Amina Memory Cain

A Horse at Night, 2022 from Dorothy, a publishing project (cover art: The Travelling Companions by Augustus Leopold Egg, 1862) in the US and w/ Daunt Books (cover art & design by Tom Etherington) in the UK. An audiobook is available through Tantor Media. A Spanish translation by writer/translator Jazmina Barrera is forthcoming from Fiordo Editorial in Argentina in May 2024.  

“Without planning it, I wrote a diary of sorts. Lightly. A diary of fiction. Or is that not what this is?”

In Amina Cain’s first nonfiction book, a series of essayistic inquiries come together to form a sustained meditation on writers and their works, on the spaces of reading and writing fiction, and how these spaces take shape inside a life. Driven by primary questions of authenticity and freedom in the shadow of ecological and social collapse, Cain moves associatively through a personal canon of authors—including Marguerite Duras, Elena Ferrante, Renee Gladman, and Virginia Woolf—and topics as timely and various as female friendships, zazen meditation, neighborhood coyotes, landscape painting, book titles, and the politics of excess. A Horse at Night: On Writing is an intimate reckoning with the contemporary moment, and a quietly brilliant contribution to the lineage of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own or William H. Gass’s On Being Blue, books that are virtuosic arguments for—and beautiful demonstrations of—the essential unity of writing and life.

A Horse at Night is like light from a candle in the evening: intimate, pleasurable, full of wonder. It asks us to consider fiction as life and life as fiction. Amina Cain is our generous, gentle guide through an exquisite library. A truly beautiful book.” Ayşegül Savaş

“The cadences of Amina Cain’s writing have entered my brain like the sound of the sea. She gently sifts through a thought or a feeling and then, just as gently, discards it to move onto another. Sometimes, she returns to the same thought and feeling before again moving on. Her language is utterly compelling. I have written down the list of books that she cites in A Horse at Night. I want to read all of them.” Celia Paul

“A masterful work about writing and reading, that feels like a manifesto and conversation all in one. Intimate, insightful and brilliant.” Sinéad Gleeson

Amina Cain has written a book that’s self-soluble, that thinks about its own dissolution as an artifact. Lol Stein takes her place beneath the rye, for example, and we know she’s there, an architecture of postures that works differently to the idea of shelter. Cain works precisely in this kind of space, between bodies and voids. Here, a reader can become a writer, too.” Bhanu Kapil

“Amina Cain lays down the keys to her writing kingdom very quietly … I loved it.” Roger Robinson

“Amina Cain is an elegant writer, and A Horse at Night is an elegant book. Idiosyncratic yet tight, weird yet unpretentious, highbrow yet immediate – I read this book in one sitting, then immediately began again.” Susan Finlay 

“Nimble and deft, Amina Cain is a seamstress of thought, stitching exquisite creations of text as if from cloth. A Horse at Night is an exceptional book, a work of depth and elegance, with her bright intelligence threaded into its very seams.” Doireann Ní Ghríofa

“It was a joy to spend time in the company of the author’s elegant, wise voice. Many a sentence was underlined. It felt like some bizarre kind of manual.” Sara Baume 

‘Tender and intimate . . . a book that is as much about reading as about writing. For Cain, books are characters, friends, provocateurs, and reading a mental landscape through which she moves with a meandering, associative intent.’ Marina Benjamin, New Statesman

“Cain’s influences and interests range from writers like Tove Jansson, Marguerite Duras, and Marie NDiaye, to artists like Albrecht Dürer and Hilma af Klint. Connecting them to various broader topics such as authenticity, individuality, and female friendship, Cain creates an urgent yet serene and refreshingly vulnerable meditation on the unity between life and art.” Liska Jacobs, Esquire


“In A Horse at Night: On Writing, a shifting, elliptical essay on the writing life, Cain admits the crushing heaviness of composition, and the airy fantasies that attend it. She “grazes” at her writing—a metaphor she shares with Roland Barthes, on his reading—and she dreams (via Italo Calvino) of an impossible lightness. A Horse at Night is in part about this hope, but more ambitiously it’s an allusive and engaging account of the raptures you’d miss if complete creative ease were really possible.” Brian Dillon, 4Columns

“Cain leads us carefully to an understanding: personality is separate from the self—it is contextual, emerging from relationships to one’s surroundings and companions. And through this understanding, we are able to glean A Horse at Night’s own authentic genre: not so much a diary as a tender, vulnerable self-portrait.” India Ennenga, The Believer

“A Horse at Night is a transmutation of fiction and nonfiction, a form of unfurling, soft and grainy at the edges. Moving through this text feels like resting your eyes on shifting shapes on a walk in the dusk.” Sophie Brown, Astra

“To read her prose feels something like drinking fresh water in a generously lit room—the kind of light you might find in a film, perhaps, or a kitchen in spring. When applied to the subjects that matter most in her life, this leads to sentences of the most clear-eyed vulnerability, not unlike the work of Annie Ernaux.” Connor Harrison, Chicago Review of Books

“In a sense, Cain has kept intact the child’s imagination, so active, so fluid and tendrillar, that it never sees the partitions adults throw up between various realms and modes of existence.” Jay Ponteri, Essay Daily

“There is a haunting quality to Cain’s description of what reading does to us. We can never truly let go of what we have read, much less what we have written.” Claire Thomson, Lunate

“A Horse at Night opens out to the indeterminacy of genre like light through a barn: square on and aslant.” Hannah Bonner, Cleveland Review of Books

“Making her nonfiction debut, novelist Cain offers a spare, graceful meditation on her rich, idiosyncratic reading and her practice of writing.” Kirkus Reviews

“Readers will relish following Cain’s winding prose and carefully considered conclusions. Fans of her work—and of literary criticism more generally—won’t want to miss this.” Publishers Weekly

Kiran Dass reviewed A Horse at Night on Nine to Noon at Radio New Zealand. 


With Patrick Cottrell at Granta.

With Mark Haber at the Southwest Review.

With Laura Adamczyk at Bomb.

With Maddie Crum at The Creative Independent.

With Natalie Dunn at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Reading the Room with The Bar and the Bookcase.

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