner, each word of
this retrospective novel has a dual origin in its author and in its character, and
as such, these revisions subdy readjust the psychological identity of the narra-
tor. There is a quantitative difference between revising the text of a first-person
novel and that of an omnisciendy narrated novel. Revision of the latter may be
only stylistic in range without significandy affecting character or theme or may
completely refocus theme without readjusting a reader's perception of character.
In a first-person narration, however, revision of any word, or any sentence, may
have an immediate impact on a reader's understanding of and interpretation of
the dual narrator/protagonist beyond the author's stylistic concerns. Authorial
revisions thus may have a double-layered effect. In the context of Swift's seven
other novels, one can see that Swift's revisions in Waterland move in the direction
of his later style and strategy where his narrators are less psychologically complex
and often less interesting than in his first three novels. After summarizing critical
responses to The Light of Day, Swift's most recent novel, David Malcolm agrees
with D. J. Taylor that "[c]hief among The Light of Day's characteristics is its oddly
desiccated feel—material stretched beyond its natural limit, characters reduced
to a rudimentary minimum, prose pruned savagely back."[5]

As with the first editions of Swift's earlier novels, The Sweet-Shop Owner (1980)
and Shuttlecock (1981), the first British and first American printings of Waterland
are identical. Following the enactment of the 1892 Chace Act, which stipulated
that any foreign book to secure American copyright had to be reset by American
compositors, English and American editions of a novel could best be described as
"brothers," because of numerous potentials for textual differences.[6] At present,
however, English and American "editions" more resemble identical twins who
assert their individuality through dressing differently. Thus, the English (Heine-
mann) and American (Poseidon) "editions" have different dust jackets, different
bindings, and different papers, but their texts are identical, and the presence
of four identical errors makes it highly likely that Poseidon worked from copy
(probably some form of plates or tapes leased from Heinemann, as Washington
Square Press later did with Allen Lane in 1985 for Swift's first two novels), reset-
ting only the front matter so as to reverse the order of title and author's name.[7]


Page 289

The printings' 310 pages mirror one another exactly from the illustration of
an eel before the Contents page to the preservation of certain errors, such as
"1864" (P78.36; for "1846" V91.14), "kid's" (P204.09; for "kids'" V236.10), and
"bucket" (P260.16; for "blanket" V301.11), the latter being uniquely peculiar
in that Martha Clay, the novel's "witch," is first quite awkwardly described as
"[w]earing a heavy grey skirt that might have been made from a horse bucket."
Only one other important variant seems to distinguish the two impressions: in
describing Dick Crick's secretive handling of the key to his attic chest, the British
printing reads, "Which he hid" (H245.27), whereas the American one nonsensi-
cally reads "Which he did" (P245.27), suggesting that Heinemann caught and
corrected at least one error after delivering the plates or computerized text to
Poseidon. These four errors would not be fully corrected until the Heinemann
New Windmill printing (1991).

In April 1985, Washington Square Press, a paperback division of Simon
and Schuster's Pocket Books, reissued Waterland, using the photograph from the
Poseidon dust jacket for its cover but substituting a new back cover. Poseidon
had used British blurbs from Publisher's Weekly, Times Literary Supplement, and
London Observer; Washington Square substituted American blurbs from the New
York Review of Books, Washington Post Book World, Los Angeles Times,
and Newsweek
and added a further ten before the title page.[8] The press also reformatted and
redesigned the novel in the interests of paperback economy: it reduced the text
from 310 to 270 pages (increasing the number of lines per page from thirty-nine
to forty-five), relined and centered long chapter titles, capitalized all letters in the
first line of each chapter, placed design dots before and after chapter numbers,
and capitalized "My" in the titles to chapters 19 (p. 118) and 46 (p. 240). The
Washington Square paperback also corrected three of the four errors in its parent
edition mentioned above, but failed to change "kid's" (178.14). This edition, in
several reprints, monopolized the market in the United States from April 1985
until paperback rights were acquired by another publisher seven years later.

