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The Devil Is Dead av R. A. Lafferty

The Devil Is Dead (urspr publ 1971; utgåvan 1988)

av R. A. Lafferty

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1884142,854 (4.31)13
Titel:The Devil Is Dead
Författare:R. A. Lafferty
Info:Bart Books (1988), Paperback
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


The Devil Is Dead av R. A. Lafferty (1971)


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» Se även 13 omnämnanden

Visar 4 av 4
Beautifully written magical realism, but honestly, hard to follow at points. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Apr 4, 2017 |
Lafferty wrote two books, and then hid one inside the other. He doesn't mention this in his preface, instead advising the reader "This is a do-it-yourself thriller or nightmare. Its present order is only the way it comes in the box. Arrange it as you will." and a little later, "If you do not wake up screaming, you have not put it together well."

The first book presents an overt story obscured in the telling, a thriller in which the reader is akin to a protagonist with amnesia. As a thriller, it follows a plot, but there are diverging narratives, and cartoon-like characters: not in being unrealistic so much as in being two-dimensional cut-outs, with little interiority. Pieces of a story surface, but it's not clear who anyone is, where or when events take place. Despite this, and partly because of it, the first 2/3 are pleasant enough, quirky and odd but also droll and observant. Stylistically I was reminded of Flann O'Brian or Pynchon or Vonnegut, a romp with meaning somehow outside the storyline.

The second, hidden book is hinted at in the first's narration and in character dialogue by turns. The covert text features a mysterious mark of a seven- or nine-armed false octopus. There figures in it perhaps a cabal of alien invaders. There are posited three sorts of people, some leaders, some sheep. This hidden book is obscured by the confusion and lacunae of the thriller's plot. It is not a story, it offers no secondary plot to set against the first book's, rather it presents odd intrusions into the first book's plot. Lafferty hovers over the story, noting interesting developments separate from the story, as though story were an armature into which he can place interesting ideas. And so the second book remains largely submerged, until Chapter 16.

In Chapter 16, Lafferty simply outdoes himself in fulfilling hints he'd been leaving about an occulted influence on events. It was clear something was coming, and the hints given and the style up to this point suggest it would be fun, but THIS. The revelation is not a plot surprise, it is a daring leap into a different order of magnitude: like watching a science fiction B serial and having it seamlessly dissolve into a live Apollo transmission. With no loss of continuity before or after. ( )
1 rösta elenchus | Apr 2, 2017 |
"The devil has the broadest perspectives for God; therefore he keeps so far away from God--the devil being the most ancient friend of wisdom." (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 129)

I first read The Devil Is Dead over three decades ago, getting it through a suburban Chicago library where I had requested it by inter-library loan; the owner of that volume was the library of Fort Benning, Georgia. I think I requested it solely because I had enjoyed some Lafferty stories that I had read in SF magazines and in collections like Orbit, and I was intrigued by the title when I explored the author's bibliography. So, as a high school student, I read this book and loved it.

Of course, I didn't understand it. Given its cryptic attitude, few would on a first reading in any case. I adored the style, and I was fascinated by its profusion of enigmas. Looking back, I see myself as having been woefully unequipped to appreciate both the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of the book, but I could somehow smell them, and they smelled good. In particular, I had not yet visited any of the places in the long itinerary of the protagonist's journey. I was inexperienced in sex and drink. I had not yet studied Roman Catholicism. (Lafferty was a rather devout Catholic.) And perhaps most importantly, I had not yet read Nietzsche.

The very title of this novel is a mirroring of the declaration made by Nietzsche (in The Gay Science and Thus Spake Zarathustra) that "God is dead." But the dialogue between the Catholic Lafferty and the anti-Christian Nietzsche is not so clearly antagonistic as might be assumed. At one point, I paused in my rereading of The Devil Is Dead to look up a reference in Beyond Good & Evil, and I felt as if I were still reading the same book--a tone persisted: jocular, allusive, profound, and riddling, an epigrammatic approach that juxtaposes a garrulous leisure with a laconic urgency. The narrative in The Devil Is Dead is no more naturalistic than the one in Thus Spake Zarathustra, and almost as prone to indulgence in poetry.

Nietzsche refers to the advocatus dei as "honorable" (BG&E 34), and protests, after supposing himself vulgarly accused of disposing of God only to keep the devil, "On the contrary! On the contrary, my friends. And, the devil--who forces you to speak with the vulgar?" (BG&E 37). Lafferty's book is clearly not addressed to the facile enjoyment of "the vulgar." He could say with Nietzsche, "I obviously do everything to be 'hard to understand' myself!" (BG&E 27).

Lafferty's novel concerns "several who are disinclined to stay dead" (9) and "those of a different flesh; and may not you yourself be of that different flesh?" (10) By the book's end, that different flesh has been variously explained as the progeny of the devil, the descendants of Nephilim, or "the old race throwing angry primordials" (212) rather than Nietzsche's anticipated overman, but the essential distinction is that of an "ugly" elite that defines itself over against an insipid mass, and the conflicts among that elite regarding the application of their powers. Lafferty's literary genius was such that his presentation of this "people before the people" echoes both the giants of Rabelais and the "little people" of Arthur Machen, savoring equally of Fortean parapsychological speculation and Platonic political philosophy. They bear on the pulse of their left wrists the mark of the false octopus, which I cannot help but see as a seven-headed beast.

