At a glance:
- Author: Nicholas Mosley
- First Published: 1991
- Type of Work: Novel
- Genres: Long fiction
The English author Nicholas Mosley published his first novel, SPACES OF THE DARK, in 1951. Since then, Mosley has built a reputation as an author of novels where philosophical and/or moral constructs are thoroughly examined. He has been labeled as “experimental” because of his willingness to change his style of writing in order to illuminate his subject matter. HOPEFUL MONSTERS is most certainly a novel of “ideas.” In his own unique way, Mosley can be compared favorably with other major novelists of ideas such as Thomas Mann, Albert Camus, Gunter Grass, and Milan Kundera. HOPEFUL MONSTERS won Great Britain’s 1990 Whitbread Book of the Year Award.
The novel is part of Mosley’s “Catastrophe Practice” series, the overriding premise of which is that individuals must learn to cope or deal with catastrophe if they expect to survive. It is the fifth novel of the series to be published, but in the chronological scheme of the series it belongs at the beginning. Mosley began the series in 1979 with the publication of CATASTROPHE PRACTICE, which now properly must be placed as the concluding volume.
The two primary characters of HOPEFUL MONSTERS are Eleanor Anders and Max Ackerman. Eleanor is a half-Jewish German girl who is being reared by her parents in Berlin; Max is English and is studying at Cambridge. The world around them is rapidly changing. They meet by chance in the late 1920’s and fall in love. Max and Eleanor alternate chapters as the narrators of the novel. Max’s intellectual pursuits include physics and biology while Eleanor’s interests include anthropology and psychology. They are both brilliant students who have bright futures, if they can survive the times in which they live. Famous historical figures play prominent roles in the novel. Some of the illustrious and/or infamous figures who Eleanor and Max encounter are Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstien, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, and Carl Jung. Max and Eleanor struggle to gain knowledge and to live within a century that is seemingly coming apart. Eleanor is able to escape the Nazis, and she eventually helps Max to escape death during the Spanish Civil War. Even though Max and Eleanor are apart for most of the novel, their love endures—even as they grown to become giants in their chosen fields of study. Mosley has produced a major work of fiction in HOPEFUL MONSTERS. The novel is not without some glaring flaws, including characters that do no more than mouth lofty ideas, but Mosley is to be congratulated for making the noble attempt and for—in large degree—brilliantly succeeding.
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