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Ingenious Pain (1997)

af Andrew Miller

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6511035,903 (3.74)24
At the dawn of the Enlightenment, James Dyer is born unable to feel pain. A source of wonder and scientific curiosity as a child, he rises through the ranks of Georgian society to become a brilliant surgeon. Yet as a human being he fails, for he can no more feel love and compassion than pain. Until, en route to St Petersburg to inoculate the Empress Catherine against smallpox, he meets his nemesis and saviour.… (mere)
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Engelsk (9)  Spansk (1)  Alle sprog (10)
Viser 1-5 af 10 (næste | vis alle)
In 1739 James Dyer is born to an impoverished family in the small English village of Blind Yeo. He never cries, and doesn’t even speak for ten years. He quietly observes and forms his view of the world, skewed by his inability to feel any pain – physical or emotional. He becomes a sort of freak show display, used first by a con man selling useless potions, and then “safeguarded” by a wealthy patron with an insatiable curiosity for nature’s oddities. Eventually, he becomes a celebrated surgeon and is one of a handful chosen to race to the side of the Empress of Russia to inoculate her against smallpox. Along the way he meets Mary, a woman with apparent magical powers, and he discovers the realm of human emotion, from joy to suffering.

What an odd book. There is some glorious writing within the text but I felt as disconnected from James as he is made out to be from the rest of the world. Still, I was intrigued and interested in the story from the outset, but the author lost me in Part the Sixth and the last eighty pages were read with little comprehension. To paraphrase one of my husband’s favorite expressions: I can define every word used but have no idea what I just read. My F2F book club had a spirited discussion of the book, but basically all felt the same way I did: some beautiful writing, but what is the author trying to say?
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
There's a great idea behind this book and Andrew's background (his father was a doctor, while he studied 18th century Eng. Lit. at Uni) meant he was very well qualified to write it. On the whole, this story of a freakish man unable to feel pain, works very well. You do feel you're in the times and you face the extraordinary situation James Dyer, the central character, is in. Anyone who had read and enjoyed Perfume by Patrick Süskind would have got a kick out of this, too; though its plot is not as strong.

I have one serious quibble, which makes me distrust the awards system by which this book was given two very valuable prizes. The bulk of the book is written in present tenses, which gives it a post-modernist feel and jars somewhat with the historical setting. Added to that, though, comes a chapter written in convention style - an epistle, moreover - which (incidentally) to me is the best written part. However, there is no attempt to fit these shifts of tense into the narrative, which I consider to be a flaw. I understand librarians were responsible for the most valuable of the prizes won (the IMPAC), and they should know what the reading public like. However, it also won the James Tait Black Memorial Award; which, given how it is slightly flawed, I don't think it deserved.

Anyhow, it just goes to show how insincere and corrupt the book world is. It was great for Andrew, he was suddenly living on Cloud Nine after that momentous year. I wouldn't want to take his success away from him; if pop stars can make it like that, why not writers? But such grapes do taste sour. Put it like this, if I were an athlete and I saw people in front of me who I knew were on steroids, I think I'd have pretty much the same taste in my mouth.

Literature on steroids is this: agents, publishers, booksellers, critics and book trade journalists get together to push a small number of writers. They do this to maximise sales through a practice familiar to all marketeers: brand/product placement. As if to acknowledge this, but really to take it to another level, Andrew and his mates organised workshops through the Guardian newspaper to show aspiring writers how to work the system! After creaming another two hundred quid off each of the eager punters, and with his face having appeared in the newspaper every day for three months, he only goes and scoops yet another prize for his latest historical offering! ("Pure" - which netted 25 grand in the Walter Scott Award). ( )
  Philip_Lee | Apr 1, 2013 |
"And did you get what you wanted from this life,even so. I did.
And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on earth" - Raymond Carver.

I have to agree with a few other people and say that it's a combo of historical fiction and fantasy. The ending was a bit sudden and disappointing, but overall I enjoyed it. Lyrical and sometimes grim. ( )
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Miller's first novel, offers the life of James Dyer, a man born without the ability to feel pain, who dies having recovered the sense of pain and pleasure and relived the sufferings of his earlier life. Miller inhabits the eighteenth century easily, never striking an uneasy note with his descriptions of the time, places and people - which roots the fantastical tale at its heart in a very earthy reality. The descriptions and characterisation are detailed, physical and rooted - down to the passing servant or letter writing sailor. The structure of different narrative voices and the cycle of Dyer's life are rich and varied, preserving the uncanny mystery at the heart of the novel, just as the skunk is preserved in tobacco leaves. Miller obliquely tells us about love, pain and loss through the narrative, death and rebirth, freakishness and normality - leaving the reader room to think and to imagine. A compelling first book.
  otterley | Jul 26, 2010 |
A couple of things really struck me as being different when I began to read Ingenious Pain. The first was that it is written in third person and present tense. Coupled with dialogue that is measured and somewhat poetic, I sometimes felt as if I were reading the stage directions and lines of a play, which was a new experience for me, as I have never read a book like this one before. The other thing I noticed was that this book begins by working backwards; first we see James Dyer as a corpse, second as an adult, and third as a baby, and Miller begins to tell Dyer’s story from there. In the early chapters of the book, Miller gives out snippets of information about Dyer, as well as setting the scene of the place where he ends his existence, which gets the mind of the reader thinking about what sort of a life Dyer could have lived.

The thing I found most amazing about this book, in more ways than one, was the style of writing, and how it changed the experience of reading the book. Throughout Ingenious Pain, Miller maintains a practised and proper style, broken by the occasional crude, out of place word like ‘guts.’ The first time one of these words came up, I had to re-read the paragraph to make sure I hadn’t read it wrong. In actuality, this writing style creates the perfect eighteenth-century, Georgian atmosphere, where the people must be prim and proper to the very powder on their wigs, but all this conceals the fact that none of them bother to bathe or wash their hands, and behind the pretty wallpaper, diseased rats crawl.

Because this book is written from the perspective of James Dyer, Miller describes pain with a brutal indifference for the majority of the novel, giving readers an extremely thought-provoking insight into pain as something that enslaves people, that becomes the obsession of a person’s whole life when it is present. Ingenious Pain carries a powerful message about the very nature of suffering, and what it means to be human.

Not exciting or ‘unputdownable’ but well-written and thought-provoking, Ingenious Pain strikes me as the kind of book that English teachers would love to analyse with their classes. Recommended for those who love to think and speculate.
  SamuelW | Jun 10, 2009 |
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» Tilføj andre forfattere (8 mulige)

Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Miller, Andrewprimær forfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
Holt, Heleen tenOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Stingl, NikolausOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet

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At the dawn of the Enlightenment, James Dyer is born unable to feel pain. A source of wonder and scientific curiosity as a child, he rises through the ranks of Georgian society to become a brilliant surgeon. Yet as a human being he fails, for he can no more feel love and compassion than pain. Until, en route to St Petersburg to inoculate the Empress Catherine against smallpox, he meets his nemesis and saviour.

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