Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize
From the author of Remainder and C (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize), and a winner of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize, comes Satin Island, an unnerving novel that promises to give us the first and last word on the world—modern, postmodern, whatever world you think you are living in.
U., a “corporate anthropologist,” is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our era. Yet at every turn, he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense. As he begins to wonder if the Great Report might remain a shapeless, oozing plasma, his senses are startled awake by a dream of an apocalyptic cityscape.
In Satin Island, Tom McCarthy captures—as only he can—the way we experience our world, our efforts to find meaning (or just to stay awake) and discern the narratives we think of as our lives.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Satin Island is a pretty intense read. It's set in a hypermodern version of our own world, where we follow the story of U.—an anthropologist hired by a consultancy to help them better understand consumers. Whether it’s his lover or his boss, U. connects with other people only via screens. Tom McCarthy’s eerie novel offers an unsettling view of a disconnected society. His astute observations and avant-garde writing style totally justify his spot on the 2015 Man Booker Prize shortlist.
McCarthy's newest novel is as delightfully unclassifiable as his last effort, C. The narrator is U., a fanciful and probing anthropologist who works for a corporation he refers to simply as "the Company." Recruited as an ethnographer on the reputation he earned through his published study of nightclub culture, U. has been commissioned by his boss, Peyman, to write what he calls "the Great Report"; but U. can't seem to get started or be sure if he's necessarily even working on the Great Report at any given moment. Though he associates with people who have consequential experiences (his friend Petr dies of cancer) his thoughts are more often occupied by abstract concepts, images, patterns, and theories. U. is intent on making connections and creating meaning from the information he takes in, to the point where he begins to compile dossiers on various topics including parachute accidents and oil spills. His ultimate goal is to combine all of these together into a "Present-Tense Anthropology." The book itself subtly takes the form of his Great Report, with U. often addressing the reader, and is marked by fascinating philosophical tangents that justify the apparent lack of a story. This novel of ideas is begging to be read and reread for meaning with pens, diagrams, and maybe even a dossier or two thrown in for good measure.
Reading this book feels just like taking a Benadryl: the energy and fluid just drains right out of you. Thankfully this book was short enough or I would never have made it through. No doubt this is a satire of the post-modern intellectual but to hand the story over to such a narrator makes no artistic sense whatsoever. Enervating.