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Marabou Stork Nightmares [Paperback]

Irvine Welsh
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

29 Feb 1996

Roy Strang is engaged in a strange quest in a surrealist South Africa. His mission is to eradicate an evil predator-scavenger bird, the marabou stork, before it drives away the peace-loving flamingo from the picturesque Lake Torto.

But behind this world lies another: the world of Roy's bizarre family, the Scottish housing scheme in which he grew up, his mundane job, a disastrous emigration to Africa, and his youthful life of brutality with a gang of soccer casuals. As one world crashes into the other, this potentially charming story of ornithological goodwill mutates into a filthy tale of violence, abuse and redemption.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (29 Feb 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009943511X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099435112
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Irvine Welsh was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Raised in the tenement homes of Leith, the prefabs in West Pilton and the maisonettes in Muirhouse, he attended Ainslie Park Secondary School. At sixteen, he left education and took on various jobs, and eventually moved to London in the seventies. There he dabbled with the property market while spending his free time exploring the London punk scene. He then moved back to Edinburgh to study an MBA.

Back home, and inspired by the nineties rave scene, he was fortunate enough to run into some fascinating characters whom he immortalised in his diary - and, later, in the pages of Trainspotting. At first dismissed for its unmarketable content, Trainspotting shot Welsh to fame, precipitated further by the release of the film, by Danny Boyle, three years later.

Since then he has written eight other works of fiction. He currently lives in Chicago.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Irvine Welsh delivers another grisly yet enthralling insight into the mindset of the Scottish underclass in Marabou Stork Nightmares. This bleak tale is told by Roy Strang, a jug-eared underachiever who happens to be in a coma. As he flits in and out of reality in his hospital bed, we learn about the dysfunctional Strang family--Vet, his well-intentioned dinner-lady mother, John, his violent security guard father, half-brothers Bernard and Tony, disabled brother Elgin and naive little sister Kim.

Growing up on a housing estate in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, Roy unavoidably gets into scrapes with other kids and, as his crimes eventually become more serious, the police. Welsh expertly interweaves into this base reality Roy's surreal hallucination of his time spent in South Africa with "Sandy Jamieson"--the fearless hunter (a figment of his troubled mind) with whom he goes in search of the vicious but elusive Marabou Stork, a beast that isn't what it seems to be. Roy trains his mind to shut out the present and finds comfort in his African escapism--anything to avoid dealing with the consequences of his actions in real life, and his mother's singing.

The Strangs move out to South Africa in the hope of making a better life for themselves and to raise their "prospects", but they are disillusioned when, in a country where white skin is considered superior, they still fail to achieve their desires. Back in Muirhouse Roy works his way up to systems analyst from a trainee, but in his own time gets his kicks from football hooliganism; he gets involved with a bad crowd whom he finds himself joining in the docks before long.

The exercise and abuse of power is a consistent theme throughout the book: it's depicted between the hunters and animals, nurse Patricia Devine and Roy, Roy and the family dog, uncle Gordon and Roy, Lochart Dawson and the black South Africans, rapists and their female victim. Having been abused in his early years--physically, verbally and sexually--Roy, in a comatose state, is unable to fight anymore and is rendered a victim as well as a perpetrator in his state of limbo.

Using style nuances now familiar in his work, such as writing in dialect and eschewing quote marks, Welsh presents a modern-day Kafka-esque tale of exaggerated realism, told with dark humour and making sure to blunt any polished edges. --Angela Boodoo


"A superbly talented writer...anarchic and entirely invigorating" (Scotsman)

"A wonderful success: a funny, cleverly composed, genuinely exciting and assured leap of a novel" (New Statesman)

"Extremely funny... As clever as Alasdair Gray, as elegant as Jeff Torrington, as passionate as James Kelman, Welsh has got it all" (Tibor Fischer)

"Mind-bendingly good" (GQ)

"Our most vital of contemporary authors" (i-D)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welsh proves himself a world-class talent. 11 May 1998
By A Customer
I've read Trainspotting, and Ecstasy and bits of Acid House, and loved the author's work from day one; but when I read Nightmares, I was awestruck. Welsh's talent is amazing. The sheer depth of the piece inspires admiration and humility. I've read nothing to date which so successfully achieves a layering of elements such as consciousness, truth and reality, within a story that one feels honored to have read. Not only is the author's technique flawless, but he has created characters you can actually believe- ones who may not be admirable, but who remain fascinating until the end. I recommend this book to everyone with an appreciation for the art of the English language.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. 26 Jun 2003
I read Trainspotting, Ecstacy, Porno, and The Acid House before this book, and this book is definitely the best.
In fact, the best book I have read in years.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeper and Deeper.....The Best !! 8 April 2003
By R.O. P
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I,ve just re-read Marabou Stork Nightmares and it even seemed fresher than when I first read it a few years ago. MSN is Welsh at his best and in my conclusion has never matched the standard of this dark , unusuall almost suicidal novel. This is one of the most unusual stories I,ve ever read as we enter the world of another bitter Welsh charecter young Roy Strang in a clever trilogy which features him in a coma , and in an imaginary world of positive lunacy with his chum Sandy hunting the scavenging brutal Marabou stork in darkest Africa's colonial days. this part of the story seemed to me like a cross between an Evelyn Waugh novel getting a BBC comic Strip Presents screaning. But it's Roy Strangs flashbacks of his life on the tough housing scheme and his dysfunctional family , which make this story come out on top, as usuall Welsh never fails to shock and this one covers social issues such as incestuous paedophilia, gang rape, far right views, homopobia and animal cruelty graphically.Welsh is best when creating the the most warped charecters as in Filth . Marabou Stork Nightmares is a horizontol trip of urban poetry and razor sharp charecters and plot. .DEEPER DEEPER as is Strangs expression as he slips in and out of the coma this is deep writing and I see this as Welsh.s best novel to date.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars is not enough 6 July 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You will have got the gist of the plot from the other reviewers, so I won't bore you with that.
What I will say is that book shows us that Welsh is a genius. How he can lead us through the life of such a complex character as Roy Strang in such detail in relatively few pages, and make it intensely readable puts Dickens to shame.

