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The Affirmation

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,749 ratings  ·  194 reviews
Peter Sinclair is tormented by bereavement and failure. In an attempt to conjure some meaning from his life, he embarks on an autobiography, but he finds himself writing the story of another man in another, imagines, world whose insidious attraction draws him even further in...
Paperback, 213 pages
Published September 1996 by Touchstone / Simon & Schuster UK (first published May 25th 1981)
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Thomas Dachsel With this book, there are various layers of realization, somehow mirrored by the protagonist writing several revisions of his autobiography, claiming …moreWith this book, there are various layers of realization, somehow mirrored by the protagonist writing several revisions of his autobiography, claiming that each iteration would be closer to the truth.

Of course in reality there is no city by the name Jethra, but there is a city by name of London, so the first perspective is definitely closer to reality.(less)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  1,749 ratings  ·  194 reviews

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Kevin Kelsey
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015, book-club
Posted at Heradas

I genuinely can't decide if I liked this or not. I certainly enjoyed reading it, but doing so was somewhat like losing my mind. I also have a suspicion that Priest crafted the novel precisely to elicit this effect on the reader, which makes me respect him even more in an odd way. All in all, I'm very confused, but I still enjoyed it.

I have a theory that this book inspired Haruki Murakami to write Sputnik Sweetheart. There are just so many similarities in story, narrative, and th
Glenn Russell
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books

“There was a duplication of myself involved, perhaps even a triplication. There was I who was writing. There was I whom I could remember. And there was I of whom I wrote, the protagonist of the story.”
― Christopher Priest, The Affirmation

Among the most remarkable novels I’ve ever encountered. Here are the opening lines: “This much I know for sure: My name is Peter Sinclair. I am English and I am, or I was, twenty-nine years old. Already there is an uncertainty and my sureness recedes. Age is a v
Oh, now, this is a rare gem! :)

The blurb does NOT do it justice. Rather, try to follow me here, because this could get rather twisty, but what we've got is what seems to be a rather self-absorbed man trying to come to terms with personal tragedy, writing a manuscript that is all about learning who he is and getting over a girl, but it soon becomes an adventuresome trip through a bunch of very interesting islands, him having won the gift of immortality through a lottery ticket.

The world-building
Manuel Antão
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1981, favorites, 2008
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Rattling SF: “The Affirmation” by Christopher Priest

“Living is not an art, but to write of life is. Life is a series of accidents and anticlimaxes, misremembered and misunderstood, with lessons only dimly learned. Life is disorganized, lacks shape, lacks story.”

In “The Affirmation” by Christopher Priest

A Priest book isn't just a (SF) book. It is the distilled essence of a philosophy, a memoir; a piece of someone's soul. Losing the book
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of accessible, mind-bending literary fiction on the border of fantasy
Not recommended for: people who like their books to be straightforward, easily understandable, and conventional. Also people who want their books to include Exciting Things Happening.

Special Interests covered: mental illness, philosophy.


A plain description of the novel would make it sound like a firework display of postmodern literary exuberance; but in fact it is anything but. It's a surprisingly low-key work, in its prose (quite quotidian), pacing (very measured), and mood (ruminating). It d
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When I finished the last page of this book, I threw it across the room. I thought people only did that in anecdotes. Ironically enough, this book has turned me into a moderately implausible anecdote.

You should read it. Read all his things. CP is my hero.

(P.S., the blurb is terrible. I assure you, this is not a book about a sad writer boy whose girlfriend left him. Everyone here is better than that.)
Now that I've read everything by Nina Allan (to date), I've decided it's about time I started reading more work by her partner, Christopher Priest. I have no idea whether The Affirmation is a good place to start, but it certainly feels like it. This is an eerie novel which flips seamlessly between real and imagined worlds (but which is which?) while constructing a clever, intricate web of details around a doubled central character.

