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A Disaffection

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  473 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Patrick Doyle is a twenty-nine-year-old teacher in an ordinary comprehensive school. Isolated, frustrated and increasingly bitter at the system he is employed to maintain, he begins his rebellion, fuelled by drink and his passionate, unrequited love for a fellow teacher.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 7th 1999 by Vintage Classics (first published 1989)
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3.81  · 
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 ·  473 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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This is my final book from the 1989 Booker shortlist and perhaps the hardest to assess. Kelman is an uncompromising writer with a very striking style, and I suspect that I might have enjoyed this one more if How Late it Was, How Late was not still fresh in the mind.

This time we are in the head of Patrick Doyle, a 29 year old Glaswegian teacher in a sort of early mid life crisis in which he rebels against what he sees as the futile conformity of the educational system and his part in the perpetua
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Along with 'The Magus', 'The Idiot', 'Catch 22' and 'The Monkey wrench gang', this is one of the few books I return to each decade approximately. Sad, hilarious and emotionally exhausting, I recommend this to anyone who, deep down, feels isolated and desperate.
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017

29-year-old Glaswegian secondary school teacher Patrick Doyle is, as the title implies, disaffected. Instead of teaching lessons in his classroom, he rails against authority in all its forms and encourages his students to think for themselves. Bored with his colleagues, he alternately agitates and ignores them. Hopelessly smitten with his fellow teacher, the inscrutable (and married) Alison, he makes repeated clumsy attempts to share his feelings with her. Uncomfortable with his middle-class ear
Sean Blake
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, fiction
A Disaffection is an endlessly passionate and masterful piece of existentialist fiction. James Kelman has crafted a brilliantly bitter, isolated character with some of the most intense and moving prose ever committed to literature.
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, bonkers
It would be hard to convince you how great a book about a guy finding some discarded pipes can be, so I won't bother. The dialect may be off-putting to some, but you'll catch on. You have to like Kelman's voice to love this, and I do. Oh, how I do.
Ryan Williams
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always rated this novel higher than Kelman’s 1994 Booker Prize winner. This is How Late It Was, How Late minus the bloat - and is just as truthful, deep. I can’t think of many books today that take you so thoroughly into every nook and cranny of a character going about the daily business of living.

Some might be frightened off by Kelman’s obscenities and truth-telling. Too bad for them.
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Disaffection
By: James Kelman

What is the role of Males in education?

“I mean it fucking stinks, it’s rotten from the outside in and the inside fucking out. Every last fucking thing about it, it stinks. And what goes on in the classroom, it’s a load of dross. This is how I’m fucking chucking it. And all these wee weans Christ they think ye know everything, every last thing in the fucking universe – especially about how to change for good. I’ll tell ye something else, bastards people think lie
Steve Coates
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scotland
I like James Kelman's stream of consciousness writing style. This book is rewarding but a pretty bleak read.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Who knew a book about a disaffected teacher who lives alone and finds some pipes round the back of an arts centre in Glasgow could become one of my all-time favourites? Kelman's narrative style is staggeringly original, adapting the modernist stream-of-consciousness to a Glaswegian dialect, refusing to separate dialogue and narration and creating the most accurate representation of the interior life, a kind of simultaneous third- and first-person narration. Patrick Doyle is an exceptionally craf ...more
It felt too personal to review, or even to recommend. A Disaffection struck me with a force that I had thought art could never again strike me. I had become convinced that adulthood disallows a sublime sense of warmth and engagement in response to the arts. This feeling was commonplace, my memory claims, in youth, but experience had tempered the impact. And then this. I doubt the reaction could be a universal one, although Kelman has earned high praise and a Booker. This is a book for a particul ...more
Margreet Heer
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Patrick Doyle needs to get laid.
And I mean that in the nicest way.
Although it's doubtful if even that would save him; from living in 1980's Scotland, from feeling an instrument of a corrupt society, from himself and his bitter misgivings and his blindness to Things As They Are around him.
Because he is really a good teacher, and the woman he loves is in love with him, and he could make a change if he wanted. But he won't. And that's where the title comes in.

