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The Plato Papers

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  412 ratings  ·  32 reviews
From the imagination of one of the most brilliant writers of our time and bestselling author of The Life of Thomas More, a novel that playfully imagines how the "modern" era might appear to a thinker seventeen centuries hence.

At the turn of the 38th century, London's greatest orator, Plato, is known for his lectures on the long, tumultuous history of his now tranquil city.
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Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 20th 2001 by Anchor (first published May 31st 1999)
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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo CalvinoHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiCloud Atlas by David MitchellPale Fire by Vladimir NabokovSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Oulipo,etc.
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Paul
More of a clever intellectual exercise than a novel, but then that's Ackroyd, author of a biography of Dickens that unabashedly situates itself inside its subject's fertile brain. The Plato Papers is a post-apocalyptic tale that resurrects a rogue Plato to discourse fatuously on the meaning of it all, much of the humor coming from the (mis)use of fragments of humanity's past. Best: taking the works of Edgar Allan Poe as evidence for what life in the 19th century was like, which makes a kind of w ...more
Tweedledum
I first came across this book as an audio book and found it both utterly impelling and utterly confusing. Re reading it helped a lot but the book grew and grew on me and I often think about it. Very funny at times and completely mystifying at others.
Michelle
A pretty cool story that shows how historians might misjudge or misinterpret our current literary classics in the future. Have we botched up past history this badly?
Anne
Not to be confused with the ancient Plato, this quasi-novel posits a future in which the Orator of London suffers for turning into a philosopher in the--to him lost--tradition of his namesake. Philosophy, you see, is not welcome in the London after the end of time.... If you like Peter Akroyd's _First Light_, "what if..." type science fiction, and/or ancient philosophy, you will love this very sarcastic book. (May provide most enjoyment when consumed in small doses.)
Shahenshah
One of the most interesting and imaginative Books I have ever read. I think about this Booke often - indeed, one of those rare books which may be deemed 'inexhaustible'. I am intent upon re-reading this Booke.
Susanna Rose
The oldschool Greek Plato wrote that hoi polloi waste their days away chained up in a cave watching shadows. Only philosophers venture out into the true light. The conceit of this book is that it is written from the perspective of the world of the true light, where only one philosopher (named Plato) summons up the courage to venture down into the cave of shadows.

Turns out, the world of true light is just as rigid and cruel as the cave! Pretty cool set-up, I have never seen anyone combine relati
...more
Fiona Robson
“The Plato Papers, Ackroyd’s final novel of the twentieth century, is set in London in circa 3700 A.D., in the fifth age as measured at that time. Plato, an orator who acts also as interpreter of history and of historical artefacts, pronounces on the four Ages preceding his own to the best of his abilities, and is seen as the arbiter of historical fact. When however he begins to question the validity of his understanding, his soul offers him the chance to see reality by withdrawing its protectio ...more
Lee
Jul 15, 2013 Lee rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013, sf
NB: I can’t imagine caring enough about this book to be concerned with spoilers, but. If you’re that sort of person, go read the book first.

I picked up this book at the library book sale, because it had “Plato” in the title, and because it was selling for a dollar.

From the beginning, I was really unsatisfied by it. After the first 50 [of 173] pages, I wrote several notes, attempting to pin down the source of my dissatisfaction.

It’s a book about Plato[our Plato]‘s cave. Only instead of starting f
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Perry Whitford
Ackroyd's usual locale is London, how the city regenerates itself from century to century, and how the ghosts of the past still exist in some way, coeval with the present populace. In a way 'The Plato Papers' followed that vision to its inevitable conclusion, as this time the present (that is to say the last 500 years of history) is seen through the prism of the future.
Plato, a 39th century orator, entertains and educates the young with fables from the age of "Mouldwarp", but the elders become c
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Michael Mallory
Not a novel in the conventional sense, "The Plato Papers" is a brilliant satire of how we interpret past civilizations from the point of view of a future scholar attempting to figure us out, and missing by miles and miles. It is a stunningly witty achievement, though if you don't know what's being spoofed, it might be puzzling.
Mary
I love Peter Ackroyd's writing, but I think I could have skipped this. Less a novel than a writing exercise, it has some interesting ideas on perception of the past. It felt like a 5 page essay stretched out into a sometimes ridiculous and sometime poignant dialogue..
June
Such a clever story which shows how history is all about communication.
Evelyn Alba
very witty!!
James
I loved one of the ideas in this book of how the future will invariably misunderstand and patronize the past. I thought the execution on the idea was a little hokey with what the words meant. As the book went on I got thoroughly confused and finished the book unsure if it was the future looking at the past, parallel universes, the spiritual versus the material. While ultimately unsatisfying to me because of that I do admire Ackroyds inventivenss.

Keith Davis
A very odd book set in the distant future, but not science fiction by any stretch. There are some clever moments, like how future scholars misinterpret ancient documents such as conflating Charles Darwin with Charles Dickens, but as a novel it almost feels unfinished. Interesting setting, but I kept waiting for the plot to start.
Ben
2000 years from now a great thinker looks back on our own time and gives lectures on a variety of topics based on scanty evidence. Fun idea but the kind of things he presents seems to me the kind of stuff I thought about in high school and have long since discarded. Philosophy and world construction are heavily rooted in New Age thought.
Toti
Excellent book. Very philosophical. It is easily read but its meaning is very complex. Makes you reflect on our society and how we judge the past. Incredibly interesting
Boris
Read it as a teenager in Russian. I think I enjoyed it more at the time, probably because the humo(u)r is difficult to appreciate in non-native languages.
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marlene
I found this story rather non-colloquial - it was hard to follow. Read it twice - finally "get it" - but strongly disbelieve that should be necessary.
Saurabh Bhattacharya


A deep philosophical fable that forces one to question the nature of apparent reality and the obdurate faith in empiricism. Bravo, Ackroyd!
Sarah
Sep 05, 2007 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is amazing. It's funny, sad, and it makes you think. It has some what-would-be confusing parts, but if you're smart, you'll understand.
Chris
This is a "what if" novel. It is amusing in the sense of seeing how the future people interpret the terms will use today.
Rita Vandenburgh
I was disappointed in this book. I think I was expecting a dialogue rather than a philosophical futuristic piece.
ben
I've thought about this before, how will the people in the future interperet the things that mean so much to us now.
Dara
I liked it,but I think I need to spend a little more time thinking about it.
Isabel
I found this quite heavy going and it took me ages to read the 137 pages.
Jennyford97
It is hilarious and says so much about today's society.
Emma
It makes you think, but otherwise it wasn't my cup of tea.
Sara
A good idea done badly.
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
...more
More about Peter Ackroyd...
London: The Biography The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling Hawksmoor London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography

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