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C

Cover of C

C

C has been shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.The acclaimed author of Remainder, which Zadie Smith hailed as "one of the great English novels of the past ten years,"gives us his most...
C has been shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.The acclaimed author of Remainder, which Zadie Smith hailed as "one of the great English novels of the past ten years,"gives us his most...
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Description-
  • C has been shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

    The acclaimed author of Remainder, which Zadie Smith hailed as "one of the great English novels of the past ten years,"gives us his most spectacularly inventive novel yet.

    Opening in England at the turn of the twentieth century, C is the story of a boy named Serge Carrefax, whose father spends his time experimenting with wireless communication while running a school for deaf children. Serge grows up amid the noise and silence with his brilliant but troubled older sister, Sophie: an intense sibling relationship that stays with him as he heads off into an equally troubled larger world.

    After a fling with a nurse at a Bohemian spa, Serge serves in World War I as a radio operator for reconnaissance planes. When his plane is shot down, Serge is taken to a German prison camp, from which he escapes. Back in London, he's recruited for a mission to Cairo on behalf of the shadowy Empire Wireless Chain. All of which eventually carries Serge to a fitful--and perhaps fateful--climax at the bottom of an Egyptian tomb . . .

    Only a writer like Tom McCarthy could pull off a story with this effortless historical breadth, psychological insight, and postmodern originality.

    From the Hardcover edition.

 
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    5i

    The static's like the sound of thinking. Not of any single person thinking, nor even a group thinking, collectively. It's bigger than that, wider--and more direct. It's like the sound of thought itself, its hum and rush. Each night, when Serge drops in on it, it recoils with a wail, then rolls back in crackling waves that carry him away, all rudderless, until his finger, nudging at the dial, can get some traction on it all, some sort of leeway. The first stretches are angry, plaintive, sad--and always mute. It's not until, hunched over the potentiometer among fraying cords and soldered wires, his controlled breathing an extension of the frequency of air he's riding on, he gets the first quiet clicks that words start forming: first he jots down the signals as straight graphite lines, long ones and short ones, then, below these, he begins to transcribe curling letters, dim and grainy in the arc light of his desktop . . .

    He's got two masts set up. There's a twenty-two-foot pine one topped with fifteen more feet of bamboo, all bolted to an oak-stump base halfburied in the Mosaic Garden. Tent pegs circle the stump round; steel guy wires, double-insulated, climb from these to tether the mast down. On the chimney of the main house, a pole three feet long reaches the same height as the bamboo. Between the masts are strung four eighteen-gage manganese copper wires threaded through oak-lath crosses. In Serge's bedroom, there's a boxed tuning coil containing twenty feet of silkcovered platinoid, shellacked and scraped. Two dials are mounted on the box's lid: a large, clock-handed one dead in the centre and, to its right, a smaller disc made from ash-wood recessed at the back and dotted at the front by twenty little screws with turned-down heads set in a circle to form switch-studs. The detector's brass with an adjusting knob of ebonite; the condenser's Murdock; the crystal, Chilean gelina quartz, a Mighty Atom mail-ordered from Gamage of Holborn. For the telephone, he tried a normal household one but found it wasn't any use unless he replaced the diaphragms, and moved on to a watch-receiverpattern headset wound to a resistance of eight and a half thousand ohms. The transmitter itself is made of standard brass, a four-inch tapper arm keeping Serge's finger a safe distance from the spark gap. The spark gap flashes blue each time he taps; it makes a spitting noise, so loud he's had to build a silence box around the desk to isolate his little RX station from the sleeping household--or, as it becomes more obvious to him with every session, to maintain the little household's fantasy of isolation from the vast sea of transmission roaring all around it.

    Tonight, as on most nights, he starts out local, sweeping from two hundred and fifty to four hundred metres. It's the usual traffic: CQ signals from experimental wireless stations in Masedown and Eliry, tapping out their call signs and then slipping into Q-code once another bug's responded. They exchange signal quality reports, compare equipment, enquire about variations in the weather and degrees of atmospheric interference. The sequence QTC, which Serge, like any other Wireless World subscriber, knows means "Have you anything to transmit?", is usually met with a short, negative burst before both questioner and responder move on to fish for other signals. Serge used to answer all CQs, noting each station's details in his call-book; lately, though, he's become more selective in the signals he'll acknowledge, preferring to let the small-fry click away as background chatter, only picking up the pencil to transcribe the dots and dashes when their basic QRNs and QRAs unfold into longer sequences. This is happening...

About the Author-
  • Tom McCarthy was born in 1969 and lives in London. He is known in the art world for the reports, manifestos, and media interventions he has made as General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network. His previous books are Remainder and Tintin and the Secret of Literature.

Reviews-
  • Jonathan Dee, Harper's Magazine

    "Remarkable not for its austerity but for its unlikely, panoramic ambition . . . C is a bird so rare as to seem oxymoronic: an avant-garde epic, the first I can think of since Ulysses."

  • The Times (London) "Unquestionably brilliant . . . This is a genuinely exciting and spookily beautiful book, a new kind of joy."
  • Sunday Times "A supercharged, fizzingly written Bildungsroman . . . the remix the novel has been crying out for."
  • Sunday Telegraph "Beautiful . . . a thrilling tale. This is one of the most brilliant books to have hit the shelves this year, and McCarthy deserves high praise for an electric piece of writing which should be read and enjoyed as much as dissected and discussed."
  • Daily Telegraph "A dizzying, mesmeric and beautifully written work . . . Tom McCarthy has written a novel for our times: refreshingly different, intellectually acute and strikingly enjoyable . . . it seems highly unlikely that anyone will publish a better novel this year."
  • Publishers Weekly (Starred, boxed review) "Each chapter of McCarthy's tour de force is a cryptic, ornate puzzle box, rich with correspondences and emphatically detailed digressions. Ambitious readers will be eager to revisit this endlessly interpretive world, while more casual readers will marvel at the high-flying picaresque perched at the crossroads of science and the stuff dreams are made of."
  • Booklist "A literary roller-coaster ride that virtually hums and crackles . . . A marvelously inventive novel, swept along by the sheer energy of its prose."
  • Luc Sante

    "C is for carbon and cocaine, Cairo and CQ, and many other things besides. Under the elegant curve of the letter lies a fantastically detailed landscape of tiny pen-strokes that, if seen from high enough above, coalesce into a face, laughing uproariously. Tom McCarthy's latest is terrifically stylish, acrobatic, and insidious."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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