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Politics [Paperback]

Adam Thirlwell
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

1 July 2004

'In case you had not noticed,' writes Adam Thirlwell in his first novel, Politics, 'in this book I am not interested in anything so small as the history of the USSR. I am not writing anything so limited.'

In this epic miniature, therefore, Politics tells the story of three kids in their twenties falling in love with each in London. And, simultaneously, it tells other, smaller stories: of Stalin on the phone, Mao in the bathroom, Osip Mandelstam in another bathroom, Adolf Hitler on all fours, and Milan Kundera in an argument.

Politics is not (quite) about politics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099459027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099459026
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Thirlwell was born in London in 1978. He is the author of two novels, Politics and The Escape, and a book on the international art of the novel, which won a Somerset Maugham Award. In 2003, he was chosen by Granta magazine as one of the Best Young British Novelists. His work is translated into 30 languages.

Product Description


"Extremely accomplished...very sophisticated" (A S Byatt Guardian)

"One of the funniest, most stylish and utterly original debuts in years" (The Times)

"This is a clever book. Fantastically clever...funny and strangely insightful... A genuinely original book" (Daily Mail)

"Dazzling...clever, funny and original" (India Knight Observer)

"Allusive, barbed, cocky, flamboyant, reckless, obscene and very funny" (Time Out)

Book Description

Adam Thirlwell's sharp, funny, entirely original and explosive debut.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated 11 Oct 2004
I was interested to read Politics from when I heard that Adam Thirlwell was a fan of Milan Kundera and his Art of the Novel. I had also heard him accused of trying to emulate Kundera's style and failing, and I had heard that Politics was not a particularly good book.
It is all too easy, however, to make comparisons with Kundera. Like him, Thirlwell divides his chapters into short, numbered sections, and he also adopts a definite authorial voice. However, it should be clear that he has not followed The Art of the Novel word for word, as his style is definitely his own.
Perhaps the authorial voice is one place where he is accused of failing to imitate Kundera. I disagree with such accusations: Thirlwell's voice is less subtle than Kundera's, and worse off for it, but he doesn't appear to be trying to sound like anyone else. This voice however is at times annoying and patronising. "I think you are going to like Moshe." he says, introducing a character on the first page. "His girlfriend's name was Nana. I think you will like her too."
It would be wrong to forbid an author from liking his own characters, no matter what they do in the book, but in trying to force his opinion on his readers, Thirlwell somewhat defeats the object of creative writing. It is interesting to have authorial insight at times, such as when he directly explains why he has made a character do a certain thing, but it does make it difficult to form a personal interpretation, and this could come across as very off-putting.
Thirlwell's use of characters is also similar to Kundera's, with both authors taking a theme, using it as the title of a novel, and describing how it affects the characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit disappointing - am I missing something? 15 Mar 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was ok although a bit disappointing compared to all the reviews and seemed to rely a bit to much on graphic and shocking sex. There was a lot of focus on one character's insecurities which, despite the author's early assurances that we would like him, he really just came across as annoyingly self involved.

However, good points are that the author had an original writing style that involved the reader, as it was quite conversational. It was also quite easy to read and had the ability to keep the reader turning the page, although some of the sexual descriptions were at times a little too graphic (the discovery of thrush....) but I suppose that does add realism. It's a strange one, definitely worth the read if only to make up your own mind...
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By Ben
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I should probably start off by saying that I only read the first 100 pages of this book. I don't normally give up on novels and I have made it to the end of many books that are much more badly-written than this one, but after 100 pages I felt absolutely no connection to the characters and had tired of waiting for something to happen.

I suppose this book would be classed as 'literary-fiction'. We know it is literary-fiction because absolutely nothing happens. You can read 100 pages and find that the only notable event was that three people went shopping and one of them needed a poo. However, whereas most literary-fiction novels can draw you in with prose and keep you interested with engaging characters, this book reads like the diary of a self-absorbed teenager gossiping about his friends - and not in a good way.

