In this gripping
fable, a young man on an aimless journey crosses a border into a world of
unexplained threats and terrifying violence.
Drawing readers in with a cool, oddly appealing bluntness, the narrator of The Society of Others launches a disturbingly surreal tale of his adventures in an unnamed country somewhere in Eastern Europe. His plan is to hitchhike through Europe without any destination, but like a character in a Kafka novel, he finds himself confronting a world that defies rational explanation and descending into an orgy of violence that threatens to destroy his power to control his identity.
Written with a pace and thrust of a thriller, The Society of Others is a stunning intellectual adventure, a moral fable bursting with art, poetry, music, and profound philosophical insight.
I'm writing this by the light of a new day, with a pen on paper, the old way. No
seamless corrections possible here. I want to see my first thoughts, and the
words I cross out, and the words I choose to replace them. First thoughts are
usually lies. Vicino says, Write something about yourself, then write the
opposite. Then open your mind to the possibility that the second statement is
I'm not a bad person. I'm a bad person.
I didn't mean to kill the man in the reading room. I did mean to kill the man in the reading room.
What happened afterwards wasn't my fault, don't blame me. It was my fault. Blame me.
So this is the story of how everything changed. I'm not going to tell you my name. If you want a name, use your own.
Begin with a day picked at random, recalled without hindsight. I must do my best to make you understand what I was, because only then will you understand what I have become. The operation has been a ...
The Society of Others is an extraordinary book that can be read on
many levels. A number of reviewers compare it to Kafka's works. There are similarities but also differences, in that Kafka tends to set up impossible
situations (such as a man being transformed into an insect) and then imbues his
stories with such realism and attention to detail that the events become real. Nicholson achieves the same end
result but starts, as it were, from the opposite end - moving from real to
surreal with such aplomb that the reader is likely to cross the border line from
one to the other with, almost, unquestioning acceptance.
The fact that The Society of Others is open to interpretation has led to mixed reviews. For example, Geoffrey Wansell writing for the Daily Mail (UK) says, 'it is thrilling in every sense, but it is also hypnotic, fast-moving, and intellectually challenging, as it twists and turns, leaving you confused, uncertain, even uncomfortable, and yet utterly hooked. A philosophical master class, it is quite staggeringly good, whereas the reviewer for Publishers Weekly (who some might feel have missed the point) says, 'the moral of the story—you snots in the West don't know how good you have it—comes through so early that the protagonist's final transformation to good, loving citizen and son feels redundant. As always, you can read an excerpt for yourself, taken from the first chapter. However, read in isolation, these first pages don't do justice to the book as a whole. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (732 words).
William Nicholson is a playwright for
film, TV and stage. His TV credits include Shadowlands (the life of C.S. Lewis)
and Life Story, both of which won
the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year. His
first play, an adaptation of Shadowlands for the stage, was Evening
Standard Best Play of 1990, and went on to a Tony-award
winning run on Broadway. He was nominated for an Oscar for the
screenplay of the film version, which was directed by Richard
Attenborough and starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra
Since then he has ...
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Written with the austere clarity that has made Coetzee the winner of two Booker Prizes and the Nobel Prize, Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and dramatizes the plight of a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of centuries of racial oppression.
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