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Deaf Sentence: A Novel by David Lodge
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Deaf Sentence: A Novel (edition 2009)

by David Lodge

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1,0205415,318 (3.67)38
When the university merged his Department of Linguistics with English, Professor Desmond Bates took early retirement, but he is not enjoying it. He misses the purposeful routine of the academic year, and has lost his appetite for research.His wife Winifred's late-flowering career goes from strength to strength, reducing his role to that of escort and househusband, while the rejuvenation of her appearance makes him uneasily conscious of the age gap between them. The monotony of his days is relieved only by wearisome journeys to London to check on the welfare of his eighty-nine-year-old father, an ex dance musician who stubbornly refuses to move from the house he is patently unable to live in with safety.But these discontents are nothing compared to the affliction of hearing loss, which is a constant source of domestic friction and social embarrassment. In the popular imagination, he observes, deafness is comic, as blindness is tragic, but for the deaf person himself it is no joke. It is through his deafness that Desmond inadvertently gets involved with a young woman whose wayward and unpredictable behaviour threatens to destabilise his life completely.Funny and moving by turns, Deaf Sentence is a brilliant account of one man's effort to come to terms with deafness and death, ageing and mortality, the comedy and tragedy of human lives.… (more)
Member:LaurieDB
Title:Deaf Sentence: A Novel
Authors:David Lodge
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2009), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

  1. 00
    The Open Cage: Not Hearing but Living by Phoebe Raddings (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Another account of living with deafness.
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» See also 38 mentions

English (45)  French (4)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
I always enjoy David Lodge. He's one of those writers who is extremely good at seeing--and writing about--social interactions, men and women, parent and child...and he's funny on top of that. Deaf Sentence has the added bonus of bringing deafness and linguistics into the mix, adding two more layers to those relationships. ( )
  giovannaz63 | Jan 18, 2021 |
I have conflicted feelings about Deaf Sentence. For the first hundred pages or so, I was blown away by Lodge's treatment of his subject matter, which is so authentic that it could only be autobiographical. Lodge's narrator, Desmond, is a retired academic in is mid-sixties who is slowly losing his hearing; his disease is incurable and will ultimately leave him completely without hearing. Desmond, a linguist, discusses the nature of his disease with breathtaking honesty and insight, and recounts the affects of his deafness on his marriage, his academic career, and his relationships with others, including his father.

Deaf Sentence is a novel in diary entries and, occasionally, apologetically, in the third person ("I feel a fit of the third person coming on"). When it's good, it is very, very good, but Lodge is balancing too many plot lines: we have Desmond and his wife, Desmond and the eccentric graduate student, Desmond and his father, Desmond and himself. Lodge technically wraps up each each plot trajectory, but the book is a slim 300 pages, and it felt like a squeeze to close each story.

The sensitivity with which Lodge writes of deafness makes this book a wonderful read for those interested in hearing loss, but the plot was lacking and somewhat unsatisfying. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
Thoughtful and amusing excerpts about high frequency deafness which helped me understand better what going deaf feels like. Full growing characters were created. I enjoyed. ( )
1 vote Lylee | Apr 3, 2016 |
'I'm afraid I could never trust someone who would make irremovable marks in a library book.'

Thus states Desmond, a non-P.C. retired professor of linguistics, to Alex, a voluptuous grad student who wants him to supervise her doctoral thesis. When he first meets Alex, he heard her introduce herself as 'Axe,' a more accurate name for her character.

For, as he is aging, Desmond is going deaf, and the book humorously describes the mishaps caused by his many misinterpretations of what is said to him. His problems with Alex are but one aspect of his adversities. The novel also focuses on his relationship with his elderly father, also deaf (the conversations father and son carry on with each other are hilarious), who insists on living by himself despite advancing dementia. Desmond must also contend with his entirely reasonable wife, whose career is blossoming as his fades.

This all sounds somewhat grim, but if you've ever read anything by David Lodge you know that this is a laugh out loud book. Most of Desmond's problems are caused by his own vanities, and his aging Dad is a hoot. His wife is Mrs. Fawlty to Desmond's Basil Fawlty.

