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The Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper (paperback)

“A monk dictates enigmatic writings that speak of a looping cycle of rebirth in High’s fable-like novel…


A one-eyed monk known as the Temple Sweeper tells another monk, called Enduring Sound, about his past in fragmented soliloquies, stories and poems…a fairy-tale philosophical reflection on Buddhist themes of compassion, forgiveness, reincarnation, and the oneness of being and non-being (“If things arise and fall away at the same time, they don’t actually exist, the jade-shadowed crow observes— / And if they don’t actually exist, how can they cease to exist? the amber crow caws back”)…the vivid lyricism of High’s writing (Enduring Sound describes the Temple Sweeper “shivering like a hungry ghost with only the dimmed widow-light of the sky revealing his torn face and shuttered eye”) makes for an engrossing read. Photos of the author’s colorful, swirling ensō paintings provide a captivating visual accompaniment to the text.”

—Kirkus Reviews


Wet Cement Press is delighted to announce the paperback edition of Ninso John High’s complex and vivid novel, Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper. A monumental and deeply moving tale of war, lost children, a traveling circus, a shaman, and a ghostwoman, told by a temple sweeper who has not spoken in twenty-five years. An eBook version is also available on the popular eBook platforms. 


“With gentleness and care, with extraordinary insight and far-sighted vision, John High’s luminous, Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper, is a journey that I hope everyone will take, an embrace that is wide enough for all the invisible cargo every reader brings. This is a book for anyone who has felt the pain of separation, the fear of the future, the loss of a country or a language or a loved one, the eerie and wondrous effervescence of waking up, the great surprise of finding a friend on the road, the joy of homecoming. Which is to say, this is a book for all of us.”  —Karen Russell, author most recently of Sleep Donation, Orange World and Vampires in the Lemon Grove


“This astonishing and dizzyingly extensive work smashes all barriers of time and space, so that by the time you are done with its dark & light pages full of multicolored ensō (Zen circle) art works, you don’t know who you are or where you have been, though its vividly realized scenes are stunningly clear. This wonderful book is itself an extended Zen koan that plays on the flute of traditional Zen literary tropes like a sincere virtuoso. Quite a read!” —Norman Fischer, poet, Zen priest, and author most recently of Men in Suits and When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life In Zen


Poet and wandering Zen monk, (Ninso) John High, is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for a co-translation project (with Matvei Yankelevich) of Osip Mandelstam’s Voronezh Notebooks. He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, fiction, and translation, including his novel The Desire Notebooks, and most recently, Without Dragons Even the Emperor Would Be Lonely. A co-founder and former director of the Long Island University, Brooklyn, MFA Program, where he is now Professor Emeritus, he has also taught at universities in Istanbul, Moscow, Hangzhou, and San Francisco. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he facilitated workshops in creative transformation with children, teachers, social workers, incarcerated youth, and writers in Cambodia, China, Portugal, and the U.S., and plans to continue this work as soon as possible.

The Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper (paperback)

$28.99 Regular Price
$20.00Sale Price
  • October 15th, 2023

  • 424 pages / 140 color images /8.5”x5.5”

    ISBN: 979-8-9856206-1-0 (paperback)

    ISBN: 979-8-9856206-4-1 (hardcover)

    Distributed by Ingram

    eBook version for $14.99 available for Kindle, Apple Books, and other services

    Pub Date: October 15th, 2023

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