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the Complete Review
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The Death of the Body


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To purchase The Death of the Body

Title: The Death of the Body
Author: C.K.Stead
Genre: Novel
Written: 1986
Length: 212 pages
Availability: The Death of the Body - US
The Death of the Body - UK
The Death of the Body - Canada
The Death of the Body - India
Je ne suis pas ce corps - France
Der Tod des Körpers - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B+ : clever and well-done -- though sometimes too caught up in its own cleverness

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Age . 3/1/1987 Helen Daniel
Sunday Times . 5/10/1986 Brenda Maddox
The Times . 28/8/1986 Elaine Feinstein

  • "(A)n ebullient, erudite and inventive comedy set in an Auckland university philosophy department." - Margaret Walters, Times Literary Supplement (9/6/2000)

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:

       In the second chapter of The Death of the Body, the narrator sums up what readers can expect:

This is a story about three men and four women, drugs, and a dead body. That's one way of describing it. Another, less exciting, would be to say it's about the problem of Mind and Body
       A central character, Harry Butler, is a professor of philosophy, and his mind-body struggles -- both the theoretical and the very down-to-earth ones -- are central to the narrative. His wife "has become a Sufi", and his extra-marital strayings -- at university and abroad -- cause much of the turmoil in the novel.
       The Butler family lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Their lives are slightly upset when members of the drug squad install themselves at their home, to spy on the neighbours -- though eventually Harry boots them out. Crimes -- real and possible -- hang over events, illicit shadings from grey to black.
       But the book isn't a straightforward thriller, because there's a narrator out there too, intruding often in the text, making his presence known (though not his identity). The Story too, plays a role, as this narrator struggles with the telling (or rather: writing) of it. "I must trust the Story, and get on with it", he tells himself, for example. Later, he even gives voice to its demands:
"Forget symbols," the Story said. "Just stick to the facts."
       And he tries to, at least about Harry Butler and the events surrounding him. But he also describes the writing of the tale -- far away, in (indeed, all across) Europe, his muse there a Consul's wife named Uta.
       Stead fashions a clever (and, at times, quite thrilling) novel. It is practically philosophical (in all the ways that expression could be understood), and the odd strands are often very well presented. Stead writes with admirable precision, very sure of what he wants (a neat contrast to his uncertain narrator, and central character). The novel is perceptively full of philosophical (and true-to-life) ambiguity, offering (and allowing for) few clear-cut answers. Beside this, there is also a fill of other good ideas and digressions. Still, it's hard to sustain it for the duration: at times the book (and the Story) does appear too clever for it's own good.
       Still: worthwhile.

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The Death of the Body: Reviews: C.K.Stead: Other books by C.K.Stead under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       New Zealand writer Christian Karlson Stead was born in 1932. He taught at the University of Auckland and has written many works of fiction, poetry, and criticism.

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