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Hallucinating Foucault

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An intricate and self-reflective novel about that most delicate of relationships--meaning the one between writers and readers. The narrator, an anonymous graduate student, sets off on the trail of a French novelist named Paul Michel, who is currently confined to an asylum. Engineering his hero's release, the narrator finds himself enmeshed in bizarre love triangle, of whic An intricate and self-reflective novel about that most delicate of relationships--meaning the one between writers and readers. The narrator, an anonymous graduate student, sets off on the trail of a French novelist named Paul Michel, who is currently confined to an asylum. Engineering his hero's release, the narrator finds himself enmeshed in bizarre love triangle, of which the three vertices are himself, the novelist, and the late Michel Foucault. Sex, it seems, can be made safe, but the oddball intimacy of reading cannot.


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An intricate and self-reflective novel about that most delicate of relationships--meaning the one between writers and readers. The narrator, an anonymous graduate student, sets off on the trail of a French novelist named Paul Michel, who is currently confined to an asylum. Engineering his hero's release, the narrator finds himself enmeshed in bizarre love triangle, of whic An intricate and self-reflective novel about that most delicate of relationships--meaning the one between writers and readers. The narrator, an anonymous graduate student, sets off on the trail of a French novelist named Paul Michel, who is currently confined to an asylum. Engineering his hero's release, the narrator finds himself enmeshed in bizarre love triangle, of which the three vertices are himself, the novelist, and the late Michel Foucault. Sex, it seems, can be made safe, but the oddball intimacy of reading cannot.

