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Betrayals by Charles Palliser

Betrayals (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Charles Palliser

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159775,058 (3.79)9
Authors:Charles Palliser
Info:Vintage (1995), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:library book

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Betrayals by Charles Palliser (1994)



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So, Father's Day - also Bloomsday, it turns out - what's a doting Dad to do? Me, I spent most of it on the porch enjoying the low clouds, the cool breeze, the distant cries of unicyclists on the Square and read Betrayals by Charles Palliser. Eventually I went inside and read it some more, because the grey clouds did what grey clouds do and chased even the unicyclists away.

Betrayals was an unalloyed pleasure from first to last, and a reread at that. Since at least two of the disparate ten chapters are devoted in part to abstruse literary theory where the pleasure of reading is likened to an orgasm and reader and text can be, in assorted variations, phallic or emasculated, and in demanding answers from this book I'm being authoritatively phallic and in concealing these answers the book is being deceitfully phallic or silent and phallic or wordless and emasculated and, yes it's wall to wall phalluses at times, wrestling with phalluses, worshipping phalluses and occasionally lopping the unfortunate phalluses off. Let us ponder for a moment the similarity of phallus and fallacy. I bet Derrida liked that one.

So much for the literary theory sections, which also, it should be stated, incorporates poisonous academic rivalry, half-mad, half-depraved philosophers, murder, suicide, attempted murder and even a spot of plagiarism. This isn't even the start, that would be the obituary with the little sting in the tail, something of a theme with this book, then there's the Christie-esque story of travellers caught in a snowstorm and some tales within tales. Mysteries, murders, betrayals, lies, confessions and a parade of the least reliable narrators this side of Pinnochio's nose, constantly betraying themselves and each other with slip-ups, omissions and general cluelessness. In fact, the only narrator prone to telling the truth is the diarist in the longest, arguably central, chapter, and he has some difficulty telling fact from fiction, and befriends someone with a tendency to blend fiction with fact.

This is a reread from me, and fortunately I remembered that you will not end this book with the mysteries solved. Some, yes, some, no, some you're not too sure of. Perhaps the text supplies you with everything you need, perhaps not, I certainly haven't worked it out yet if it does. What it is is immensely clever and fun, pastiching a variety of modern genres, satirising the worlds of academia and publishing, interrogating the divide between true crime and fictional crime as well as high art and entertainment. You'll either run a mile from this or find it the most fun you can have on a rainy Father's Bloomsday when the unicyclists are out, but if you work out who lured the old lady to her doom and why, please let me know. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Though brilliant in the embedded plot twists and intertwining, I felt that the author was 'Too Clever by Half' and lost me (and most readers I'm sure). I felt that I caught some but not all of the inter-relationships between the separate stories in this novel. This left me frustrated that there were connections I know I should have seen, but that I didn't connect and so only understood the top two-thirds of the total plot twists and tricks.

I think this is a very well written book, but to be appreciated, I think it would be wise to read in a lierature class when sub-plots and plot connections are brought into the light of day. Otherwise, I fear many will feel as I do that it was just too convoluted to grasp completely. ( )
  pking36330 | Feb 6, 2014 |
A marvellous, dizzying post-modern romp, a series of entwined and multilayered self-referencing stories, this is a great read. For most of the book I had no idea what was going on, but I certainly had fun trying to find out.

The headache I got from trying to work my way back up through some layered narrations was worth it too. A story written by two narrators, where the characters tell stories about further characters telling stories... Worthy of Scheherazade.

I spent quite a while flicking back and forth between chapters as I was reading it, and then again when I finished it and found the index of characters at the back, putting things together. An excellent read, highly recommended. ( )
  wookiebender | May 20, 2012 |
Vreemd, in het begin lijken het allerlei lossen verhalen maar er zijn verschillende links te ontdekken. Ik ben er nog niet helemaal uit welke dat zijn - herlezen is niet zo'n slecht idee. Post-modernisme: textualiteit, alles is gelinkt aan andere dingen. ( )
  Suz615 | May 18, 2012 |
Betrayals is the third Charles Palliser book I've read, and the only patten I've been able to pick up from his work is that you never know what you're going to get. Each novel (The Quincunx, The Unburied, and this one) are so different you'd never guess they came from the same pen. Always provocative, slightly bizarre and rich with allusion, Betrayals rises almost to the leve of The Quincunx ... but doesn't quite get there.

This novel is made up of ten short parts, all set in very different times and places and stylistic/narrative differences. With each, however, come clues, innuendoes, and intriguing hints which - eventually - are spun together, creating one vast tangled web of unpleasantness for just about all concerned. It required a great deal of attention, making this a fairly poor choice for reading on the T; I'm sure I missed a level or two of Palliser's complicated labyrinth, and goodness knows how many of his myriad literary references passed me by (I did catch a few at least, and have realized a few more even as I type).

Complex and dark, this novel is apt to inflict wrinkled brows and bouts of compulsive rereading previous chapters once all (or some, at least) is revealed. It'll make you think.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2007/06/book-review-betrayals.html ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Jun 20, 2007 |
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"alas for both his victims and his readers!" - Auberon Saville
For L, appropriately
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Professor Ritchie writes: So small is the world of immunotoxinology that it is not surprising - though somewhat ironic - that it should fall to myself to write the obituary of William Herbert Dugdale.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345404351, Paperback)

At once a hypnotic murder mystery, scathing literary parody, soap opera, and brilliant pastiche, Betrayals is an astonishing virtuouso performance by a modern master of literary gamesmanship in the tradition of Vladimir Nabokov and John Barth.
The novel unforlds in a series of seemingly unrelated narratives, each written in a different style -- indeed, in a different genre. There is an obituary for a Scottish scientist and Nobel Prize winner, written by a colleague who clearly relishes his death. Early in the century, a train in the Scottish Highlands heads down the wrong track during a winter snowstorm, and the passengers are forced to abandon the train, resulting in the death -- or is it murder? -- of one of them. An inane publisher's reader summarizes the plot of a tacky hospital romance novel, which ends in a gory murder all too reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. Even a report on a contemporary academic controversy explodes into a scandal of plagiarism, shattered reputations, paranoia, and suicide -- or is it murder made to look as such?
As Palliser deftly teases out each new situation, it becomes clear that they are all variations on a single outrageous theme: a distinguished figure in some intellectual pursuit -- science, literature, academia -- becomes obsessed with the success of a rival and schemes his demise, only to botch the job out of sheer monomania. Like the scorpion that stings itself to death, each plotter becomes a victim of his own plot; each betrayer changes places with the betrayed in an intricate dance of deception, revenge, and revelation.
A challenging, engrossing, utterly original work of art, Betrayals is also pure joy to read -- a book that will make you laugh out loud, turn pages madly in pursuit of the next plot twist, and above all, marvel at the supreme ingenuity of a fictional puzzle in which the unlikeliest pieces fit together perfectly.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:02 -0400)

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