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Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold Paperback – March 30, 1979
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Top Customer Reviews
I read this book about twice a year. It is very short and can be read in a day. And, heavens!, how hilarious it is!
It is based on a true life cruise that Waugh went on in which he really did start to hear voices.
It is not one of his most well-known so it can be hard to obtain; it's well worth it though!
A middle-aged novelist, somewhat corpulent and partial to his toddy, almost a mirror of Waugh at the time, books steamer passage to Ceylon for a solo vacation to settle his nerves. What he gets instead is incessant noise, voices, music and criticism directed at himself through the walls and floors of his cabin. How he deals with these disturbances makes for a troubling but sometimes hilarious and often moving novella. Are these noises hallucinations or cleverly designed tricks played over the BBC? Who is directing them? How would the reader react to them in Gilbert's place? His solution is cunning and the novella is a fine piece of writing indeed. Five stars.
In the Note preceeding the text it is explained that author Waugh suffered "a brief bout of hallucination closely resembling what is here described" three years prior to writing the book. It is my view that only someone who has suffered from auditory hallucinations could have possibly led the reader on this excruciatingly painful yet revealing journey through the darker parts of the mind. Waugh knows of what he writes.
Mental illness is somewhat of a taboo these days so some may find the book offensive. If you're such a person then I don't recommend this book. I admit, I found similarities with Mr. Pinfold's experience and those of some clients of mine but I don't hold that against Mr. Waugh. Indeed, Mr. Waugh probably found it therapudical to write this book. I took it with that perspective and chuckled frequently throughout the book.
This is a rather short book and will probably be read from start to finish in the same day for most readers. After all, it is hard to put down primarily because it moves along so smoothly and you never know what will happen next. It wraps itself up very neatly and quickly at the end. Too bad it doesn't work that way for most people in the same boat (sorry).
Gilbert Pinfold has a serious drinking problem exacerbated by liberal mis-use of prescription drugs but decides a sea voyage is just the ticket to help him kick his habit(s). Although he's not feeling too well beforehand (all the brandy with bromide & chloral may have something to do with it) he decides sea air will make him a new man tout de suite and books passage on the S.S. Caliban. Before his cruise he reluctantly agrees to an interview with a BBC interviewer named Angel who comes to his home with a "box" to record the conversation for later broadcast. The box appears later on in a more sinister setting.
Almost as soon as he boards ship he's hearing music and even voices in his cabin (and a dog "snuffling" in the adjacent cabin). He assumes the Caliban is a war ship retrofitted after the war and remnants of a communication system must be randomly projecting conversations from various areas. Many are derogatorily aimed at him and he believes he's generally reviled by his fellow passengers although he can't quite manage to identify any in person in the dining room or bar or on the deck. He overhears the brutal mistreatment and resulting death of one of the ship's foreign crew by the Captain and a woman he dubs "Goneril" and is perplexed by the dilemma since he seems to have no allies on board except possibly a pair of fellow Brit military veterans... whose identities also elude him.Read more ›
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Gilbert Pinfold and his voyage
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