Synopses & Reviews
A searching, captivating look at the persistence of myth in our modern world.
By nature volatile and discordant, the human animal looks to silence for relief from being itself while other creatures enjoy silence as their birthright.
In a book by turns chilling and beautiful, John Gray continues the thinking that made his Straw Dogs such a cult classic.
Gray draws on an extraordinary array of memoirs, poems, fiction, and philosophy to reimagine our place in the world. Writers as varied as Ballard, Borges, Freud, and Conrad have been mesmerized by forms of human extremity, experiences on the outer edge of the possible, or that tip into fantasy and myth. What happens to us when we starve, when we fight, when we are imprisoned? And how do our imaginations leap into worlds way beyond our real experience?
The Silence of Animals is consistently fascinating, filled with unforgettable images and a delight in the conundrum of our existence — an existence that we decorate with countless myths and ideas, where we twist and turn to avoid acknowledging that we too are animals, separated from the others perhaps only by our self-conceit. In the Babel we have created for ourselves, it is the silence of animals that both reproaches and bewitches us.
"Gray (Straw Dogs), emeritus professor of European thought at the London School of Economics, carves a winding path through 20th century intellectual history to build an attack on liberal humanism, and questions the assumptions that humans cling to as proof of our inherent goodness and perfectability. Drawing on a history of atrocities, Gray asserts that 'civilization is natural for humans, but so is barbarism.' He suggests that modern society's vehement belief in historical progress comes from the pairing of a Socratic faith in reason with a Christian notion of salvation. To counter these myths, Gray constructs his own pantheon of 'thinkers who were not afraid to doubt the worth of thought,' drawing upon philosophers and poets who point to how 'life can be lived well without metaphysical comfort.' The result is a constellation of ideas that resist order, salvation, and the primacy of rationalism. Although his vision seems closer to some thinkers than others he returns repeatedly to Wallace Stevens and spends a great deal of time reenvisioning Freud Gray describes each of his guiding lights, addressing his or her conceptual limitations before moving on. The result is a work of modern philosophy that is no less readable and compelling for being rigorously bleak. Agent: Tracy Bohan, the Wylie Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Gray's godless mysticism asks us to look outside ourselves and simply see. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds....Sometimes I think John Gray is the great Schopenhauerian European Buddhist of our age. What he offers is a gloriously pessimistic cultural analysis, which rightly reduces to rubble the false idols of the cave of liberal humanism.” The Los Angeles Review of Books
“Nothing will get you thinking as much as this brilliant book.” The Sunday Telegraph
About the Author
John Gray is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including The Immortalization Commission, Black Mass, and Straw Dogs. A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, he is the emeritus professor of European thought at the London School of Economics.