This Work, Originally Published In , Has Been Hailed As The Most Influential Scottish Novel Of The Second Half Of The Th Century Its Playful Narrative Techniques Convey A Profound Message, Personal And Political, About Humankind S Inability To Love And Yet Our Compulsion To Go On Trying

10 thoughts on “Lanark: A Life in Four Books

  1. says:

    If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Inflated Footnotes Lanark A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray Original Review, 1981 03 10 I don t have problem with intertextual interpretation as such It s only that I ve always seen reading as a collaborative process between an author and a reader If you look at it that way, it makes you wonder which parts of deep reading Lanark comes from the mind of Alasdair Gray and which comes from the attic of your own subconscious I also wonder if it matters which mind it comes from, at least when reading fiction.

  2. says:

    Alien Life forms Lanark, on the face of it, is a complex fantasy of a sort of Glaswegian student Bohemia experienced by the eponymous hero alias Thaw There are intriguing allusions and dense metaphysical comments on almost every page I don t think it is prudent, or even possible, to summarize its narrative or its meaning But a key to both might be found in what I think is its philosophical, and therefore essentially literary, context.According to some, the most serious impediment to explaining the world isn t the absence of a unified physical theory or the inadequacy of human language It is the presence of what can only be called a pervasive evil Evil is an irrationality, an inherent contradiction, which clearly exists in nature everywhere and especially in people but which defies explanation Yet consciousness demands one How can such an absurd universe produce beings who question its very absurdity This is the premise and issue of an ancient style of thinking called Gnosticism, the essential presumption of which is that we thinking, reflective beings actually don t belong here We have been exiled from elsewhere and are condemned to wander aimlessly in this universe of hopelessness, pain, disease, death, and well evil until we are rescued from it and returned to whence we came This view is expressed in too many diverse ways to be called a philosophy but it does have an historical continuity that reflects its intellectual and emotional power.Christianity, and consequently Christian culture, is tinged with gnostic influences from its inception but has always rejected the gnostic mode of thinking as unbiblical in its presumption of the essential evil of the world we inhabit Christianity does, however, maintain somewhat paradoxically the idea that there is a better place which is our true home This it calls Paradise, a realm close to God with no pain, no disease, and no death that is a place without evil Gnosticism has been suppressed by Christianity and also by Islam as a heresy But it reappears frequently in European history in various forms usually among those who take the problem of evil seriously The early Desert Fathers and strange stylites, sitters on poles, and other martyrs to the flesh are examples as are the medieval Cathars and Bogomils and their spiritual heirs, the strict Calvinists, and the even enthusiastic adherents of the Republican Party in the United States Each of these groups has their own version of a spiritual theory of the world in which escape from the tribulations of living is not only possible but constitutes the real goal of living at all.The historical originators of Gnosticism were the Manichaeans, Persian followers of the sage Mani, who developed a rather elaborate, and empirically based, theory of human existence Look up in the night sky, they said, and you will see clearly that there is another world beyond that enclosed by the solid vault of heaven Those points of light we call stars are actually holes, imperfections, in that vault, the casing of our world, through which we can see bits of the world beyond That is the realm of light whence we came and to which we are meant, according to cosmic logic, to return The real mission and spiritual duty of all human beings is to seek the knowledge by which such a home going can be achieved.As proof that such a re unification with the domain of light is possible, the Manichaeans again pointed to the night sky In addition to the fixed points of light there were several wandering objects called planets The function of these objects is to patrol our world on the lookout for the sparks of light, that is to say human souls, which have managed to detach themselves through secret knowledge from the evil bonds of the Earth These sparks are scooped up by the roving planets as the sparks emerge from their earthly prison.And as further proof, if proof were necessary, the planets then deposit their luminous cargo periodically onto that other celestial body we call the Moon Thus the monthly waxing of the Moon as these sparks are added to it And also the monthly discharge of these from the Moon, its waning, through the vault of heaven as they are merged with the infinite light beyond As far as spiritual theories of the world go this is relatively plausible Little wonder then that its principle tropes Light and Freedom appear periodically in European literature Lanark is an example Its characters are obsessed with light, either finding it or avoiding it Lanark s goal is to escape from the realm of artificial light into that of pure heavenly light Others, Lanark observes, have obviously succeeded they have disappeared when the lights go out This is a risky business On the one hand, the only cure for these personal diseases is sunlight On the other hand, When people leave without a companion their diseases return after a while So the problem of reunification is not just cosmic as the Manichaeans thought it is also personal and involves relationships with others We re in it together Therefore Lanark s plan is simple I m leaving when I find a suitable companion Why I want the sun Of course the extended metaphor of Lanark communicates the secret gnostic knowledge of the light, but such knowledge is in itself insufficient Metaphor is one of thought s most essential tools It illuminates what would otherwise be totally obscure But the illumination is sometimes so bright that it dazzles instead of revealing, as one of the characters points out Lanark knows that what s necessary above all is a very specific sort of courage Admit he told himself, You watched the sky because you were too cowardly to know people I doubt anything can explain Lanark satisfactorily except Lanark But I do think its gnostic pedigree might add something significant to the comprehensibility of its otherwise alien life forms.