By the early 1990s, Swift had changed publishers several times and had
moved to Picador, a Macmillan General Books imprint. Perhaps spurred on by
the release of the Stephen Gyllenhall film adaptation of the novel[9] as much as


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by the celebration of its new author, Picador decided to issue an entirely new
edition of Waterland in hardback, reset its text, and sent proofs to Swift. Swift
originally had no intention of doing anything other than reading and correcting
these proofs; however, the proofs presented "a beguiling opportunity," and he
was "seduced by this opportunity" to begin revising his novel,[10] slightly at first,
but then with increasing attention to details in later chapters. He felt then and
continues to feel now that the revisions affected neither structure, characteriza-
tion, theme, nor the overall impact of individual scenes significandy—readers,
however, may disagree. By the time Swift completed his marking of the proofs,
all but seven of the novel's fifty-two chapters had experienced some revision, with
ten of the chapters accounting for about sixty percent of the revisions and with
almost half of the revisions involving deletions of one kind or another. Looking
at the revisions chapter by chapter, one sees a cautious reluctance in the rather
trivial changes made in the first eight chapters (only 24 revisions in 63 pages) re-
placed by a growing acceptance of various kinds of changes in the ninth chapter
(49 revisions in 43 pages) made possible through revision and deletion and later
applied to the rest of the novel. In all, Swift made 205 deletions, 211 revisions
and/or corrections, and 32 additions. Textual theory and textual criticism once
proceeded under the assumption that an author consciously intends to improve
his or her text when undertaking revisions which are self-motivated, but evidence
has demonstrated that such revisions often weaken the text. The revisions in
Swift's novel sharply confirm this assumption, because a number of the revisions
seem to occlude key scenes and key moments in the text, but more because of
the almost accidental, unplanned occasion of the revisions.

At some point in 1991, Random House acquired American paperback rights
from Picador, and in April 1992 issued Waterland in its Vintage International
series—a prestigious series of quality paperbacks that includes works by such
authors as William Faulkner and Vladimir Nabokov, Maxine Hong Kingston
and A. S. Byatt, E. M. Forster and Thomas Mann. Inclusion of a novel within
this series is a virtual imprimatur of its aesthetic worth and cultural significance.
(At this same time, Vintage International also acquired the rights to the other
four novels Swift had published to date and issued Shuttlecock in 1992 with The
Sweet-Shop Owner, Out of This World,
and Ever After following in 1993.) For this


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edition, Marc J. Cohen and Susan Mitchell designed a handsome, expression-
istic cover, quite different from the realistic, sepia-toned photograph used by
Poseidon and Washington Square. Vintage reprinted the Picador text that had
expanded the text to 358 pages, used a thirty-seven line page, italicized all chap-
ter titles, dropped the eel illustration, and provided a new photograph of the
author as a frontispiece.[11]

Because of Waterland's brilliantly successful fusion of content, form, and voice,
one needs to understand these relationships to sense the intention, direction, and
effect of the revisions.[12] Waterland is the story of Tom Crick, a fifty-three year old
history teacher at a coed London prep school, who, within a few months in late
1979 and early 1980, has experienced two of the most stressful events one can
undergo: he has lost his wife—to insanity and the asylum—Sand his job—to a
reform-minded headmaster. Mary Crick has claimed that God told her to kidnap
a baby from its pram outside a Lewisham Safeway as an earned replacement for
the baby she aborted in 1943; Lewis Scott, Tom's longtime colleague and rival,
has declared history of no "practical relevance to today's real world" (P19.8,
V22.17) and banished it from the school's curriculum. Thus simultaneously "wid-
owed" from marriage, job, and discipline, Tom is alone in his world. Standing in
the classroom before seventeen restive, unruly teenage students for his last term,
Tom discards his planned syllabus on the French Revolution and asks the stu-
dents to recognize their own placement within history by telling them his family's
and his own history. This is no easy task, because Tom must ultimately confess
his "responsibility, jointly with [his] wife, for the death of three people" (P272.06,
V314.23). The novel, though, is no routine assaying of an unreliable first-person
narrator shaken by life and jarred into a moment of wrenching epiphany. Tom
is fully reliable; however, he is also fully reluctant. His many sentences trailing
into ellipses, discontinuities, free associations, and frequent digressions emphati-
cally frame the full expression of his personality as he moves ever closer to full


