BEYOND THE SEA (2019)

BEYOND THE SEA is the haunting story of two men stranded at sea pushing against their physical and mental limits to stay alive, from the author of Grace, winner of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.

Based partly on true events, Paul Lynch’s haunting and sublime novel Beyond the Sea tells the story of two South American fishermen, Bolivar and Hector, who go to sea before a catastrophic storm. Needing cash, Bolivar convinces his boss to let him fish despite the weather. His fishing partner is nowhere to be found, so he brings Hector, a sullen and inexperienced teenager. The storm arrives, and though the two men survive, they’ve been blown hundreds of miles out in the Pacific Ocean with little hope for rescue.

Coming to terms with their new reality, they are forced to accept their separation from the modern world, their sudden and inescapable intimacy, and the possibilities and limits of faith, hope, and survival. As the days go by, they grapple with the mistakes of their pasts, the severity of their present, and the uncertainty of their future. And though Bolivar and Hector fight to maintain their will to live, nothing in the barren seascape or in their minds promises that they will make it.

Ambitious and profoundly moving, Beyond the Sea explores what it means to be a man, a friend, and a sinner in our fallen world. With evocative prose, Lynch crafts a suspenseful drama that refuses sentimentality or easy answers. Instead, Beyond the Sea is a hard-won and intimate rendering of the extremities of human life, both physical and mental.

UK, Ireland & Commonwealth: published by Oneworld, September 2019 

North America: published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, March 2020

• Book of the Year, Martina Devlin — The Irish Independent 2019

• Book of the Year, Sebastian Barry — The Irish Independent 2019

• Book of the Year, Peter Cunningham — The Irish Independent 2019

Praise for BEYOND THE SEA

“If you have a feeling that the older man has underestimated more than one factor… that he is ignoring too many aspects of his own life, and that as a result both men are in danger from something yet to happen, you’re right: but the scale of it, the extremity of it and the poetry of it are what Paul Lynch is going to show you…. Contemporary Irish fiction prizes delivery, daring and an implicit trust in the reader: Lynch demonstrates a control over his ideas that comes from a pure lyrical telling, a speech act that, if you let it, will take you anywhere. Beyond the Sea is frightening but beautiful.”

— M John Harrison, The Guardian

“…the stark, mesmerizing book reads like an existential argument between…irreconcilable truths, a Beckett play bobbing in the open water … If the two characters seem schematically opposed—will versus fate—Mr. Lynch takes pains to confuse their relationship, changing it from mood to mood into something bitter, paternal, generous or adversarial. The novel’s foundations are like the ocean, too unfixed and unfathomable to allow the philosophical disputes to advance in a linear fashion. Both men appear courageous or cowardly, insane or transcendently wise, depending on the angle of the sunlight—as if the immensity of the setting renders even the firmest distinctions indistinct … Mr. Lynch’s prose style is suitably rationed and sun-cured … Though bare and isolated, this fine book contains multitudes of experience.”

—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“The timeless aura and allegorical undertones of an ancient Greek myth….This is a book that will leave you feeling thoroughly wrung out by the final page, but also happy to be alive.”

— Roger Cox, The Scotsman

“[Lynch’s] novels are artistic creations… and Beyond the Sea is based on an extraordinary true story…. Lynch’s concern is not only the minutiae of survival or men battling the elements, although his account of these is exciting and persuasive. His main interest lies in the existential struggle within: how men handle themselves in extremis…  His fourth novel has echoes of Melville, Dostoyevsky and William Golding… But the literary work it most invokes is Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with its theme of crime and punishment.”

— The Sunday Times

“Lynch’s characters often come from highly specific cultural and historical milieus – they may be postwar Irish emigrants, nineteenth-century tenant farmers, members of rural communities affected by the Great Famine – but his narration wrenches them from their immediate social context and deposits them in a distant, metaphysical terrain: a space outside their cultural moorings, where they appear perpetually uprooted or displaced. Here, Lynch’s heroes become the locus of complex meditations on memory and identity. Yet the author tends to balance his philosophical speculation with a descriptive strain: one that foregrounds the physical detail of landscapes, settings and bodies.