30 review for Hallucinating Foucault

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This book took me by surprise; I really wasn't expecting much of it, how wrong I was! It is a love story, well more than one love story actually. It is also based on, wound around the philosophy of Foucault, which is not always an easy read, but there is a simplicity and directness here and complex ideas are expressed beautifully simply. There are touches of Nietzsche, Freud and I think Sartre. In fact reading it took me back to when I was 19 and read Nausea; there was a similar feel; especially This book took me by surprise; I really wasn't expecting much of it, how wrong I was! It is a love story, well more than one love story actually. It is also based on, wound around the philosophy of Foucault, which is not always an easy read, but there is a simplicity and directness here and complex ideas are expressed beautifully simply. There are touches of Nietzsche, Freud and I think Sartre. In fact reading it took me back to when I was 19 and read Nausea; there was a similar feel; especially in the dream sequence at the end. The unnamed narrator is studying the work of novelist Paul Michel who Dunckner neatly slots in the late 60s and 70s effectively post Sartre and who is gay. The narrator falls in love with another student he meets in the library and she pushes him in his study of Michel. This love story is a pale reflection of what comes later. He discovers that Michel is now incarcerated in an institution and is mentally unwell. Briefly, the narrator goes to France and finds Michel. The Paul Michel character is a strong one who initially appears predatory, but as time goes on the reader understands the particular "madness" and how he has become as he is. There is also proof here that sex scenes don't have to be crude, steamy or be contenders for the bad sex award. The description is electric, but understated and rests on the unsaid. There are some thought provoking reflections; the thoughts on loneliness for me were pure existentialism; but there is much there that is not. There is also a simple statement of true love that lasts over the years and survives distance; "If you love someone--you know where they are and what has happened to them. And you put yourself at risk to save them if you can. If you get into trouble, I promise that I'll come to save you." The promise is kept; eventually and there is a surprising and very moving twist at the end. Don't read the end first it will ruin the whole book! On a lighter note; Harry Potter fans; if you want to know what happened to the owl ..... Intelligent, poetic, beautiful, love story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    ''The love between a writer and a reader is never celebrated. It can never be proved to exist,'' says the fictitious French author celebrated in this dodgy novel. Well, since the internet, that’s NOT TRUE ANY MORE. We rhapsodise our love for our authors till the cows come home here on GR. And way after the cows are all tucked up in bed. Two good things about this novel Practically paralysed by incipient grottiness I could hardly move all day today except to keep turning the pages & so finished i ''The love between a writer and a reader is never celebrated. It can never be proved to exist,'' says the fictitious French author celebrated in this dodgy novel. Well, since the internet, that’s NOT TRUE ANY MORE. We rhapsodise our love for our authors till the cows come home here on GR. And way after the cows are all tucked up in bed. Two good things about this novel Practically paralysed by incipient grottiness I could hardly move all day today except to keep turning the pages & so finished it in one day which I like to do. It is very readable. You don't need to know anything about Foucault, who was one of those terrifying French thinkers. like Lyotard and Lacan. They really used to think a lot in France. We don't do that here in the UK. Several bad things about this novel I don’t like unnamed narrators. Come on, Patricia Duncker, is it asking too much to think up a name? Or does the not naming somehow confer a mysterious significance on your 22 year old student? If so I did not get that. I don’t like unnamed narrators who have an intense love affair with someone they also decline to name. What’s going on here? Was there a name shortage in 1995? (The girlfriend is just called “the Germanist”). It reminds me of how in the 19th century authors used to write fictitious addresses ending in -----shire, and letters were headed up with dates like 18th June 18--. Like they’re trying to pretend this isn’t really a novel at all so these real people's identities have to be protected. But mostly, unfortunately, as I did not realise that this was the thing this novel was about, I don’t like novels about novelists. And there are a lot of them. Novelists like to have novelists in their novels. It’s a kind of back door bragging. In Hallucinating Foucault there is quite an awful lot of a lot of vapourising bollocks about readers and writers and Muses and there is a lot of awe-stricken worship of the unnamed protagonist’s literary obsession Paul Michel, who stopped writing his brilliant novels 9 years previously when he was committed to an insane asylum in France. The unnamed girlfriend inspired her unnamed boyfriend to put his money where his gob is and go and find the insane writer and kind of er rescue him or reinvigorate him or tickle him or plump up his pillows, the mission isn’t too clear at that point. When we get to meet Paul Michel he’s in a completely sane mode and does a lot of handsomely profiled middle aged man in leather jacketed posing and is full of profound depths and could become homicidal at the drop of a croissant but in general is just out for a lark. He’s like Lou Reed on a good day. A lot of people liked this book but hey, that’s why they call me Mr Hard To Please. 2.5 stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    “Even then, I saw the darkness I see now. But it was like a shadow in the corner of my eye, a sudden movement as a lizard vanishes behind the shutters. But in the last years I have felt the darkness, gaining ground, widening like a stain across the day. And I have watched the darkness coming with complete serenity. The door stands always open, to let the darkness in. Out of this knowledge too, I will make my writing. And I have nothing to fear.” - Patricia Duncker, Hallucinating Foucault I loved “Even then, I saw the darkness I see now. But it was like a shadow in the corner of my eye, a sudden movement as a lizard vanishes behind the shutters. But in the last years I have felt the darkness, gaining ground, widening like a stain across the day. And I have watched the darkness coming with complete serenity. The door stands always open, to let the darkness in. Out of this knowledge too, I will make my writing. And I have nothing to fear.” - Patricia Duncker, Hallucinating Foucault I loved Hallucinating Foucault. I love the title, the content, the language, everything about it. I really enjoy novels that are enriched with literary and classic references. This one also had a lot of mystery so it made my reading experience even more enjoyable. The book tells the story of a young, unnamed English student doing his dissertation on the novels of an enigmatic gay French novelist, Paul Michel. Michel is a strange man who controversially believes that people choose their sexuality. He revels in being unconventional.Michel is obsessed with Foucault, who he stated as his only influence. There are rumours that Michel has become mad and has been locked up in a French mental asylum. Pushed by his girlfriend, the Germanist,(who is herself very enigmatic and strange) the student takes off to France to look for the novelist. The writing in this book is beautiful and thoughtful. The book raises interesting questions about the relationship between authors and readers. As Michel says, “The love between a writer and a reader is never celebrated.” Paul Michel isn't even a real writer but I caught myself thinking how I'd love to read his books had he been real. He really came alive for me. A great book that I would recommend to everyone!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    4.5/5 But you musn't have romantic ideas about them. Murderers are ordinary people. This is another book which, had I read it a mere two to four years earlier, I would have unequivocally adored. As the Foucault of the Hallucinating Foucault intimidated me too much to pick it up till now, my less than loving rating stands. I do not regret it, as there is no guarantee that an earlier reading would have resulted in as great an understanding. While it's true that I still have no real experience wi 4.5/5 But you musn't have romantic ideas about them. Murderers are ordinary people. This is another book which, had I read it a mere two to four years earlier, I would have unequivocally adored. As the Foucault of the Hallucinating Foucault intimidated me too much to pick it up till now, my less than loving rating stands. I do not regret it, as there is no guarantee that an earlier reading would have resulted in as great an understanding. While it's true that I still have no real experience with actually reading Foucault in the cohesive entirety of one of his works, enough bits and pieces of Discipline and Punish and The Order of Things have reached me for general comprehension purposes. And of course, Foucault is very French in his academia, so reading enough Sartre and de Beauvoir and Camus and the rest as I did will give you an idea of what you're getting into. Despite my desire to become an English professor, I will never be comfortable with closeting myself into the bell jar of theory and perdition that this and other works choose to rhapsodize about in the key of Upper Class Thinking. The whole of this book was captured in the second part of Burger's Daughter with a great deal more depth of insight into the structuring of such an environment, so I could never get rid of the feeling of something lacking. This, coupled with the inevitable tunnel vision of a love story, made for something that was very pretty, very cool, but ultimately something that dabbled in whatever serious subject material it touched upon. Death, madness, excrement, admittedly with more empathy than most books of this type would, but it neither hedged its bets nor went far enough for my liking. Also, the main female character came off more Manic Pixie Dream Girl than anything else, but whether I say that out of true consternation or disturbed resonance with some of her more ferocious attributes in the realms of academia and social intercourse is, well, indeterminable. I make the same demands of people and fictional texts, petit—that they should be open-ended, carry within them the possibility of being and of changing whoever it is they encounter. Then it will work—the dynamic that there must always be—between the writer and the reader. Beyond all my quibbling, there were some passages that gripped me by the throat and refuse to let go. There was a time when my love of books led me to believe I was interested in reading of others' love for such, but enough trials and errors have passed me by to realize that, as with any reading, only a certain type of love will resonate. Duncker came the closest to my love that any author has since Maugham, enough for me to fear even more the inevitable reread of Of Human Bondage and all accompanying reevaluations of the potentially less than enthused sort. However, much as I wish to be a professor for the provocation of thought rather than the security of finances, it is the flux that I favor above all else. There would be no point to picking up that next piece of work if it were otherwise. There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks and perceive differently than one sees is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all. P.S. Someone adapt this for the big screen, pretty please.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)

