I read They by Kay Dick (published in 1977) as one of my 20 books of summer (this is no 7, and I’ve nearly finished books 8 and 9, though that still leaves a lot of reading for August!).

I’m quite fond of dystopian fiction, and this novella has been ‘rediscovered’ after being out of print for many years. I found it completely impenetrable, however, though it was mercifully short (I feel I write these words too often!). I was expecting a coherent novel, which would hang together as a single narrative, but this isn’t what we get: instead it’s more like a loosely themed bunch of short stories.

There are weird similarities with the Russian novel We that I co-incidentally read earlier this summer (not as part of an intentional dystopian theme). They shares the unspoken sense of menace, the characters have a similar lack of agency and, again, there is that constant looming threat of consciousnesses being hijacked and memories removed by a repressive ‘Other’. Dick was gay, so it’s hard not to read it as a response to the repressiveness of English society at the time.

The characters are constantly in fear of the arrival of a nebulous, murderous anti-intellectual mob. ‘They’ hate single people and people who live alone, they hate artists, they hate writers and they really hate needlecrafts.

However, the sentences were so staccato and so drained of description that I couldn’t get a handle on any character or any of the locations or action. The characters epitomize the English middle-class of the time (and don’t actually seem all that intellectual or bohemian, though that’s the look they’re going for): they drink tea and eat cake A LOT and go for walks and sometimes spot ‘them’: the menacing, murderous, encroaching anti-culture mob. (It reminded me a bit of Brexit!) Onwards and upwards…

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