Not an easy read, but a satisfying o
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute beauty of a book from James Kelman. How he isn't recognised more widely as one of Scotland's greatest authors is beyond me. A heartbreaking, intense, compelling book covering one week in the life of Patrick Doyle, a secondary school teacher struggling with life. This book starts off with Patrick finding a couple of electrical pipes round the back of a pub, but really it's about love, hope(lessness), class, education and and life.
I read this book in a class ten years ago and just pulled it on out again. It's written in dialect, which gives me a small but persistent headache, hence the one-star discount. I remembered it as being about a sad Scottish teacher going through a midlife crisis, but it turns out he's only 30. Eff. Melancholy, and full of funny but incredibly cringe-y moments--suits my current mood very well.
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: methamphetamine
If you are a teacher in Scotland, you're allowed to say fark in the class.
Robert Irish
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, what do you expect to happen when you enter into the stream-of-consciousness mind of a 29-year old Glaswegian school teacher who is utterly disaffected with his role in working for the Greatbritish rulers who oppress the working class? Well, you can't call them working class now can you? What with most of them on the dole ...
Like brother Gavin. Yes, Gavin, who in spite of being married to Nicola
Now, Nicola is a fine woman. If Patrick were married to her instead of his auld brother Gavin, w
Lauren Cullen
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a revolution of the word. I have to praise Kelman as this book really caught me off guard, it has so much nostalgia in there with east Glasgow references, the second division and things that remind me of my dad. However, even though the storyline is seemingly null there is really a lot of deep cuts to be had in this text. The sheer anti-establishment and references to the 80's Tory Government in the UK is rife, the distinctions between classes are vastly juxtaposed in Patrick Doyle ...more
Diarmaid de Paor
Alternately funny and depressing, this snapshot of the life of a disillusioned Glasgow teacher is beautifully crafted in the language of that city. Patrick, the central character is lonely and frustrated and as the novel progresses the bitterness that is growing inside him threatens to take him over. I would highly recommend this book - but not if you want to be cheered up!
Steven Carroll
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Put me off becoming a teacher. Wish I'd listened!!!
Mara Eastern
May 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: glasgow
Despite his incredible insight into character psychology and passionate tone, Kelman can get repetitive and vaguely unsatisfactory.
Christian Schwoerke
Connecticut and New York City in the 50s was the setting for Catcher in the Rye, a tale of immature idealism brought up short by the hypocrisy of authority; in the new millennium, Scottish novelist James Kelman creates a similar cri de coeur from a young man in Glagow. This week-long chronicle focuses on 29-year-old Patrick Doyle, a teacher at an ordinary school, disillusioned with himself, his life, and his world. The story is objectively third-person, but Kelman has us continually inside P’s h ...more
Peter Pinkney
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second time that I have read this book. Basically it is a book about existentialism amongst other things. Kelman is often compared to James Joyce, and the stream of consciousness in this book is very similar to Ulysses.
The story concerns a teacher called Pat Doyle, his unrequited love for a colleague, his loneliness, and the unravelling of his life and mind. There is no punctuation, and although difficult, it works perfectly. His musings on Ancient Greek philosophers, Goya, and the
May 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-prizes
This book could be seen as a practice run for the style of writing Kelman uses to great effect in How Late it Was, How Late. It is not as effective here.
The protagonist is Patrick Doyle, a teacher, who keeps wanting to change his life but does nothing about it (or, if he does, forgets all about it). I think this would have been an excellent short story, ending with Patrick driving south with no idea of a destination. As it is, it is too long and inconclusive. I gave up the first time I read this
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well this was just brilliant. Kelman is rightly regarded as one of the premier stylists of his generation, his prose as affecting a window into the fractious and fevered inner monologue of the anxious and depressed as any I've read. What sets A Disaffection apart though is how his stylistic virtuosity serves a purpose beyond merely being impressive; the tortured soliloquys are a vehicle for deep irony, P for Patrick Doyle a cipher for Kelman lamenting a Scottish people who are trapped and maudli ...more
Michael Jones
This book was incredibly hard work. There was little punctuation which meant it took real concentration to work out what was conversation and what was internal monologue. It frequently trailed off mid sentence leaving you to work out the rest.

I very nearly dismissed this as the insane ravings of a lunatic. These ARE the ravings of a lunatic but he's far from insane. There are enough insightful, social and political observations to make it worth the struggle.
Daniel Woj
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Undoubtably a fine book, with all the compliments surrounding the insight into the mindset and psychology of the protagonist accurate. The writer is clearly ambitious and serious about his art. All that said, it was not an enjoyable book to read, the joy came when it was over.I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they are comfortable with hindsight as the payoff.
Very intense account of Patrick's life as a teacher in Glasgow, his family, his job, the people he works with. What he thinks and feels about them all. His sense of being trapped, and his loneliness. His sense of injustice especially towards himself.
Don Aitkenhead
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Specifically, it precisely captures aspects of life in Glasgow. Universally, it expresses aspects of the human condition with remarkable clarity. The title is an excellent example of this clarity. It is a work of protest.
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A goddamn masterpiece! P for Patrick, he lives inside me with Bandini...I've been waiting for know he made like $12,000 last year with his writing...what the fuck is wrong with you, guys?
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished absorbing and sad.....couldn't understand why the desperate state of the protagonist's mind didn't enter into most interpretations of the book. Reminded me a bit of The Dead School by Patrick McCabe but with more warmth.
Book Line and Stinker
Chosen by Jose
Score - 65 out of 100
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Kelman says:

My own background is as normal or abnormal as anyone else's. Born and bred in Govan and Drumchapel, inner city tenement to the housing scheme homeland on the outer reaches of the city. Four brothers, my mother a full time parent, my father in the picture framemaking and gilding trade, trying to operate a one man business and I left school at 15 etc. etc. (...) For one reason or anothe
“There existed very long saxophones from years ago. The player sat on their chair like a cellist; that same sort of feeling to it as well - unlike for example the way a harpist would be: the whole act differing in a very fundamental sense. Although harpists are fine. There is nothing to be said against harpists by any means whatsoever.” 3 likes
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