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Murmur

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  210 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Taking its cue from the arrest and legally enforced chemical castration of the mathematician Alan Turing, Murmur is the account of a man who responds to intolerable physical and mental stress with love, honour and a rigorous, unsentimental curiosity about the ways in which we perceive ourselves and the world. Formally audacious, daring in its intellectual inquiry and unwav ...more
Paperback, 177 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by CB Editions
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3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  210 ratings  ·  63 reviews


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Gumble's Yard
Now winner if the Wellcome Prize following being the joint winner of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize.

Also shortlisted for the 2018 Goldsmith prize and on the longlist for the 2019 Folio Prize and shortlisted for the 2019 James Tait Black prize.

These are, or were, the contributing circumstances. I view them unsentimentally. It is interesting that I do not consider their rehearsal to be a serious kind of thought. Underneath them runs echoes and rills of different order, however, the in
...more
Hugh
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Joint Winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019
Shortlisted for the 2018 Goldsmiths Prize

I already had a copy of this book before the Goldsmiths shortlist was announced last week, so it was an obvious choice to move up the to-read list. Since its subject is a lightly fictionalised version of Alan Turing (Alec Prior in the book), it promised to be very interesting. It is boldly experimental, but sadly for me it proved very difficult to follow, so I don't rate its chances of finding a read
...more
Paul Fulcher
Winner of the Wellcome Prize, Joint winner of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize, longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, and shortlisted for the 2018 Goldsmiths Prize, as I had hoped when I read it in back in February 2018

The RoC judges' citation:
Along with Galley Beggar Press, Charles Boyle’s CB Editions is now the only press to have appeared on all three Republic of Consciousness longlists. Murmur is a marvel. Will Eaves has conceived an ava
...more
Neil
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
UPDATE. Now re-read. In-between my two readings of this book, I read the biography of Alan Turing (Goodreads will not let me add a link to the book), "Alan Turing: The Enigma". On first reading, I gave Murmur 5 stars and noted that I thought it would need at least one more reading, probably more. I can now confirm that it benefits from a second reading and becomes even better than a mere 5 stars. Having only just finished reading the biography, I noticed a lot of details of Turing's life that ar ...more
Maddie C.
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Murmur is a feat of a novel, so huge in scope and meaning, there was something to unveil in every chapter, a need to ponder every word and understand why it was there; because of it, it’s likely one of those books that “deserves” the “difficult read” stamp but, that, in my humble opinion, those are usually the books that bare fruit in the end. And oh, Murmur is an apple tree with ripe apples ready for plucking.

In it we follow Alec Pryor, a cryptanalyst working for british intelligence during the
...more
Sunita
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: goldsmiths-2018
Oh my goodness this is a true tour-de-force. I'm not going to be able to write a proper review, because I'm not sure I really understood everything that was going on, but it is an astonishing work.

Eaves has taken part of Alan Turing's story and explored both the effects of the terrible injustice he was done as well as the relationship between consciousness, intention, and cognition that Turing was working on. In particular he looks at the ways in which human consciousness and cognition can be r
...more
Katia N
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Will Eaves has certainly taken a lot of risks with this short condensed novel. In my view, it has paid off.

It is a complex book to think about, even more so - to write about in a linear fashion. It has got a very complex structure. It could be viewed as a matrix: in terms of the content, it is a tribute to the life and work of Alan Turing; at the same time it is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of consciousness. In terms of the form, it is a whole bunch of stuff, but mainly it is a blank
...more
Doug
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Update 3/29/2018: So the fact this tied for the RoC prize (with Lucia, which I have a copy of, but haven't read yet) makes me feel vindicated that I stopped reading the longlist after last year. Although I cheer the prize's intent to call attention to UK small presses, I found most of the entries like this one - tedious and practically unreadable - there IS a reason larger presses were uninterested. :-(

2.5, rounded down.