29-year-old Peter Sinclair has recently been through great person

The Affirmation starts out as a manic* exploration of the possible existence of truth in fiction and how the writing and rewriting of autobiography in increasingly veiled and distanced terms reaches a vanishing point where it suddenly becomes 'fiction' and all the attendant consequences therein: people, places, and events from 'reality' not merely transposed—but transformed—yet retaining the shimmer of familiarity. It explodes* from there into a mad* identity quest mapped out through a ragged ma
May 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kevin by: Bart Everson
I'm not sure what I just read but I am sure of two things: I loved it, and I will re-read it. I will read it again not just because I loved it, but because I want to understand it better, and want to pick it apart, and put it back together even though I'm not confident that it can be done.

I was captivated at first with some fairly mundane parallels to my life, an easy attraction to an everyday protagonist that just happens to share some of my mannerisms, feelings, thought processes.

Then around p
Ben Loory
of all the writers i don't like, christopher priest is probably my favorite. i first found him through his book The Inverted World, which was on david pringle's top 100 sci-fi books of all time list (and has since been re-released by nyrb books, one of their only sf titles). that was a dazzlingly smart book about a warped world where civilization was driven around on rails to stay at the center of a kind of gravity well or something, i don't know, told in a kind of detached, reticent manner that ...more
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love crazy ambiguous puzzling books, and this is definitely one of them. By the time I was 75% through, I was racing to the end to see how all the pieces fell into place. However, my thought as I read the last sentence was "huh?" rather than "ah ha!". That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it just means that I have to do a bit more thinking after closing the last page. Read some other reviews and talk to other people who have read this book. The first 3/4 of the book was 4 stars, but by the e ...more
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Affirmation by Christopher Priest is one of the greatest books I've ever read. I read this book a couple of days ago but hadn't been able to write a review because I was unable to think straight. This book has seriously messed with my mind.

I have never been a huge fan of simple and straightforward plots. Most of my favourite movies are filled with twisted, complicated plotlines and confusing narratives but it's a bit easier to create such effects on screen where you have a va

Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very engrossing book but it was also very confusing. And that is all I will say because I don't want to spoil something. ...more
David Hebblethwaite
Having lost his father, job, home, and relationship, all in quick succession, Peter Sinclair is at his lowest ebb. He takes on some work helping to renovate a friend’s country cottage; inspired by his ability to turn his vision for one of the room’s into reality, Peter resolves to write his autobiography, in the hope that, by doing so, he can make some sense of his life. After trying various approaches, he decides that the best way to achieve what he wants is to write metaphorically about his li ...more
This is one of those books I picked up in clearance for no reason other than it was cheap and I knew the author's name because he wrote The Prestige which later become a Christopher Nolan movie (RIP David Bowie). And also this is one bad-ass cover with that face-stripey thing going on.

Not knowing anything about a story is actually one of my favorite things when I read, because I like not having any real expectations. The back of the book doesn't give a lot of information, though I found it appea
Hanan Buhadana
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh. My. God.
This was the weirdest, most surreal reading experience I have ever had.
This novel was written just for me. I know it. Don't try to tell me otherwise.
And reading it, I felt I was reading myself and I had to get to the ending of the book to find out the ending of my own story, but at the same time I was so fearful, because do I really want to know the ending of my story? Will reading it change the middle of my story? or will it erase everything that came before so I can write the new
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant, elegantly written, deeply introspective inside view of a full on schizophrenic psychotic break. As others have noted, this is really a psychological thriller more than sci-fi as such.

Priest takes the notion of the unreliable narrator to new extremes, leaving one confused and a bit crazy as the protagonist's worlds bleed into each other, sometimes subtly, sometimes jarringly. He methodically tears apart and reconstructs the notion of memory as identity, i.e. "I am what I remember". I
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Captivatingly enigmatic magic realist/sci-fi puzzle. I might have given it five stars if the main character wasn't such a sad sack. I don't have much patience for brooding protagonists who dwell on their broken relationships. ...more
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, sf
This book resists all efforts to define and pin it down. I would say that essentially this is a story of a man and his troubled relationship with the people around him, in particular his lover Glacia, and most importantly his self. But there are elements and themes that one might well find in SF or fantasy.

