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One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)

by Ken Kesey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
21,024266126 (4.16)550
He's a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the ward of a mental hospital and takes over. He's a lusty, profane, life-loving fighter who rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Big Nurse. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women; at every turn, he openly defies her rule. The contest starts as sport (with McMurphy taking bets on the outcome) but soon it develops into a grim struggle for the minds and hearts of the men, into an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Big Nurse, backed by the full power of authority ... McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will.… (more)
  1. 70
    A Clockwork Orange [novel] 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. 51
    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.
  4. 30
    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)
  5. 30
    Cool Hand Luke: A Novel by Donn Pearce (slickdpdx)
  6. 20
    The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (slickdpdx)
  7. 20
    Junky by William S. Burroughs (melancholy)
  8. 10
    Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (sturlington)
  9. 32
    The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Books with Delusional/Enlightened Outcast protagonists
  10. 10
    Little Big Man by Thomas Berger (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Books with Delusional/Enlightened Outcast protagonists
  11. 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.
  12. 32
    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)
  13. 11
    Blindness by José Saramago (st_bruno)
    st_bruno: per alienazione negli ospedali psichiatrici. Condizione umana
  14. 11
    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Books with Delusional/Enlightened Outcast protagonists
  15. 112
    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 (3)
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» See also 550 mentions

English (253)  Spanish (3)  Finnish (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (264)
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
I am blown away by this book ,its unpredictable writing style , the innocent mirth and the tragic ending.
But before I start typing my thoughts, in the guise of an unbiased review , this review is not without spoilers both in the plot and the emotions it invokes. So read, if you are reading, at your own discretion.
So starting from where it all began, the first part is long-winded and almost prevents you from reading ahead. However, slowly the way the book is written , the insanity mixed with the daily incidents and the tilted narration gets to you and you start getting comfortable. By the end of the first book , the plot catches steam and you sail through the rest of the book.
What I loved about this book is its writing style which presents sanity in such a normal but yet convulated way that it takes some time to realise that it is the insanity speaking and is not the real scenario. McMurphy was a tragic character from the onset and we were all aware he would end badly ; yet me like all the other characters in the book cheered him on on this crusade and the end , what an end it was.
The nurse broke my heart , she being a position of power , I still can't believe she did this out of spite. What would she gain out of such a behaviour.
This was a beautiful book , with good enough drama to not be too subtle and even twist and turns. ( )
  __echo__ | May 11, 2021 |
I've never seen the movie adaptation of this book, which I think was a good thing going into it - I could enjoy it for what it was without Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the main character constantly popping into my head.

Nurse Ratched, psychopathic bully and evil control freak, rules her ward of chronic and acute mental patients with an iron fist, never loosening her grip on their fragile mental states lest they should show any kind of improvement in their mental health and develop independent thinking. Dampened by a toxic mixture of pills, electric shock treatment and Ratched's daily mind games, the patients exist in a perpetual fog of mental and physical exhaustion until one day they are joined by McMurphy, a larger than life hustler and petty criminal who has declared himself insane to get out of completing his sentence at a work farm. Cocky, loud and used to ruling the roost, McMurphy sets about shaking up life on the ward, but before long he locks horns with Nurse Ratched and a dangerous battle for domination on the ward ensues.

Funny and desperately sad in equal measure, this was a terrific read, a crazy, out of control ride with the most wonderful characters. It shows it's age in terms of its sexist and racist commentary in places, but that aside it's an absolute joy to read.

4.5 stars - one that will stay with me for a long time, I suspect. (And now I will have to watch the movie). ( )
  AlisonY | Apr 13, 2021 |
4*
The beginning of this was a little slow, however, it picked up in the second half and I was able to get through it quickly. I think I would have preferred this written in the 3rd person instead of the 1st - there are times when the main character is hallucinating and I wasn't entirely sure what was going on. Now I understand where the term "Nurse Ratched" comes from and I am interested in going to watch the movie and see how it compares. ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
I'm sure it's a case of seeing Jack Nicholson as McMurphy in the movie adaptation, but I really couldn't imagine a better casting choice.

Regarding the rest of the book - it's stellar. The story is riveting - the narrator is an unreliable narrator, but at the same time totally reliable, because what he's telling you is HIS truth throughout.

Some novels when they divert to backstories totally lose their focus and energy. Kesey makes every moment work. There are a lot of characters playing significant enough roles to make you take notice and for a short book, Kesey does a phenomenal job giving you enough information for their actions and issues to make sense.

And finally, the big nurse - I read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian for the first time last year. The Judge is possibly the worst (by that I mean best/most impactful) villain I've come across, but I don't think Nurse Ratched is far behind. ( )
  Sean191 | Mar 20, 2021 |
I was certainly not expecting THAT ending. Pretty mindblowing, and the movie must be epic, especially that Jack Nicholson plays the role of McMurphy, no one can does the creepy/crazy/hilarious better him. ( )
  Ash600 | Mar 19, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
As a postgraduate student in the writing program at Stanford, Kesey was in on some early LSD experiments at a veterans' hospital, and Chief Broom's subjective vision is full of dislocations and transformations, but Kesey is systematic in fusing Christian mythology with the American myth of the white man and the noble red man fighting against the encroachment of civilization, represented by women. Though in modern society women are as much subject to the processes of mechanized conformity as men (some say more), the inmates of this symbolic hospital are all male, and McMurphy calls them "victims of a matriarchy." There's a long literary tradition behind this man's-man view of women as the castrater-lobotomizers; Kesey updated it, on the theory that comic-strip heroes are the true American mythic heroes, and in terms of public response to the book and to the stage productions of it he proved his point.

The novel is comic-book Freud: the man who achieves his manhood (keeping women under him, happy whores in bed) is the free man—he's the buckaroo with the power of laughter. Leslie Fiedler described Kesey's novel as "the dream once dreamed in the woods, and now redreamed on pot and acid." Kesey's concept of male and female is not so very remote from that in Mailer's writing, though Kesey celebrates keeping the relationships at a mythic comic-strip level, while Mailer, in his foolhardy greatness, delves into his own comic-strip macho.
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew Yorker, Pauline Kael
 
The world of this brilliant first novel is Inside—inside a mental hospital and inside the blocked minds of its inmates. Sordid sights and sounds abound, but Novelist Kesey has not descended to mere shock treatment or isolation-ward documentary. His book is a strong, warm story about the nature of human good and evil, despite its macabre setting.
added by Shortride | editTime (Feb 16, 1962)
 
What Mr. Kesey has done in his unusual novel is to transform the plight of a ward of inmates in a mental institution into a glittering parable of good and evil.
 

» Add other authors (13 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, MichelTraductionsecondary 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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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

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

He's a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the ward of a mental hospital and takes over. He's a lusty, profane, life-loving fighter who rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Big Nurse. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women; at every turn, he openly defies her rule. The contest starts as sport (with McMurphy taking bets on the outcome) but soon it develops into a grim struggle for the minds and hearts of the men, into an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Big Nurse, backed by the full power of authority ... McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will.

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Book description
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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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141187883, 0141024879, 0143105027, 0141037490

HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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HighBridge

2 editions of this book were published by HighBridge.

Editions: 1598870521, 1598875108

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