Robert Coover is an American novelist, regarded as one of the most prominent figures in the genre of metafiction. He was born in Iowa in 1932, and later studied at Indiana University, where in 1953 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Slavic Studies. He then spent a brief period serving in the American Navy. In 1965 he was awarded a Masters Degree in Humanities at the University of Chicago. The following year, he published his debut novel, The Origin of Brunists.
The Origin of Brunists, like much of Coover's work, is set both socially and geographically in an American context. Across four parts and an epilogue, Coover tells the story of a mining disaster in the fictional town of West Condon. Although 97 workers are killed, the protagonist, Giovanni Bruno, survives. Shortly after the disaster, townsfolk come to believe that Bruno is a prophet, and begin to idolize him. The novel is named after the cult that forms around Bruno; the Brunists. The subject matter of The Origins of the Brunists drew from a mining disaster that occurred in West Frankfort, Illinois, in 1951. Coover lived near the site of the disaster, and was evidently effected by the event.
Upon it's publication in 1966, The Origin of the Brunists received acclaim. It went on to win awards from the William Faulkner Foundation and the Washington Post, both acknowledging the work as the best debut novel of the year. Since The Origin of the Brunists, Coover has published 10 further novels, along with numerous short stories. In 2014, nearly half a century after the publication of The Origin of The Brunists, a sequel, entitled The Brunist Day of Wrath, was released.