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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)

by Ken Kesey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
24,165298142 (4.14)590
Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML:An international bestseller and the basis for the hugely successful film, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the defining works of the 1960s.

In this classic novel, Ken Keseys hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, backed by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the storys shocking climax.

BRILLIANT!Time

A SMASHING ACHIEVEMENT...A TRULY ORIGINAL NOVEL!Mark Schorer

Mr. Kesey has created a world that is convincing, alive and glowing within its own boundaries...His is a large, robust talent, and he has written a large, robust book.Saturday Review
.
… (more)
  1. 80
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey may be paired with A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess or The Outsider by Albert Camus. All three novels explore the them of society versus the individual.
  2. 40
    Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates by Erving Goffman (BeeQuiet)
    BeeQuiet: When reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest there were two books that immediately sprung to mind, both non-fiction and the latter of which I'll post above. I think anyone captivated by the relations in this book, particularly the way in which the inmates are made to perceive themselves will get a huge amount from this book. It's wonderful, and Goffman has a very lucid, accessible way of writing, which certainly helps.… (more)
  3. 30
    Cool Hand Luke: A Novel by Donn Pearce (slickdpdx)
  4. 41
    Screw, a guard's view of Bridgewater State Hospital by Tom Ryan (fundevogel)
    fundevogel: A first hand account of the physical and psychological abuse of inmates at the Bridgewater Prison Hospital.
  5. 20
    Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason by Michel Foucault (BeeQuiet)
    BeeQuiet: Furthering on my Goffman recommendation, Foucault here details what he sees as being the movement from "treatment" of the mentally ill through more violent means through to what is described in Kesey's book as "infinitely more human methods". What is shown through Foucault's work is that whilst leaving no physical marks, turning man against man and reducing one's sense of self can be seen as even worse.… (more)
  6. 42
    The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey may be paired with The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks or even Awakenings by the same author. All three books explore the idea that once a person becomes ill or is institutionalised, they lose their rights and privileges.… (more)
  7. 20
    The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (slickdpdx)
  8. 20
    Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (sturlington)
  9. 10
    Junky by William S. Burroughs (melancholy)
  10. 21
    Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (AriadneAranea)
    AriadneAranea: Another chilling account of life in a US mental hospital - with a science fiction twist and a feminist angle.
  11. 10
    Little Big Man by Thomas Berger (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Books with Delusional/Enlightened Outcast protagonists
  12. 21
    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Books with Delusional/Enlightened Outcast protagonists
  13. 32
    The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Books with Delusional/Enlightened Outcast protagonists
  14. 21
    Blindness by José Saramago (st_bruno)
    st_bruno: per alienazione negli ospedali psichiatrici. Condizione umana
  15. 212
    The Shawshank Redemption [1994 film] by Frank Darabont (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest can be paired with Frank Darabont's film The Shawshank Redemption based on Stephen King's short storyRita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Could also be paired with Dead Poet's society as well.
1960s (4)
Read (71)
AP Lit (149)
1970s (503)
Daria (8)
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» See also 590 mentions

English (281)  Spanish (4)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (296)
Showing 1-5 of 281 (next | show all)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is now a new all-time favourite. Harrowing and heart-breaking, brilliantly written and thought-provoking I savoured every delicious word with frequent pauses to process and absorb.

Nurse Ratched runs her ward in the Oregon state mental hospital like a well-oiled machine. She controls the Acutes and the Chronics, the Walkers, Wheelers and Vegetables with an iron-clad fist and a rigid daily routine until Randle Patrick McMurphy rocks up, committed by the state from the Pendleton Farm for Correction on the grounds of insanity orchestrated by the man himself hoping for a cushier number. A self-professed con artist and gambler he immediately ups the ante betting he can deal the cards that will crack Big Nurse’s poker face.

