I Saw Water

An Occult Novel and Other Selected Writings

By (author) Ithell Colquhoun Introduction and notes by Richard Shillitoe, Mark S. Morrisson

Hardback - £43.95

Publication date:

27 October 2014

Length of book:

228 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271064239

Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988) is remembered today as a surrealist artist, writer, and occultist. Although her paintings hang in a number of public collections and her gothic novel Goose of Hermogenes (1961) remains in print, critical responses to her work have been severely constrained by the limited availability of her art and writings. The publication of her second novel, I Saw Water—presented here for the first time, together with a selection of her other writings and images, many also previously unpublished—marks a significant step in expanding our knowledge of Colquhoun’s work.

Composed almost entirely of material assembled from the author’s dreams, I Saw Water challenges such fundamental distinctions as those between sleeping and waking, the two separated genders, and life and death. It is set in a convent on the Island of the Dead, but its spiritual context derives from sources as varied as Roman Catholicism, the teachings of the Theosophical Society, Goddess spirituality, Druidism, the mystical Qabalah, and Neoplatonism.

The editors have provided both an introduction and explanatory notes. The introductory essay places the novel in the context of Colquhoun’s other works and the cultural and spiritual environment in which she lived. The extensive notes will help the reader with any concepts that may be unfamiliar.

“As this excellent edition clearly demonstrates, not only are Colquhoun's works valuable and important in and of themselves, but they are also vital in achieving as full a picture as possible of the complex history of experimentation in writing in English throughout the twentieth century.”

—Leigh Wilson, University of Westminster