    The captivating title ladles servings of disappointment and hope in uneven swathes. A philosophical fiction, a novel of academia, a book on the creative mind, story of a writer. Any one of these would prove necessary for me to read immediately. It was a book of all of these but first it was a, novel. Its parts sprung from the story, shoots and growth. At times a 2 star rating at times touching a spiraling 5. I saw where it meant to arrive. Then, in advance I placed my money down on the table wi The captivating title ladles servings of disappointment and hope in uneven swathes. A philosophical fiction, a novel of academia, a book on the creative mind, story of a writer. Any one of these would prove necessary for me to read immediately. It was a book of all of these but first it was a, novel. Its parts sprung from the story, shoots and growth. At times a 2 star rating at times touching a spiraling 5. I saw where it meant to arrive. Then, in advance I placed my money down on the table with a wry smile, on the numbered choice of the author's craft of teasing with the obvious and predictable then switching to a beguiling direction. The casino card dealer turned over his card. I placed my hand down hard between his and my chips. I gave the cocksure upward nod of the head, intimidating or revealing the need for further chiropractic work. He said, "You lost." "Count your cards," I laughed. "You do the counting." I smiled looking down at my queen and ten. Offered him the same. He grinned glancing at his ace and king while shoveling my chips from me. "What?" Duncker had slipped the narrative off a third way, then…She never notifying me, no phone calls, collect or otherwise, e-mails, telegrams, no police at my door to tell me my egoism died in a reading accident. Following the funeral service which only I attended, tear-struck, humbled, I continued an open reading of this novel of ideas, intricate, and fascinating relationships-our passive graduate student narrator and his undefined relationship with a cold demanding woman (who could care less about these qualities, for she studied and knew everything. She studied Schiller, loving the act of this study, his writing, thought, ideas, the Him of the writer and the She of the Reader,) the narrator's relationship with a fictional author, this author's relationship with Michael Foucault, not in the flesh but responding to each others published work with the next of their own. Finally, his girlfriend's(?) demeaning push for him to shed his passivity and free this author from an asylum in France, The relationships are provocative, rounded and articulated as though molded by the crafted hands of a sculptor. The weave of her prose invites one into the story, provides an opportunity to know these characters within, to live the pressure of obsession, the tingled compulsion of creativity, the bursting of boundaries, beauty of love, surprise. There was no reason to search for doors to leave for there were none. Shaded corners were provided for brief rests but returns were necessary, imminent. In the end there was a snap. I felt it along the neck and down the vertebrae of my spine. My chiropractor readjusted all that needed readjusting, telling me that even though I might never lose again, to stay away from casinos, and to be careful of what I read. At the end all the scraps, details, pieces, come together surprising, haunted, perfect. An architecture of finely drawn lines. This book, expressing the grace and palpability of the relationship between writer and reader, was her first novel. In the book she comments how authors writing a first novel make the mistake of trying to include everything. She is about to err herself, keeps seeming as though she will. But maybe she knows what she is doing. I would bet money on… RECOMMENDED FOR: Those who love to read. Those who seek seeking Those who enjoy the multiplying of genres into something unique. 4 Stars: Need to save one for her next book. It might even be better!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zanna

    I wish I had read Foucault! I am sure that I would have got more out of this rich, pungent morsel of a book if I understood more about the inspiration. I feel sure that master of mindfulness Jean Michel is a Foucauldian hero, living at risk, fiercly political, passionate yet detached to the point of psychopathy, producing classical, harmonious, mysteriously civilized art. And that the nameless Germanist writing love-letters to Schiller is a Foucauldian feminist. But I am jumping to conclusions i I wish I had read Foucault! I am sure that I would have got more out of this rich, pungent morsel of a book if I understood more about the inspiration. I feel sure that master of mindfulness Jean Michel is a Foucauldian hero, living at risk, fiercly political, passionate yet detached to the point of psychopathy, producing classical, harmonious, mysteriously civilized art. And that the nameless Germanist writing love-letters to Schiller is a Foucauldian feminist. But I am jumping to conclusions in both cases... I found the narrator oddly watery and cipherous. He responds, he initiates, he exhibits courage, passions, tastes. But he seems somehow flat, bodiless, without character, beside every other member of the cast, who dance onto the novel's stage in vivid colour and make themselves felt, sometimes painfully, in my psyche. Stopping short of aggression, this vivaciousness drives the story: the world would slump to a bland halt without these Nietzschean personalities mercilessly driving it round. I wonder why Duncker lavishes so much attention on her description of certain habitations here, because this is a work that doesn't waste words.The little glass animals crowding the surfaces in the room where the narrator lodges, and the labyrinthine, redolent spaces of the psychiatric hospital are meant to affect me and they do, hooks drawing me into the young man's experience, but also signifying about these places and the interests of their designers. On reflection the attention to place is a key component of what makes this book, in my opinion, gothic: dark, romantic, excessive. Rather than magical, the effect is unheimlich, discomforting. As the threads of the plot begin to tie up, I started to wonder if I had dreamed the whole thing...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    I am a straight guy, and this is a gay love story. Towards the end, however, I felt like I'm tearing up, Nicholas-Sparksed, and ready to vote this dialogue as the greatest one in a gay love-themed novel of all time: "If you love someone--you know where they are and what has happened to them. And you put yourself at risk to save them if you can. If you get into trouble, I promise that I'll come to save you." It was uttered by a girl to a gay author who thought she was a boy, then fast forward many I am a straight guy, and this is a gay love story. Towards the end, however, I felt like I'm tearing up, Nicholas-Sparksed, and ready to vote this dialogue as the greatest one in a gay love-themed novel of all time: "If you love someone--you know where they are and what has happened to them. And you put yourself at risk to save them if you can. If you get into trouble, I promise that I'll come to save you." It was uttered by a girl to a gay author who thought she was a boy, then fast forward many years she sends her own lover to save him. Ah, what the mind can conceive! This gem of a book has all the things people here at goodreads can't do without: sex, desire, dreams, books, authors and their readers, writing, love and life itself.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    You write your first novel with the desperation of the damned. You're afraid that you'll never write anything else, ever again. Literature like this is my soft spot. I can't admit to a longing for mysteries or space operas but I cab readily become excited by the idea of a novel flirting with philosophy. In this case, a philosopher -- or a provocative abstraction of one anyway. I thought in the opening pages that this would be Salinger meets post-structuralism. Then I thought it was an epilogue to You write your first novel with the desperation of the damned. You're afraid that you'll never write anything else, ever again. Literature like this is my soft spot. I can't admit to a longing for mysteries or space operas but I cab readily become excited by the idea of a novel flirting with philosophy. In this case, a philosopher -- or a provocative abstraction of one anyway. I thought in the opening pages that this would be Salinger meets post-structuralism. Then I thought it was an epilogue to the Bell Jar -- only in Paris May '68. Then I eventually sensed where matters were headed. A grad student is studying an infamous French novelist, one who's transgressive ethos appeared to have found its theoretical foundations in the philosophy of Michel Foucault. After some undue coaxing from his love interest the graduate student searches out the novelist, to the asylum and beyond. There was a crackle of excitement as Paul Michel finally answers the question about Foucault and then just as suddenly there was a heavy handed synchronicity. I don't wear that so well these days. I was disappointed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Wellings

