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Dr Ragab’s Universal Language

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  58 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Dr Ragab is a mysterious man. Talked about by pretty much everyone in 1920s Cairo, only a few get the chance to make the doctor’s acquaintance, and fewer still—one person, in fact—get to study his life lessons first-hand. Hertwig is that lucky soul. Or not so lucky, perhaps: not when he finds himself imprisoned in a German bunker just after the Second World War. To make ma ...more
Hardcover, 267 pages
Published 2009 by Picador
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Jan 04, 2010 Sharon rated it it was amazing
This is ostensibly the story of a man, Hertwig who is trapped in his own bunker by a small band of convicts at the end of the Second World War in Germany. There, as it becomes obvious he is not going to get out alive, he falls back on his training with a mystical figure named Dr Ragab, who he had been apprentice to many years ago in Cairo. Dr Ragab had at one time assumed invisibility and it is Hartwig’s hope that if he rededicates himself to the long abandoned exercises Ragab had prescribed, he ...more
This is the story of a man obsessed with bunkers who, whilst visiting one in Germany on a fact finding mission to satisfy the requirements for a potential job, comes across an account of another man’s imprisonment in the same bunker many years before. Leaving aside considerations of the bizarre nature of the obsession the book, potentially, has the makings of an interesting examination of several themes: isolation perhaps, or alienation or even a primitive desire to return to the womb! Unfortuna ...more
Jun 07, 2012 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the first two-thirds of this book, I wasn’t sure about it. I mostly didn’t like it, classifying it as a novel that was good but not my taste. But finally I got into the book – whether because the story picked up or I belatedly got into the book’s style and tone – and finished it thinking it wonderfully charming and smart. There are two stories here: one set in 2008 about a bunker-obsessed freelance writer in London and the other in the decades of the first half of the twentieth century cente ...more
In some respects I thoroughly enjoyed this. Twigger writes with great ease and authority, and it was no effort to read - I whizzed through it in a matter of hours - and indeed, was left wishing there was rather more of it.

And therein lies the rub. I finished the book feeling that somehow the plot and the characters were rather underdeveloped. I wanted to know much more about the enigmatic Dr Ragab and his enticing 'universal language' than I was ultimately given. I understand that, like Hermann
Maya Panika
So – is the universal language a vocal thing, a physical thing, the secret of invisibility…? At first, I assumed this was a much deeper, more complicated read than it appeared on the surface but later I decided, it probably wasn’t.

It’s a very readable book, the Cairo passages were atmospheric and beautifully written, the chapters in which Hertwig describes his experiences with Dr Ragab were especially good, the rest – less so. A bit of a curate’s egg of a book that was fine in its parts but did
Katie Grainger
Jul 22, 2011 Katie Grainger rated it really liked it
This was one of those books that only comes around once in a while but when it does you are really glad of it. The premise of the book is somewhat ridiculous but that is what makes it brilliant. A mad fun bizarre story about super human endeavors which was a joy to read. If you read this and like in then I would have to recommend The Raw Shark Texts to you which is in my collection but by a different author.
Overall a brilliant, wacky read which will keep you guessing and keep you wanting to tur
Jan 29, 2012 Jo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, pub-2009
I picked this book up randomly in the library and really loved it. I liked it flipping between present and past and it wasn't what I was expecting at all.

The narrator's voice reminded me of how you feel when you get completely absorbed by a book and you start thinking and dreaming in a different voice and in a different way.

So all in all I really liked it and would definitely recommend!
Nov 29, 2014 Tony rated it it was ok
I'm not sure what to think about this book. It started out in an engaging way, and the author was obviously interested in ideas of philosophical truths, revealed understanding, and the coincidences of life. But as the story unfolded, instead of becoming more engrossing it became merely meandering.
Jan 16, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it
Took me until pg. 140 to spot that the character name Hertwig shares 50% of the author's syllables. I'm sure it's partly because I had been rendering him in Germanic 'Hairtvig'. Certainly it was not due to me being a bit slow on the uptake. *mutter*
Samrudhi Sridharan
Apr 19, 2012 Samrudhi Sridharan rated it it was ok
The premise seemed so nice! But I found the book quite pretentious. Dr. Ragab didn't actually seem eccentric. It just seemed like the author wanted to make him interesting somehow and I just couldn't buy it.
Jun 27, 2010 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read
May 10, 2015 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: temp
I enjoyed this novel, despite its tendency to wander around the fringes of ideas instead of exploring them.
Sep 14, 2009 Martinxo rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2009
Was expecting great things from this book after the ecstatic review in the Guardian was ok but I ended up skimming the second half. The story just didn't engage me.
May 16, 2016 Jenine rated it liked it
Hmm. I think I liked the cover a little more than the book. Very male narration and story. Interesting connections between Europe and Egypt. Am unlikely to read again.
Jan 29, 2012 Drew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Reminded me of Tom Robbins. It was a fun read that I'll likely forget pretty quickly.
Anthony Crocker
Anthony Crocker rated it liked it
Jun 04, 2013
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Jun 12, 2012
Alice Cronin
Alice Cronin rated it it was ok
Mar 01, 2012
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Lynne Chandler rated it did not like it
Oct 31, 2012
Rob rated it it was ok
Jan 11, 2013
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Amber Haschenburger rated it liked it
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Ita rated it it was amazing
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Scott Gobeille rated it really liked it
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Ramsay Wood rated it it was amazing
Dec 31, 2014
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Robert Twigger is a British author who has been described as, 'a 19th Century adventurer trapped in the body of a 21st Century writer'. He attended Oxford University and later spent a year training at Martial Arts with the Tokyo Riot Police. He has won the Newdigate prize for poetry, the Somerset Maugham award for literature and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

In 1997, whilst on an
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