M.S.N. shows how someone can be good, but be totally evil. The Roy Strang of Edinburgh & the Roy Strang elsewhere are poles apart but very much the same character. I believe that Welsh clearly shows us here how repression & denial of oneself can totally warp a character. Welsh puts you so firmly in his characters head that you can be homophobic while enjoying dreams of homosexual acts, feel the sickened innocent at a gang rape while being as brutal as the others & so on. How to become so sickened by yourself that you must destroy yourself.

'Trainspotting' may have made a big name but only due to becoming a cult film, this one is a greater work. I feel that in time it may even come to be be regarded as a 20th century classic but don't let that put you off, it is very readable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surreal journey thorugh a man's life 19 Jan 2000
By A Customer
Roy is in a coma. Roy exists on 3 levels of consciousness. He has his 'almost waking self', who takes note of his hospital environment and visitors. There is his 'past self', where he reflects on his life up to the point that he entered the coma and there is the 'deep self', where he is hunting for the Maribou stork in South Africa. Roy constantly jumps between these 3 levels and so HIS story unwinds. His story is a harrowing trip through the life and mind of a disturbed young man. The story is brilliantly told sucessfully using all three levels to explain a different part of Roy's life and character. The unexpected ending rounds of a superb book. The traumatic subject matter is definitely not for the faint-hearted and should be considered before buying this book
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly absorbing, raw and wounded 3 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book but it's raw, real and harrowing. Only start it if you're prepared for the grit of a violent and disturbing journey. Welsh is an exceptional author, this book will no doubt become a twentieth century classic. It is brutal in the extreme, but his talent to tell a twisted story in all its depraved detail is incredible. I was horrified by it yet completely absorbed. The narrative flitting between memory, deep coma and dreamstate is cleverly interwoven with one merging into the other. The use of Scottish vernacular gives the story authenticity making the characters seem somehow more alive, piling on layers of dimension. The unsolicited violence, sex, rape, abuse, angst, poverty and above all depravity in the book make it a very bleak read. But it lives, it's real and it shows no sympathy or empathy and it never patronises its subject matter. You're down in it, with it, smelling and breathing it, at times it's a relief when you can come up for air. But soon you'll want to plunge back in because this book moves, challenges and disgusts - it will stay with you for a very long time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An Absolutely insane book! ,:)
This is one of my second best reads from Irvine Welsh's grand collection of novels, but it was by the far the most insane one I've ever went threw. Read more
Published 23 days ago by JOHN GILMOUR
5.0 out of 5 stars Irvine Welsh at his best!
I had read some of his stuff before and seen the movies based on his books, this book is unlike anything I've read before. I couldn't put it down. Read more
Published 1 month ago by kelly buchan
5.0 out of 5 stars the darkness in us
This book is about redemption as I see it but it's a dark and twisted tail on the journey many of us take by following the crowd instead of blazing a trail. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr J PIROG
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy and light
Welsh held me by the collar with his protagonist Strang: a Scottish man trying to talk to me, the reader, about a mission in Africa while he is being prodded, examined, spoken to... Read more
Published 1 month ago by coronaurora
4.0 out of 5 stars Fans of Filth won't be disappointed
If you enjoyed Filth then the likelihood is that you'll enjoy this also. While not as good as the aforementioned masterpiece, the tone is similar and there is enough of Welsh's... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Discerning Reader/Viewer
5.0 out of 5 stars Hunting the Marabu
I've just put this genious piece of prose down and know that it'll stay with me for quite a while. the main protagonist, Roy, is a chaming storyteller . Read more
Published 11 months ago by mnemosyne
2.0 out of 5 stars depressing
Bought this book because I loved Trainspotting,wished I hadnt bothered now. A preetty grim story about sexual abuse, very depressing and overrated.
Published 17 months ago by ben mears
1.0 out of 5 stars JM
A chore to get through awful book. Not so bad bits covering his life in scotland. Read a few of his books in the past but won't be purchasing another if this is the drivel he is... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Moorit
5.0 out of 5 stars Welsh at his best
Welsh at his deepest darkest best - without doubt one of the finest authors of his generation. His visceral warts and all descriptives interspersed with ironic humour never... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Martin Allies
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal but brilliant!
Took me a little while to get used to the transitions between the different viewpoints. However, this book really pulls you in and I found myself quite attached to the central... Read more
Published 20 months ago by BH Johnson
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