Nevertheless, the overall tone of Deaf Sentence is bittersweet. It is the most serious of the David Lodge books I've read. Desmond's despair over his encroaching deafness and his worries about his father are not understated or trivialized. ( )
1 vote arubabookwoman | Mar 15, 2016 |
"Deaf Sentence" is painful, funny, and tender all at once. The protagonist, Desmond Bates, is a Brtish Midlands university linguistics professor in his 60s who has taken early retirement as a reasonable means of dealing with his growing deafness. His inability to hear made his work difficult, and continues to make every interaction with another human being potentially difficult and embarrassing. Hearing aids are often less than helpful; they turn all sound into noise. At the start of the book, Bates is discontented though managing relatively well the unexpected loneliness caused by his retirement and his inability to hear, and the ups and downs of family — in particular, his wife and her grown children and mother, his own grown children with his first wife who died of cancer, and his declining father, a former musician living in London with no support network other than his only son. Bates's balance is lost when he meets an attractive American graduate student who says that she'd like him to be her dissertation advisor, despite his having retired. She is unpredictable and difficult, and seems to have attached herself to him. The fact that he is ambivalent about everything to do with her (when he can hear what she has to say) and her work, an examination into the comparative styles of suicide notes, makes everything worse.Everyone in the world eventually faces aspects of life that "Deaf Sentence" touches: aging, deafness, illness, the end of one's work life, loss of those one loves, death. It's the most common stuff there is, and yet it's unique to each of us. ( )
1 vote NatalieSW | Feb 23, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Sentence noun. Middle English [Old French from Latin sententia mental feeling, opinion, philosophical judgement, from sentire feel] 1. Way of thinking, opinion, mind... 2b. The declaration in a criminal court of the punishment imposed on a person pleading guilty or found guilty... 5. A pithy or memorable saying, a maxim, an aphorism... 7... A piece of writing or speech between two full stops or equivalent pauses.

     The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
Dedication
Concious that this novel, from its English title onwards, presents special problems for translators, I dedicate it to all those who, over many years, have applied their skills to the translation of my work into various languages, and especially to some who have become personal friends: Marc Amfreville, Mary Gislon and Rosetta Palazzi, Maurice and Yvonne Couturier, Armand Eloi and Beatrice Hammer, Luo Yirong, Suzanne Mayoux, Renate Orth-Guttmann, and Susumu Tagaki.
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The tall, bespectacled, grey-haired man standing at the edge of the throng in the main room of the gallery, stooping very close to the young women in the red silk blouse, his head lowered and angled away from her face, nodding sagely and emitting a phatic murmur from time to time, is not as you might think an off-duty priest whom she has persuaded to hear her confession in the midst of the party, or a psychiatrist conned into giving her a free consultation; nor has he adopted this posture the better to look down the front of her blouse, though this is an accidental bonus of his situation, the only one in fact.
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When the university merged his Department of Linguistics with English, Professor Desmond Bates took early retirement, but he is not enjoying it. He misses the purposeful routine of the academic year, and has lost his appetite for research.His wife Winifred's late-flowering career goes from strength to strength, reducing his role to that of escort and househusband, while the rejuvenation of her appearance makes him uneasily conscious of the age gap between them. The monotony of his days is relieved only by wearisome journeys to London to check on the welfare of his eighty-nine-year-old father, an ex dance musician who stubbornly refuses to move from the house he is patently unable to live in with safety.But these discontents are nothing compared to the affliction of hearing loss, which is a constant source of domestic friction and social embarrassment. In the popular imagination, he observes, deafness is comic, as blindness is tragic, but for the deaf person himself it is no joke. It is through his deafness that Desmond inadvertently gets involved with a young woman whose wayward and unpredictable behaviour threatens to destabilise his life completely.Funny and moving by turns, Deaf Sentence is a brilliant account of one man's effort to come to terms with deafness and death, ageing and mortality, the comedy and tragedy of human lives.

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