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Nietzsche and the Burbs

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This highly anticipated followup to the acclaimed Wittgenstein Jr. finds a young Nietzsche experiencing the excitements and the humiliations of finals season in a modern high school.

When a new student transfers in from private school, his public school peers nickname him Nietzsche thanks to his mysterious charisma. Nietzsche, like his philosopher namesake, is brilliant but doomed to madness, and his new classmates feel compelled to interpret the deeper meaning behind his arrival. For one, they realize that he should be the front man of their metal band. This darkly humorous and entirely relatable novel follows its shining (and too creative for their own good) cast through the last few weeks of school, leading up to an important gig and even more important exams.

320 pages, Paperback

First published December 3, 2019

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About the author

Lars Iyer

14 books78 followers
Lars Iyer is the author of the novel Wittgenstein Jr (2014). He has also written a trilogy of novels – Spurious, Dogma and Exodus. Iyer has also written two scholarly books on the work of Maurice Blanchot. He teaches philosophy at Newcastle University in the UK.

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5 stars
38 (22%)
4 stars
47 (27%)
3 stars
40 (23%)
2 stars
33 (19%)
1 star
13 (7%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
478 reviews13 followers
August 18, 2019
Such a fun book. The author always writes his novels with hyper wordplay and characters obsessed with philosophy. This time out, he’s set the book in the English suburbs and follows a small group of students in their last weeks of school before university. I could have spent another five hundred pages with these funny, hyper articulate characters and their embrace, and sometimes misunderstanding, of the world’s bleaker philosophical writings.
Profile Image for Paul Dembina.
394 reviews82 followers
March 31, 2020
Lars Iyer is one of my favourite authors and this is yet another funny, entertaining and above all intelligent novel. Who'd have thought that nihilism in the M4 corridor could be so much fun?
Profile Image for The Lazy Reader.
161 reviews45 followers
March 22, 2020
"But won’t the suburbs defeat philosophy? Don’t the suburbs mean the impossibility of philosophy? Won’t the suburbs mean the destruction of all philosophical inquiry, including Nietzsche’s? Won’t we have to reconcile ourselves to suburban lives? To depression and suicide attempts in the suburbs?"

The violently nihilist version of Perks of Being A Wallflower. Strange, lyrical and fast paced. Exceedingly funny. Consider this charming excerpt on parents:

"They won’t leave us alone. They round us up for photoshoots. They ask us to smile in their photoshoots. We’re being controlled and commandeered. We’re being stage-managed into their Events. Into the Great Fakery. They’re taking photos of us at birthday parties. On family days out. They’re writing paragraphs about us in Christmas cards, to be sent to their friends. We’re Teenagers, straight from central casting."


"Do you hear these young people, Cecil? Sylvere says. These young people are nihilists.
Cecil cups a hand to his ear.
NIHILISTS!, Sylvere shouts, over the party noise.
Oh—I thought you said they were Antichrists, Cecil says. How disappointing."

But its poignant. And speaks to the anguish of our generation, about the loss of hope, religion and meaning, and the way its manifesting in the youngest and most vulnerable.

"We’re spoiled, we agree. We’re from a spoiled generation.
We’ve been overstimulated. Overprogrammed. Everything has been done for us. We’ve been grade-inflated. Infotained. Our teachers have been like magicians at children’s birthday parties.
We’re the most useless generation that has ever lived. The most pampered. The most unchallenged. And the most unhappy, which is the funny thing"
Profile Image for Kirsten.
243 reviews26 followers
March 11, 2020
Hilarious, touching, wonderfully wordy. A group of sixth-formers search for meaning in the suburb of Wokingham, philosophize about the meaning/meaninglessness of life in the suburbs. Sort of series of riffs on various themes.
Profile Image for dirt.
348 reviews18 followers
January 25, 2020
Nietzsche and the Burbs is a book that should be savored, but you can't help but devour it like a tasty dish of pad thai. You keep reading even when you are way past full because the words and ideas are so delicious. The story revolves around a group of self-described misfits who are dear friends, love each other immensely, and enjoy riding their bikes around town.

