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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully rendered and executed novel, 10 Jan 2008
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Mr. J. R. Evison (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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The fact that Ann Quin is not as well known as the likes of Beckett, Robbe-Grillet, and the recently 'rediscovered' BS Johnson, is a travesty - in fact, an injustice. This is a sublime novel that uses the 'nouveau roman' principle of writing with the same degree of success as Robbe-Grillet and Duras. It has one of the great opening sequences of post-war fiction, and the fact that it is not better know is a pity.

With publishing houses currently bloated with historical novels and middle-brow bourgeois 'Booker' writers, novels like Berg delight and crackle with their eccentricites and experimentations. It feels so edgy and on the pulse that it seems odd that it wasn't written yesterday.

It is a shame that innovators such as Joyce and Beckett are held in high esteem while writers such as Alan Burns, Eva Figes, Christine Brooke-Rose and Quin are ignored. But with the republication of two Figes novels and Quin's novels currently in print, maybe the balance will soon be redressed - at least to a significantly minor extent.

My advice, if you are at all interested in experimental fiction, is to go out and buy these novels while they are in print. They represent a Brutalist format that could have heralded a new and exciting era in the British novel long before the dull, fluffy parochial balderdash which currently sits on a certain high street store was endlessly pumped out.

So read Quin, and become off-beat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ugly Beautiful, 29 Jan 2008
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Mr. P. Rigby "sharkgun" (wigan, england) - See all my reviews
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I was introduced to 'Berg' after reading Stewart Home's '69 Things...' my curiosity getting the better of me I dived straight into the book and was totally thrilled by the experience.

Quin writes in a believable male voice, a soul uncomfortable with himself and the world he lives in. A quintessential outsider, a standard for the cult classic. But this novel is by no means all we've seen before...

From start to finish, Quin dances on the fine paradoxical line of absurdist and believability. Staging situations of farce and black humour with great verve. Surrealism is a constant theme, Freudian motifs echo in the space between the words, the prose drips with symbolism but (and this is the most important but) this is never pretentious.

It was a member of DEVO who said that only the middle classes had the time to be great artists. Well, he obviously never read 'BERG'.

Dreamy, magically realistic language constructs an environment that at times seems close to Alice's Wonderland but it never loses the grit of a sweaty boarding house.

This is a wonderful book for so many reasons. Forget the idea that Ballard is the heir of Burroughs, Ann Quin is unmistakably English yet drives prose on into the future, ugly-beautiful language for the society that realises it's a bunch of chimps at a tea party.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surreal realism, 27 Jun 2014
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A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father...

Destitute, Ann Quin drowned herself at 37. She was the author of four novels of decreasing acclaim, a failed actress, and at age 28 the lover of the then-70-year-old Henry Williamson, the Nazi-sympathising creator of 'Tarka the Otter'. Her fractured life of disappointments is reflected in her debut. A thirty-something bisexual hair tonic salesman, Alistair Berg, has arrived in a thinly disguised Brighton, and taken a room in a boarding house. In the very next room lives his ageing, gadabout, budgie-loving father Nathaniel (who left the family home when his son was a baby) and Nathaniel's pneumatic, much younger girlfriend, Judith ('attractive...in the artificial style'). Berg Jnr's long-held aim is to murder his father for crimes that are unclear but probably psychologically motivated (the novel has elements of Greek myth and Jacobean revenge tragedy running through it): he prevaricates and pontificates, spending long hours on his bed surrounded by his collection of demonstration wigs, listening through the partition to the couple next door and plotting his father's demise.
These mouldering characters stuck in pointless routines are undoubtedly influenced by Beckett. The story, both realistic and surreal, is reminiscent of a Pinter play. The gritty, tawdry location, its landladies, pubs and dance halls, its eggs and bacon, its shillings for the meter, brings to mind kitchen-sink novels of the 50s, but the writing often veers off into a kind of bitter, haunted dreaminess as Berg's memories of his sexually confused childhood begin to infiltrate his consciousness (his relationship with his clinging, sentimental mother Edith is complicated at best). The prose is allusive, dense and fragmented and for the most part highly rewarding to read. Voices and vices blur into each other. The plot both thins and thickens, and at times seems to disappear altogether (this looseness and occasional swerve into ridiculousness are the book’s weaknesses). At the end, Berg isn't sure quite what he's done or why.
Ann Quin is usually considered - if considered at all - as part of the 'experimental' set of British novelists (led by fellow-suicide and writer of loose leaf, reader-assembled novels, BS Johnson, and feminist polemicist Eva Figes), but you’d have to be particularly narrow minded to label ‘Berg’ a boundary-pusher; it’s readable and quite easy to follow if you don’t rush it. It is, however, vastly different to most contemporary fiction – no marketing department-approved likeable hero, no formulaic structure, no resolved ending. Seekers of a rewarding and challenging read should search it out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unsung masterpiece!, 24 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Berg (Paperback)
This little known book is a dark, strange, comic tale of a lone hair-tonic salesman who disguises himself and comes to an out of season seaside town on a mission to kill his father. It's a tricky read because it breaks 'normal' narrative conventions but in doing so it is ground breaking and poetic. Ann Quin is a rare writer and her writing is beautiful!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ann Quin's First Novel, 14 Jun 2006
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A man tracks down the father he never knew and, concealing his identity, befriends his father and has an affair with his father's mistress.

Ann Quin's first novel was a big success in 1964 & remains her best known book. The plot is a characteristic 60s mix of lowlife absurd (Beckett, Pinter) & symbolism (Freud, Laing). In one scene the drunken father tries to rape the son who has dressed up in the father's mistress's clothes! And then there's some creepy perversity concerning a ventriloquist's dummy.... Although of its time & betraying some of the over-ripe awkwardness of a first novel, the extraordinary quality of Ann Quin's writing retains its disturbing power today. If you find the attempts of today's Brit-Lit novelists to write "at the edge" laughably obvious & shallow, then read some Ann Quin for the real thing.
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Berg
Berg by Ann Quin (Paperback - 1 Jan 1964)
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