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Reading Gay Men’s Book Club


2 Reviews for

“Hallucinating Foucault ” by Patricia Duncker.

Review 1

When I started to read Hallucinating Foucault I was down hearted expecting an impenetrable novel mixing French Philosophers, going on about the nature of existence, with an exposition of a French writer whose writing was to be analysed word by word and comma by comma. What I actually read was a beautiful detective story, mixed with two love stories and an interesting investigation of the loneliness of every man, writer and madman. This well written the book pulled me along to its conclusions, with an unexpected twist en route.

Our group was evenly split both about the book and one of our member's 1980's children's TV shirt!

Review 2

If you've ever really loved a book or been disturbed by one, then you may well have thought that you had a special relationship with the author, as someone who was talking to you directly, and you alone. It's an ingenious idea to base a novel around the novelist who has (apparently) written with one reader in mind. When the reader to which the books are dedicated is himself one of the most notoriously controversial writers of the later 20th century, and when that person's death sends the writer violently insane, then you have a heady brew indeed.

The story revolves around the narrator, a young student of literature, who embarks on a quest to find and ultimately save the deranged author. Does it work? Well the story is well written and kept this reader's attention right through to the dramatic - if slightly surreal - conclusion. I did find the characters a little less satisfying. The narrator came across as a tad insipid and shadowy - but then narrators in novels so often do - as if afraid of stealing the limelight from the scenes that they describe. His girlfriend is simply irritating - to the point of seeming implausible as an initial inspiration. The mad Paul Michel is evocatively sketched and comes across to me more as a grotesque than as a muse. (It is ironic that, while there is quite probably a link between mental instability and creativity, the state of madness is so hard to pull off, even in such skilled hands as the author deploys here). This reader would never fall for him - but that I suppose is hardly the point.

In sum a bold and enjoyable book that also intrigues. If it is not totally successful, then its failures and weaknesses entertain and educate far more than the "successes" of some other authors.

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