    A very well drawn, perfectly paced novel. I am reminded of Gidé's "Fruits of the Earth". (I am sure Drucker meant to refer to this.) Characters and event are believable, though I am still not sure why this is a criterion of quality for me, even when it comes to more outrageous or 'modernist' writing, eg, Gravity's Rainbow, Ulysses. (Who in the first can truly believe that a titanic adenoid might menace a city, and in the latter that Polyphemus is once more slain -albeit symbolically - in early t A very well drawn, perfectly paced novel. I am reminded of Gidé's "Fruits of the Earth". (I am sure Drucker meant to refer to this.) Characters and event are believable, though I am still not sure why this is a criterion of quality for me, even when it comes to more outrageous or 'modernist' writing, eg, Gravity's Rainbow, Ulysses. (Who in the first can truly believe that a titanic adenoid might menace a city, and in the latter that Polyphemus is once more slain -albeit symbolically - in early twentieth century Dublin? ) Perhaps it is therefore only weight of an author's commitment to some kind of truth then, that I respond to. A truth that is, if parsed, synonymous with both love for subject, and a need to make this subject heard. Duncker's novel is thus an exploration of what happens when a writer finds an ideal reader. The event of when a writer finds a perfect listener. For, to read is one thing. To hear (and be bewitched by allure, another.) Thus rather than Barthes' famous pronouncement on death of the author, we instead get a kind of birthing: The unnamed post grad in the book embarks on a quixotic journey to meet the insane subject of his research and in so doing (to scrunch the book into Procrustean bed of tropes) he undergoes an internal change, he loves where once (we are led to believe) it seems he might not be disposed to do so. A type of living is birthed in him -only to collapse in the last few almost tragic pages. So too is this a book about books. It is a book about love for books that leads one to study them. It is a book that questions if an author truly can (as per Barthes above) be divorced from his text (and we may recall it is no accident that the French were to 'problematise' this relationship in the middle Twentieth Century, foundations being laid for its plumbing by Saint Beauve in the 19th.) Lastly the book is about love that breaches convention: the postgrad's love breaches personal norms, becoming love which guides and consoles. Curiosity becomes fixation becomes ideation becomes obsession. Almost a Proustian matrix, the stronger for being exclusive and outside Postgrad's normative way of being. A holiday romance with a beguiling, devotional twist. Technically, because this matters beyond mere story for me, Duncker's prose is controlled, her line well measured and precise, not once verging into melisma or excess. (I want to write a song and call it 'Prancing Kittens'.) Her narrator's voice is again, believable, sine qua non of successful reading experience. However, a minor gripe. If as a whole her fictional enterprise succeeds (so much so that I googled Paul Michel to see if he existed, knowing he never did,) some elements challenge her easy mimetic flow. (view spoiler)[eg: witness the 'agent of Minerva' shall we say, intimated and suggested early in the novel (as it should be to set up its symbolic heritage within the work) only for it not to be used (qua Socrates and Nordic-ly) as some kind of ironic comment on quest for knowledge being not the same as the gathering-to-self of wisdom, but instead to be used as actual agent of Michel's death. Bird meets voiture meets face. Truly bizarre. Duncker aims for the verisimilitude of the 'you couldn't make it up' kind (even though she did,) but for the extraordinary to work as this kind of epistemic and (visceral )shock, to have it appear as a kind of truly 'freak accident' it has to happen without reference, without intimation of fate, symbolic or otherwise. Though Duncker doesn't exactly telegraph her sucker punch she does lessen its impact. The "owl v. man" a slight mistep in the events. Rather Michel had died careening down a ravine (yes, how lame, I know) or something, than the slightly clumsy (though oddly humourous?) demise Duncker writes for him. (hide spoiler)] Nevertheless, a rich and engaging novel, especially given its low page count.

  10. 4 out of 5

    lethe

    I must have missed something or else I am a philistine, because I don't understand where all the great reviews come from. I found the writing intellectualistic, cold, aloof — the (nameless) narrator, talking about his girlfriend, consistently calls her "the Germanist", we never learn her name — and I could not connect with it at all. The only thing the book has got going for it is that it's short and a quick read, so I didn't waste too much time. I must have missed something or else I am a philistine, because I don't understand where all the great reviews come from. I found the writing intellectualistic, cold, aloof — the (nameless) narrator, talking about his girlfriend, consistently calls her "the Germanist", we never learn her name — and I could not connect with it at all. The only thing the book has got going for it is that it's short and a quick read, so I didn't waste too much time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. While not a huge fan of the ending which I found to be slightly overwrought, the rest of the book blew me out of the water, and these days, it takes a LOT for that to happen. The unnamed narrator in this story is working on his doctorate at Cambridge, studying the life of French author Paul Michel, "the wild boy of his generation." Along with his works, the narrator worked to "build" an image of his subject, a man who was, as he says "beautiful. And he was homosexual," a fact that he "insisted" While not a huge fan of the ending which I found to be slightly overwrought, the rest of the book blew me out of the water, and these days, it takes a LOT for that to happen. The unnamed narrator in this story is working on his doctorate at Cambridge, studying the life of French author Paul Michel, "the wild boy of his generation." Along with his works, the narrator worked to "build" an image of his subject, a man who was, as he says "beautiful. And he was homosexual," a fact that he "insisted" on bringing up in all interviews he'd ever given. In one of these interviews, when asked which other writer "had influenced him the most," Michel had immediately answered Foucault. There were, as we are told, several "uncanny links," between Paul Michel and Michel Foucault, including the fact that they were "both preoccupied with marginal, muted voices," and both were "captivated by the grotesque, the bizarre, the demonic." Both also also "explored similar themes: death, sexuality, crime, madness..." (31). While their styles were different, at the core of the works of both men (Foucault's philosophy and Paul Michel's fiction) stood "the revolutionary project of thinking differently." All of this is background to the real story here, which begins with the narrator falling for another student he calls only "The Germanist," a young woman studying Schiller who, as our narrator discovers, also seems to have an interest in Paul Michel. After a while she finds an article that reveals the current whereabouts of Paul Michel, currently within "the white prison walls of a psychiatric unit" in France. The Germanist challenges our narrator to go to France to find Michel, and he goes to do just that. And this is where the story actually begins; as it progresses, we discover that Hallucinating Foucault starts becoming less of the quest tale I thought it was going to be and much more of a space for exploring relationships, the most important being that between a writer and his or her readers. At its heart lies a love story, and that's about all I'll give away here. It's all so very nicely done, and I was floored when I discovered that Hallucinating Foucault was the author's first book. And not to worry -- it's not necessary to be familiar with Foucault's work to read this book; Duncker does a fine job of bringing out some of Foucault's main themes here (madness, sexuality, the nature of truth) and they flow sort of effortlessly throughout the text. I won't kid you -- it's a challenging read that requires thought, and it grows in intensity as we come down to the ending, but it is so worth it. My advice: spend time savoring this one, although in my case, I never wanted to put it down once I'd started. One more thing: this book is definitely not one for those who constantly swim in the mainstream.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bethan