The characterisation is sublime: Mack, the user and hustler, womaniser and disruptor with his red hair and big arms, cap, grin and swagger; manipulative and sadistic Miz Ratched preceded by her bolster bosom and wicker basket with her trepidatious, hand-picked minions bobbing along behind her and half Indian giant Chief Bromden, our befogged, paranoid and seemingly deaf and mute narrator sprang into life, burrowed into my brain and held me in thrall. There’ll always be a special place in my heart for stuttering, man-child Billy Bibbit.

Nurse Ratched has sedation and seclusion, the Disturbed Ward and the Shock Shop, therapeutic adjustment and surgical reconditioning at her fingertips to emasculate, subjugate and humiliate her charges. McMurphy has charisma and joie de vivre, playing the system and playing the fool, provocation and intimidation up his sleeve to sever the puppet master’s strings and transform his colony of timid little rabbits into a pack of teeth baring wolves.

Images from the film only served to enhance my overall reading experience. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. One of a kind! ( )
  geraldine_croft | Mar 30, 2024 |
#362 in our old book database. Not rated.
  villemezbrown | Feb 25, 2024 |
Life in the worst kind of insane asylum, more metaphorical than I could grasp, probably. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 13, 2023 |
This was a pick for my works book club, and I wasn’t too excited. I watched the movie years ago, and doubted the book would add much to the story. But boy, was I wrong!

“What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it. ”

In an Oregon State mental hospital ward, Nurse Ratched rules over her patients with manipulation, mind-numbing medication, and electroshock therapy. Her carefully curated regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy - the swaggering, fun-loving trickster who resolves to oppose her. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy's heroic attempt with the powers that keep them imprisoned.

What is surprising about this book is how much fun it is! Through the character of McMurphy, Kesey portrays a rebellion against Ratched with ever increasing antics. The novel also highlights the institutionalization of individuals who do not fit society's expectations. Chief Bromden as the narrator allows the reader to see the events of the novel through the eyes of someone who is both inside and outside the system. His descriptions of the "fog" and the "combine" are confusing at first but are powerful metaphors for the way the patients are treated so that from the moment of McMurphy's arrival I felt completely on his side. A strange juxtaposition to how I would feel if I were to meet his behaviour in the real world.

McMurphy's efforts to unite the patients and challenge Nurse Ratched's authority lead to a sense of camaraderie and mutual support among the patients, who had previously been isolated and oppressed until ultimately the characters are forced to confront the consequences of their actions and the limitations of their freedom.

While it is worth noting that the novel's was written in the 60s and attitudes towards women and race may be considered outdated by today's standards, I still enjoyed the book immensely.

A devastatingly honest portrayal of the boundaries between sanity and madness.
  rosienotrose | Jul 11, 2023 |
A great portrail of the border of sanity and insanity, the neglect many people are treated with in institutions, and the abuse of authority. ( )
  gianouts | Jul 5, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 281 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kesey, Kenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bacon, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bartos, TiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bash, KentIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bofill, MireiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deutsch, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fraggen, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hermann, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kořán, JaroslavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koning, BertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krailing, TessaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehmusoksa, RistoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oddera, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palahniuk, ChuckForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pillau, VirveEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reilly, John C.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sacco, JoeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skogsberg, IngvarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhoeven, WilAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
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People/Characters
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Related movies
Epigraph
. . . one flew east, one flew west,
One flew over the cuckoo's nest.
— Children's folk rhyme
Dedication
To Vik Lovell
who told me dragons did not exist,
then led me to their lairs.
First words
They're out there.
Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.
Quotations
It's the truth, even if it didn't happen.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
This is the novel by Ken Kesey.  Please do not combine this with any other version.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. HTML:An international bestseller and the basis for the hugely successful film, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the defining works of the 1960s.

In this classic novel, Ken Keseys hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, backed by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the storys shocking climax.

BRILLIANT!Time

A SMASHING ACHIEVEMENT...A TRULY ORIGINAL NOVEL!Mark Schorer

Mr. Kesey has created a world that is convincing, alive and glowing within its own boundaries...His is a large, robust talent, and he has written a large, robust book.Saturday Review
.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) is a novel written by Ken Kesey. It is set in an Oregon asylum, and serves as a study of the institutional process and the human mind.
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