In Beyond the Sea Lynch heightens and refines these trademark features… [and it] articulates Lynch’s literary preoccupations with striking clarity: the universal questions of whether we can forget the past, whether we engender our own fate, and how much of our soul is expressed in our physical being. Once Bolivar and Hector are cast into the sea – helpless, static and isolated – there is nothing left for the narrator except these existential problems, which he unpacks with a careful, piercing intelligence…

Almost every line, pared down to its essential components, seems cut short by an omission, haunted by something unsaid. Large gaps between the paragraphs entrench this sense of pervasive silence…. its pages are alive with elegance and insight.”

— Oliver Eagleton, The Times Literary Supplement

“Lynch takes a panga boat lost at sea and fashions it into a story that seems to inhale and exhale with the very days and nights experienced on Earth … From the onset, Lynch’s work seems reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Of course, a similar setting is produced in Beyond The Sea, but Lynch’s form is also evocative of Hemingway’s style—both writers use short, deliberate sentences and ditch commas in spots where a conjunction might be present, and, as a result, relay a more natural and flowing narrative effect. Lynch’s writing, though, is more steeped in modernism as he does not include quotation marks in his dialogue, relying on periods even if a sentence is not grammatically complete … Lynch writes with such precision of language and attention to exactness that finding the truest words appears to be something else that he has in common with Hemingway … the best type of reading experience—one where nearly everything propels thinking. It grips the reader with large and unanswerable questions: What is true? What is knowing? What is meaning? Yet, somehow, Lynch provides exactly what seems to be impossible—answers.”

—Keith Contorno, The Chicago Review of Books

“Such an aching sense of spaciousness feels in the spirit of its exotic setting, of Latin American sensualists such as Paolo Coelho or Pablo Neruda, or the deep eastern wisdoms of Hermann Hesse… Beyond the Sea deserves a special place in Lynch’s increasingly fascinating and diverse catalogue”

— Hilary A White, Irish Independent

“Masterly.”

— Sebastian Barry, Books of the Year, The Sunday Independent

“Some of the most important fiction in the opening decades of the 21st century has come from Ireland, and Paul Lynch is one of the leading lights of this postmodern Irish Renaissance….In Beyond the Sea, Lynch takes his art to a new place… Lynch manages to transform a news story into a universal tale of friendship and endurance and love … Beyond the Sea is elemental. It is a story sliced to the bone. It compels the reader to look unblinkingly at matters of life and death, at the heart of what it means to be fully human. Lynch puts the reader on that small boat in the blank Pacific, implying that in a profound sense we are all there and must face the same questions that Bolivar and Hector are forced to face.”

— Michael Pearson, New York Journal of Books

“An epic with, as epics should have, more than a touch of poetry about it, and possibly the grimmest, but also most beautifully written, novel set at sea that I have read since William Golding’s Pincher Martin”

— Andrew Stuttaford, The New Criterion

“Lyrical, fantastical and almost hallucinatory… [with] a metaphysical, Beckett-esque bent… There are echoes of Gabriel García Márquez… [A] haunting, dreamlike novel.”

— John Walshe, The Sunday Business Post

“Lynch triumphed with Grace, his penultimate, Famine-themed novel and he does so again with Beyond the Sea. Fantastically written, a truly magnificent portrayal of the gritty battle between despair and hope.”

— Grace Keane, RTE.ie

“Paul Lynch is rightly considered one of Ireland’s rising literary stars…Beyond The Sea acts as parable: about hope vs despair and man vs nature (with subtle climate change warnings running throughout). It’s also a heart-rending story about relationships and redemption.”

— Hot Press

“Elemental… incredibly simple… so beautiful.…a very, very powerful book.”