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confession yet continually veers into evasive asides on the history of the Fens, the
sex life of the eel, the paradoxes of the French Revolution, or the generations of
the Atkinson family. Any revision, thus, affects the fabric of his personality and
his complexly motivated narrative act, which, at first, alternates chapters in an
orderly way between the past and the present—a dialogic rhythm characteristic
of all eight of Swift's novels and one that seems generated instinctively during
composition since Swift does not work with outlines or chapter plans but rather
"just seems" to know when to shift focus from past to present or from present
to past.[13]

Deletions particularly affect the narrator's stance and tone. In the 1983
edition, Tom repeatedly addresses his students as "children": feeling that this
word was a bit too patronizing and condescending—considering the age of the
students—even for a teacher with thirty-two years of experience behind him,
Swift deleted "children" forty-four times. Indeed, eleven of the twenty-four revi-
sions in the first eight chapters involve the simple deletion of "children." He struck
"ah," one of Tom's favorite interjections, fourteen times, so that a reading such as
"Ah, children, consider that" (P169.03) becomes simply and more commandingly,
"Consider that" (V194.28). "Children" remains appropriate though, because Tom
has come to regard his students as his "children" and finally annexes one of them
as his "son." Swift also deleted Price's name several times in passages in which
Tom directly addresses this cynical teenager who has most dangerously and most
immediately questioned the worth of history in general and the validity of Tom's
subscription to a cyclical theory in particular. Tom's tone thus becomes slightly
more imperative, his attitude a bit more desperate, through these changes. Indeed,
these deletions strike some of Tom's most peculiarly Dickensian tag locutions.

In addition, older constructions and obscure words, quite in keeping with
Tom's historical bent and pedantic edge, disappear: "be-ribboned" (P78.18), "be-
crinolined" (P76.18), "apothegmatic" (P140.39), "awooing" (P221.01), and "per-
orate" (P267.27) became "ribboned" (V88.21, though it remained "be-ribboned"
at V72.12), "crinolined" (V88.21), "epigrammatic" (V161.32), "wooing"
(V255.33), and "declaim" (V309.24). Also, to similar effect, "belvedere" (P112.28)
became "hill-crest" (V129.21); "slap-up" (P107.17, V123.22) disappeared; and
"gammy" (P214.10) changed to "game" (V248.04). Tom's knowledge of techni-
cal terms seems to lessen here, though at times the revisions are problematic. "A
two-bench" (P305.24) in the phrase "a two-bench rowing-boat bobs on the high
water" changed to "a two-thwart" (V352.31), and "to the after-bench" (P305.34)
changes to "towards the stern" (V353.05). A "bench" is the seat in the back of a
boat, whereas a "thwart" is a "transverse seat in a boat for rowers to sit on."[14]
By replacing "two-bench" with "thwart," Swift turned to the more exact nautical
term, one likely to be unfamiliar to a reader, but very familiar to a man raised in
the watery Fens. Swift also struck one of Tom's most pedantically digressive pa-
rentheses, leaving the passage's focus more on the human than on the etymology.
In telling of Dick Crick's death, Tom calls him "barmy," and then adds silently,


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"(From the Old English "beorm", children, meaning the froth on fermenting
beer)" (P304.15, V351.20). Swift cut this sentence, leaving Tom's contempla-
tion firmly on his half-brother's suicide. Earlier he extensively revised a similar
"lecture" when he changed "Pike. Jack, luce, Esox lucius: Pike. They're killers.
Mere-monsters. Freshwater-wolves. The teeth rake backwards towards the gullet,
so what goes in, can't—They'll tackle coots, water-voles, other pike. Killers. It's
in their nature" (P273.18) to read "But they're killers. Pike. Freshwater-wolves.
They'll tackle ducks, water rats, other pike. The teeth rake backwards towards
the gullet, so what goes in, can't—Killers" (V316.09).

