In this novel, an unnamed academic in an unnamed contemporary university, relates his obsession with his tutor, Gordon. He pores overthe increasingly bizarre mis-readings in Gordon’s annotations in a strange selection of stolen library books. Is Gordon unraveling a mystery? Or is his own mind unraveling? Meanwhile, an epidemic of catatonia breaks out; academics are found slumped and unconscious at their desks. Is reading itself the cause of this sickness? Is the only escape to return to illiteracy?
Witty, moving, and beautifully written, The Sick List plays with the dividing line between deploring and exemplifying what it most despises. Inspired by the work of the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard, it considers how the minds of educated people are moulded by both the breadth of literary culture and the narrowness of academic institutions.
‘The Sick List is about menace, about a menace (Gordon), and is written in the voice of a menace. It reads like one of the pen-portraits of surreal ultra-violence in Bernhard’s Gargoyles, where education turns out to be the most deceitful panacea of all.’