    An academic's fantasy (academic types may be more likely to like this while I don't like academia); about relationships between authors and readers. The main author in question is the gay writer Paul Michel, who is now mad with schizophrenia. A reader who is working on a thesis about his books goes to 'rescue' him from his asylum in France, partly prompted by his girlfriend. He and the intense Paul Michel develop a friendship and relationship. The Foucault the title references is based on the fa An academic's fantasy (academic types may be more likely to like this while I don't like academia); about relationships between authors and readers. The main author in question is the gay writer Paul Michel, who is now mad with schizophrenia. A reader who is working on a thesis about his books goes to 'rescue' him from his asylum in France, partly prompted by his girlfriend. He and the intense Paul Michel develop a friendship and relationship. The Foucault the title references is based on the fantasy that Paul Michel had a writing-based correspondence/connection with Foucault. It's a very readable book. It is entertaining. While it's good on that level, I found it simultaneously a little too clever as in unconvincing and self-consciously "working" the story and characters, and too prosaic and common-place for there to be deeper complexity. It sort of came across as if the premise had more ambition than it was able to achieve. It didn't really say anything special, especially philosophically, although I think it's probably realistic on how sexuality lines can be blurred. Another reviewer mentioned Nicholas Sparks.. I've only seen a movie based on a Sparks book, which I did enjoy, but I totally can see that effect too, particularly at the latter stages of the book.. schmaltzy but effectively entertaining.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eve Kay

    The best of Duncker. None of her later works have come close. I can't remember how I came across Hallucinating Foucault but it really got me by the throat when I first read it. It haunted me for days after and I got desperate to find other books like it. I wanted to keep the feeling alive as long as I could. I lost my copy of Foucault at some point and in my despair got another copy. So read it again. This time with thought and consentration. It is evident that Duncker has really researched her wo The best of Duncker. None of her later works have come close. I can't remember how I came across Hallucinating Foucault but it really got me by the throat when I first read it. It haunted me for days after and I got desperate to find other books like it. I wanted to keep the feeling alive as long as I could. I lost my copy of Foucault at some point and in my despair got another copy. So read it again. This time with thought and consentration. It is evident that Duncker has really researched her work and put alot of her energy in to the story and writing. It's beautiful and gripping. It's one of those books you really want to know what happens on the next page, so in all honesty, one of the best books I've ever read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    I actually read this when it first came out in 1996, picking up a copy on a trip to London mainly because the title and cover were intriguing. Although I have absolutely NO memory of that initial reading, this time around I think I was more prepared for sussing out the intricacies of the novel, and being more mature and better read myself (maybe!), appreciating Duncker's ode to the unique bonds between author and (ideal) reader. A really lovely book, that I am sure I'll probably read again, mayb I actually read this when it first came out in 1996, picking up a copy on a trip to London mainly because the title and cover were intriguing. Although I have absolutely NO memory of that initial reading, this time around I think I was more prepared for sussing out the intricacies of the novel, and being more mature and better read myself (maybe!), appreciating Duncker's ode to the unique bonds between author and (ideal) reader. A really lovely book, that I am sure I'll probably read again, maybe in another 20 years....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer O'Kelly

    Perhaps I am missing some detail about Foucault's work that makes this plot very metaphorically significant or something - but this book wasn't as clever or as enjoyable as I expected it to be. Some of the characters were strong, and there were moments where I got nicely swept up by their interactions. However, I found the fiction wasn't smooth. I could feel the building blocks being stacked together and the writing felt forced. The major plot twist made me roll my eyes to the point of almost ab Perhaps I am missing some detail about Foucault's work that makes this plot very metaphorically significant or something - but this book wasn't as clever or as enjoyable as I expected it to be. Some of the characters were strong, and there were moments where I got nicely swept up by their interactions. However, I found the fiction wasn't smooth. I could feel the building blocks being stacked together and the writing felt forced. The major plot twist made me roll my eyes to the point of almost abandoning the book. Again, there might be something I'm missing here that would excuse the predictability and turn it into some sort of commentary on Foucault. If this is the case, someone feel free to tell me and I will apologise for my ignorance! As things stand, my reaction to the twist was to cringe and feel disappointed by what I felt was poor craftsmanship on the part of the author. Speaking more generally, there were moments where some classism made its way through the lines, in spite of attempting to be (at least partly) a bohemian novel. It felt a little like what might happen if your slightly out of touch school teacher, who isn't aware that they can be a little snobby, tried to write an edgy novel about artists and homosexuality. For a book that aspires to honour the relationship between reader and writer, this reader left the date feeling relieved to let go of the strained conversation. Not the worst experience, but I don't think we'll be seeing each other again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Caterina

    Read this more than 15 years ago when I borrowed it from the British Council Library in Athens. I finished it literally in one seating on my way home by bus! Can't remember much apart from the university campus background and the hint of a great love story, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for a short and lovely book. Read this more than 15 years ago when I borrowed it from the British Council Library in Athens. I finished it literally in one seating on my way home by bus! Can't remember much apart from the university campus background and the hint of a great love story, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for a short and lovely book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicole D.

