‘The Prospect From The Silver Hill’ by Jim Crace

Jim Crace writes books that are difficult to categorise. Continent was initially published in 1986 as a novel in seven stories. This is the last story, portraying the lonely life of a company agent, suffering from “phrenetic insomnia”, assigned to a remote hill to test drill cores for precious metals and gemstones. “He sorted clays as milky as nutsap and eggstones as worn and weathered as saint’s beads into sample bags.” In such exquisite prose, Crace documents the protagonist’s slow descent into madness or perhaps, more sympathetically, to a higher plane of environmental awareness. To an imagined state of innocence, living as a hunter-gatherer with a family he’s never had. Treading lightly on an ancient landscape the civilised world, after silver is discovered, is bent on destroying for profit.

Collected in Continent, William Heinemann 1986, and available to read on the British Council Transcultural Writing website here – there is an accompanying self-commentary here

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