Rachel Cusk: Mother as spider

Being a woman and an artist in the world

Towards the end of Rachel Cusk’s new novel Kudos, the narrator, a novelist, is interviewed by three journalists in a plush hotel in an old European city. The narrator has previously appeared in both Outline and Transit, the first two titles in this provocative and innovative literary trilogy, and she will be known to the eagle-eyed reader only as Faye. (I spotted her name once in Kudos’s 240 pages.) In this last instalment, Faye is attending a literary conference in an unidentified country that sounds a lot like Portugal, and apparently her fame as an English author is such that the local media is paying attention.

The first journalist begins his interview with a lengthy wind-up that addresses the issue of honesty in literature—Cusk relates this second hand in her inimitable form of reported dialogue—but he is never allowed to hear the answer to his extenuated question; he takes so...