Like most people, what little I know of Alan Turing came from the film 'The
...more
Rebecca
“This is the death of one viewpoint, and its rebirth, like land rising above the waves, or sea foam running off a crowded deck: the odd totality of persons each of whom says ‘me’.” When I first tried reading Murmur, I enjoyed the first-person “Part One: Journal,” which was originally a stand-alone story (shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2017) but got stuck on “Part Two: Letters and Dreams” and ended up just giving the rest of the book a brief skim. I’m glad that the book’s shor ...more
Jackie Law
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Murmur, by Will Eaves, is a stunningly original imagining of how the mathematician Alan Turing may have responded to the punishment imposed on him by the state – chemical castration – following his conviction for gross indecency. It is a mingling of self-awareness and dreams, both fascinating and heart-breaking. It is a study of what it means to be conscious within a world where understanding of another’s inner being remains out of reach.

Alan Turing was more than just a member of the team that c
...more
Jonathan Pool
Murmur is undoubtedly one of the most difficult books I have ever read. That’s difficult as in the recognition that significant swathes if the text were incomprehensible to me.
I still give this book four stars and applaud the writer’s ambition, the creativity of the storytelling, the innate quality of the prose.

My thoughts fall into three categories:
(1) Murmur will please readers whose interest in Alan Turing’s (remarkable) life has already been whetted. Murmur is a deeply intelligent, deeply re
...more
Jennifer
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written and intelligent work. This is a brave reimagining of the inner consciousness of Alan Turing following his conviction for gross indecency in 1952 and his choice of sentencing in lieu of prison to a course of weekly hormonal injections intended to reduce his libido, or chemical castration, over the course of a year. In 1954, Turing was found dead of cyanide poisoning by his housekeeper with a half-eaten apple by his side. It was speculated that the apple was laced with cyanid ...more
Ingrid Wassenaar
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Murmur weaves a dense, painful, difficult story around Alan Turing's tragic life. Particularly disorienting are Will Eaves's descriptions of altered brain states while the central character, Alec, is undergoing hormone treatment – chemical castration – to 'treat' his homosexuality. These hallucinatory episodes read like Lautréamont, and inspire nausea and pity in equal amounts.

One startling thought that occurred to me was that, although my lived experience is very far from that of an isolated g
...more
Joseph Schreiber
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been an admirer of Will Eave's work for a number of years. This novel which takes a deeply internal look into the mind of character whose life and fate shadows that of Alan Turning is a bold and masterful achievement.
A longer review and personal reflection can be found here: https://roughghosts.com/2018/10/24/di...
Eddie Clarke
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A tricky one. It’s a fictional take on Alan Turing’s tragic life - and whilst specific and detailed doesn’t at all attempt to gently educate the reader in the manner of most fictionalised biography. The novel assumes total familiarity with Turing’s life. You will need to swot up before opening this book or prepare to be confused and frustrated.

The novel is experimental and pushes boundaries. One of its modernist forebears is Virginia Woolf - if Woolf’s modernist project was predicated on ‘stream
...more
Paul
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
Alec Pryor finds a man, Cyril, that he picks up at a fairground and manages to persuade him to come home for the night. He offers payment and Cyril refuses to accept, but Pryor realises that £3 has been taken. He contacts him and Cyril returns to the home, where they have a row. A few days later he comes home to find that £10 has been taken and contacts him again, Cyril thinks it might be a friend of his. Pryor goes to the police with the story and they fingerprint the house and it turns out to ...more
Ian Mond
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Murmur is an expression of one man’s fear that he is losing himself, that his sense of self, his identity is slipping away.

The man in question is Alec Pryor, and just like his real-world analogue Alan Turning, Pryor is convicted for being gay, forced by the authorities to undergo hormone treatment, a form of chemical castration. As his bodies changes, the question that occupies Alec’s mind is whether he will retain his memories and experiences, whether the person he recognises now as Alec Pryor
...more
Karmen
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Absolutely brilliant. Beautifully written, delicate sentences, heart-wrenching story.

