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Antkind Reviews

Antkind by Charlie Kaufman

Antkind: A Novel

Charlie Kaufman

2.70 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Fourth Estate Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 8 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9780008319533

The bold and boundlessly original debut novel from the Oscar (R)-winning screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York.

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
3 stars out of 5
Peter Bradshaw
25 Jul 2020

"a novel that leaves the reader punchdrunk"

It’s a gigantic book, crammed with insanely creative gags, though these thin towards the end; the material about Trump is a bit stale. Yet Kaufman gouges the reader for laughs with expert force. B has an awful habit of getting his cultural references wrong, perhaps through incipient dementia, or perhaps because he occupies an alternative universe in which they are correct: “‘Are you talking to me?’ I say, reminding myself of Robert De Niro in the TV series Taxi.” 


3 stars out of 5
20 Oct 2020

"an endlessly disorientating, haunting and funny experience"

In the surreal 600 pages that follow (clown fetishes, hyper-intelligent ants, time-reversing microbes and Nazi cloning labs are not the half of it), B. attempts to reconstruct the film with the aid of grief counsellors, therapists and hypnotists. This “novelization” of Ingo’s film has no use for the rules that make the world make sense or whose practicalities might limit a filmmaker. Linear temporality, narrative cause and effect, identity over time, gravity: Kaufman ignores them all. I could read Antkind backwards and upside down and it would still go dizzyingly over my head.

3 stars out of 5
19 Jul 2020

"Like a Kaufman film, Antkind is crammed with ideas and goes on for far too long"

Like a Kaufman film, Antkind is crammed with ideas and goes on for far too long. And, like a Kaufman film, it’s frequently too damn cute for its own good. Or, to coin a phrase, you whim some, you lose some.

2 stars out of 5
Claire Allfree
16 Jul 2020

"Kaufman’s films are masterpieces of narrative construction, but the seemingly limitless horizons of the novel form seem to have gone to his head."

Charlie Kaufman’s cinematic reputation is assured thanks to the likes of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but I doubt his debut novel will be remembered so readily.

Kaufman’s films are masterpieces of narrative construction, but the seemingly limitless horizons of the novel form seem to have gone to his head.

2 stars out of 5
Stuart Kelly
12 Jul 2020

"Pretentious metafiction proves a sad spectacle of self-indulgence, eclipsing film work of the Eternal Sunshine screenwriter"

There is a queasy sense of disregard in all these shenanigans. It’s as if, without the restrictions imposed by cinema, Kaufman thinks it is his right to just chuck in any passing fancy. It is almost childlike in its sense of there not being any limitations. One puff for it describes it as “Nabokovian”, and in a generous mood I might see an echo of Kinbote, the deranged editor in Pale Fire. But Nabokov was tight, and precise and elegant. This is the equivalent of thinking that wearing a baseball cap backwards counts as being avant-garde.

3 stars out of 5
11 Jul 2020

"Charlie Kaufman's first novel traps us – for 705 pages – inside the head of a repellent film critic who thinks Kaufman is a total fraud"

For better or worse – I can sense the pigeons circling – Antkind is unadaptable. As a contemplation of middle-aged career woes, it might have been scaldingly honest, but it’s more often sneaky and guarded, and it just piles up. It doesn’t balloon to fill its own covers, or burst in that magically sad Synecdoche way. If you want to believe there’s no end to Kaufman’s imagination, there’s certainly no end to it here.