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Cards of Identity (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

Nigel Dennis , Adam Mars-Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Jun 1999 0141181214 978-0141181219 New edition
This novel describes a summer session of the Identity Club at a remote country house. Waited on by brainwashed butlers and role-playing servants, the members of the Identity Club sit back and listen to a series of ludicrous lectures which anatomize English life.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (3 Jun 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141181214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141181219
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,821,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One of the funniest, most penetrating novels since the early Aldous Huxley." -- Time --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Nigel Dennis (1912-1989) was born in England and educated variously in Rhodesia, South African, Austria and Bavaria. He wrote too little but for all that there were three novels (and one that was disowned), four plays, a volume of poetry and three works of non-fiction. For twenty years he was the lead reviewer for the Sunday Telegraph. His study of Jonathan Swift, one of his heroes as his own mastery of satire suggests, won the Royal Society of Literature award.Faber Finds is reissuing his three novels: Boys and Girls Come Out to Play, The Cards of Identity and A House in Order. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The great unknown novel 31 May 2001
This book comes into print and goes out of print regularly, so buy it while you can. Con men and parasites,whiskey priests and ceremonial flunkeys, seek for identities or have them imposed by the Identity Club in a grotesque satire which works as well now as it did when it first came out. Add the best comedy Shakespeare should have written... Then go to second-hand shops for Dennis's other novels: 'Boys and Girls Come out to Play' and 'A House in Order' - not as good, but better than nearly all novels of the last fifty years.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond brilliant 18 Jan 2010
CARDS OF IDENTITY is one of my very favorite books ever. I first came across it in the early eighties, and because--as the first reviewer notes--it cyclically drifts in and out of print, I now buy a supply of copies whenever it's available, as a hedge against the coming lean times.

This is a hard book to describe, except to say that it's an exploration of the idea of self, which makes CARDS OF IDENTITY sound dry and pompous when in fact it's the absolute opposite. The "scientific papers" delivered by members of the Identity Club perform surgery on ancient tradition, the Church, sexual pathology, the Communist Party, and William Shakespeare, all within the larger framework of sending up village life, science itself, psychiatry (of course), and the family. Its effect is cumulative, but it's also so excruciatingly funny at the sentence and paragraph level that you will find yourself returning over and over to certain passages. I am deeply devoted to the "Warden of the Badgeries" section and can quote rather impressive segments of it, if I do say so myself.

The book has a complicated narrative and will not be to everyone's taste, but if it's your sort of thing--as Justice Potter Stewart once remarked of obscenity--you'll know it when you see it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and wonderful novel 13 July 2010
I came upon this book quite by chance in a charity shop. It was a King Penguin and they are usually good so I bought it. I was entranced from page one. Dennis writes crisp, pleasing prose and has a sharp eye for character.
It was written a long time ago now, back in the 1950s when there was still rationing and after the great Attlee government the super-rich paid 98% tax. There are several references to taxation early on in the novel. The novel is all about money and class; two subjects which will surely never go out of fashion. More specifically is it about identity. Who people think that they are and how easily this may be swayed, given the right stimulus.
In some ways the subject is more relevant than ever these days. Who was Jade Goody? Even she admitted that she didn't know.
Anyway I will give away nothing more of the story but I defy anyone to read the scene early on in the 'surgery' without laughing out loud.
This a book that changed my life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars cards of identity 2 July 2011
This is a brilliant book of incisive insight, beautifully structured, intellectually immaculate and very, very funny. It exposes the tomfoolery and the pomposity of public life as well as illuminating the self deceptions human beings get by on. A book to read, then read again. Its humour is timeless and its understanding of the human condition universal.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best unknown novel of all time 17 Feb 1998
By James - Published on
Actually Cards of Indentity is four books and a play. The "plot" involves a group of "psychologists" who take over a country home by mental tricks in order to hold a convention. Three of the books are 'papers' delivered at the convention. The play (which you will swear was written by Shakespeare) is the entertainment at the end of the convention. A must read.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little known classic 14 Aug 1997
By A Customer - Published on
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and am constantly putting my sanity at risk by first recommending my friends read it, then having to
lend it to them because it is so hard to find!!

Its message is roughly that we shouldn't allow ourselves to be forced to behave in a particular way just because someone claims they are an expert in who/what `people' are.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nigel Dennis's "Cards of Identity," a forgotten classic 11 Feb 1998
By A Customer - Published on
It is an incredible feeling to come across a novel that has no fame or recognition yet is as genius as the great classics. Cards of Identity- is such a novel. It's brilliant satire makes it absence all the more unfortunate.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down. 14 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on
I don't know how I originally came across Card of Identity about 15 years ago, but I couldn't put it down and have read it three times. It's an enchanting novel and I'd hate for anyone to pass it by based on the rather incomprehensible reviews I've read of it on this site.
5.0 out of 5 stars Join this club 27 Oct 2011
By V. Hansmann - Published on
Cards of Identity makes me roll on the floor laughing every time I read it. It is dense, but so am I.
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