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Red Pill Reviews

Red Pill by Hari Kunzru

Red Pill

Hari Kunzru

3.69 out of 5

8 reviews

Imprint: Scribner UK
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publication date: 3 Sep 2020
ISBN: 9781471194474

'The book I wish I'd written? Whatever Hari Kunzru is publishing next' Aravind Adiga From the author of White Tears comes a breathtaking, state-of-the-world novel about one man's struggle to defend his values and create a reality free from the shadows of the past.

4 stars out of 5
10 Oct 2020

"Germany’s past and present combine to provide a disquieting counter-narrative to his liberal values"

Red Pill stands as a final blast of sanity against this new, deranged reality. It is literary masterpiece for a barbaric new world rapidly running out of room for literary masterpieces.

 

Reviews

5 stars out of 5
Edward Docx
2 Oct 2020

"a timely, interesting and resonantly intelligent novel."

By the end, Red Pill had become the most thought-provoking novel I had read in ages, not because I had not read these existential conclusions before – what other conclusions are there? – but because Kunzru’s own iteration was so well earned. From German Romanticism to Trump via the Stasi and the Nazis … a line newly drawn; this is a timely, interesting and resonantly intelligent novel.

4 stars out of 5
16 Sep 2020

"Kunzru is a consummate storyteller"

The book spins off into a twisted tale about Counter-Enlightenment philosophy, memories of Stasi-ruled East Germany, the alt-right, and the insidious hedging of racist and conspiratorial thinking, with flippancy and humour. Knowingly highbrow, Kunzru is a consummate storyteller and has composed one of this year’s coolest, but quietly menacing, novels.

3 stars out of 5
Beejay Silcox
10 Sep 2020

"a novel designed for us to parse, to scour for clues like a QAnon disciple"

Red Pill is a novel designed for us to parse, to scour for clues like a QAnon disciple (see the Deep State’s “plot” against Donald Trump): we are treated to snatches of post-Kantian philosophy, narrative echoes of Kleist’s work, coincidences and wordplay. But, like mid-life crises, conspiracy theories alienate as much as they engross. As the narrator binge-watches Blue Lives, he wonders whether Anton’s metaphysical titbits are significant, or whether they’re some elaborate joke – a performative and empty cleverness. Kunzru’s sixth novel provokes the same maddening doubts.

4 stars out of 5
James Walton
7 Sep 2020

"Throughout his career, Kunzru has shown a striking ability to blend erudition with emotional heft, and so he does again here"

Through all of this, Kunzru does a fine job of observing Philip Roth’s injunction that a good novel should be an argument with itself. Like any proper liberal, he doesn’t always take his own side in a debate, acknowledging – as so many liberals have lately been forced to – the blindness that comes with only ever being “surrounded by people who think just like you”. On the other hand, there’s a firm suggestion that merely because the narrator is paranoid doesn’t mean he’s wrong about where the world is heading. The trouble is that in the last section, this suggestion becomes rather too firm as he, his wife and their friends watch – yes – the election of Donald Trump. For Kunzru, this is so shattering that all ambivalence is cast aside and we’re invited to regard Trump’s victory as confirmation of those visions of total earthly annihilation.

3 stars out of 5
Mika Ross-Southall
6 Sep 2020

"Existential thoughts torment the nameless first-person narrator in Hari Kunzru’s sixth novel"

Kunzru’s prose is often skilful. A half-frozen lake is like “a gray jelly lapping trash at the jetties”. But it is when he tries to bring too many ideas together — including a clichéd digression about a woman’s small-scale anarchy in the German Democratic Republic — that the novel, much like its narrator, veers towards a series of “jumbled apocalyptic terrors”. His point is that the dark parts of history are returning, with the alt right, online trolling, immigration policies, Trump’s election. True, maybe, but at times it comes across as exaggerated and implausible.

2 stars out of 5
1 Sep 2020

"Kunzru portrays a disconsolate mind damaged by the spectre of crisis. But he does so at the risk of disengaging readers."

The novel features these lines near the beginning: ‘This is what I have become. It is when you first understand that your condition – physically, intellectually, socially, financially – is not absolutely mutable, that what has already happened will, to a great extent, determine the rest of the story.’ The novel’s flat tone and narrative arc are consistent with this. The narrator starts and ends despondent. There is little room for irony and originality here, or for the shifting emotional textures that characterise real life. In Red Pill, Kunzru portrays a disconsolate mind damaged by the spectre of crisis. But he does so at the risk of disengaging readers.

4 stars out of 5
Jonathan Derbyshire
30 Aug 2020

"A disturbing novel about the self traces a quest for order that turns into a descent into near-madness"

In the exchanges between Anton and the narrator, Kunzru expertly ventriloquises the debased argot of a certain strain of technologically inflected nativism, full of paeans to the “cognitive elite” and broadsides against “cultural Marxism”.
Towards the end of the book, by which time he is back in New York, in therapy and steeling himself for the culmination of the 2016 presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the narrator is reminded of something the German philosopher and theorist of totalitarianism Hannah Arendt said “about how a life spent in public becomes shallow”.