The Dumb House
By (author) John Burnside
In Persian myth, it is said that Akbar the Great once built a palace which he filled with newborn children, attended only by mutes, in order to learn whether language is innate or aquired. As the year passed and the chidren grew into their silent and difficult world, this palace became known as the Gang Mahal, or Dumb House. In his first novel, John Burnside explores the possibilites inherent in a modern-day repetition of Akbar’s investigations. Following the death of his mother, the unnamed narrator creates a twisted varient of the Dumb House, finally using his own chidren as subjects in a bizarre experiment. When the children develop a musical language of their own, however, their gaoler is the one who is excluded, and he extracts an appalling revenge.
Reviews of The Dumb House
"Compelling reading" Scotsman "A wonderfully disturbing book – chillingly focused and lyrically amoral with moments of remarkable stillness and beauty. A poetic novel in the best and most troubling sense" — A. L. Kennedy "Burnside's prose is exquisite and he dissects his themes with delicacy to produce a novel resonant with poetic menace" Sunday Times "An exceptionally sinister book… It is the story of Luke, whose experiments into the nature of human language are recounted with all the beguiling reasonableness of the highly intelligent madman… The horror is tempered and fine-tuned by the exceptional beauty of Burnside's writing… In Luke, Burnside has produced one of the most chilling voices in recent fiction" Times Literary Supplement "Strange and brilliant" New York Times
John Burnside’s recent books include the poetry collection All One Breath, the book of stories Something Like Happy – the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year – the novel A Summer of Drowning, shortlisted for the 2011 Costa Prize, and his poetry collection, Black Cat Bone, which won both the 2011 Forward Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. He is a Professor of English at St Andrews.