    Hallucinating Foucault - Patricia Duncker 5/5 (2018 favorite) I'm wrecked. The writing in this book was perfect. I laughed, I cried. If I had read it on the Kindle there would be highlights galore. Less that 200 pages, I was drawn immediately in. A scholarly setting, which I always enjoy despite the fact that I am not scholarly and never been in that setting, often grabs me right away. The topic of mental illness always fascinates, and the story is about reading and writing and love. This book had Hallucinating Foucault - Patricia Duncker 5/5 (2018 favorite) I'm wrecked. The writing in this book was perfect. I laughed, I cried. If I had read it on the Kindle there would be highlights galore. Less that 200 pages, I was drawn immediately in. A scholarly setting, which I always enjoy despite the fact that I am not scholarly and never been in that setting, often grabs me right away. The topic of mental illness always fascinates, and the story is about reading and writing and love. This book had the potential to be pretentious and it wasn't. The characters were magnificent. I don't know how you do that in 174 pages. Amazing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    My first encounter with this book actually happened in 2009 when I read in the local newspaper that Patricia Duncker was coming over to Malta in order to give a talk on writing and preview some of her upcoming works. Being a sucker for such things, I ordered the book and it arrived on the day of the talk. I did attend and enjoyed it, plus I got to chat to her a bit (she’s very talkative), got my copy of the book signed and it went back in the shelf for that right time. An unnamed research student My first encounter with this book actually happened in 2009 when I read in the local newspaper that Patricia Duncker was coming over to Malta in order to give a talk on writing and preview some of her upcoming works. Being a sucker for such things, I ordered the book and it arrived on the day of the talk. I did attend and enjoyed it, plus I got to chat to her a bit (she’s very talkative), got my copy of the book signed and it went back in the shelf for that right time. An unnamed research student is halfway through his thesis on the (non-existent) novelist Paul Michel, although he has read his works he does not know much about him other than the fact that he was a homosexual and certified insane after the death of his hero, the philosopher Michel Foucault. He is then urged by his girlfriend to fly over to France and investigate his whereabouts and inquire about the thought or inspirations behind the novels he has written, the extent of Foucault’s influence on Michel’s life and ultimately to free him. After some detective work the narrator finally does find discover the asylum where Michel is situated (it’s in Clermont Ferrand – where I attended the yearly Europavox festival in 2006) and promptly falls in love with him. Eventually Michel is able to join the narrator for two months and they go to the south of France. I have to admit I was expecting the usual clichés that one finds in a novel about love, either a huge fight and abandonment or that the lover is too insane to . It turns out that this love blossoms but it doesn’t descend into any clichés and a startling twist occurs. It does end in tragedy but not as how you’d expect it. Ultimately this is a book about love and it’s connection to madness. It’s also about the art of writing and madness as well. It does show the reader the lengths one can go to for one’s heroes. It’s all done beautifully, almost cinematic at times. Needless to say that I absolutely loved ‘Hallucinating Foucault’. In fact I picked it up this morning at 6:30am and finished it at 9am. It’s incredibly readable, short and yet poignant and packs a huge memorable punch. Ironically I am checking out Duncker’s other novels and I’m wondering if this could be the start of an obsession that is not dissimilar to the main protagonist of Hallucinating Foucault.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anita Pomerantz

    Unfortunately, I feel that this short book is one that would be easily spoiled by sharing too much. The protagonist is a doctoral student who is doing a dissertation on an author, Paul Michel. Michel has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is living is days out in an institution. To reveal more plot (in my opinion) would deprive the reader of the unfolding of the tale, but I will say a few things. First, the story starts slowly, and seems like nothing much at all in terms of a plot. But the mo Unfortunately, I feel that this short book is one that would be easily spoiled by sharing too much. The protagonist is a doctoral student who is doing a dissertation on an author, Paul Michel. Michel has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is living is days out in an institution. To reveal more plot (in my opinion) would deprive the reader of the unfolding of the tale, but I will say a few things. First, the story starts slowly, and seems like nothing much at all in terms of a plot. But the more I read, the more I felt truly sucked in by the story, and I couldn't put it down for the final quarter. There are many interesting themes for such a small book, but in some ways it is a love letter to readers, highlighting the critical role a reader (real or imagined) plays to a writer. And, yet in other ways, it is a tribute to love in general. For some reason, it really reminded me of The Bell Jar and also a tiny bit of J.D. Salinger in the way the characters are drawn. Recommended for lovers of literary fiction . . .the slow build may make others impatient. On the flip side, it's very short.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hermione Laake

    Patricia Duncker gave a talk at the Hampshire Writers' Society recently. She was extremely good and came to it from a literary angle. So often authors' talks are bogged down with the mundane, and I know life can be mundane sometimes, but we go to these talks hoping for inspiration. I got that at the talk. The book did inspire me to write another, and that really gives me a kick when I get that feeling rushing over me; like when I read Mrs Dalloway and thought wow you can really write like that? Patricia Duncker gave a talk at the Hampshire Writers' Society recently. She was extremely good and came to it from a literary angle. So often authors' talks are bogged down with the mundane, and I know life can be mundane sometimes, but we go to these talks hoping for inspiration. I got that at the talk. The book did inspire me to write another, and that really gives me a kick when I get that feeling rushing over me; like when I read Mrs Dalloway and thought wow you can really write like that? - that said Duncker is master at changing her characters' sex ( at least two of them are ambiguous) before your eyes and there is something fresh and novel about it, for me anyway. (Daniel Handler does this in one of his short stories in Adverbs but Patricia is more sensual and more surprising.) I do want to read this again, and I will; for me this keeping for later and a re-read is another indication of a really good book. There is so much I didn't quite get. Of course sometimes you go back to a book and you are in a completely different mood from the one you were in when you read it and you cannot quite capture the same feeling you got. It is a little like never quite capturing the feeling of a first kiss with someone again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wendell

