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Deaf Sentence

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  4,124 ratings  ·  579 reviews
Funny and moving by turns, Deaf Sentence is a witty, original and absorbing account of one man’s effort to come to terms with deafness, ageing and mortality, and the comedy and tragedy of human lives.

When the university merged his Department of English with Linguistics, Professor Desmond Bates took early retirement, but he is not enjoying it. He misses the routine of the a
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Harvill Secker (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,124 ratings  ·  579 reviews

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Jul 23, 2011 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of novels
Recommended to Jan-Maat by: My Mum
Death sentence, deaf sentence. Rutirement, retirement. That is this novel in four words. A serious comedy with knowingly laboured puns.

Since the narrator is a retired professor of linguistics who is going deaf this must be a post-campus novel. The narrator's professional knowledge allows him to understand why he can't distinguish any more between the sound of different consonants. Its not quite Beethoven, as the narrator admits but the situation still has its own poignancy.

In addition to this th
Jan 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
David Lodge is not a flashy writer, but he is an extremely good one. Superficially, his predilection for working the same, relatively narrow, ground (he is a master of the academic novel) might seem constricting. But each of his novels delivers fresh insights, with his signature blend of intelligence, wit, and genuine affection for his characters.

"Deaf Sentence" is no exception. Although it's not as hilariously funny as some of his earlier books, it is - like all of his work - compulsively read
Feb 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
What happened to David Lodge? I used to love his witty sense of humor and ability to capture the world of academia, but this novel is just awful. It's as if he took all of his notes and diaries, collected various story possibilities and topics he had found interesting, and threw them together with a few old ideas for characters and plots to make one jumbled mess of a story. I think it was supposed to be funny, but it wasn't. I think it was supposed to be profound, but it really wasn't. Don't was ...more
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
What a lovely and beautifully written novel about a hard-of-hearing linguist trying to navigate through the noises and silences of his life. These noises and silences are at turns confounding & illuminating, disturbing & comforting, and tragic & comic. Lodge takes his time telling this story and some people may not like the pace of the book, which can meander seemingly aimless at times. The beauty, nuance, and insight in this story lay in these perambulations, though. All in all, a lovely and fu ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-books, novels
I planned to have this book as a bedtime read, but it was hopeless in that capacity, I kept sitting up in bed and hooting with laughter – not a good recipe for pre-sleep soothing. Once I had taken the book downstairs and could enjoy it in daylight though, there was no stopping me. What a fantastic book! It has several strong themes.

• It discusses what it is like to be going deaf, knowing that the end result is going to be absolute deafness. It does this with humour, sadness and insight. I learnt
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, 2014, adult
‘Deafness is comic, blindness is tragic,’

The first thing I noticed about Deaf Sentence is that its first sentence draws out for 24 (Kindle) lines. That’s a heck of a lot of lines. And that’s was a heck of a lot of fun. David Lodge sure likes to play with word-order, puns and linguistic stuff and I giggle at the sight of things like that. What can I say? I’m fascinated by languages and their quirks. When I’m reading a book, I’m constantly checking the dictionary for new words or etymologies of wo
Clif Hostetler
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
This novel provides an interesting story within a setting that describes the living situation of many in today's "boomer generation"—newly retired with an older parent in failing health along with adult children and grandchildren with their own needs. In this story Desmond Bates, the main character, is in a second marriage with step children and older parents on both sides which enhances the potential for relationship issues.

