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  • Published: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409043454
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

Haunts of the Black Masseur

The Swimmer as Hero

A re-issue of the cult swimming classic, twenty-five years after its first publication.

A new re-issue of the cult swimming classic, a beautiful read filled with detailed description and powerful prose.


'A luminously romantic history of swimming' Guardian

Haunts of the Black Masseur is a dazzling introduction to the great swimming heroes, from Byron leaping into the surf at Shelley's funeral to Hart Crane diving to his death in the Bay of Mexico. Bursting with anecdotes, Charles Sprawson leads us into a watery world populated by lithe demi-gods - a world that has obsessed humans from the ancient Greeks and Romans, to Yeats, Woolf, Fitzgerald and Hockney.

Original, enticing and dripping with references to literature, film, art and Olympic history, this cult swimming classic pays sparkling tribute to water and the cultural meanings we attach to it.

'This splendid and wholly original book is as zestful as a plunge in champagne' Iris Murdoch

  • Published: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409043454
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

About the author

Charles Sprawson

Charles Sprawson was an obsessional swimmer and diver who swam the Hellespont. He died in January 2020.

Praise for Haunts of the Black Masseur

[Sprawson] has an ornate style of prose, apparently smooth, but rippling with wit and candour. Haunts of the Black Masseur was a delight when I read it first time round and 25 years on, it strikes me as even better

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

­Original and sparkling. A haunting, sensual, slippery read that will make you long for seaweed on your skin and sand between your toes. A must for swimmers

Rebecca Wallersteiner, The Lady

A delightful, profound cultural and literary history of swimming, bathing and the social meanings of water from ancient Greece to the modern Olympics

Publisher's Weekly

A devoted and luminously romantic history of swimming


A wholly original idea...a brilliant translation of a singular passion

Alan Ross, Times Literary Supplement

All too rarely does a book of striking originality float to the surface; this is one


An exhilarating plunge into some of the deepest pools inside our heads... Magnificently obsessive, this social and cultural history of swimming is the best book I read this year

J G Ballard

An extraordinary book: I thought I wouldn't care a fig for it but was suddenly and immediately enthralled. Exceptionally entertaining and compelling

Joanna Lumley


Sunday Times

Inspired by his own obsession with immersion, Charles Sprawson has written a mesmeric account, both sensual and erudite, of individual and cultural preoccupations with water.

London Evening Standard



One wants to put it down - and jump straight into the pool


This is an agreeably obsessive book, full of unusual information

Independent on Sunday

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