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Submitted Literature

Legend of a Suicide

By David Vann


Suicide, writes Margaret Higonnet, “deeply resists our attempts at knowledge and explanation.... it is an ambiguous kind of text, whose survivors are obliged to interpret its meaning.... A proliferation of collateral plots is one of the characteristics of a suicide narrative.


David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide is a perfect example of this proliferating narrative response to the need to make sense of suicide. Roy Fenn is thirteen when his father Jim, a discontented dentist turned fisherman, kills himself. Vann’s imaginative revisiting of Jim’s  life and suicide within the five stories and 164 page novella that comprise this volume, chart with moving intensity Roy’s quest to make meaning out of the great sea of incomprehensibility that follows in the wake of his father’s suicide.


Although ostensibly a collection, Vann manages to imbue Legend of a Suicide with a distinct and singular consciousness. From the relentless natural forces of the Alaskan wilderness against which this meditation on life and death and the father and son relationship plays itself out; through the imaginative narrative unravellings which reveal the conflicting and raw intensity of Roy’s emotional passage, Vann’s book is a distillate of loss, pain, and ultimately, love and acceptance.

Key Themes:

  • Suicidality

Reference: David, Vann. 2008. Legend of a Suicide. Penguin, 2008


Mr Scott Fitzpatrick
Date Review Submitted: Tuesday 13th October 2009