The Devil Is Dead protagonist John "Finnegan" Solli is of the "mixed blood," and for all the emphasis on the distinction of types both in the novel and by Nietzsche, it remains an open question whether any individual is "pure"--regardless of whether this divide is genealogical or "spiritual" in its nature. And it may be this conflict within the people--and behind each person--that propels human effort and accomplishment.

To rewrite Nietzsche's The Gay Science, aphorism 125, with the substitution indicated in Lafferty's title: "The Devil is dead. The Devil remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? ... Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become devils simply to appear worthy of it?"

"Ye are against the people, o my chosen!"
9 rösta paradoxosalpha | Jun 26, 2015 |
I can think of no better introduction for my review than the line's that begin the book in question, so:

"And they also tell the story of Papadiabolous the Devil and his company, and of two of the hidden lives of Finnegan; and how it is not always serious to die, the first time it happens.
"Here is one man who was buried twice and now lies still (but uneasy of mind) in his two separate graves. Here is another man who died twice--not at all the same thing. And here are several who are disinclined to stay dead: they don't like it, they won't accept it.
..."We will not lie to you. this is a do-it-yourself thriller or nightmare. Its present order is only the way it comes in the box. Arrange it as you will."

Maybe it was the tone, the sense of humor, maybe the characters, or perhaps the recurring character of the Devil (though I don't think the devil(s) had much in common themselves), but this book rather reminded me of [b:At Swim-Two-Birds|97333|At Swim-Two-Birds|Flann O'Brien|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1330416040s/97333.jpg|983387]. It's been a while since I read that one, so I can't think of substantial, specific similarities, but I was reminded of it anyhow.

So the idea or theme that developed through the book was that of the conflict not only among people but within people--something like that; I say it badly. I'm not gonna mark this as a spoiler, since it was mentioned pretty early on in the book (though the fuller meaning came out gradually) that 'Finnegan', our protagonist, is of the 'double blood,' as the mark on his wrist (not always visible, or visible to all, but there nonetheless) shows. He meets others like himself. The mark means--what? Well, I s'pose that's explained fairly well by the characters themselves, so I won't try to get too detailed here. The Introduction says it better than I:

"Set off the devils and the monsters, the wonderful beauties and the foul murderers...set them off in whatever apposition you wish. Glance quickly to discover whether you have not the mark on your own left wrist, barely under the skin. ...Learn the true topography: the monstrous and wonderful archetypes are not inside you, not it your own unconsciousness; you are inside them, trapped, and howling to get out."

I'm sure I missed things because I read this primarily for the fun of reading, rather than with the obsessive eye for detail I turn on assigned literature (such that underlining and highlighting at some points obscure the text, sigh...), and because I am not expected to write an essay, I'm not exactly motivated to think up a clear, concise way to express my interpretation of this book. So I'm not gonna do that, or not any more than I've already done using mostly quotations from the novel itself. Can't help myself, I guess I just like the Introduction, so here's some more, why not: "Put the nightmare together. If you do not wake up screaming, you have not put it together well." And maybe I haven't put it together so well, because I haven't woken up screaming, and kept looking as I read for the elements of such terror without really finding any...but that wondering is itself unsettling, and the more I consider the story, the more I think I see the nightmare in it...

Anyway, the 5-star rating is in part because I enjoyed the story, the characters, the writing, all the things that make the reading itself enjoyable. Beyond the readability factor, there was a prevailing idea that built throughout, that was as much a part of the story as the characters and setting, an idea that appealed to the love of mystery, myth, and magic that draws me to 'fantasy'-type books in the first place, but which appealed just as much to the part of me that's drawn to stuff like ancient Greek philosophy, psychology, sociology and the like. Of course, mystery myth and magic have plenty to do with philosophy psychology and sociology, so it makes perfect sense that this book of gargoyles and mermaids, angels and devils should have plenty to do with ourselves and our own world--as much as our past has to do with our present and our future.

Now, if I wanted to be really really tedious and write the longest friggin' review ever, I'd maybe find some more stuff from the book to talk about, more things I liked or found worthy of further thought, but I don't need to do that, do I? Just read it yourself. No doubt my review is more confusing than helpful, or certainly it seems to to me.

"Is that not an odd introduction? I don't understand it at all."
( )
4 rösta -sunny- | Jul 15, 2014 |
Visar 4 av 4
R. A. Lafferty was the past master of word magic. He usually hit you fast, with a short story, and ran off snickering while you reeled around sputtering "But that would mean . . . oh, NO!" This is practically DUNE-sized for him at 224 pages in paperback, but he doesn't waste a word. By the end of the first page you are trying to keep from checking your own wrist for the mark of the polypus, the false octopus that has either seven tentacles or nine. Even if you put the book down now, the contents will eventually make themselves known to you in the same clairvoyant way that Finnegan read the unopened letter from his late double, Dopey the seaman.

Can I be more specific? No. As I said, Lafferty doesn't waste a word, and it's hard to describe this without spoiling it.

» Lägg till fler författare

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
R. A. Laffertyprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
LoGrippo, RobertOmslagmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat

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