Perhaps the most striking effect brought about by deletions renders Tom
Crick less introspective and oddly less historically oriented in his own thoughts.
He loses some depth to his interior being—several times, we think most readers
will see—to damaging effect, especially since most of his key confession disap-
pears. Since every word of the novel is spoken, thought, or remembered by Tom,
no revision leaves his character untouched, and each is potentially significant. In
the second half of the novel in particular, Tom loses much of his admiration for
Victorian and Edwardian energy and optimism, and throughout the novel, he
loses considerable certainty about the shapes of history. In Chapter 46, Tom's
challenge to his students and to his audience reads: "the world is madder, mad-
der than you'd ever think. Discover it for yourselves …" (P276.24). Swift re-
vised this to a more general statement of principle: "the world is madder than
you'd ever think" (V319.22). In addition, Tom's tendency to situate all references
within larger historical events often gets struck, as can be seen in the following

pride? How often does the Gildsey Examiner (founded with Atkinson money and an organ
for Disraeliite Toryism) refer in its columns, in the same breath and the same tone, to the
March of Industry and the Might of Albion? (P80.23, V93.08)
chance (the Gallipoli campaign had just begun) to raise (P187.28, V217.09)
treaties, civil war rages in Russia and a thirty-nine-year-old Mussolini is about to seize
power in Italy, Henry Crick (P199.18, V230.31)
"Nov. 1918": that's before I was—Yet it is as it was, was as it is. Iswas. It's the past! What
stops but remains. Mummy, Mummy, tell me a—(P273.12, V316.04)
areas, emergency zones and long, long vistas in which nothing happens—save school-
mastering and age-concern.
So you, after all—a history teacher—afraid to tread, when it comes to it, the mine-
fields of the past—
(No, no, not afraid—no, I've told it all, told it all unabridged—to my class. No explo-
sions yet-unless Price …) (P285.28, V330.09)

In addition to stripping away his consciousness of historical contexts, these and
similar deletions began to discard Tom's hopes for progress, as when his thoughts,
such as "Why has the spread of merriment been transformed into the Idea of
Progress? And why has land reclamation in the eastern Fens become confused
with the Empire of Great Britain? Because to fix the zenith is to fix the point at
which decline begins" (P80.34, V93.16), simply disappear.

Tom is a particularly complex character. He is simultaneously seeking for-
giveness and escape from his past, yet he is also striving to demonstrate that


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history has not become irrelevant or obsolete in the twentieth century. Thus he
has essentially four loyalties to honor as he tells his tale: loyalties to Mary (his
wife), to Dick (his dead brother), to his class, and to himself. The class poses a
particular problem in that it is the potential bridge to the future, and he soon
finds himself talking to Price alone, the one student he thinks he might sway.
In all editions, Tom's classes are contentious sessions, but the class's discomfort
and Tom's initial hostility to Price become muted through deletions for the 1992
Picador and Vintage International text. The classroom atmosphere becomes a
less noticeably hostile stage for the debate over history. Tom no longer intu-
its "[s]uppressed chortlings around the class" (P122.03, V140.11) nor thinks his
students perceive him as being "old dry-bones, set-in-his-ways Head of the His-
tory Department" (P168.09, V193.20). Nor is his own hostility toward them so
pronounced. No longer does Tom mark Price's comments as "[a]nother of his
lesson-sabotaging sallies" (P120.15, V138.19), or the students as "(The mob, the
mob)" (P121.14, V139.21), nor does he think of Price: "So that undoubtedly
intelligent mind of yours chooses dumb insolence" (P142.28, V164.09). He even
becomes less harsh on himself, no longer thinking, with Brechtian alienation ef-
fect, "Use the stage-space. Speak into air. Any moment now Price will say: what
are you pacing around for like a ham performer? Stop acting the school-teacher"
(P143.36, V165.20). One of the more interesting sets of revisions occurs in Chap-
ter 20, "The Explanation of Explanation," in which Tom confronts Price after
school. As Tom asks for an explanation as to why Price consistently interrupts
class lectures, Price smiles mockingly. In the first edition, Tom realizes that no
explanation is needed "[b]ecause the situation denounces itself (my autocratic
posturing): oppressor and oppressed" (P143.02). In the revision, Swift alters this
to read "[b]ecause the situation denounces itself, the tableau is complete: op-
pressor and oppressed" (V164.21). This revision de-emphasizes Tom's sense of
control and more appropriately suggests the confining nature of circumstances
that dictate behavioral roles. Ultimately, this idea permeates the actions and
rationalizations of Tom, a correlation that is stressed by the line immediately
following the passage in both texts: "Consider this … how so much of history is
a settling for roles, how so much of it happened because no one said what they
really—" (P143.04, V164.22).