Desmond is a retired linguistics professor who is plagued with hearing
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Lodge's portrayal of hearing loss is amazingly specific and illustrates both the farcical and painful sides of this disability. And the father-son relationship points to how maddening aging parents can be to children who aren't in such fine shape either. The novel takes a surprisingly poignant, moving turn as it approaches its end. The best novel David Lodge has written in the years (in my opinion). ...more
Official rating: 4.5*
This is a heartwarming, witty, incredibly humourous book, but at the same time undertoned by great sadness. It's not one of those depressing reads, but it's power lies in drawing you in to fully relate to the the MCs plight. Deafness, dementia, death, suicide, cancer, stroke, a visit to Auschwitz, plus much more. This is my first David Lodge novel, shame on me. His writing is crisp, anecdotal and reads like a breeze. the characters are well rounded and relatable. A masterpie
Iain Snelling
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. Professor Desmond Bates, a retired linguist, has to cope with his elderley father's decline, an unbalanced PhD student, and an increasing detachment from his wife whose career as a design retailer is taking off just as his finishes, all in the context of his deafness which makes social contact increasingly difficut. Written mainly as a journal, the book is beautifully observed, self-effacingly funny but with deep pathos. Several issues ar resolved by the end, but you do ...more
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Not as funny as his best academic novels (Small World, Changing Places, etc), though still containing a number of laugh out loud moments, Lodge here writes movingly about deafness, retirement, aging, and death. His prose is elegant and powers of observation often acute, though I didn't find the visit to Auschwitz/Birkenau particularly strong. ...more
Oct 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sometimes bitingly funny, sometimes sharply and unexpectedly touching, this remarkable book works on every level.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So long since I read a David Lodge book....always brilliant although I did feel guilty at laughing out loud at his disability in this one.
Is deafness worse for a woman because men tend not to listen anyway - so it is hard to tell if they are going deaf or simply not engaged enough to pay attention?
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
I periodically reminded myself to relax and simply enjoy the longwindedness and the excessively/obsessively detailed character study, because it's David Lodge and he knows exactly what he is doing. ...more
Kathryn Lance
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite its flaws, I loved this book. In fact, I almost feel as if Professor Lodge wrote it just for me. I studied stylistics in graduate school many years ago, and not only did we use one of his scholarly books as a text, the protagonist of Deaf Sentence is a retired professor of stylistics. But most importantly, the protagonist (Desmond) is nearly deaf, and all these years later so am I. My favorite parts of the book were the comically--but painfully--described vicissitudes of living with bad ...more
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
You just can't go wrong with David Lodge -- he is such an articulate and amusing writer. His main character is a retired linguistics professor whose rather curmudgeonly observations on modern society are hilarious, along with his descriptions of age-related hearing loss and coping with an even more aged father. One sub-plot involves a manipulative young grad student who wants to seduce him. Then there are his relationships with his ambitious wife, plus assorted children and step-children. There ...more
Jul 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Lodge can usually be depended upon to deliver both entertainment and a little intellectual stimulation but I was disappointed by this book. The central plot device - the protagonist is menaced by a mysterious postgrad - peters out without a satisfactory resolution, and the reflections on deafness, linguistics and death seem tacked on and are more like a collection of (not particularly interesting) essays than an integrated part of a novel.
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Feb 14, 2013 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Ian
Shelves: wit, lit-brits
Writing style compared to Alan Bennett
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a pleasure it is to read a book that surprises you, challenging your narrow understanding of what good writing is.

Because I did struggle with Deaf Sentence at first. It’s written in a journal format, which lends itself to a sort of maximalism of the contents of the narrator’s head. Every detail of what it’s like to perform various regular tasks is relayed, with the effect that I started to find the trivial was crowding out the profound.

But I got used to the style after a while, and I final
Jun 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I have conflicted feelings about Deaf Sentence. For the first hundred pages or so, I was blown away by Lodge's treatment of his subject matter, which is so authentic that it could only be autobiographical. Lodge's narrator, Desmond, is a retired academic in is mid-sixties who is slowly losing his hearing; his disease is incurable and will ultimately leave him completely without hearing. Desmond, a linguist, discusses the nature of his disease with breathtaking honesty and insight, and recounts t ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: english-lit, fiction
David Lodge’s latest novel feels like two separate stories forced to cohabitate. Like most of Lodge’s fictitious marriages, the combination is kind of awkward. The first story involves retired linguistics professor Desmond Bates struggling with his premature hearing loss and with his stubborn, ill father. The second, which is much more wacky and sex-charged and in certain ways more typical of Lodge, finds Desmond becoming involved (though not quite involved) with an unstable female graduate stud ...more
Lance Greenfield
The story seems to have been built around personal anecdotes of the author combined with the antics of characters that he has conjured up in his imagination. There is nothing wrong with that, and I would say that this approach is fairly common amongst good story-tellers.