    This is a magnificent little book that may put one in mind of Byatt's *Possession.* Tightly plotted, HF is a marvelous piece of evidence for the proposition that (a) it's still possible to create unforgettable characters and to use them to drive a plot; and (b) that there's still room for literary fiction that isn't postmodernistically compromised, jargon-filled, reader-unfriendly, or simply precious/pretentious. There's a great story here that's chock full of Duncker's own reflections on art, h This is a magnificent little book that may put one in mind of Byatt's *Possession.* Tightly plotted, HF is a marvelous piece of evidence for the proposition that (a) it's still possible to create unforgettable characters and to use them to drive a plot; and (b) that there's still room for literary fiction that isn't postmodernistically compromised, jargon-filled, reader-unfriendly, or simply precious/pretentious. There's a great story here that's chock full of Duncker's own reflections on art, history, sexuality, love. OK, it's easy enough to "reflect" on such topics; everyone has opinions. The difference is that Duncker is a fine writer and that what she has to say is intelligent and intriguing. That's enough to put her into the category of those few writers who might just manage to save English fiction from a slow, wasting death.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    A lovely little novel and quick read, especially if you're jonesing for reminiscing about Foucault and your own grad school experience. A nifty little plot and brisk writing, loved how very non-American it was but that the dissertation writing experience can feel the same across cultures. It has made me inspired to go back and make sure I've read everything possible of Foucault. Also happy to get glimpses of France here, as we'll be there this summer. I'll be hallucinating my own Foucault for su A lovely little novel and quick read, especially if you're jonesing for reminiscing about Foucault and your own grad school experience. A nifty little plot and brisk writing, loved how very non-American it was but that the dissertation writing experience can feel the same across cultures. It has made me inspired to go back and make sure I've read everything possible of Foucault. Also happy to get glimpses of France here, as we'll be there this summer. I'll be hallucinating my own Foucault for sure.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    An intelligent and passionate inquiry into the relationship between the reader and the writer. On a superficial level this could easily be perceived as a rational mutually beneficial relationship. As this narrative demonstrates, it has the potential for obsession and self-destruction. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Book Wormy

    An interesting read about the relationship between writer and reader. This also explores the different kinds of love people experience including homosexuality, as well as the treatment of mental health issues.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A short and intense story of obsession. Demands to be read in one sitting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    4.5 stars

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Drai

    This is a beautifully written, short novel that explores the relationship between writer and reader, likening it in many ways to romantic, and even sexual, love. The way the plot resolves is pretty brilliant. The book falls down for me in the way it generalizes about schizophrenia, specifically from the mouth of Paul Michel's legal guardian. Granted, this is just one character's view, but the view goes *mostly* uncritiqued. In this sense, the book (written in 1996) doesn't stand up to the test o This is a beautifully written, short novel that explores the relationship between writer and reader, likening it in many ways to romantic, and even sexual, love. The way the plot resolves is pretty brilliant. The book falls down for me in the way it generalizes about schizophrenia, specifically from the mouth of Paul Michel's legal guardian. Granted, this is just one character's view, but the view goes *mostly* uncritiqued. In this sense, the book (written in 1996) doesn't stand up to the test of time. Regardless, in every other way, the book is a success, and both the narrator (the reader) and Paul Michel (the writer), are sympathetic characters.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    Doctoral Studies I have to admit that my acquaintance with the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926–84) is pretty minimal. Fortunately, that did not seem to matter much in reading this book, whose main focus is actually Paul Michel, a fictional French novelist and an acknowledged devotee of the older man. Michel's work is striking for its contrast between subject and style: madness, death, sexuality, and crime treated in a prose style of such refined classicism that it won him the prestigious Doctoral Studies I have to admit that my acquaintance with the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926–84) is pretty minimal. Fortunately, that did not seem to matter much in reading this book, whose main focus is actually Paul Michel, a fictional French novelist and an acknowledged devotee of the older man. Michel's work is striking for its contrast between subject and style: madness, death, sexuality, and crime treated in a prose style of such refined classicism that it won him the prestigious Prix Goncourt. Apparently much the same thing might be said of Foucault, who is dead before the action of this book begins. Maybe in inventing another author who shares the same literary qualities and is also outspokenly gay, Duncker is really writing about the famous writer by proxy? The story begins in Cambridge, England. The unnamed narrator, a doctoral student, is writing a dissertation on Paul Michel. Encouraged by his girlfriend, a rather terrifying figure he refers to only as the Germanist, he decides to go to France to look into Michel's papers—but also to try to see the author, who has been imprisoned in a mental hospital for almost a decade, and if he can, to get him out. Up to now, the novel has been a very well-written and believable account of the work of an academic researcher—not a subject that would appeal to everyone, I would have thought, but absolutely recognizable for those who have walked the same path and weathered the same struggles with French bureaucracy. When the narrator switches his attention to the guardians of hospitals rather than archives, my personal knowledge deserted me, and I found the description of the locked wards in the large hospital in Clermont-Ferrand where Paul Michel is a patient to be rather over the top; but what do I know? All the same, by this point in the book, about halfway through, the genre had changed into something closer to an adventure. It will change again in the final third, when (improbably, I should have thought) Paul Michel is indeed given temporary release and travels with the narrator to a villa near Nice. This idyllic period is a kind of romance, as the young narrator falls under the spell of the older man and learns what has made him what he was. The ending is as abrupt as we knew it would be, although once again Duncker switches genre, bringing in elements more typical of a conspiracy novel, and linking the end to the beginning. Duncker has chosen as subject a man whose passion seems to be in conflict with his intellect. The same could be said about her novel. I really respect the way she writes about the life of the mind without dumbing it down for general audiences; in this respect, it was shaping up as a four-to-five-star book. I also liked a great deal of the action and romance elements of the story. But the mixture never quite seemed to cohere. Yes, she maintained an intellectual thread throughout which should have explained it, placing the focus on the role of the ideal Reader as the necessary partner for any Author: what Foucault was for Michel, and the narrator becomes in his turn, in more ways than he could have expected. But alas, it didn't quite work for me. Perhaps if I had been more familiar with Foucault it might have done?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elsje