— Kate Evans and Cassie McCullagh, The Bookshelf, ABC Australia

“Literary representations of the ocean have traditionally been masculine… Lynch both acknowledges and subverts this tradition in Beyond the Sea…Thrillingly stripped-back prose composed of simple, declarative sentences that viscerally captures Bolivar’s physical and spiritual transformation.”

— James Bradley, The Australian

“… haunting … The initial quick pacing gives way to languid, sparse chapters in which the men explore their relationships, values, and spirituality … Lynch’s enchanting tale reveals the stark beauties that come from struggling to live at the mercy of the natural world.”

— Publishers Weekly

“A lucid, lyrical tale… Lynch’s spare and precise novel has a detached, almost mythical quality.”

— The Irish Times

“Paul Lynch won the Irish Novel of the Year 2018 for Grace, a lushly lyrical adventure story set in Famine-era Ireland. His follow-up…[is] a short but absorbing tale of the lengths to which people go to avoid admitting who they really are.”

— Metro

“Paul Lynch is one of our greatest writers, and Beyond the Sea is his best work yet. A sublime, elemental, fever dream of a novel that constantly tests us, tempts us, and guides us. This is a work of art that relentlessly and slyly captures not only the trials of the human spirit, but what we are doing to our environment, our world, and to each other–a profound, unforgettable journey, one I urge you to experience.”

— Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain

“Combining the sensibilities of a Joseph Conrad or a Cormac McCarthy with the poetic intensity of an Emily Dickinson, this rich, raw, and powerful seascape by Paul Lynch throws the sea’s storms and the sea’s light into the darkest corners of human consciousness. An astonishing achievement.”

— Jane Urquhart, author of The Night Stages

“A powerful, heart-breaking story of friendship forged in the most extreme conditions. With its echoes of Greek myth, it yields up those small moments of grace that are deeply transformative.”

— Mary Costello, author of The River Capture

“Beyond the Sea sets us adrift in the unbounded ocean and stuns us with beautiful, fierce insights. After the familiar world has receded and the stories we tell ourselves have dissolved, we are left to confront our barest fears and self-accusations. Paul Lynch submerges us in the wildness of our own minds; I resurfaced changed.”

— Chia-Chia Lin, author of The Unpassing

“Lynch’s lat­est book weaves a tightly-writ­ten tale about two fish­er­men who are cast adrift in a tiny boat on a vast, un­for­giv­ing ocean. As time drifts by and it seems to the two men that no one is look­ing for them, the story be­gins to plumb the psy­cho­log­i­cal hu­man depths that nat­u­rally at­tend a hor­ror sce­nario such as the one Lynch un­spar­ingly paints. His writ­ing is lu­mi­nous, his char­ac­ters are vividly real and their un­think­able dilemma feels so close you can prac­ti­cally reach over the side of their boat and touch the wa­ter.”

— El­iz­a­beth Fortes­cue, The Daily Telegraph (Australia)

“With Beyond the Sea, Paul Lynch delivers a post-twentieth century existential parable which highlights the fragility and resilience of the human spirit through a crisis of existence as precarious as it is meaningless. The ocean has ever been a powerful metaphor and literary device, but in the present age the travails of desperate souls upon the seas in search of refuge bears more meaning than in any post-war fiction. With echoes of Camus, McCarthy, Hemingway, and Coleridge, Lynch illustrates the reciprocally indifferent relationship between humanity and its environment, while subtly highlighting the same indifference between humans. The author of Grace (my favourite novel of 2017) presents a harrowing, yet redemptive tale of spiritual purgation delivered with poetic and deeply evocative prose.”

— The Reader (Australia)

“This poetic, ambitious tale by award-winning writer Paul Lynch is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy and even Ernest Hemingway, though in its Irish fluency and lyricism it is stylistically far away from Hemingway”

— Spectrum (Australia)

“The light and dark of their lives play out in a story that is dazzling, unsettling and deeply revealing of the human condition.”

— Brisbane News

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