If such a revision emphasizes Tom's lack of control, the revisions that depict
Price's emotions and actions seem to display Price as more ambiguous and thus
more in control. In his clownish white make-up and Punk-spiked hair, Price is
certainly more self-consciously playing a role than Tom. His view of history as a
"red herring" (V165.10), for instance, is now considered a "position" (V165.10)
instead of the original "thesis" (P143.26), suggesting an intellectual frame of mind
rather than a conjecture, and, significantly, Tom is the one speaking of the "posi-
tion." In addition to this mere change in diction, Swift made several revisions
that clearly imply a blurring of the power struggle between Tom and Price. In
the first edition, for example, as Tom raises his hand to touch Price's shoul-
der, the description of Price's reaction reads, "Rapid chain-reaction in Price's
eyes. Alarm. Hasty defensive shutter-drawing; equally hasty switch to offensive.
Lip-tightening" (P144.20). Swift modified this description to read, "His expres-


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sion falters, then hardens, switches to the offensive. I turn, rebuffed, and walk
back between the desks" (V166.06). Here, Price's emotions are made less certain
through the removal of the distinct facial gesticulations. Of more significance
is the inclusion of Tom, rejected and hurt, walking back through the rows of
desks in response to Price's aggressive facial contortions. In fact, this inclusion
suggests Tom's sense of defeat and Price's certain upper-hand. Just before the
climax of the chapter, Swift revised a passage reading "I turn round. His lip is
quivering" (P145.16). Swift deleted Tom's actions and made Price's gesture less
distinct: "The face is all twisted" (V167.03). Directly before Price reveals his
belief that "explaining's a way of avoiding the facts while you pretend to get
near to them" (V167.07, P145.21), Swift diminished the emotional depiction by
modifying "Twisted features trying to reform. Trepidation trying to hide. Voice
struggling to release some punch-line" (P145.18) to read "The voice wavers. He's
struggling to release some punch-line" (V167.05). The fear or trepidation evident
in his facial contortion is replaced by a wavering voice, a much more ambiguous
portrayal in that a wavering voice may not indicate fear but rather nervousness or
angst. The revisions made to the confrontation scene clearly diminish the char-
acterization of Price's emotions. In contrast, Tom's authority is further defined
by the newly uncertain emotions of Price.

Tom's relationships to his half-brother, Dick, and his own wife, Mary, also
modify slightly. The text no longer insistently distances Tom from Dick, because
passages such as "(even though I viewed matters academically from the other
side of the pubertal gates through which I had yet to pass)" (P161.34, V186.21)
and "(but not his mother, because his mother's dead)" (P209.26, V242.24) were
deleted, as were the following passages relating to his perception of Mary:

seed. (Seed indeed!) (P35.26, V41.32)
(like old Thomas Atkinson, should Mr Crick strike Mrs Crick and let all hell loose?)
(PIII.14, V128.04)
Mary, do you remember our Sunday walks, with which we trod and measured out the
tenuous, reclaimed land of our marriage? (PIII.35, V128.26)
And again. Mary, what became of our love? (P113.17, V130.13)
"Psychological disturbance there may have been. Yet the account given to the husband
seems perfectly lucid."
Ah, but if you had been there, your worship … (P269.10, V311.23)
window. Enclosed within the circle of a crucifix. (P285.36, V330.13)
amnesia's best, perhaps amnesia's the cure for all … (P285.38, V330.14)
Several of these passages indicate that Mary and Tom have broken the cycle of
abusive relationships that appear so often in the Atkinson family, that Tom ex-
periences a genuine sense of loss over his wife, and that Tom once wrung some
small consolation for himself in thinking that Mary may be protected in some
way by her crucifix and may have found some safety within forgetfulness that he
will never be accorded because of his need to remember in great detail, points
muted or outright silenced through the deletions.