    Wat een werkelijk fantastisch boek!! Het gaf me een warm gevoel, ondanks het voor mij al heel snel duidelijke gebruik (misbruik?) van de student door de Germaniste, want Duncker schrijft al op p. 19: 'She was never affectionate. She never used any terms of endearment, never told me that she loved me, and never held my hand. When she took me to bed she kissed me as if there was some distance to be covered and she was intent on getting there without interference.' Ik beperk mij nu verder tot het ko Wat een werkelijk fantastisch boek!! Het gaf me een warm gevoel, ondanks het voor mij al heel snel duidelijke gebruik (misbruik?) van de student door de Germaniste, want Duncker schrijft al op p. 19: 'She was never affectionate. She never used any terms of endearment, never told me that she loved me, and never held my hand. When she took me to bed she kissed me as if there was some distance to be covered and she was intent on getting there without interference.' Ik beperk mij nu verder tot het kort overtypen van mijn mooiste fragmenten, voor mijn eigen plezier en hopelijk ook dat van jullie :-). 'Writing a thesis is a lonely obsessive activity. You live inside your head, nowhere else.' ------------- 'It was the end of May, exam time for the undergraduates. We were all infected with exam paralysis as well as thesis paranoia.' ------------- 'As I stood before the largest of the triangles the shape began to make sense, hardened into the form of my promise to her. I was facing a prism that remained masked and simply reflected rather than refracted the light. I found myself at the base point of two interlocking triangles. It was then that I had the peculiar sensation that something was being shown to me, explained, but that I had as yet no way of breaking into the code, no means of understanding the blank, flat surfaces.' ------------- 'Hospitals are strange intermediary zones where sickness and health become ambiguous, relative states.' ------------- 'There are two kinds of loneliness, aren't there? There's the loneliness of absolute solitude - the physical fact of living alone, working alone, as I have always done. This need not be painful. (...) But there is another kind of loneliness which is terrible to endure. (...) And that is the loneliness of seeing a different world from that of the people around you. Their lives remain remote from yours. You can see the gulf and they can't. You live among them. They walk on earth. You walk on glass. They reassure themselves with conformity, with carefully constructed resemblances. You are masked, aware of your absolute difference.' ------------- 'Madness and passion have always been interchangeable. Throughout the entire western literary tradion. Madness is an abundance of existence. Madness is a way of asking difficult questions. (...) Maybe madness is the excess of possibility, petit. And writing is about reducing possibility to one idea, one book, one sentence, one word. Madness is a form of self-expression. It is the opposite of creativity.'

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Read that summary. Do it. Doesn't it sound fucking delicious? No but doesn't it? Blurring the lines of romance between reader and writer, pushing the boundaries between text and real life, and gay sex. Perfect. In practice, this doesn't quite get there. At one point I realized there was a glowing A.S. Byatt review quote on the cover, and everything sort of clicked, cause yep: there's that same kind of convenient, one-dimensional cursoriness that pervades what I've read of hers. Thankfully, this i Read that summary. Do it. Doesn't it sound fucking delicious? No but doesn't it? Blurring the lines of romance between reader and writer, pushing the boundaries between text and real life, and gay sex. Perfect. In practice, this doesn't quite get there. At one point I realized there was a glowing A.S. Byatt review quote on the cover, and everything sort of clicked, cause yep: there's that same kind of convenient, one-dimensional cursoriness that pervades what I've read of hers. Thankfully, this isn't quite as insipid as Possession, although there's definitely a hint of academic-mystery to it (I just can't escape that genre man). It's just generally quite bland, with some emotionally intense exceptions (like, spoiler, but when (view spoiler)[the narrator starts legitimately falling in love with real-Paul Michel, it's raw and powerful. Sometimes. (hide spoiler)] Those moments strike hard, it's just that you never really understand how we got from blah to BOOM because... ..well, because the book is too short. Or at least it's too short for what it attempts to address. The premise is fucking excellent, all this interreading and questions about whether academics kind of have to fall in love with the person they're writing on. It mixes, though, with an admittedly gripping narrative that just makes no real sense. What's frustrating is that it's not that it's inherently absurd: with some fleshing out, some exploration, maybe third person narration, the plot could have worked. The Germanist, however, I think was fucking doomed from the start (I hahhahahaaaaate that cold, harsh female academic archetype. STOP WRITING IT, EVERYONE). Anyway it's HARD to pull off first person, and Duncker definitely does not, here; she errs on the side of less rather than more personal thought, and in a book about the very personal relationship between a reader and a writer, something's left out. That's not to say there's not a lot to like here; there is. The open-endedness of some areas (like the narrator's ultimate fate, among other things) worked well; I loved the Paul Michel/Foucault parallels and how those were woven into the larger narrative. It was a pleasure, almost entirely, to read. It just coulda been so much more!! First novels. Watcha gonna do. I will be keeping an eye out for more of Duncker's stuff, though; if she eventually evolved in a direction that WASN'T Byatt's (rather, towards Scarlett Thomas circa Mr Y), I'm there.

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