  3. says:

    Some novels are like the Cheshire Cat, the only thing left of them is their smile Can t remember much about this big, crazy book but I do remember it was big, and crazy, and about Glasgow, and not Glasgow, which was called Unthank I thought it was brilliant, but I can t tell you why now Everything has faded except that sometimes i look up and there s its smile in the air.

  4. says:

    Girizgah Lanark, hem okunabilirlik a s ndan hem de yaz msal olarak bak ld nda okuru ciddi olarak farkl duygular s k lma, sevinme, z lme, heyecanlanma, sab rs zl k, estetik tam olarak ya atabilen tarif edilmesi zor kitap.Alasdair Gray in 20 y ll k al mas olan Lanark 4 5 farkl yaz msal t r i inde bulunduran okudu um en zekice kitaplardan biriydi Yazar, bilimkurgu ve fantastik eleri, bildungsroman ve kahraman mitleri do rultusunda harmanlay p ayn zamanda yapm oldu u intihaller ile tarihten o d neme kadar yaz lm t m edebiyat n tarihinin bir nevi zetini sunan Gray bkn Hatime sf 523 tragedya, insanl n varolu sorunlar , cennet cehennem tanr yarat c yarat lan temalar do rultusunda olu turulmu ok katmanl bir kitap ok sert bir ekilde kapitalizm ele tirisi yapan Lanark, bilimkurgu ve fantastik romana ait ger ek st c l , di er edebi t rleri i inde yer alan ger eklik temas yla birlikte kullanan ayn zamanda bir distopya rne i.Kitab n atmosferi baz okurlar taraf ndan ok kara ve simsiyah bulunmas ve bu karamsarl k tonlar n n okuru s kabilece i ele tirisi yap lsa da a kcas bu fikre hi sahip olmadan kitab okudu umu belirtmeliyim Gray in ressam olmas ve di er g zel sanatlarla olan ili kisini m thi betimlemeler ile sunmas ve bana Tim Parks n Kader i tematik olarak neye dayand r larak olu tu unu bahsetti i The Pleasures of Pessimism makalesinden dolay , tam tersi bir keyif ya atarak kitab keyifle okumama neden oldu Fakat bu demek de ildir ki kitap, zg n, kara ve simsiyah de il Konu Lanark, Alasdair Gray in ehir ve kahraman ve yarat c lemesini do mu oldu u Glasgow st nden anlatan ve konu olarak Thaw ve Lanark adl ayn olan iki ki inin hayat n , iki farkl zamansal ger eklik i inde anlatan bir kitap Lanark, g ne klar n n olmad bir yerde ya da g ne n n ok az g r nd bir zamanda , ejderha derisi hastal na yakalanm ve sonras nda insanlar n kendilerine yemek tedavi imkan sunan enstit denen yerde ba layan ve biten yk s n anlat rken, Thaw 1950 lerde Glasgow da II D nya Sava ndan sonraki s reci anlatan, gen bir ressam n hayat n anlat yor Linear olarak ba lamayan kitap, 4 kitaptan 3.s yle ba lay p okuru labirentler i inde ve de i en anlat c lar ile kar kar ya b rak yor Bu durumda, kitab n geleneksel ve yenilik i t rleri ok ba ar l ekilde i inde bar nd rmas na ve okuyuca al ld k olmad s re lerin i ine dahil eden bir okuma deneyimi sunuyor.Sonu Lanark, al lm olmayan d nemine g re ve bence hala u an da ge erli farkl edebi perspektiflerin bir araya getirildi i ve kahraman yarat c temas n bilimkurgu, b y sel ger ekcilik ile harmanland , ya da di er bir deyi le Gray in bilimkurgu ve fantazi edebiyat bir arac olarak kulland m thi bir postmodern eser Kitab n, linear bir anlat m sunmamas ve baz okurlarca al k oldu umuz fantazi ve bilimkurgu edebiyat nda yer alacak eleri ve konu rt s n tam olarak bar nd rmamas ndan dolay kitab n be enilmemesine ve belki de a r derecede uzat lm olabilece i ger e ini g z ard etmiyor Bunun yan nda kitab n yava yava a lmas sab r gerektiren bir di er durum Benim a mdan ise, Lanark fikir olarak ve Gray in selam akt bir ok yazar ve eser do rultusunda de erlendirdi imde elimden b rakmak istemedi im bir kitap oldu Gray in her b l m ustal kla sonland rmas , yapm oldu u betimlemeler ki beni kendimden ald estetik anlamda cidden tatmin etti.Gray in entellektuel birikimi, Lanark ve Thaw ikilisinde kendisini bir ok farkl ekilde okura g stermesi ve mizah anlay kendisine hayran b rakt zellikle kapitalizm ve entellekt eller zerine getirmi oldu u ele tiriler, kitab n tart lmas ve sundu u ok katmanl l k a s ndan da kitab son derece de erli k ld zetle, farkl ve e lenceli bir okuma deneyimi i in harika bir kitap Okura bir ok farkl duyguyu bir arada sunabilen zekice bir kitap Bu zet uzar gider yi okumalar dilerim.10 8