This group of friends is finding their way through life and the last weeks of school, balancing on the edge of transition, vacillating between ennui and action. The characters spend a good deal of time complaining that there is nothing to do in the suburbs. They form a band that both embraces and counteracts nihilism.

You can't help but laugh at their jaded view of life. When Paula asks if they would want to read other people's minds, Chanda replies that he doesn't even want to read his own thoughts. Though there is plenty of despair, one of the themes that runs through the book is that life has whatever meaning you attribute to it. After an extended philosophical rants about the meaning of life and deriving a purpose through death, love-interest Noelle remarks:

"Questioning means detaching yourself from everything. It's like asking questions about swimming when you're on the side of the pool, watching everyone in the water. All the answers you want are just there, if you'd just let yourself swim."

The group thinks they have found a leader and purpose in the form of the new kid, whom they have given the moniker Nietzsche (many of the satellite characters have delightful nicknames like Bombproof, Dingus, or Old Mole). The group looks to the suburban Nietzsche for answers. They also try to derive significance of life from drugs, alcohol, music, and what any group of teenagers naturally gravitates towards: Dostoyevsky's 'The Idiot'. What they find in the end is better than what they could have imagined.
Profile Image for Heather Pace.
24 reviews
March 24, 2022
Reading this book was reliving so many teenage existential crises on the unwieldy emotional spectrum from Kurt Cobain to ABBA... in a good way. It was funny, smart, relatable, yet awkward, inducing eye-rolls and cringes. I did not want it to end, and I will read this again.
Profile Image for Connie.
6 reviews
January 18, 2020
As I read this book, I found myself alternately cringing, laughing, nodding knowingly, and re-reading, especially the passages having to do with the characters' efforts to understand nihilism. As a "senior" (derided for their smugness and self-congratulatory attitudes at one point in the book), I feel I gained valuable insight into the minds of young people today who are facing what appears to be a bleak future. It reminded me that the world looked pretty bleak when I was at that age, myself, and that hope lies in the journey of figuring out oneself and coming to terms with life's realities. I thought the prose was sometimes too repetitive, but it reminded me of the rambling, circular conversations that people get to indulge in when they're young, especially with the right friends. I hope that people my age will discover this book and allow themselves to be transported back to a time in their lives when everything seemed daunting, uncertain, and yet, possible.
Profile Image for Bob Garlitz.
6 reviews
March 12, 2020
Incomparable riotous delight. Bernhard, Beckett, Blanchot, Bataille, Woolf, Golding, Wilde, Jung, Joyce, heck, all of ‘em, are twirling and cavorting under their headstones at the way Iyer pulls off this homageous reincarnation of N’s vision. Iyer’s career trajectory proofed, perfected, epitomized, proactively personalized. A genital-tickling wonder. A triumph of sensibility, wisdom and compassion. Venus in slashed jeans.
Profile Image for Symon Vegro.
163 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2020
I absolutely ADORED this book. From the first sentence to the last, it was brilliant. I’ve never read anything quite like it. And that’s all I want to say apart from the fact that I’ve now got a copy of ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ by the side of my bed ...

Man muss noch Chaos in sich haben, um einen tanzenden Stern gebären zu können. (You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.)

Profile Image for Richard B.
448 reviews
January 5, 2020
This was an incredibly fun read. It captured the feeling of being in the last year of 6th form in the UK well (even though it is set today, it seems as though not too much has changed since I was at that point in time). The author is clearly as scholar of philosophy, as can seen by his non-fiction works, and this shines through in the discussions the friends have. The characters are fully formed and thoroughly engaging, and I felt like could listen to their rambling conversations on the meaning of life for a lot longer. The plot is simple but draws you in, and Iyer does a great job invoking a sense of place as well.

Also, by the end of the book I did wish it came with CD of the music Nietzsche and the Burbs played.
Profile Image for Mark Taylor.
59 reviews1 follower
September 20, 2021
A whirlwind of voice, nihilism and wit. There’s an argument to be made that this isn’t much of a stretch from Iyer’s last book, Wittgenstein Jr—a group of school kids obsessed with a literary reincarnation of a famous philosopher—but it was still so much fun, I didn’t really mind. It was just such a joy to carry around with me and jump in and out of. A best mate in my bag.

