Another book I brought from my trip to Dubai in July 2019. It seems so far away now, that the whole world has locked down and after three months is only hesitantly relaxing the measures. Other books I bought there were more focused on Arabic literature. But somehow Murmur caught my eye.
It is based on the life of Alan Turing, especially after he has been sentenced for homosexuality and was undergoing chemical castration. The book touches on many facts from Turing’s life, even though our main protagonist is called Alec Pryor, still, it is close enough. All the events mirror Turing’s life, what Eaves adds is the introspection.
We get a glimpse into the mind and life of a man who lost his one true love, could not discuss his work with his family as much of it was covered by the Official Secrets Act, was accused of gross indecency and dosed with estrogen for a year, resulting in dramatic changes in his body and psychology. The book consists of a journal part, imaginary letters to his ex-fiance, and descriptions of dreams and memories.
For those of you who are interested in Turing’s biography, search for other books. Even though Eaves’ book is full of small details from Turing’s life it is nowhere near a regular biography, it is in a way (and it’ll sound corny) a biography of the mind. Eaves allows Pryor’s mind to wander, submit to the harsh punishment, and deal with it in its own way. Through writing, correspondence, dreaming, and hallucinating.
As fascinating as the premise is and as acclaimed as the book is it didn’t work for me. Maybe it is more of a winter book while I read it during an extremely sunny and hot Bank Holiday weekend. The book itself is a murmur, murmur of them find and soul, trying to come to terms with losing everything. What is surprising is that there is no bitterness in Pryor, there’s plenty of sadness, a lot of acceptance, but no rage, anger or bitterness. Which is uplifting in a weird way.
But what didn’t work for me is the fuzziness, the language flows and ebbs, often without coherence, with a dreamy quality. It is by no means a sign of the writer’s instability, for Eaves has full control over what he is doing. I just don’t like what he is doing, it made me float through the book without registering much or fully engaging. And who knows? Maybe that was the goal. to take this eerie quality to its writing limits.
It’s an interesting literary experiment and I can appreciate why some people liked it. I didn’t. But I guess the same can be said about Solar Bones, which I love and admire, but which is not an easy book to go through. Each one to their own I guess. One thing the book did do I make me look for alan Turing’s biography, I don’t want to see the movie before I brush up on facts (beyond what’s on the internet). If you have any recommendations please share them in comments!