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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Ken Kesey , Robert Faggen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 May 2005 Penguin Modern Classics

Pitching an extraordinary battle between cruel authority and a rebellious free spirit, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a novel that epitomises the spirit of the sixties. This Penguin Classics edition includes a preface, never-before published illustrations by the author, and an introduction by Robert Faggen.

Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electroshock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy - the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. The subject of an Oscar-winning film starring Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest an exuberant, ribald and devastatingly honest portrayal of the boundaries between sanity and madness.

Ken Kesey (1935-2001) was raised in Oregon, graduated from the University of Oregon, and later studied at Stanford University. He was the author of four novels, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) and Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), two children's books, and several works of nonfiction.

If you enjoyed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, you might like Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'A glittering parable of good and evil'

The New York Times Book Review

'A roar of protest against middlebrow society's Rules and the Rulers who enforce them'

Time

'If you haven't already read this book, do so. If you have, read it again'

Scotsman


Frequently Bought Together

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Penguin Modern Classics) + A Clockwork Orange: Restored Edition (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (5 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141187883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141187884
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.8 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Kesey can be funny, he can be lyrical, he can do dialogue, and he can write a muscular narrative. In fact there's not much better come out of America in the sixties... If you haven't already read this book, do so. If you have, read it again' SCOTSMAN --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Chief Bromden, half American-Indian, whom the authorities believe is deaf and dumb, tells the story of a mental instituion ruled by Big Nurse on behalf of the all-powerful Combine. Into this terrifying grey world comes McMurphy, a brawling gambling man, who wages total war on behalf of his cowed fellow-inmates. What follows is at once hiilarious and heroic, tragic and ultimately liberating. Since its first publication in 1962, Ken Kesey's astonishing first novel has achieved the status of a contemporary classic. 'Kesey can be funny, he can be lyrical, he can do dialogue, and he can write a muscular narrative. In fact there's not much better come out of America in the sixties... If you haven't already read this book, do so. If youhave, read it again' Douglas Eadie, Scotsman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing example of American fiction. 26 Mar 2007
By BL Chapman-allan VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Keesy is one of the most prominent examples of American fiction in the 20th century. The novel is based, almost entirely on the interactions he had with mental patients while he was working at a mental institution. While Ken Keesy experimented exstensively with LSD, he became very interested in studying perception. This led to the production of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'.

'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' is the intense story of a group of mentally ill patients and their over bearing nurse. This Nurse has complete control over the hospital ward, and the patients are entirely beaten down and do not question her authority. McMurphy arrives - and everything changes. A rogue, gambling, criminal who subverts all authority. He challenges the Nurse's power, first as a game, then as a desperate attempt to prove to the patients that life is worth living. He lives with men, who feel that their lives are over, as they helplessly conform to the Nurse's whim. McMurphy, brings laughter, adventure, women and booze to the small hospital world; most importantly, he provides these men with a hero. They idolise him as a saviour and through their devotion force him to become one, as he gives his life in their defence. Keesy's novel is powerful, and uplifting, yet with a fatalistic note. We know it can not end happily as the Nurse is a symbol for the whole system of government and McMurphy is only one man. However, the whole novel resonates with power, despite the nihalistic undertones.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic that everyone should read 24 Aug 2007
Format:Paperback
This is a amazing novel. The central character, McMurphy, has been sent from prison to a mental institution - as he initially sees it, a big step up. No more working in the fields; he now has a cushy life sitting on a hospital ward. Until he realises that the straightforward rules of 'serve your time and be released' no longer apply: he is now imprisoned even further and is at the mercy of hospital government in the form of the Big Nurse.

Although Kesey's novel is intended as a metaphor for the government's control of people's lives, the reason it works so well for me is because the characterisation is equally interesting in its own right. McMurphy's tense, carefully fought and long drawn out battle with the Big Nurse shows us a lot about his character and shows his growing sense of responsibility towards the other men. The freedom he tries so hard to give them is heavily undermined when he learns that they have entered the hospital voluntarily: his own sense of self worth has become closely tied to his efforts to increase theirs. To learn that the other "prisoners" are in fact there seemingly of their own free will is shocking to McMurphy, who cannot understand them.