The book is very amusing. It relates some of the problems that the hard of hearing can encounter, and the consequential misunderstandings that can ensue, and the deliberate escapes that somebody who is known to be deaf can engine
Sara Kaddouri
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
well , i finished this book exactly at 4h30 AM and it is the kind of book that catches you to finish it, i've ever read a book more real than this one, for me it wasn't funny it was very real maybe talking about real life is that funny cauz the situations that we are confronting daily, most of them, are funny for the others, ohh yes life is funny or to be specific it is ridiculous.
i felt the pain of Desmond,he was in my mind ,i lived his live while reading the book, deafness isn't comic, what he
Sandra Lensen
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book very much. I chose it because of the title and synopsis referring to someone going deaf and I thought the book was going to be mainly about that. While it is of course a recurring topic, I would not describe this book as mainly about going deaf. Instead I found it a moving book about getting older, how that affect your life and the typical situations people face.

It was (again, I might say... I keep on running into this...) marketed as a very funny book, but I didn't find it al
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A very different David Lodge - unlike quite a few of his earlier books I have read, this one gradually shifts from humorous and comical to solemn. While you do get quite a few good laughs, there are some scenes that leave you profoundly moved (coping with disability, taking care of an elderly parent).
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, 2019-read
Despite mordant observations and comic turns of phrase, this was far more lugubrious than funny. It goes with the territory; deafness was never going to be all that comedic, but was it necessary to throw in a demented dad and Auschwitz?
I had to take a considerable break in the middle of this one because the characters were making bad choices and I was getting overly anxious about it, but I got over it and am glad I did, because this book is a delight. This was an honest, deeply felt, sometimes witty, sometimes excruciating reflection on aging and its unavoidable effects on one's relationship with oneself and others. The protagonist, Desmond, is a recently retired Linguistics professor reluctantly helping a troubled young woman ...more
Stephen Gallup
Nov 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book, written with warmth and wisdom, but I have to say up front it's not quite what I had expected. My previous exposure to David Lodge was via The British Museum Is Falling Down (commented on here), which is literary in an academic sort of way that appealed to me, as it brought back memories of my own misspent grad-school days, but is also and especially funny. This, I assumed, would be more of the same, and the lengthy first sentence, playfully overladen with adjuncts and concl ...more
At first sight, Desmond Bates, the 60-something hero of Deaf Sentence is a retired linguistics professor at a Midlands university, and his later life has turned both stagnant and problematic. His wife Winifred (Fred), nipped, tucked and surgically reinvented, is now the proud co-owner of a shop called Décor; quite successful, which gets Desmond invites to trendy galleries and perhaps undue attention, his 89-year-old father, still haphazardly quartered in southeast London, and in declining health ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Retired linguistics professor Desmond Bates is losing his hearing. That causes some awkward situations. For example, at an art show opening, he pretends to hear what an attractive young woman is saying, but he really doesn’t hear more than a few words of it. Nor does he realize he has agreed to help her with her PhD. thesis. Soon he is embroiled in a disturbing relationship with this woman, who is mentally disturbed. At the same time, his father is sinking into dementia and resisting the need fo ...more
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THE LISTS: Novel #2 10 10 Jan 20, 2013 10:30AM  

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Professor David Lodge is a graduate and Honorary Fellow of University College London. He is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, where he taught from 1960 until 1987, when he retired to write full-time.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, was Chairman of the Judges for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989, and is the author of numerous works of li

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