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If Tom's responsibilities to Dick Crick and to Mary have been muted through
revisions and deletions, his responsibilities to himself are adjusted even further.
The most striking change, though, concerns Tom's sense of responsibility for
his own involvement in the actions of 1943. In the 1992 edition, Swift revised
passages to make Tom's sense of responsibility more ambiguous. At the mo-
ment the reader believes Tom will candidly confess his involvement in three
murders, Tom states: "I confess my responsibility, jointly with my wife, for the
death of three people (that is, if, in the second instance, we are truly speaking of a
personS—we're still uncertain, aren't we, of the status of the embryo?—and if, in
the third, what we're speaking of was indeed a death …)" (P272.06). In the 1992 edition, the passage is revised to read, "that is—it's not so simple—one of them
was never born, and one of them—who knows if it was really a death" (V314.26).
Tom's questioning of "the status of the embryo" is a poignant clue as to his feel-
ings of and evasions of guilt. In the first passage, Tom uses the logic pattern "If A,
then B": if these deaths can be considered real, then I am guilty of murder. This
attempt to rationalize the status of the victims implies culpability. By comparison,
the revised passage devictimizes the victims by avoiding specific terms such as
"person" and "embryo." Because this thought is so evasive, it characterizes Tom
more fully, making him less honest and less courageous than the Tom in the first
edition. Not only does the truth evade Tom, but it also evades the reader. Tom
Crick's rationalizations emphasize his reluctance and hesitation in sharing the
entire story with his students, his readers, and himself. And, indeed, Swift may
have made a strikingly crucial mistake when he deleted several sentences from
Tom's final plea for forgiveness in the novel—the climactic moment of Tom's
confession. In the 1992 edition, Tom now only asks of his third victim, "(Forgive
me, Dick.)" (V351.14). Originally, the passage was considerably longer, consider-
ably more rhetorical, and considerably broader in its request for deep forgiveness
and genuine recognition of his own role in the deaths:

(Forgive me, Dick. To malign your final gesture, your last recourse, with the taint of
madness, to rob it of reality: I, if anyone, knew there was reason in your plight. I, your
brother. Your brother. Your brother?) (P304.05)

Although a number of the revisions do no more than tighten syntax and
emphasize details, Swift occasionally sharpens images and allusions through re-
vision. One of the most interesting revisions occurs in the table of contents, in
which Chapter 37, entitled "Le Jour de Gras" (P233) in the first version, changes
to "Le Jour de Gloire" (V270) in the second. Because the chapter discusses the
brutal beheadings by guillotine during the French Revolution, the substitution of
"gloire" for "gras," an ironic "glory" instead of a flippant "fat (meat)," is indica-
tive of Swift's ability to sharpen images and heighten ironies. Swift effectively
hones his allusions as well and deepens their significance for his text. Tom Crick
contends that when the world ends, all that will be left will be stories: "We'll
sit down, in our shelter, and tell stories to some imaginary Prince Shahriyar,
hoping it will never …" (P257.14). This allusion to Shahriyar, and implicitly
Scheherazade, from The Arabian Nights, is more fully realized by Swift's revision
to "We'll sit down, in our shelter, and tell stories, like poor Scheherazade, hop-


Page 297
ing it will never …" (V298.03). The substitution of Scheherazade is significant
because it makes the allusion much more powerful in relation to the rest of the
novel: the emphasis is now on the story-teller rather than the listener, on the
individual hoping to avoid execution rather than the judge, and, of course, this
relates evocatively to Tom's attempts to escape full responsibility.

Quite often, Swift replaces his less connotative diction with more evocative
and expressive synonyms in order to sharpen images and strengthen details. Silt
as a "subverter of rivers" (P299.32) becomes a "usurper of rivers" (V346.13), for
instance, implying the land's omnipotence in overtaking the river rather than the
land's catalytic ability merely to destroy the river's course. "[E]xists" (P92.24) is
changed to "looms" (V106.26), suggesting the foreboding and threatening nature
of questioning the past. Similarly, Swift sharpens the details and descriptions
by correcting prepositional phrases and converting them into adjectival phrases
such as "breast of frock-coat" (P285.14) to "frock-coated breast" (V329.33) and
"noise as of whipped-up waves" (P288.29) to "wave-like noise" (V333.18), the
latter in the extensively revised Easter convocation scene in which the storm-
at-sea simile is more fully developed in the revisions. In one instance, the simile of
Tom's forehead "grained and polished, like old wood" (P135.01) is appropriately
revised to "waxy and furrowed" (V154.33). He is, after all, no longer valued by
any one, as a piece of antique furniture would be.

