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The Fountain at the Centre of the World Paperback – 25 Sep 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (25 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859845738
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859845738
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 317,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Robert Newman is turning out to be a very interesting novelist, and The Fountain at the Centre of the World an interesting novel. Unlike many of his fellow writer-comedians, he appears to be genuinely interested in his craft, regarding his novels not just as vehicles for gags or smart observations, but as structurally and emotionally satisfying objects. But then he always was the cerebral one. The Fountain at the Centre of the World is certainly worth reading for its qualities as a novel; but it is also worth paying attention to because, in addition to being ambitious and intelligent, it is that rather rare thing, a genuinely political novel. This is not, however, the politics of Westminster or Washington, though it does embody analogous clashes between personal ambitions and ideologies. The politics are those of globalisation and world trade, and it is greatly to Newman's credit that he has ventured as a novelist into an area hitherto mostly the prerogative of polemicists such as Naomi Klein and George Monbiot.

Reduced to its essentials, the plot may seem a little schematic, but this is not such a bad thing when the moral and political issues engendered are so powerful. Chano Salgado, resting Mexican political dissident, whose wife has been murdered by the militia and whose young son Daniel has disappeared, is persuaded by old comrades to come to life and destroy the pipelines through which a (bad) Global Corporation is sucking up a community's groundwater. From his acceptance of the job flow enormous consequences. Meanwhile, in London, Chano's brother, adopted by a British couple and known to himself as Evan Hatch, is a PR executive working to promote the interests of precisely the corporate entities opposed by Chano and his cohort. The formal structure of the book entails a double curve as these two main characters converge inexorably on the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle in 1999. Besides these two protagonists, Newman peoples his novel with a richly variegated cast of capitalists and anticapitalists whose combined purpose is to propel the brothers on the way to their fateful meeting but who also manage to maintain their own vigorous and independent life in the margins. Like the fountain of the title, an ordinary Mexican village fountain which is at the same time a seismograph, symbolically "responding minutely to everything that's going on everywhere on earth", they determine the moral compass of this remarkable story. --Robin Davidson

Review

"... a sublimely frisky novel ... it reads like what you'd get if Tom Wolfe climbed inside the head of Noam Chomsky." -- New York Times "...the talismanic Catch-22 of the antiglobalization protest movement, the fictional complement to Naomi Klein's influential treatise No Logo. Expect to see copies of it peeking out of battered rucksacks from Berkeley to Burlington... startlingly vivid... who is this guy?" - The New York Times "makes a lot of British fiction seem rather tender-minded in comparison." -Guardian "[A] wonderful, big-hearted, textured, funny, moral and deeply unfashionable book." - Guardian Weekend "[An] epic novel... full of incedent, emotion and polemic... an expansive, fluid and moving story." - Independent on Sunday "A] testimonial to Newman's formidable range, intelligence and talent." - Publishers' Weekly "Could this herald the resuscitation of the English 'literary political novel', almost dead in the water since the best work of Malcolm Lowry and Graham Greene"... [Newman] has... taken a rare risk... to remind us how the personal is political and vice versa." - Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
In a world where the laundered corporate media presents the viewing public with fiction as if it were 'news' fact, Robert Newman's third book 'The Fountain at the Centre of the World' highlights the facts and realities of life in the globalised 21st century through a fictitious narrative.
'The Fountain at the Centre of the World' focuses on the way that international institutions influence the lives of people around the globe through neoliberal policies favouring large multinational companies hell-bent on privatising every resource on the planet for private profit over the rights and lives of people and planet. Evan Hatch is a PR executive who'se expertise is that of spinning news to favour his Trans-national corporate clients. As he is gearing up for the WTO meeting in Seattle 1999 he finds himself unwell with a parasitical disease picked up as a child in Mexico and is in need of his estranged brother's help. Cue Chano Salgado, Evan's brother who lives in Tonalagapan, Mexico. Chano's life has been one of constant fighting for his rights in his town and a country whose rights are being eroded through the international policies supported through the PR of Evan Hatch. Chano blows up a privatized water pipeline that is taking the local town's water supply and then goes on the run just as his long lost son Daniel comes to Mexico to find his long lost father ...
The book weaves its way around the globe through geographical interconnections and processes culminating at the WTO demonstrations in Seattle. The book deftly illustrates the complex and intricate way that lives on the planet are interwoven and illuminates the awsome power of people and individuals to reclaim themselves and their communities from the lies of the global media loudspeakers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cicada Familiar on 15 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
I first looked at this with trepidation thinking that it was probably a bit too high brow for my liking. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the readability, it has a good timbre and flows really melodiously (the beautiful bit of pathos about the marmoset comes across as pure Newman)

very enjoyable and highly thought provoking, yes it probably is a bit far fetched in places, but this just adds to the book, and makes it more accessible to rookie anti-capitalist environmentalists like myself. I would lend my copy to everyone I know, but alas it's been signed by the author so is a bit too precious to let it out of my hands. Beg, borrow or steal a copy!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By abigail on 30 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic novel from the comedian Rob Newman, it is much more mature than his previous books, with much more depth to it. Try it if you liked No Logo or anything of that genre, or if you have any interest in Mexico or world politics. Try it also if you just enjoy quality fiction with well written characters and a great plot. David Baddiel could never write like this!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 May 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I read this book I felt like I was reading a science fiction novel set in some terrible future world. Except of course this is, in fact, set in the near past with a set of fictional characters experiencing real, or likely, events.
Especially good for anyone who's struggled with non-fiction on both sides of the corporatisation debate, the story manages to explore many of the issues and demonstrates how they can relate directly to our world. Whilst, as you might expect, this feels in places to be a little contrived, it's still informative and thought-provoking without being too preachy or pessimistic.
I'm going to be lending this one to various friends for quite some time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By secretwings on 11 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A novel that feels like it's set in the world we actually inhabit. Full of the shifty dislocations and distortions of a world in which capital can cross all borders but people can't. There are a few complaints, mostly stylistic: dizzying switches of tense and time, and what the hell is wrong with speech marks, man? Granted, the plot is gripping enough for these to become minor quibbles, and the stylistic idiosyncrasies are actually pulled off well enough that I stopped noticing after a while, but still - it's not easy on the eye. And there are moments when political points are made too laboriously at the expense of flow, but this is more than forgivable considering Newman's not-insignificant feat of narrative engineering that weaves together the lives of characters dispersed around the globe with the powerful motif of the human consequences of corporate globalisation, yet remains intimate and sensitive. Is the plot contrived? Sure, very, but not so far as to be impossible. Think 'Babel' - an appropriate analogy since the short cut-scene nature of the writing felt closer to watching a film than any novel I can call to mind. Heartily recommended.
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