A Story of Art and Survival
by de Freston, Tom | Non-fiction; Arts; Biography/Memoir
Published 02/03/2023 by GRANTA BOOKS in the United Kingdom
Paperback | 352 pages

SKU: '9781783786657 Categories: , ,


Artist Tom de Freston has long had an obsession with Géricault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa, and the troubling story behind its creation. The monumental canvas, which hangs in the Louvre, depicts a 19th century tragedy in which 150 people were drowned at sea on a raft lost in a stormy sea, when the ship Medusa was wrecked on shallow ground.

When de Freston began making an artwork with Ali, a Syrian writer blinded by a bombing, The Raft’s depiction of pain and suffering resonated powerfully with him, as did Géricault’s awful life story. It spoke not only to Ali’s story but to Tom’s family history of trauma and anguish, offering him a passage out of the dark waters in which he found himself.

In spellbinding, visceral prose, de Freston opens a window onto the magnetic frisson that runs between a past masterpiece and contemporary artistic endeavours. He asks powerful questions about how we might translate violence, fear and trauma into art, how we try to make sense of seemingly unthinkable acts, and the value in facing and depicting the darkest horrors.

‘Géricault”s Raft stands as a statement as much as painting, a history lesson, a nightmare, a gigantic perfidy, a visual shorthand for abuse and disaster rendered in exquisite oils… In pulses of literary reference and art history and Gericault””s own radical life story, de Freston evokes a provocative new voyage for the rotting raft – seen through his own visceral experience of the vast painting, and its uproarious terrors and visions, which hold a mortal but undying resonance for our own times… A stupendous work.’ Philip Hoare

‘To read Wreck is to observe a mind as it delves into the pentimenti of the past, moving through complexities of horror, art, solidarity, and trauma. Unforgettable.’ Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A Ghost in the Throat

‘Not only an extraordinary exploration of how an artwork is created but a devastating portrayal of what it means to means to struggle, to be human, to find hope. A darting, incredibly ambitious book which brings together the head and the heart. I am still ringing with the experience of reading it.’ Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters