Murmur (Paperback)Will Eaves (author)
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A restlessly experimental work that stretches the bounds of what the novel can achieve, Murmur is the lightly fictionalised account of the harrowing and bizarre treatment meted out to the computational genius Alan Turing following his arrest for gross indecency. Alec Pryor is subjected to brutally administered hormone injections and eventual chemical castration. Yet at the same time as the physical pain and emotional degradation take their toll, his brilliantly analytical mind cannot help but be fascinated by the psychological repercussions of his torture. Through epistolary sequences and Jungian dreamscapes, Eaves weaves an incredible narrative that probes deep-seated issues of gender, identity and the unquenchable power of the intellect.
Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2019
Taking its cue from the arrest and legally enforced chemical castration of the mathematician Alan Turing, Murmur is the account of a man who responds to intolerable physical and mental stress with love, honour and a rigorous, unsentimental curiosity about the ways in which we perceive ourselves and the world.
Convicted of gross indecency with another male in 1952, Turing was sentenced to a regimen of punitive hormonal injection. He grew breasts, survived the year-long ordeal, but died in 1954. Verdict: suicide. Alec Pryor – the book’s avatar for Turing – is caught between fascination and horror as he becomes a new version of himself.
The novel asks: what does great bodily change (torture) do to a person’s mind? The bulk of the book is a sequence of dreams and letters; these are bookended by extracts from a fictional journal that show a brilliant intellect struggling to come to terms with the effects of that change. It further asks: how does a mathematician, so used to removing personal bias from analysis – the sine qua non of scientific method – fit the personal experience of pain/joy/love back into a neutral explanatory scheme?
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Number of pages: 192
Weight: 145 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 11 mm
'A really extraordinary book, unlike any other' - Max Porter
'Endlessly rewarding, it is a shining example of the moral and imaginative possibilities of fiction' - Justine Jordan, The Guardian, Books of the Year
'A novel forged from an immensely beautiful writing intelligence. Murmur is a fully achieved literary experiment, digging deep into all the dimensions of human consciousness, including state sanctioned savagery' - Deborah Levy
'Remarkable... Murmur's transgressive power lies at the level both of language and of structure... Will Eaves has achieved one of the pinnacles of novelistic endeavour: he has given deep thought to human experience, and in doing so brought to life the "self-conscious wonder" of thought itself' - Sam Byers, The Times Literary Supplement
'An extraordinary exploration of dreams, consciousness, science and the future' - New Scientist, Books of the Year
'Murmur is a fully achieved literary experiment, digging deep into all the dimensions of human consciousness' - Goldsmiths Prize judges
'Eaves's Murmur is a dive through consciousness, from the mundane to memory dreams, and beyond. The narrator - "Alec Pryor"/Alan Turing, the author - explores, from the inside, and with great scrupulousness, the mind's unknowns... and the tragedy of Alan Turing. Knowing the story does not soften the ending' - Beverley Bie Brahic, The Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year
'The premise is startlingly ambitious: what if we could think our way into Alan Turing's dreams?... Scrupulous, humane, sad and strange, [Murmur] is as bracingly intelligent as it is brave' - The Guardian
'Exceptionally poised and elegant... Murmur is a poignant meditation on the irrepressible complexity of human nature and sexuality, and a powerful indictment of the cowardice and groupthink that sustain state-sanctioned barbarism' - The Irish Times