The Affirmation by

This much I know for sure. My name is Peter Sinclair, and I am, or I was, twenty-nine years old. Already there is uncertainty, and my sureness recedes.
–Christopher Priest - The Affirmation - c1981 - pg1

Peter Sinclair is 29, and, following his girlfriend’s attempted suicide he runs away from London, to the countryside. There he is supposed to be redecorating and doing up a family friend’s cottage in return for being allowed to stay there. But he gets distracted and begins to write his autobiography. In the course of writing this he discovers that the real truth can only be found within metaphors and through creating an alternate version of his past. And so he begins to write of his past in Jethra. He renames and recreates his family and friends. He recreates a reality.

In Jethra Peter has just won the lottery, and the chance to undergo treatment that’ll leave him virtually immortal. But it will also wipe his memory. And if he is the sum of his past remembrances how can he really go through with that. He won’t be himself any more.

If I’d never read a Priest novel before I really don’t know how I would have reacted to this. However because of my previous experiences with his stories I was expecting some shifts from the more standard story-telling methods. But talk about your shifting realities and unreliable narrators!

The story shifts without warning; ever so slightly disorientating to the reader. And making you wonder what you should expect next.

The ending did make me hmm a little. I prefer some sort of closure, even if it is open-ended closure. If that makes sense. The whole lack of resolution frustrates me slightly. At the same time however I don’t really see how any resolution would have worked with the book as a whole. The Affirmation is all about differing realities, insanity, and whole nature of reality. And that’s only to start out with.

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5 Responses

  1. Ann says:

    I really must read that one again. I read it years ago and really enjoyed it. So much that any time the topic of the unreliable narrator comes up, I recommend the book as an excellent example. (Hey, the topic comes up more often than you might think.)

  2. Fence says:

    Excellent example Ann. And I wouldn't really be surprised at how often unreliable narrators show up. I think we're all unreliable narrators.

  3. Carl V. says:

    I must admit that the ending might make me less enthusiastic to pick this up and yet it sounds so much like the kind of book that Paul Auster's Travels is (which is winging its way to you) on some levels that I think I may go ahead and keep it on my radar.

  4. Fence says:

    I'd keep it on the radar Carl. Yes, I was slightly deflated by the ending, but I'm still glad that I read it.

  1. 10 June 2012

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