  5. says:

    I wanted very much to love this book, which was probably my first mistake I had heard a lot of extremely complimentary things about how it was the most unusual, eccentric and meaningful novel various people had read for ages, and I probably came to it with rather exaggerated hopes Anyway, it s good, but it s also flawed, as to be fair the author himself admits in a rather interesting confessional Epilogue The first thing you notice when you open it up and check out the Contents page is that it is structured in a weird way First comes Book 3, then the Introduction, then Books 1 and 2, and finally Book 4 The Epilogue I mentioned comes a few chapters before the end of the book, because it s far too important to leave to the end paraphrasing from memory So straight away you know you re dealing with a writer who s kind of pretentious, and the only question really is if it s justified by artistic effect or if it s just a gimmick On balance it just about worked for me, but it was a close call.There are two stories in Lanark, which are related in obscure ways to one another Books 1 and 2 tell the story of Duncan Thaw, an asthmatic, intellectual child growing up in Glasgow and finding his feet as an artist Books 3 and 4 concern a man called Lanark who finds himself in the strange other worldly city of Unthank, a place with no sunlight where people mutate into dragons or are devoured by mouths in the ground Unthank is very much a hellish vision of Glasgow, and there is than a hint that Lanark himself is really Duncan Thaw trapped in his own personal hell Thaw s narrative ends as he walks out into the sea, and Lanark arrives in Unthank with seashells and sand in his pockets.Of course, you put this together only gradually, since you start by reading Book 3 and only get to Thaw later on One of the problems with the book is the growing suspicion that Gray just had a couple of mediocre novellas and tried to put them together with some stylistic fireworks to make one Big Novel But despite my occassional feelings of irritation, in actual fact some of my favourite moments in the book were some of the most contrived, like the section where Lanark meets the author, Alastair Gray himself, who explains exactly what future is about to be written for him It s very neatly handled But while the Lanark story provides lots of weird and fascinating encounters, the Duncan Thaw narrative inevitably just seems a bit humdrum and dreary in comparison I must have read a hundred books about asthmatic, intellectual children growing up, having no success with girls, and trying to make themselves into artists This one is no different it s largely modelled on Portrait of the Artist, only without the happy ending I found myself having no sympathy with either Thaw or Lanark and I was frustrated by their inability to form decent relationships with people around them How s this for the worst written sex scene I ve come across for many months Softly, sadly, he revisited the hills and hollows of a familiar landscape, the sides of his limbs touching sweet abundances with surprisingly hard tips, his endings paddling in the pleats of a wet wound which opened into a boggy cave where little moans bloomed like violets in the blackness There were dank odours and even a whiff of dung.Everywhere there is this detachment, this cold, observational quality to the writing which was integral to the characters, but which ultimately stopped me really engaging with the novel It s a shame, because Book 3 with which the novel opens is a brilliant start, and sadly the rest of the work never quite lives up to the exuberance and originality of those first few chapters I feel like some people may enjoy this than I did, so if people are thinking of checking it out I d tell them to go for it, and I d love to hear any of your experiences with it But it didn t quite come together for me.