I think Hari Kunzru’s review summed it up best: ‘It’s made me feel better about the Apocalypse than I have in ages.’
Profile Image for DaN McKee.
Author 1 book1 follower
December 31, 2021
I don’t know what this says about my teenage years, but I have never read a book which so accurately reflected the sort of conversation and thoughts I was having myself with friends and fellow band-mates during our sixth form years. And I have literally read a book by one of those real life friends about those real life days 😂
Profile Image for Ika Pradyasti.
7 reviews
August 27, 2021
I found the absence of quotation marks in the dialogues kind of style was very disturbing. Highlighted a lot of sentences from this book because I thought they were pretty, though.
426 reviews13 followers
May 6, 2020
I just finished the book Nietzsche and the ‘Burbs by Lars Iyer. Overall I enjoyed it, however, sometimes the main characters were far too edgy for me. They often lament life rather than embrace it, rejecting the concept of amor fati that the real Nietzsche held so close to heart. The book is about a suburbian band of British misfits who try and make music to escape their boring lives as well as adventuring to entertain themselves. Most of the plot points, relationships, parties, whatever, are pretty normal for the YA genre, however I find they are handled with far more poetic prose. If you enjoy long flowing sentences and sardonic humor as I do, then you probably will like this book. If you aren't a fan of some what emo main characters, I would avoid. Overall, it's a well written and very original look at the coming of age genre, with some lovely turns and twists. -Sophia G. '21
Profile Image for Harini Padmanabhan.
15 reviews9 followers
April 28, 2020
The premise of the book was quite interesting - a bunch of adolescents trying to weave through life and seeking a philosophical basis to it...a greater meaning. The new kid, nicknamed Nietzsche is the centrepiece of their exploration here as he, in their eyes, embodied nihilism and its teachings. Them trying to explore these notions even with their band was amusing. I felt like their observations and conversations throughout the book had a lot of overlap, which made it slow at various points. But definitely a refreshing read. Take a journey down these adolescents’ minds and experience the cynicism that is perhaps indispensable to life today!
2 reviews
March 12, 2020
Incomparable riotous delight. Bernhard, Beckett, Blanchot, Bataille, Woolf, Golding, Wilde, Jung, Joyce, heck, all of ‘em, are twirling and cavorting under their headstones at the way Iyer pulls off this homageous reincarnation of N’s vision. Iyer’s career trajectory proofed, perfected, epitomized, proactively personalized. A genital-tickling wonder. A triumph of sensibility, wisdom and compassion. Venus in sliced jeans.
57 reviews
May 30, 2022
Delightfully edgy (for the most part) and sadly probably an accurate description of the impact of the death of God and the advent of nihilism via the lens of the kids these days. It wasn’t really prescriptive but I enjoyed that it ended with a slightly positive outlook.

Library book. Maleta said she’d found a book that’s “me”: Nietzsche and metal.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rebekah Franklin.
155 reviews2 followers
March 5, 2020
After a shaky start, I ended up really liking this book! (and by start I mean setting aside and reading another book by the same author). His sentance style is staccato at times. It 's a great book for teenage angst.
74 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2023
Could not hold my attention. Repetitive, with an oddly distant narrative voice. The philosophy was the best part, but not much of it. The nihilism of the adolescent characters was simply boring. Did not finish. Good title, though.
224 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2020
This book was funny but felt long to me. I did enjoy the friend group's discussions and dynamics but it wasn't a quick read for me. Overall, I enjoyed it.
121 reviews
March 17, 2020
I’m not a huge fan of choppy angst-filled narrative, but I appreciate the story told.
Profile Image for Shelley.
274 reviews
May 4, 2020
This was not my kind of book. I didn't like the choppy writing style and lack of character development. I also found the narrative to be depressing and repetitive.
Profile Image for Ian.
676 reviews10 followers
May 28, 2020
This book is pretentious and repetitive and probably not for everyone, but it did make me laugh out loud consistently during a pandemic and for that I am eternally grateful.
3 reviews
April 10, 2021
The staccato style of writing is not for me. Highly disengaging
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews

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