The thirty-two additions introduce fewer than sixty new words into the text,
a clear indication that addition was the least of Swift's tools at this point in craft-
ing his text; moreover, eighteen of the additions occur in four chapters (9,12,14,
and 44). At one point, between chapters 24 and 39, over one hundred pages pass
without a single addition. When Swift does add words, however, his intentions
are clear: to clarify a reference, occasionally to complete a sentence broken off
in the first edition, and to deepen a description through an expressive adjective.
In the first edition, "where you—?" (P270.01) and "How far—?" (P272.04) are
typical broken sentences; Swift expanded them to read "where you left the car?
(V312.13) and "How far back is that?" (V314.23). Elsewhere, he added brief
clauses and phrases to smooth transitions between sentences. In the first edition,
Tom and Mary leave Lewis Scott's home and "walk in silence, each lost in misty
thoughts" (P108.24). In the second, we learn that the "misty thoughts" stem from
"the Scotts' dinner fully dissected" (V125.02), and during the Easter convocation,
Tom's initial comment on the "official rallying cry—of the Holocaust Club"
(P288.34) acquires the revealing interpolation, "official rallying cry (I know this)
of the Holocaust Club" (V333.22), suggesting that he may not be totally innocent
when it comes to knowing about the planned demonstration.

Shortly before his one victorious moment in the novel, the moment when
he gives his eloquent final address to the students and realizes Price has been
won to his side, Tom Crick comforts himself, in the face of doubts, by thinking,
"(No, no, not afraid—no, I've told it all, told it all, unabridged …" (P285.33,
V330.11). Swift struck this brief paragraph from the text and in so doing cut
yet one more subtle glimpse into the psyche of his protagonist. His revisions to
Waterland pose a problem, largely because they are only sporadically consistent.
It is quite apparent, for instance, that while Graham Greene's revisions to The


Page 298
End of the Affair (1951) are guided and driven by a thematic agenda, revision of
Waterland was a much more casual activity driven by no agenda during the actual
process of rivision.[15] The novel's revisions were virtually accidental in origin but
clearly are significant in effect since they reshape our perception of Tom Crick
and Tom's theory of history.[16]


It is, of course, impossible to make an absolute assertion, but these three novels have
generated more published discussion than most other novels of the 1980s. The Modem Language
International Bibliography
reports that as of 29 May 2008 Midnight's Children has been the subject
of 223 published essays (a high number that might be expected given its political and colonialist
themes), The White Hotel of 59, and Waterland of 49.


The Novel Today (London and New York: Longman, 1990), p. 63.


The Modern British Novel (London: Penguin, 1993), p. 433.


The Politics of Postmodernism. (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), p. 56. The titles
of the significant works by these authors indicate the general thrust of Hutcheon's comment: The
Idea of History
(1951) and Essays in the Philosophy of History (1965) by Robin George Collingwood,
The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972) by Michel Foucault, Modem European Intellectual History: Reap-
(1982) and New Perspectives and Soundings in Critical Theory (1989) by Dominick LaCapra,
Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1973) and Tropics of Discourse:
Essays in Cultural Criticism
(1976) by Hayden V. White, Culture and Society, 1780–1950 (1958) by
Raymond Williams, and La Condition postmoderne (1979) and La Postmoderne expliqué aux enfants
(1988) by Jean-François Lyotard.


Quoted in Understanding Graham Swift (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2003),
p. 188. Taylor's review, "South London Reveries," appeared in Times Literary Supplement,
28 February 2003, 21–22.


These potentials include house-styling, censorship, editorial intervention, etc.


Although Waterland has been published in numerous editions and printings, there are
essentially two versions in English. The first is represented by the 310-page text issued by Heine-
mann (1983), Poseidon (1983), and Picador (1984) and also published with different pagination
by Olivers Press (1984,418 pp., large-print), Washington Square Pocket Books (1985, 270 pp.),
and Heinemann New Windmills (1991, 334 pp.). The second version has appeared as 358-page
volumes from Picador (1992) and Vintage International (1992). In this essay, the base texts are
indicated as P (1983 Poseidon) and V (1992 Vintage), with occasional references to H (Heine-
mann 1983). Swift has the notes, manuscript, typescript, and proofs in his possession. These are
not available for study at present.


