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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Simmons Papers

Philipp Blom

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To purchase The Simmons Papers

Title: The Simmons Papers
Author: Philipp Blom
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995
Length: 115 pages
Availability: The Simmons Papers - UK
. Die Simmons-Papiere - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly amusing and clever novella about language and intellectual life

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 21/6/1997 .
TLS . 31/3/1995 David Montrose

  From the Reviews:
  • "Für Nicht-Sprachphilosophen die durchweg amüsante Aufbereitung einer durchaus nicht nebensächlichen Thematik. Wem hingegen die Materie nicht gänzlich fremd ist, der wünschte sich vielleicht im Zuge der Lektüre, daß das Buch seinem P, den es trotz oder besser: wegen aller Brechungen fest am ironischen Kanthaken hat, etwas mehr an, sagen wir einmal: Novellistischem zugestanden hätte." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Expectations of a very odd book indeed are aroused, but not fulfilled. (...) At times, the novel threatens to become another diary of a madman a succession of disconnected musings or another lament by one who, craving stasis and certainty, has barricaded himself against the real world. Philipp Blom, however, enlivens matters by treating the latter metaphorically (...) This is the least of many pleasures afforded by The Simmons Papers. They never quite cohere into a novel, but a scatter of bright parts is always preferable to a dull whole." - David Montrose, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Philipp Blom's small novel follows in a long tradition of academic fiction, an invention vaguely framed in reality, with true and false attributions.. Purporting to be the manuscript of an important philosopher, P.E.H Simmons, a document that has supposedly already achieved a certain notoriety, Blom has his fun with any number of philosophical and linguistic digressions.
       Simmons ("1901-1989") is a philosopher who quickly achieved some success at Oxford, but then had to resign his position (because of anti-German sentiment in the thirties). Staying on in (but not at) Oxford he continued his work in obscurity, before ultimately being rediscovered and heralded as a great mind once again. The manuscript presented here was discovered among his papers after his death, and Blom suggests all sorts of theories that were propounded as to what the manuscript actually was (including, for example, the possibility that it was Bruno Schulz's long-lost novel, The Messiah).
       The manuscript, narrated in the first person by "P", tells the story of a man who is responsible for all words starting with the letter P in the "Definitive Dictionary of our language" -- an Oxford English Dictionary (OED)-like undertaking. There's a fair bit of fun here, ranging from P's predecessor (his office filled with plants whose names begin with the letter P) and that poor souls unfortunate death to other characters -- including the M that P moons over. There's also a great deal of linguistic talk and play, most of it fairly clever and quite well presented.
       There area few fun references (to a monograph by Pierre Menard, for example) and some nice invention, such as the disease that befalls these academics. Blom gets the most out of his subject, and though it is not always as precise and perfect as one might wish it is a fun intellectual game.

       Note that if we had not held a copy of this faber and faber original in our own many hands we would doubt its very existence, as we can find nary a trace of it anywhere. It is a curiousity, but it is deserving of slightly less obscurity.

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Reviews: Other books by Philipp Blom under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Philipp Blom was born in Hamburg in 1970. He has lived in Austria and England, and writes for Swiss, English, and German periodicals.

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