McMurphy is the outcast, the rebel, the top dog of his own world, who initially starts by actively embracing the hospital, and ends by loathing it yet not quite managing to leave (despite opportunities). He cannot comprehend why the other men are there voluntarily, yet his desire to help them prevents him from leaving and makes him one of them.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This has planted itself firmly in my favourite books of all time. The narrative comes from the perspective of a patient on the ward of a mental asylum and offers the perspective of someone whose experience is often tinged by fear and delusion. This adds to what is a wonderful parable about life and conformity in society. The book is incredibly sad, but yet offers something of an optimistic message at the end. I can't recommend this book hearily enough. Inevitably many people might say 'I've seen the film'. The film was great in its own right but just reflected what is an astonishing book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
`Granted I am the inmate of a mental asylum': the famous opening words of Oscar Matzerath in The Tin Drum could equally be applied to pretend-deaf and dumb Chief Bromden who narrates Ken Kesey's dark and sombre satire on the heavy-handed treatment of mental illness in modern America. Set in the golden days of electro-shock therapy, psychedelic drugs and frontal-lobe lobotomies, the giant half-Indian, tells the story of Pendleton Mental Institution, Oregon, ruled with an iron fist by Big Nurse, an allegorical Big Brother, and her carefully hand-picked team who control the soul-crushing routine of the brow-beaten inmates, cynically divided into Acutes, Chronics, Vegetables and Disturbed. However, the balance of power is sent into a tailspin by the arrival of Randle McMurphy, a hard-drinking, hard-living Irish-American, who takes up the cudgel on behalf of his oppressed companions as he attempts to break the hold of Big Nurse and, by extension, the all-powerful authorities. The charismatic McMurphy, who has faked insanity to escape a prison sentence, bears a close resemblance to the almost Christ-like Cool Hand Luke who similarly takes on the prison authorities in the eponymous film made five years after this novel was published. Like Luke, McMurphy is at times exasperated by the way that his colleagues so often fail to support him and leave him to fight back single-handed, but he retains a touching devotion to them nevertheless.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest can be read on many levels. Though essentially a satirical critique on mental institutions and their methods, it also demonstrates the oppressive role that authorities play in controlling and manipulating the lives of individuals in different circumstances, and is a sharp comment on the blurred distinction between sanity and insanity. Boisterous and brutal, it remains one of the iconic works of America's 1960s counter-culture and one of that country's most original and brilliant novels.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic
Fantastic, a true classic in every sense of the world.

Lucky enough to not have ever seen the film or be told any information about the story, I went into this book not... Read more
Published 14 hours ago by Aj
2.0 out of 5 stars Fine writing but I need something a bit more
I am too old to appreciate this study of the human mind and its complexities. Fine writing but I need something a bit more uplifting
Published 1 day ago by rohan
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Bit out dated of a classic
Published 1 day ago by Mr Malcolm Oldfield
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic
Randle P. McMurphy makes a mistake. Looking for a cushier life he transfers from a work farm, where he was serving a short sentence for assault, to a mental ward. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Hannah Lewis
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite different from the film
Finding it a bit hard going as it is so different from the film. I don't dislike it, it just takes some getting in to.
Published 1 month ago by happyshopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Remember seeing the film in the 70s. Of course the book is a billion times better. A must read for all
Published 1 month ago by Mr. D. Daley
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the film
Saw the film absolutely years ago but first time I've read the book. I missed out - the book is great.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The book is good and so is the film,who'd have thought?
I reread this,as a book club read with the film clearer in my head that the previous read 20 odd years back. Read more
Published 1 month ago by laraandgirls
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
A great read. Frightening, funny and thought provoking. I was hooked from the moment I started reading and couldn't put the book down.
Published 2 months ago by fenric71
3.0 out of 5 stars Marmite!
I struggled with this book; I had no sympathy for the characters for most of it. the writing style reminded me of Stephen King without any of the intrigue. Read more
Published 3 months ago by El Chan
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