Barefoot in the head / Aldiss, Brian W

Book Details
Nr of Pages 236
Format (size) Paperback
Publisher Corgi

Brian Aldiss' book Barefoot in the Head (Faber, 1969) is a no-contest work of genius. It's an acid Ulysses, difficult in proportion to the revelations contained. And it is quite a difficult book, a jungle of homonyms and allusive puns. Out of Serbia comes Charteris, his mind subverted by the persistent psychedelic agent dropped on Europe by an Arab coalition. He senses that the barriers of mind and time have fallen, and that the New Order is ready to be born. In a twisted Gurdjieffian gestalt, he sees himself as a spider, sitting in the middle of a web, each strand of which is another possible reality, all valid, the universe a multivalued matrix of potentiality. Through this matrix rolls Man the Driver, the avatar of the Metaphor of the Road. Charteris comes out of the continent to England, gathering his people for the great road trip back to the Wilderness world of the New Mind, where the wrongness of the Old world may be shed. He sees his Road as an endless chain of photographs, each freezing a tiny instant of time, from which any number of things may arise, which only can be known to Man the Driver.

The road trip is a combination of Mad Max, a portable Glastonbury Festival, and a literate language game. Many chapters end with the lyrics of the camp-follower bands or poetic meditations on the story, a strange acid haiku. The minds' eye points-of-view of Charteris and his travelling companion Angeline portrays the breakdown of their old mental structures under the influence of the PCA bombs. On one hand, Europe is falling under the spell of a chemical dance of madness, which is destroying civilization. On the other, Charteris' crusade is developing the tools to work within a new reality, and to make the choice between the known errors of the Old world and the possibilities of the New.

Barefoot in the Head's hallucinogenic, punning, stream-of-consciousness narrative makes this is a tale for clear heads; don't try and read it when you're dozin'. It just won't work. Four stars for story as well as challenge. Aldiss' near-future works are always good (also check out his recent Somewhere East of Life, Carroll & Graf, New York 1994), and this is his masterpiece.

More Details
Index 12
Read It Yes
ISBN 0552096539
Cover Price kr 0,45
Links Amazon UK