He attempts to define himself by writing down his past. But he is dissatisfied and rewrites it, each time becoming more abstract, more inventive until he constructs a fully imagined world but
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: splendicity
Christopher Priest's The Affirmation is the seemingly straight-forward story of Peter Sinclair, a very depressed man who, in an attempt to face his inner demons and make some sense out of his life, writes his autobiography. However, Peter ends up writing "fiction"; a tale set in a world exceptionally exotic and dreamy. As the story unfolds, we learn that in this very world, another version of Peter wrote the same kind of "fiction" set in our world, for reasons I will not mention. This begs the q ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A dazzling meditation on memory and how it defines us, on schizophrenia, on reality and fiction, on the writer and his creation.

The Dream Archipelago, The Islanders and The Affirmation are together a masterpiece of literary fiction. I cannot imagine a reader who (regardless of what she/he normally reads) is not touched and whose life is not a little changed after the encounter with these wonderful writings.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book composed entirely of paradox: the poignantly hollow, the cohesively disparate, the conclusively unresolved, the familiarity of being lost and getting lost in the familiar. Anyone who has ever tried to write will recognize the impossible landscape laid out before us in this book. The greatest paradox of all is that it took a literary genius to write it.
Alfred Haplo
My response at the end of The Affirmation was to read it again. The words are exactly the same as the first time, as they will be with every reiterated read but my thoughts though, my thoughts kept evolving from imagining schizophrenia to being stunned at its conclusion and finally surrendering to deep admiration for Christopher Priest’s 1981 Sci-Fi Masterworks.

Reading this book was mentally immersive. Several times, I found my limbs locked in position, the tip of my thumb lodged between my tee
So far I have read 3 C Priest novels and I utterly love the style of the author and the books are so compelling that you do not want to stop, though The Prestige kind of faded quickly from my memory, while The Separation left me with a somewhat bitter taste ( on further reflection, i think that's a book that people with an emotional connection to Britain will enjoy most, rather than a pure nationalistic British book that I originally thought)

The Affirmation gets back to the personal stage and fo
This is part of the SF Masterworks series although it's not really sci-fi (wouldn't call it a masterwork either). While I liked the idea, the writing is average and long-winded. In the hands of a better writer it could have been a great book. ...more
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like Anna Kavan or who like invisible cities by Calvino
Shelves: favorite-books
might be the best book i ever read next to Eagle's nest by Anna Kavan. ...more
Nicholas Whyte
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing

I had a chat with Chris Priest at Eastercon, and asked him which of his books I should read that I had not read - I am familiar with both his early and his most recent work, but less clear on the middle. Without hesitation, he said that The Affirmation, published in 1981, is the book that his earlier novels lead to and his later works reflect on. A kind spouse got it for my birthday a couple of weeks ago and I devoured it this weekend in post-election ha
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-read
This book reminded me so much of Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.
“As long as I could remember myself, then I existed. When I woke up in the mornings the first thing I’d do is think back to what I’d done just before going to bed. If the continuity was still there, I still existed. And I think it works the other way … there’s a space ahead that I can anticipate. It’s like a balance. I discovered that memory was like a psychic force behind me, and therefore there must be a kind of life force spreading out in front. The human mind, consciousness, exists at the
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Valancourt Books: The Affirmation (1981) by Christopher Priest 5 20 Dec 23, 2014 10:51AM  

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Christopher Priest was born in Cheshire, England. He began writing soon after leaving school and has been a full-time freelance writer since 1968.

He has published eleven novels, four short story collections and a number of other books, including critical works, biographies, novelizations and children’s non-fiction.

He has written drama for radio (BBC Radio 4) and television (Thames TV and HTV). In

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