The early reviews emphasized Swift's handling of setting and topic. Publisher's Weekly
wrote that he "is to eastern England what William Faulkner is to the South," and The London
said that "Waterland appropriates the Fens as Moby Dick did whaling or Wuthering Heights
the moor." The American reviews used on the Washington Square paperback spoke more to
style and content. Newsweek praised its "prose, for its resonance and clarity," and Michael Wood,
writing for the New York Review of Books, called the novel "a formidably intelligent book …
animated by an impressive, angry pity at what human creatures are capable of doing to one
another in the name of love and need." The perception of the audience shifted considerably
in the American marketing strategies. Using such quotations from reviews to help advertise a
novel and placing them before the title page has become an increasingly common feature of
American paperbacks.


The Gyllenhall film, starring Jeremy Irons, Ethan Hawke, Sinead Cusack, and Grant
Warnock, among others, was neither an artistic nor a commercial success. The novel's 1980s
London scenes were inexplicably moved to 1970s Pittsburgh; the scenes in the past were
handled as fantasy flashbacks that could be visited in a double-decker bus; Mary Crick is never
arrested; etc. The film was released in 1992 by Fine Line Features. Perhaps it was unfamiliarity
with the Swift novel that led reviewers to complain about the character Price. Peter Ranier
commented that "one of Tom's hectoring classmates [Price is, of course, a student in Tom's
class, not his classmate], played by Ethan Hawke, seems to be in the movie to court teen audi-
ences; his wise-guy posturings are enough to make you want to brain him" (Los Angeles Times, 6
November 1992, p. F8). Hawke, though, accurately captures the essence of Swift's character.


Swift, interview with David Leon Higdon (London), 11 July 1996. After the formal in-
terview at the Macmillan offices was concluded, Swift and Higdon continued talking informally
about the revisions to Waterland, the possibility of Swift writing a circadian or one-day novel
(which Swift did do in The Light of the Day [2003]), and the ending of Waterland. Higdon asked
Swift why he had concluded Waterland with the image of Dick's motorcycle, a scene that has
puzzled many readers and critics, and Swift replied, "Why not?"


The Vintage printing introduced one new error into the text: "what's in it" (P199.36)
appears as "what in it" (V231.12).


For discussions of Swift's narrative strategies, see Margarét Gunnarsdóttir Champion,
"Cracked Voices: Identification and Ideology in Graham Swift's Waterland," Critique 45 (2003),
34–42; Stephan Schaffrath, "The Many Facets of Chaos-versus-Order Dichotomy in Graham
Swift's Waterland," Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 4 (2003), 84–93; Daniel Candel Bormann,
"Female Voices Bound by Chaos," in (Trans)Formaciones de las sexualidades y el genero (2001),
pp. 219–236; Daniel Candel Borman, "Transgression and Stability in Graham Swift's Wa-
" Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 48 (2000), 354–363; David Leon Higdon,
"'Unconfessed Confessions': The Narrators of Julian Barnes and Graham Swift," The British
and Irish Novel since 1960,
ed. James Acheson (London: Macmillan,1991), pp. 174–191; Del
Ivan Janik, "History and the 'Here and Now': The Novels of Graham Swift," Twentieth Century
35 (1989), 74–88; George P. Landow, "History, His Story, and Stories in Graham
Swift's Waterland," Studies in the Literary Imagination 23 (1990), 197–211; John Schad, "The End
of the End of History: Graham Swift's Waterland," Modern Fiction Studies 38 (1992), 911–925;
Ernst van Alpen, "The Performativity of Histories: Graham Swift's Waterland as a Theory of
History," in The Point of Theory: Practices of Culture Analysis, ed. Mieke Bal and Inge E. Boer (New
York: Continuum, 1994), pp. 202–210; and Catherine Bernard, "Dismembering/Remember-
ing Mimesis: Martin Amis, Graham Swift," in British Postmodern Fiction, ed. Theo D'haen and
Hans Bertens (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993), pp. 121–144.


Swift, interview with Higdon.


C. W. T. Layton, Dictionary of Nautical Words and Terms (London: Brown, Son and
Ferguson, 1955), pp. 42, 371.


See Higdon, "'Betrayed Intentions': Graham Greene's The End of the Affair," The Li-
6th ser. 1.1 (1979), 71–77.


The authors with to thank the Graduate School, Taxas Tech University for the Sum-
mer Research Scholarship granted Russell Reed, the anonymous readers of the essay, and
Divid Vander Meulen for their helpful, perceptive suggestions.