THE CONVERSIONS by Harry Mathews


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A very odd, brilliant, symbolic novel. The young protagonist, at a rich man's house, runs a race with worms (Man's life, perhaps?) to an odd musical theme and wins an antique adze. The rich man dies and leaves the young man his fortune, if he can unriddle the secret of the adze. In his search the youth encounters -(a) a novelist who describes his novel about death on the ice, and then how he won the adze from gypsies after some curious ritual contests; (b) some revolutionists who believe in light for everyone, and some people who talk only nonsense; (c) a sad story about a bourgeois Heaven. This contains a reference to a family and experiments on Flesh Metal in Silver Glen, which in turn leads to a myth about worshippers of Silvius, and their persecution and scattering. The uncovering of myths and meanings is as complex as Graves' The White Goddess (through cryptic alterations, the musical theme, letters, etc.) and winds up in the discovery of a similar Goddess myth, the Queen's grim death, and the relations of the gypsies to the ritual and the adze. The young man loses his inheritance, suspects the whole story to be a posthumous hoax, but nevertheless finds the Moon Queen's monument under the ocean. In between are mad, wild, entertaining stories about people with Rube Goldberg machines or ideas for changing life. Probably a symbolic search for life's secrets funny, puzzling and written with the detailed dream-in-life near logic of a Kafka or a Joyes. Certainly not every man's ment but some will claim it.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1962
ISBN: 1564781666
Publisher: Random House