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The Shadow

Novel by Bill Garnett 1982.

Stephen Clements visits his father on his death bed. As he dies, his father grabs his arm in a tight grip, and his fingernails break Stephen's skin. The resulting wound goes septic and from that moment on, his life changes. His wife, his work colleagues and people in general start to ignore him, as if they really didn't notice he was there, and he becomes weaker and weaker, wasting away to nothing. It continues until he becomes effectively invisible and cannot lift a teapot or open a door...

A refreshingly different novel by a master of narrative. It explores the mind of Clements as he descends into madness through effective total isolation in public. It gives a parallel to the age-old punishment of shunning, where the victim is completely ignored by society. However, here, the situation is worse, as Stephen becomes so weak as to be unable to fend for himself and thus needs others to help him. The section where Stephen exposes himself in the lobby of the Ritz and nobody notices is absolutely hilarious. There aren't many novels so conventional and yet so stunningly different. Absolutely first-class.


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