  6. says:

    I read Alasdair s part hopelessly biographical, part darkest fantasy Lanark in the spring of 2007 I could not read it again In those days I d identified the character s Lanark Thaw to the person I was in love with especially the artist parts I bet I m the only person who is gonna say that about THIS book Those feelings changed boy did they ever and I d not be able to bear being reminded of those feelings as they probably should have always been in their new light I feel kinda crazy sometimes This is a crazy book, though, so at least I didn t wander into some cookie cutter sane land Man, maybe it was the judgemental quality that Lanark had towards Rima I read to understand I don t understand anything the yearning something or other, the thing that makes someone tick And this book didn t give anything back for me now It was that damned judgemental feeling I remember and cringe how the men wanted only a pretty face the gaggle of sexuality so faceless yet had the gall to whine when the rest of the package didn t stay just the image You get what you put in Yeah, it s a fantasy when tht was the basis all along Not to mention eating of the soylent green Creepy Understandable Like judging someone for drinking piss in the desert Right or wrong, I m the one doing the reading all by my lonesome, and eventually, no matter how good the writer is, it s gonna become like a memory altered by one s own perspective If it is good enough to feel like an experience, anyway An experience Lanark most definitely is Right or wrong, I m suffocated by an overdose of that that shouldn t they want something frustration, and those feelings override any objectivity for the intended point I m too caught up in the experiencing part and there are other factors like what was the point of MY reading it Don t want it to end this way, and I don t care at all for class satires, and I m really fucking depressed now and did I need to be any depressed than I already was I m especially fucked up now on the human connections thing Why d I have to relate to this of all books I m in the minority, too The Lanark parts were my favorites the skin dragonish stuff was Dennis Potteresque.

  7. says:

