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The Dream of a Beast

By (author) Neil Jordan
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage Publishing, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Published: 6th Oct 1983
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
Weight: 240g
ISBN-10: 0701127406
ISBN-13: 9780701127404
Barcode No: 9780701127404

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Kirkus US
Film-maker (Mona Lisa) and fiction-writer (Nights in Tunisia, 1980; The Past, 1980) Jordan here offers a solemn and ponderous allegory that barely disguises its simpleminded moral message - that lust turns men into beasts. Vaguely futuristic, this bloodless tale literalizes its point: the anonymous narrator undergoes a series of physical metamorphoses, and each stage in his transformation reflects his inner state at the time. With the city in decay, and the trains unreliable, Jordan's suburban everyman regularly trudges downtown to his job in advertising. His routine alters, though, when a beautiful woman, representing a perfume company, has him develop the ad campaign for a new musk scent - a fragrance designed "to carry a hint of threat." Before they make "the beast with two backs," the feral couple begin to change. At home, the man's wife, Marianne, and his daughter, Matilde, sense the difference; the girl begins the dreaming recorded in the title while her mother takes more decisive action. Although "the persistence of the human" in the man encourages him to cover up his furry, hoof-like extremities, his wife recognizes him for the brute he is, and imprisons him in their bedroom, itself changed into a hothouse with vegetable surfaces. By the time he bursts through this inadequate cage, the man is on all fours, naked - his expanding, rough-edged figure has ripped through his clothes, and he's no longer capable of human speech. His adventures from here on include a tryst in a zoo with empty cages and animals lurking everywhere; an elaborate fantasy of incest; a sojourn in a strange bestiary; a reunion with his former lover, now a prostitute; and, finally, an apocalyptic scene of reconciliation. Having transformed into a sea-going vessel, the man leaves the city behind in nuclear destruction, and arrives at an island where he discovers "HOPE ETERNAL" and his forgiving wife. Deadly serious, Jordan relies on all the cliches of beast lore - including the power of music to soothe them - to fill out this slim allegory of marital infidelity and its consequences. (Kirkus Reviews)