The deeply disturbed narrator creates a twisted variant of the mythical Persian "Gang Mahal" or Dumb House, where babies are raised in silence in order to discover whether language is innate or acquired. His own children succeed in developing a language, for which he extracts an appalling revenge.
In Persian myth, it is said that Akbar the Great once built a palace which he filled with newborn children, attended only by mutes, in order to learn whether language is innate or acquired. As the years passed, and the children grew into their silent and difficult world, this palace became known as the Gang Mahal, or Dumb House. In his first novel, John Burnside explores the possibilities inherent in a modern-day repetition of Akbar's investigations. Following the death of his mother, the unnamed narrator creates a twisted variant of the Dumb House, finally using his own children as subjects in a bizzare experiment. When the children develop a musical language of their own, however, their gaoler is the one who is excluded, and he extracts an appalling revenge. An enquiry into the acquisition of language, a dark voyage of exploration into a deeply disturbed mind, or a metaphysical discourse on the nature of the soul, the novel raises many questions, in a bleak, lyrical and haunting narrative of madness and human cruelty.
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John Burnside was born in 1955. He has published six collections of poetry, the most recent being A Normal Skin, and has received a number of awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He was selected as one of the twenty New Generation Poets in 1944. The Dumb House is his first novel.
The Dumb House by John Burnside
Used - Very Good
Short-listed for WH Smith Literary Prize 1998
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