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The Outsider [Paperback]

Colin Wilson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

6 Dec 2001

The Outsider was an instant literary sensation when it was first published in 1956, thrusting its youthful author into the front rank of contemporary writers and thinkers. Wilson rationalized the psychological dislocation so characteristic of Western creative thinking into a coherent theory of alienation, and defined those affected by it as a type: the Outsider. Through the works and lives of various artists ¿ including Kafka, Camus, Hemingway, Hesse, Lawrence, Van Gogh, Shaw, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky ¿ Wilson explored the psyche of the Outsider, his effect on society and society¿s on him.

Nothing that has happened in the past four decades years has made The Outsider any less relevant; it remains the seminal work on this most persistent of modern-day preoccupations.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (6 Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753814323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753814321
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

The classic study of alienation, creativity and the modern mind

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
'The Outsider' is an electrifying account of what man is, what he should be and what he should do in the modern world. Wilson does not engage in abstract and theoretical debate (like Heidegger or Sartre), but supports every philosophical assertion with an example of a human being. He draws on a range of factual and fictional figures, from Hesse's Steppenwolf and Sartre's Roquentin to Vaclav Nijinksy (the ballet dancer) and Blake (the poet). What is brilliant about this book is its sharp focus on the central question - who is the Outsider, and what is his significance in the modern world? If you read and fully understand the ideas in this book your perception of life will never be the same again. Read it...it is a 20th Century classic.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Should you buy this book?

Do you find existence unsatisfying because it is meaningless? Do you find life boring because you long for a more meaningful kind of existence? Then you are probably an Outsider, one not bothered by life's seeming trivialities but concerned with the big picture - and nothing comes bigger than the meaning of life. Are you one who shuns short-termism, but instead sees things in terms of the longue durée? Are you one who is exasperated by the apparent base material and animal instincts of much of the population, but instead sees glimpses of eternity that can verge on the divine? Are you unable to communicate clearly your experiences, because most people are incapable of empathising with them? In short, do you not feel at home in the world?

These questions sound as if I am trying to sell you a new religion, or a new cult. But do not worry, for, whilst Colin Wilson gives an analysis of the role of religion in human thinking, his is a staunchly secular enquiry. He writes, "[The Outsider] does not prefer not to believe; he doesn't like feeling that futility gets the last word in the universe; his human nature would like to find something it can answer to with complete assent. But his honesty prevents his accepting a solution that he cannot reason about."

First published in 1956, and a literary sensation of the time, this book is a critical study of a psychological phenomenon, of those who are alienated from their society and express alienation in terms of creativity. Colin Wilson does this by concentrating on literary creativity, although painters (Van Gogh) and composers (Beethoven) also appear.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilson remains a giant of modern thinking 1 May 2003
This book stands as a monument to 20th century thought, and though it was written many years ago, is still just as relevant today. Everything which Wilson covers is presented with the utmost passion, and yet still is done so with a very discerning critical eye. When you read the pages of this book, you slowly realise that what is in front of you has been created by a person of formidable intelligence. I bought it on the recommendation of a friend, and it is something i will always be glad of. At present I am still reading some of the books which he covers in his broad sweep of modern literature and art, and I am likely to be influenced by it for years to come. Of this I am very glad. One of my favourite books, and as it turns out, one of my wisest purchases. Highly recommended.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still not dated after all these years! 2 Oct 2002
By A Customer
Even after almost four decades Colin Wilson's work still has a refreshing quality to it. In it he presents his readers with a novel approach to alienation and creativity. Beware though, this is not just another book on people who feel alienated or suffer pangs of Weltschmerz, it is about genuine 'outsiders', in Wilson's phrase someone who sees 'too much and too deep'. This distinction should be borne in mind.
The work presents several examples of classical outsiders, most of them failures according to the author, but there is also the occasional success story.
The book can be a bit long-winded at times, and Wilson does have a certain rhetoric tendency. Another fact that strikes me is that women are very thin on the ground in this study. This would perhaps have been less surprising had it been written, say, half a century earlier, but it should have been possible to find female outsiders too.
Nevertheless, this is a highly original and though-provoking work, which everyone with an interest in philsophy would do well to read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outsidathisworld! 17 Nov 2002
By A Customer
The first outsider we meet in this seminal study is the sunken hero of Henri Barbusse's L'Enfer - who wanders aimlessly, "vaguely following his impulses" but who none-the-less feels that he deserves "some recompense". By the end of the book we are assured that such an individual "who begins his life an outsider...may finish it as a saint". The space inbetween the aimless-glimpser-of-purpose and the prophet is a long one, to be traversed by will power, self knowledge and, above all, ACTION! The failure to achieve such self-realization - and we, like the Hindu "life-force" symbol Kali, see more half lives than full ones herein - is a "tragedy of unrealised freedom".
Wilson advances religous solutions to the Outsider's problems. The main problem of the early characters we encounter is that they "think too much" - and this excess tends to turn in on itself, like Satre's nausea. The way out of this impasse is to realise that there are moments when you feel "freer" and liberated from "thought riddle nature" - when facing death, when in "crisis", when acting courageously. Through living a religion that can normalise these "extreme" states, the outsider can be "saved" from their motiveless slop and begin to act with intensity and purpose.
On an interesting macro-level - the book asserts that the outsider is not "sick", rather he exists as he does because Western Civilisation runs on and promotes a multilated and limited conception of the personality. The outsider is the (potentially) healthy one. For Doestoevsky in Notes From the Underground "genuine human suffering" can only come after first aprehending "chaos and ruin".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A la recherche du temps perdu.
I had been looking for this book for a long time so that I could re-read it. I haven't yet but at the time (1971) I thought it was the second best book I had read that year, beaten... Read more
Published 4 months ago by The Spectator
5.0 out of 5 stars Paperback Copy of The Outsider by Colin Wison
This item has been withdrawn from my local library so on seeing the price offered by Amazon I could afford I went ahead and bought it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by glenfiddoch
4.0 out of 5 stars The Outsider
Bought this for a present it arrived rapidly and without any problems, well packaged no problems.I would not hesitate to order similar again.
Published 8 months ago by catherine king
4.0 out of 5 stars Admirable autodidact.
You may know the tale of Wilson, fresh down from Leicester, chaining his bicycle outside the British Museum Reading Room, reading up for this book, his first. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. G. Morgan
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointed
This book is pretentious intellectual critique not what I was expecting at all. Check out Albert Camus' Outsider for a real literary thrill.
Published 13 months ago by Sharon M Poulton
5.0 out of 5 stars the outsider
An excellent read which was in the condition as discribed and arrived well within the time stated. would use the dealer again.
Published on 9 Oct 2011 by the critic
1.0 out of 5 stars Despite the research, the book achieves very little
At page 186 I slammed the book down. There's no doubt that Mr Wilson has done his homework on those 'outsiders' he researched, yet he seems to have a blatant obsession with... Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2011 by TheTruth
5.0 out of 5 stars Tought Changing ... just great.
I wasn't aware of the existence of a writer like Colin Wilson until I was asked to read his book superconciousness by a friend. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2011 by E. Blonde
5.0 out of 5 stars Tools for personal and social development
Abraham Maslow, in a letter to Wilson, suggested that he stopped studying ill people and instead focused on healthy people, which lead him to the discovery of `Peak-experiences'... Read more
Published on 29 Oct 2008 by Gil Dekel
5.0 out of 5 stars At the Edge of Things
For some readers, this book is psychological poison, destroying the foundations of rational thought and plunging them headlong into a nightmare of fear and self-loathing. Read more
Published on 17 July 2008 by A. Grewcock
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