Garth GreenwellThe Cleanness author on always being an outsider.

Garth GreenwellThe Cleanness author on always being an outsider.

  • Words Kabelo Sandile Motsoeneng

Garth Greenwell is not feigning humility when he says the critical reception of his books is still “bewildering” to him. “I was a poet for 20 years, and knew that nobody was ever going to read my work,” Greenwell says.When working on What Belongs to You and Cleanness, which both follow an American teacher living in Sofia, Bulgaria, he wrote without an audience in mind. The narrator is never named, but that does not suggest a kind of opacity. The world becomes knowable: the narrator’s attempts to understand the nature of his relationship with Mitko, who he meets while cruising in Sofia’s National Palace of Culture bathrooms; his struggle to become a better teacher and a better mentor; his efforts to maintain a relationship with R., his boyfriend. 

Greenwell, calling from ...

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