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Exodous by Lars Iyer

Exodous (2013)

by Lars Iyer

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563338,382 (3.58)2
A wickedly funny and satisfyingly highbrow black comedy about the collapse of Western academic institutions under the weight of neoliberal economics and crushing, widespread idiocy.Lars and W., the two preposterous philosophical anti-heroes of Spurious and Dogma--called "Uproarious" by the New York Times Book Review--return and face a political, intellectual, and economic landscape in a state of total ruination.With philosophy professors being moved to badminton departments and gin in short supply--although not short enough--the two hapless intellectuals embark on a relentless mission. Well, several relentless missions. For one, they must help gear a guerilla philosophy movement--conducted outside the academy, perhaps under bridges--that will save the study of philosophy after the long, miserable decades of intellectual desert known as the early 21st-century.For another, they must save themselves, perhaps by learning to play badminton after all....… (more)



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The good news is: there is a reward for those who make it to the end of Lars Iyer's trilogy, and Exodus being the last volume, one must look back over all three when talking about it. The reward is not quite at the end; in fact the very end might be a little anticlimactic, but what happens just before is the fictional equivalent of the Big Opera Moment, when music, words, and singing come together with great emotional impact. It might not work for everyone; it did for me.

The further good news is that there is no bad news: to the end the lengthy and, in several ways, repetitive account of the adventures of L & W in their own particular Wonderland remained engaging enough to keep one reading. Occasionally it came close to demonstrating the folly of authors reading Thomas Bernhard, but didn't reach that point in part because of the fundamentally endearing nature of the pair's clownish progress.

(That is, if it is about a pair: from Spurious on through Dogma and to the end, the idea wouldn't go away that W. might exist only in Lars' self-excoriating imagination, with a wife to match. But perhaps that's too fanciful...)

In lieu of bad news is a question: why three volumes? it was all quite of a piece to me, though I may have missed what distinguished the content of each volume with its terse, erudite title. That it was of a piece is A Good Thing, to be sure. One couldn't help but think that, had it been issued as a single volume, some editing and a great deal of white-space removal would have been obviously advisable, and performed. Publishing, it seems, is to blame -- perhaps.

But to paraphrase Orwell in a letter describing at enthusiastic length his discovery of Ulysses, I could always have stopped reading, and I didn't.
  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
Could have used a good editor - because a blog does not a novel make without one. Still, the beginning and end were up there with the best of Spurious, and even if the shtick gets a little too repetitive, it's a great shtick. Absolutely worth the read.

Raises all sorts of questions of form, though. Maybe blog to novel isn't any more logical a transformation than novel to film. This could easily have been seven little super-short volumes. Or maybe a graphic novel with multiple "chapters" into which the different episodes were folded. Or several volumes broken up by fuzzy photos, like WG Sebald's work. What I'm glad it wasn't was one long book - even a trilogy doesn't quite work for something that is kind of a nihilist sit-com, in the end. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
W. and Lars are back for the third and final instalment of Lars Iyer’s besotted double-act. After Spurious and Dogma, Exodus follows the put upon philosophers on a conference tour of Britain. W. has retained his post at Plymouth University by means of a technicality, though he has been relegated to teaching Sports Science students Badminton Ethics. The much abused Lars persists in his damp, underground flat in Newcastle (though thankfully the rats are gone) but he has just as little hope of surviving the desecration of Humanities faculties, and most regrettably Philosophy departments, across the country. All that’s left to them now is despair. Despair and Plymouth Gin.

W. and Lars meander across the country and across the (continental) philosophical landscape. W. is ever nostalgic for his postgraduate days at Essex University, though he appears to be the last hanger-on from those days still in academic employment. Will his early experience of life in the wilds of Canada(!) sustain him in the thoughtless wilderness of modern Britain? Is thinking even possible anymore? Or are they all now on the long march from Egypt heading toward a Canaan that W. and Lars will never be able to enter? If so, it is a curious exodus that leads to London and Edinburgh and Oxford and Dundee only to bring them back to Plymouth and one long, last drunken dark night of the soul and dreams of Plymouth Sound glinting like utopia.

It’s over. It’s been a desperate journey across the three novels, full of philosophical musings, sly observations on the state of tertiary education in Britain, exultation of the generative properties of Plymouth Gin, and endless abuse by W. of his erstwhile companion, his Boswell, his inspiration and exasperation, and ultimately his one true friend. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Feb 21, 2013 |
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