A pure pleasure to read.
rosamund
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: trauma, lgbt, biography
This book is challenging, but it rewards the reader's attention and patience tenfold. It tells the story of Alec Pryor, who is based on Alan Turing. At the opening of the book, Alec is undergoing chemical castration, because he is accused of having sex with men. Alec has worked at Bletchley Park, his work has been invaluable to the war effort, but as a man who holds state secrets, he is viewed with suspicion by the police and officials. Will Eaves is concerned with Jungian psychotherapy; with dr ...more
Andrew Smith
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Often breathtakingly phrased, sometimes exhilaratingly unique, occasionally excruciatingly opaque ... an astonishing evocation of Alan Turing’s (albeit not the character’s name, but one, Alec Pryor) internal turmoil after his sentence for gross indecency and his punishment of chemical castration. Although touted as a “profound meditation on ... the implications of AI,” it seems more a remarkable riff on what it’s like to be human, and under immense physical and mental stress, the result of the p ...more
Oni
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Are you familiar with those photographs of cities at night taken from high above, depicting a bright network extending intricately in all directions? That’s how I think of Murmur – a brightly-lit web, a tissue of luminous threads carrying separately and together an abundance of information and emotion. Will Eaves puts Alan Turing – one of the most influential minds of the last century – at the novel’s core and he traces a topology of the mathematician’s ideas and state of mind following the stat ...more
Robert
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Few books stump me but I have to admit that Murmur did.

The book is about mathematician Alan Turing, it starts off with his arrest (for homosexual acts) and then his chemical castration. In the meantime he is seeing a therapist. Due to the chemicals he is taking, Turing is suffering from surreal dreams.

Obviously the book is not as simple as that. The narrative is a meta one so there are allusions to Ovid, Disney, Julian Huxley and Schrodinger. At least those are the ones I managed to spot.In-betw
...more
Ioan Marc Jones
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very original, although I got a little bored towards the end. Very stylish writing, though. All together pretty good - what more do you want me to say?
Jill S
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
2.5

I found this book a little bit beautiful and sad, but mostly pompous and confusing. It's a shame when a writer gets in their own way and detracts from a touching story. The beginning is very compelling, and I also enjoyed the letters between Alec and June. However, I felt like I spent most of this book trying to untangle metaphors and allegories and it was exhausting and ultimately not worth it. Here's a passage, for example, that I re-read a few times and asked myself: WTF is the point of th
...more
Siobhan
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Murmur is a novel exploring the mind and human consciousness in the face of something terrible using literary style and scientific logic. The central figure Alec Pryor is based on Alan Turing, and the book charts his mental and physical reaction to arrest and state enforced chemical castration, particularly around his dreams which make up the centre of the book. Elements of journal are mixed with these dreams to create a horrific view of what such experiences may have been like, using a distinct ...more
Georgie Minter-Brown
*gifted to me from Canongate*

I’m so gutted I didn’t enjoy this more, but I just couldn’t get into it. I’m completely fascinated by Alan Turing‘s life, especially as my grandma worked at Bletchley Park, but even for someone who knows a bit about his life, I really struggled and nearly gave up with it!

The book is split into sections of his journal, dreams and letters. I felt like I now have to go and look this up properly online somewhere as it’s not clear how much of this book is fiction. The f
...more
Beth Withers
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based upon the last month's of Alan Turing's life, this fictional novel is not an easy read. I found that I got lost trying to discern between dreams and reality. I did some research into Turing's life, which I knew little about, and that helped a bit to understand Alec. This is a book that could be read more than once to increase understanding. I am sure there are things I missed the first time through. It is a serious book, well-written, but one that requires careful processing.
Barry
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Whereas McEwan picked up on the relative computability of two classes of decision problems, P and NP, as a naive and poorly-understood skeleton for his fiction, Eaves uses the symbol x, having barely a passing understanding of number algebra, to launch into a bloated, pastoral, dream-like imagining of the effect of hormone disruption of Turing's inner world. It impressed Wellcome. It bored and frustrated the hell out of me.

There was some passable riffing on Turing's biography. But then there wer
...more
Rps
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt-queer
“Pain is memory without witness or corroboration. It isn’t real to anyone else, and that is what allows torturers, including governments, to be torturers. They can pretend it isn’t happening because it isn’t happening to them.”
Justine Hyde
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
For a slim novel, this took up a lot of my brain and took me a whole month to finish. The writing was exquisite, the structure complex and the many referential nods to subjects beyond my understanding made it a challenging read. Much of the time I had little idea what was happening and I would love someone smarter than me to sit me down for an explainer.
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“[His notes] may well proceed from a psychoanalytic theory. But how is the theory being tested or controlled? How can it be said to be scientific?” 0 likes
“Pain is memory with witness or corroboration. It isn't real to anyone else, and that is what allows torturers, including governments, to be torturers. They can pretend it isn't happening because it isn't happening to them.” 0 likes
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