Berg (British Literature) (British Literature Series) Paperback – 1 Dec 2001
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About the Author
Ann Quin, one of the best kept secrets of British experimental writing, has garnered comparisons to such diverse writers as Samuel Beckett and Nathalie Sarraute. Before her death in 1973, she published four novels, including "Berg" and "Passages." In 1964 she became the first female recipient of the D. H. Lawrence Fellowship which allowed her to travel to the U.S., a trip that provided the basis for "Tripticks."
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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).Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an astonishing novel. I came to it totally ignorant of the author’s life and untimely death and also of when it was written. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Bluecashmere.
Worth tackling even if only as a heroic failure. In the seedy streets and boarding houses of back street Brighton a budgie and a cat come to a nasty end, a ventriloquist's dummy is... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Richard Warren