    Posted at I wish I could make you like death a little It s a great preserver Without it the loveliest things change slowly into farce, as you will discover if you insist on having much life Lanark is one of those huge, pain in the ass, crufty novels that I just wasn t going to be able to avoid much longer I find that I particularly enjoy Scottish literature, for whatever reason, and I plan on reading Iain Banks The Bridge fairly soon, which was largely influenced by Lanark It was inevitable that I d need to check this one off my list sooner rather than later I was absolutely knocked out by Lanark Banks mentioned, in conversation with Andrew Wilson I think it s the best in Scottish literature this century It opened my eyes I had forgotten what you could do you can be self referential, you can muck about with different voices, characters, time streams, whatever Lanark had a huge effect on The Bridge I m quite happy to acknowledge that debt In Rodge Glass s biography of Alasdair Gray, Irvine Welsh remarked that Lanark is probably the closest thing Scotland s ever produced to Ulysses What it said to me was, it would be fucking great to be a writer According to the tailpiece present in Canondale s The Canons edition How Lanark Grew Lanark is both largely autobiographical a fact made interesting by the book s fantastical nature and was written over the course of thirty years Alasdair Gray s early masterpiece definitely has some flaws weak secondary characters, poorly written female characters but is such a wild ride that I didn t mind them too much You pessimists always fall into the disillusion trap, said the cheerful man cheerfully From one distance a thing looks bright From another it looks dark You think you ve found the truth when you ve replaced the cheerful view by the opposite, but true profundity blends all possible views, bright as well as dark The book staunchly refuses to comply with the usual rules of genre and structure It begins with Book Three, set in the fantastical city of Unthank, followed by a nicely nested modernist coming of age story within a story Prologue, Book One, Interlude, and Book Two We then continue on in the world of Unthank with Book Four, followed by an Epilogue, and then strangely four additional chapters What an unorthodox structure The chapter Index itself even plays a narrative role, as do the section titles present on the top of each page.The Epilogue is where the book really shines in my opinion, and where all of the threads come together I can t say much about it, but I will mention two things It s much playful than the rest of the novel, and it contains an annotated list of plagiarisms present in Lanark, which is just an incredible idea I have to applaud Gray for this inclusion It s wonderful, and remarkably helpful for unpacking the themes and influences present in this bizarre narrative It is a dangerous thing to suddenly deprive a man of hope he can turn violent It is important to kill hope slowly, so that the loser has time to adjust unconsciously to the loss We try to keep hope alive till it has burned out the vitality feeding it Only then is the man allowed to face the truth I could ve actually done without the four chapters that succeeded the Epilogue I found them mostly pointless, and the Epilogue itself has a sort of choose your own ending option baked in that I think would ve worked remarkably well as an ending itself.All in all, Lanark is for all of you that prefer your fiction to contain heavy doses of both self referential, weird as hell fantasy, and depressingly bleak modernist realism, all of which is coated with vaguely Marxist under and overtones, as well as fascinating social and philosophical commentary on free will, art, and what constitutes a satisfying life.

  8. says:

    This novel is a mix of dystopia with fantasy elements and bildungsroman We start in the future where we come across a dysfunctional group of pseudo cognoscenti hanging out in a local cinema cum coffee shop called The Elite In this section of the book, Lanark, our hero, lives a rather purposeless life in Unthank parallel universe Glasgow , cavorts with these layabouts there before being sucked underground by a giant pair of lips There he enters a vast Orwellian compound known as The Institute where everyone s a doctor, or becomes one He saves a woman, Rima, one of the layabouts, from turning salamander He discovers that Soylent Green is people, and for that reason decides to leave the subterreanean Institute and return to the hell of life on the surface of the earth But before doing so, he is told the story of his former life as one Duncan Thaw by a portable oracle Thaw lived in the real Glasgow, which I was pleased to see meticulously described for the first time in any fiction that I have ever read Over than 300 pages Thaw grows from child to neurotic art student He has terrible asthma He masturbates avidly He can t get a girl His mother dies horribly His relationship with his father is deeply moving The relationships throughout these two central books are so genuine, so vivid This human warmth is an element lacking from the framing dystopia, because that setting, and all its whacky goings on, distract from the humanity, as it s meant to do But the dystopic sections are valuable for other reasons for their depiction of vast, illogical space, of an incomprehensible and deeply criminal military industrial complex that will stop at nothing to realize a profit Multiple rereadings are merited That s high praise A masterpiece There, I ve said it.

  9. says:

    I do not know what I just read In the best possible way.What can I say that doesn t spoil something It s illustrated by the author And rather well, I might add Gray plays with structure And linearity And your fucking head Just when you think you know what s going on, you don t.Tonight I went to the library to see some local new author guy talk about his book which is completely irrelevant to this review But what is relevant is that the guy sitting in front of me put the book he was reading on the seat next to him when the author guy started talking And, because I m a book fiend, I contortioned my body to see what he was reading It was some other book by Alasdair Gray, Poor Things.I ve barely even heard of this Alasdair Gray, and now, the same night I finish Lanark, some other yahoo in Pittsburgh is reading some entirely other book by the same author.That sort of coincidence makes a ton sense than anything I just read in Lanark.

