The start was spooky. Mike Engleby who surname is mine except for the first three letters, went to grammar school, as I did, and then to boarding school, as I did, where he got put up a year because he was clever, as I did, and then went to Cambridge, as I did. Other items in the biography are not the same: the story is set four or five years before me, his father has died, he steals and sells drugs, he is a loner. He becomes obsessed with a girl student who disappears; he is quizzed by the police. We presume he is in some way responsible. He goes to London and becomes a journalist. Then the girl's body is discovered.
He has a phenomenal memory enabling him to recite large pieces of text (including the diary he has stolen) verbatim which is one hell of an asset for a novelist's narrator! But he is utterly lonely. The first time he talks about sex is in his late twenties. Even his intelligence serves only to isolate him from others.
He has a bleak view of humanity. He believes the speciating moment at which humans split themselves off from the apes is the arrival of consciousness. This he likens to the moment that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and became self-aware. They were expelled from paradise. Consciousness is self-awareness; that faculty which means that men cannot be blissful in ignorance like animals.
“Homo sapiens, this functional ape with the curse of consciousness – that useless gift that allows him, unlike other animals, to be aware of his own futility. The story of Adam and Eve put it with childish but brilliant clarity: Paradise until the moment of self-awareness and then … Cursed. For ever cursed. (Christians call it ‘fallen’, but it was the same thing: the Fall was the acquisition of consciousness.) …. Miguel de Unamuno …. ‘Man, because he is a man, because he possesses consciousness, is already, in comparison to the jackass or the crab, a sick animal. Consciousness is a disease.’”
chapter 10 p256
At the same time Jen, the student he stalks, enjoys life in a "funny low euphoria" brought on by just being 19 and alive and living in a Cambridge of "dirty brick of the miniature terraces and the mist from the river and the cold mornings .... and then the sudden huge vista of a great courtyard ..."(p217).
An enthralling book which took me into the mind of a very strange person and made me realise how similar I am to him.
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57