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Dogma Paperback – 21 Feb 2012
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Dogma by Lars Iyer is the kind of book that we are always told never gets published any more: uncompromisingly intellectual, passing strange and absurdly funny. If Lars Iyer hadn't already written Spurious, it would be possible to call his second novel a unique event. As it is, it's just more of the same, only better. Iyer's weird talent continues to grow, and the misadventures of his miserable characters are starting to seem like the brightest things in modern British fiction. - The Guardian (chosen as one of 2012's Best Books of the Year)
Dogma, like its prequel Spurious, is provocative in its arguments, scrupulously plain in its style and excoriating in its honesty. Iyer is an author who rejects the parochialism and timidity we too often associate with British novelists in favour of an ugly grapple with the big themes. - The Spectator
The epithet Beckettian is perhaps the most overused in criticism, frequently employed as a proxy for less distinguished designations such as sparse or a bit depressing . But Lars Iyer s fiction richly deserves this appellation. His playfully spare and wryly depressing landscape, incorporating a bickering double act on a hopeless, existential journey, is steeped in the bathos, farce, wordplay and metaphysics of the man John Calder referred to as the last of the great stoics , its characters accelerating towards a condition of eternal silence, fuelled only by the necessity of speaking out. -- - The Times Literary Supplement
Praise for Spurious
It's wonderful. I'd recommend the book for its insults alone. -Sam Jordison, The Guardian
I'm still laughing, and it's days later -The Los Angeles Times
Fearsomely funny. -- - The Washington Post
"Fearsomely funny." ---The Washington Post
About the Author
Lars Iyer is the author of a trilogy of novels, SPURIOUS, DOGMA and EXODUS, the last of which will be published in January 2013. The series has received rave reviews in nearly all major literary publications including The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, The Spectator and The Believer.
SPURIOUS won 3:AM's 'Best novel of 2011' award, was a finalist for the Guardian Not-the-Booker Award, and was shortlisted for The Believer award. DOGMA was listed as one of the the Observer's Books of the Year
Lars Iyer has also written two scholarly books on the work of Maurice Blanchot, and teaches philosophy at Newcastle University, UK
Top customer reviews
For the admirer of 'Spurious' there will be an immediate sense of déjà vu. Here is the Indo-Danish pseudo-Iyer, with his foundering flat and his unfulfilled promise; here is his 'friend' W., still prone to hyperbolical pessimism and lacerating bouts of self-criticism relieved only by still more lacerating criticism of Iyer. Here are the oceans of Plymouth gin in which our anti-heroes take temporary refuge from the pain of self-awareness.
But the pain is deeper now, the desperation more acute, the catastrophe more imminent. Driven to extremes, the pair devise their own intellectual movement, stealing its name - Dogma - shamelessly from the Dogme95 movement: but is not one of the rules of Dogma that plagiarism is acceptable, even mandatory? The result is philosophy as performance art of a particularly regrettable kind. Meanwhile, the spectre of redundancy hangs ever lower over the head of W., while Lars, the 'Hindu fatalist' and 'betrayer', listens exclusively to the tuneless music of the idiot genius non-musician Jandek. Below his flat the rats are gathering...
The most pertinent criticism I can make of 'Dogma' is that it suffers slightly by comparison with its predecessor from being the second volume of a projected trilogy. Middle volumes have a tendency to repetition, digression and shapelessness, and some of the hares that Iyer starts here are not followed to their lairs. 'Spurious' had novelty on its side; by comparison, 'Dogma' has to work harder for its effects, and sometimes seems less certain of its success.
I'm not sure how far a reading of 'Dogma' requires a prior acquaintance with the earlier novel; in some senses it is less a sequel than a recapitulation with different emphases. Nonetheless, I would advise reading the two books in the order of publication, and I suspect that we will have to wait for the third volume to see the whole structure - and to answer the question as to whether that structure is determined or accidental, linear or cyclical.
Docked one star, then. But still intelligent, funny, and recommended; and I look forward to the final volume.
Even though Dogma is the second novel in a not so closely knit trilogy, which will come to its end next year with the Exodus, one can easily read it as a standalone volume.
The main protagonists in this story are two friends: W, who's a Catholic Jew atheist and Lars, who's more or less, or rather less than more, Hindu. The first thinks too much and philosophizes a lot about the end of days, while at the same time he's preparing two projects on capitalism and religion ("Capitalism is the evil twin of true religion," he claims), while the second just lives, or maybe I should say survives, in the shadow of his friend. I think that this is one of the oddest couple of friends that I've ever encountered in world literature. They are so different from each other that the only thing that seems to keep them close together is the simple fact that no one else could ever put up with them. W on the one hand, never stops thinking and talking, every now and then he points his poisonous words towards his friend, who's a non-thinker, he often enough throws one-liners in their conversations while trying to make a point, he gets angry and revolts constantly, at least in his head, and he makes new decisions all the time; decisions which sometimes he sticks to, but most times he doesn't; to put it simply he's not only a man of words, but also one of action. As for Lars, who's the narrator, he simply seems to be nothing more than a receptacle. He just listens to his friend, he puts up with his whims, he follows him in his varied adventures, he learns from him, and every now and then, when he absolutely has to, he opens his mouth to say a few words to appease the spirits and bring serenity to W's soul. Most of the times all he has to do to achieve that is quote the Vedas or tell him stories from the Hindu mythology.
Their dialogues, or rather W's monologues, are simply a joy to behold. And, as one would expect, quotation time it is: "You should never learn from your mistakes"; "We must read if we want to live"; "We're not capable of god"; "Philosophy's like an unrequited love affair"; "Always claim the ideas of others as your own"; "The Dogma must always be drunk"; "Only the hopeless can truly understand the everyday."
W looks and sounds like a prophet of the end. He expects catastrophe to hit the earth any time now; and he feels that more strongly than ever in America, where the ignorant natives apart from having no Plymouth Gin for sale, they have also "made a Disneyland of Armageddon."
"It's time to die," he says at the end, "but death does not come." Thankfully, I should add; because if it did then we'd miss the opportunity to enjoy the third part of his unique mental and physical escapades.
Highly recommended to everyone out there who loves good literary fiction.