Whereas some authors of literary fiction might try to be clever by using overly clever language, it seems that Adam Thirlwell is trying to be clever by using mundanely basic language.

I found his writing to be as bland as the people he was writing about. The characters in the book were described in the most basic ways: 'Moshe likes this because..., Nana doesn't like this because...'.

When a writer is so obvious and prescriptive in the description of his characters, it is difficult for the reader to feel anything towards them or to use their imagination in order to add meat to the characters' bones.

The author is much venerated and this book has received great reviews, so I was surprised that I didn't enjoy it.I am perfectly happy to admit that I didn't 'get' the book. Perhaps there is some deep and meaningful layer of narrative hidden amongst the tepid descriptions of the characters' humdrum lives.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I'm confused 9 Dec 2010
I gave this three stars, because maybe I'm confused and there's something going on that I don't "get". I have read half this book and I've decided not to keep going. It's boring. Even the sex scenes are boring. And I don't think I'm ever "going to like Moshe" or any of the other characters. Oh, and why are they all talking like drunks and slurring their words? Isshat how wezoound when wuh tawk? Not me.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious,intriguing and novel 1 Jan 2004
This book could be easily criticised. It owes a lot to Kundera's 'Art of the Novel' (e.g. short chapters, weaving in mini-essays on historical/political themes, and exploring a concept or construct and what it means to different characters).Tbe short sentences and use of proper nouns rather than pronouns gets a little laboured. And the ending seems to turn the theme of the novel into something trite like 'you shouldn't be generous to the point of sacrificing yourself'.(Aristotle's Golden Mean said this better two thousand years earlier). The historical sections seem occasionally to be like a sixth former's parody of Kundera, an E.J. Thribb finding of significance in not very much. And the comedy of sexual self consciousness and embarrassment is fairly well trodden territory, albeit in a new Hoxton, threesome context.
And yet, for all these criticisms, this is an exciting, intriguing and genuinely novel book. It's tone is unusually tender and kind. As well as their self consciousness and misjudgement of others' feelings, the characters have a consideration for each other - it hints at an ethics based on 'acknowledging the face of the other'. I trusted the author's intelligence and awareness, that this is a considered book that deserves csreful reading and reflection. It leaves me with a feeling of excitement and ambiguity, of rich thoughts and questions to be pursued. And you can't ask a lot more than that. As for things like the debt to Kundera, novels aren't created ex nihilo, and what better mentor to have. A fabulous achievement for 24 years old!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars You didn't fool me!
One reads about the near impossiblity of finding a literary agent and publisher and wonder how books like this get through. Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2007 by Letitia Carew
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book - top marks for originality.
I don't consider myself well-read. So perhaps the fact that this book is one of the most original books I have ever read says little at all. But no. Read more
Published on 22 Mar 2007 by Henry Wardleburger
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it or hate it? Read it!
As the range of opinions below suggest, this is a book you will love or hate and there's only one way to find out which! Read more
Published on 4 Dec 2004 by J. Sprackland
3.0 out of 5 stars Pity about the lack of plot
This book develops the characters of three people embarking (not necessarily by design) on a menage a tois (can't think how to spell it). Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Kundera light
It is a book I will remember. I read it all in a day and had great fun throughout. If you like Kundera, you are off to holiday and fancy something light and refereshing this is... Read more
Published on 7 July 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Adam Thirlwell, read "Collected Stories" by Saul Bellow!!!!
The only redeeming page of this juvenile, shallow, self important nonsense of a book is the mentioning of "Collected Stories" by Saul Bellow. Read more
Published on 14 May 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Political Deadlock
This book deserves rescuing from the ignominy of a 2.5 star average, which derives from a couple of negative reviews below which I think fundmentally misunderstood the book. Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2004 by John Self
1.0 out of 5 stars Nominated for 'most irritating young author 2003'
This book has a giant flashing neon sign on the cover saying 'hey, like, look at me, I'm like, well postmodern, me.' Oh purleease. Read more
Published on 17 Nov 2003 by H. L. Barrell
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