  10. says:

    Lanark hakk nda genel kan m k saca s ylememi isteseniz ok iyi olman n kenar ndan d nm bir roman oldu unu s ylerdim Kitapla ilgili farkl farkl ba l klarda, hepimizin farkl yorumlam oldu unu hayretle fark edece imiz ok ey konu mak m mk n Bence en temel problem de burada yat yor zaten Karma an n da kendi i inde bir d zeni olmal zellikle insan kaleminden kma kurmacalarda Fakat Lanark n bu d zeni de kendi i inde kar m durumda Yazar k oyunlar, efsane Hatime b l m ile yepyeni bir tazelik katmaya al m bir yandan da edebiyat tarihine bir resmige it yapm , okurunu da so uk suyun alt na sokup biraz kendine getirmi vs hepsine tamam m Ancak t m bu abalar nda t pk kitapta b y c nam yla karakterle tirdi i kendisine d nm Zaten bu b l mde yazarl n, ya ad klar n n kaleminde ba kala p, edebile ip s zc klere d k lmesiyle meydana geldi ini s yl yor Mutlaka da yledir Hem Gray i in hem de ba ka bir s r yazar i in O y zden yazar kendi ki isel tarihinin tan kl klar n , yeni d nyan n d n m n , yaln zla may ve yabanc la may tercih etti i s rreal bir y ntemle aktarmay se mi Bunu yaparken de bir yolculuk kurgulay p, ayr ks g r nen ama asl nda ok s radan biri olan karakteri Lanark belli sarmallar n i inde doland r p, klasik yap ya zaman zaman elme takan bir yk tasarlam Tam can al c noktada da kendini romana dahil edip bir edebiyat ovuna sahiplik yapmak istemi Ba ar s z oldu unu da s yleyemem Fakat kafas kar k ya da akl ok y kl yazar n anlatt klar , Lanark gibi beni de biraz yordu Baz ayr nt lar , y netmenlerin s rf ekimi g zel oldu u i in filmin b t n ne hizmet etmese de, hatta filmin de erinden eksiltse bile kulland klar o biricik sahneleri gibi Her b l m kendi i inde g zel ancak b t nde bir kakafoni, bir bulan kl k Kitapla ilgili bence en b y k eksiklik bu Yazar okurun, kutsal ruh oldu u b l m var ya, burada bahsetti i gibi kutsal ruhu kaybetmemek i in, kan ksatm Bir yerden sonra garipliklerin de eri s f ra denk d yor Belki de Uykuda ocuk l mleri nin ard ndan bu kitab okudu um i in b yle hissediyorum bilmiyorum.Di er yandan Lanark ok ola and bir roman B ylesi denemelere sanat n her alan nda, yap lardan ve geleneklerden s k lm bir insan olarak olumlu yakla yorum Tarih, din, sanat, politika, ya am, cinsellik ve akl n za gelebilecek daha ba ka bir s r konu hakk nda Alasdair Gray n fikirlerini g r yoruz Kapitalizm hakk nda bir ok yazar kurmaca yazm t r mesela ama Gray i lerinde cidden parlayacak bir ekilde derdini anlat yor Fantazyan n gelerini ok dozunda ve yerinde kullan yor Yaratt modern d nyan n i leyi indeki distopik yap ayr bir ekilde anlat lsa ve roman n omurgas bu olsa mesela ok ba ar l bir yap t ortaya kabilir Bu kadar zengin hayalg c n roman n fonunda g stermeyi tercih ediyor T pk ergen Thaw gibi motifleri nerede kullanmak konusunda karars z ya da haddiden daha b y k eyler anlatmak ve g stermek istiyor, bilmiyorum Sadece k smen hissedilen bir odak sorunu oldu unu s yleyebilirim Belki Gray bunu istemi tir onu da bilmiyorum Yine de t m metaforlar ve simgeler adrese teslim tek tek yerlerine ula yorlar eviri bana bir rahats zl k vermedi, hatta zaman zaman ok lezzetli oldu unu d nd m Metis in zenli yay nc l ndan, bask dan ve tasar mdan s z etmeme gerek yok herhalde Mutlaka okuyun demiyorum size ama kal pla m fantazya yaz n na alternatif bir kitap ar yorsan z kesinlikle okuyun Pi man olmayacaks n zd r yi okumalar 7.5 10