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Book Title: The Broken Word|
The author of the book: Adam Foulds
Edition: Jonathan Cape
Date of issue: April 17th 2008
Loaded: 1596 times
Reader ratings: 4.6
ISBN 13: 9780224084444
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 3.45 MB
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Adam Foulds is a writer I've been intrigued by for some time. Recently named Granta's Best Young British Novelists, writer Julian Barnes has said he’s “one of the best British writers to emerge in the last decade.” After reading this Homeric prose poem, I can see why.
In this sequence of 10 poems written in narrative verse, Tom, a young British man is sent to his family’s farm in Kenya during the summer before he enters the university. After arriving, he is thrust into the Mau Mau Uprising, a revolt by the native Kikuyu people that sought to gain independence from British rule in the 1950s. The rebellion is violent, brutal, and eventually disproportionately dominated by the British, as also chronicled in the recent non-fiction account, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya.
I don’t know too much about British Imperialism, but by chance, I happened to have also been concurrently reading Beer in the Snooker Club, which details a young Egyptian’s perspective of conflict with Britain at the same time (1950s). It was utterly fascinating to read these two accounts, one from the perspective of a young Brit (The Broken Word) and the other from a victim of Imperialism (Beer in the Snooker Room) at the same time.
In this poem, Tom walks through the coffee fields and hears the ritual worship of Ngai, the supreme God of Kikuyu. He's reminded of the liturgical hymns of chapel back in England. The last stanza wakes him from this memory and foreshadows the coming futility of violence.
Mid-morning after rain.
Mountains flowing rapidly under clouds.
The valley paths a freshened red
with yellow puddles, glittering weeds.
Tom walked between the lines
of coffee for half a mile,
of water onto his sleeves --
little bubble lenses
that magnified the weave
then broke, darkening in.
He walked to within earshot
and no further.
A surprisingly dull sound of ceremony,
one voice then many voices,
one voice then many voices,
that recalled school chapel
although probably they were spared hymns.
Tom remembered the hymns,
the light, weakly coloured by the windows,
falling on the boys opposite,
standing, opening their mouths;
and the hymn books,
the recurrent pages greyish,
worn hollow like flagstones
with pressure of thumbs, over years,
years of terms, the books staying always
on their dark shelves in the pews.
The days he wanted to stay
all day alone in the pretty, scholarly chapel.
And then over the voices,
Faintly, from behind the house,
Kate practising with a pistol,
its faint, dry thwacks
a fly butting against a window pane.
The grand build of these poems left me in awe. The last poem (10) was my favorite. In this poem, Tom returns and settles into university life, and he’s urged (society, family, and a personal desire to conform) to forget his experiences in Kenya and carry on with life as if nothing happened. He clearly has what we now call PTSD. To all around him, he’s a typical young man, but inside he’s scarred and decomposing. His passion, once characterized by restraint and innocence, now harbors aggression and a subtle viciousness.
This is an excellent narrative poetry collection that is easy to understand, powerful in scope, and beautifully composed.
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Read information about the authorAdam Foulds (born 1974) is a British novelist and poet.
He was educated at Bancroft's School, read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford under Craig Raine, and graduated with an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in 2001. Foulds published The Truth About These Strange Times, a novel, in 2007. This won a Betty Trask Award. The novel, which is set in the present day, is concerned in part with the World Memory Championships, and earned him the title of Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. The report of this in The Sunday Times included the information that he had previously worked as a fork-lift truck driver.
In 2008 Foulds published a substantial narrative poem entitled The Broken Word, described by the critic Peter Kemp as a "verse novella". It is a fictional version of some events during the Mau Mau Uprising. Writing in The Guardian, David Wheatley suggested that "The Broken Word is a moving and pitiless depiction of the world as it is rather than as we might like it to be, and the terrible things we do to defend our place in it". The book was short-listed for the 2008 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and won the poetry prize in the Costa Book Awards. In 2009 Foulds was again shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and won a Somerset Maugham Award.
In 2009 his novel The Quickening Maze was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Recommending the work in a 'books of the year' survey, acclaimed novellist Julian Barnes declared: 'Having last year greatly admired Adam Foulds's long poem The Broken Word, I uncharitably wondered whether his novel The Quickening Maze (Cape) might allow me to tacitly advise him to stick to verse. Some hope: this story of the Victorian lunatic asylum where the poet John Clare and Tennyson's brother Septimus were incarcerated is the real thing. It's not a "poetic novel" either, but a novelistic novel, rich in its understanding and representation of the mad, the sane, and that large overlapping category in between'.
On 7th January 2010 he was published on the Guardian Website's "Over by Over" (OBO) coverage of day five of the Third Test of the South Africa v England series at Newlands, Cape Town. Fould's published email corrected the OBO writer, Andy Bull, who, in the 77th over, posted lines by Donne in reference to Ian Ronald Bell in verse form:
"No doubt I won't be the first pedant to let you know that the Donne you quote is in fact from a prose meditation. The experiment in retrofitting twentieth century free verse technique to it is interesting but the line breaks shouldn't really be there."
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