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The Alteration von Kingsley Amis
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The Alteration (Original 1976; 2013. Auflage)

von Kingsley Amis (Autor)

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
5711632,257 (3.67)25
"In Kingsley Amis's virtuoso foray into alternate history, it is 1976 but the modern world is a medieval relic, frozen in intellectual and spiritual time ever since Martin Luther was promoted to pope back in the sixteenth century. Stephen the Third, the king of England, has just died, and Mass (Mozart's second requiem) is about to be sung to lay him to rest. In the choir is our hero, Hubert Anvil, an extremely ordinary ten-year-old boy with a faultless voice. In the audience is a select group of experts whose job is to determine whether that faultless voice should be preserved by performing a certain operation. After all, any sacrifice is worth it for the perfection of art. How Hubert realizes what lies in store for him and how he deals with the whirlpool of piety, menace, terror, and passion that he soon finds himself in are the subject of a classic piece of counterfactual fiction to equal Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. The Alteration won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science-fiction novel in 1976"--… (mehr)
Mitglied:JohnCernes
Titel:The Alteration
Autoren:Kingsley Amis (Autor)
Info:NYRB Classics (2013), Edition: Reprint, 256 pages
Sammlungen:ebooks, Gelesen, aber nicht im Besitz
Bewertung:****
Tags:fiction, sf

Werk-Details

Die Verwandlung. von Kingsley Amis (1976)

  1. 10
    Der Report der Magd von Margaret Atwood (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: Both present present or future worlds that are technologically backward compared to our own, and deal with the oppression of certain social groups.
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An example of a meta-literary uchronia. I remember coming across this word in its Portuguese equivalent “ucronia” many eons ago as I read a review of Amis’ “A Alteração”. It’s a term that did not pop up frequently even when we read stuff on SFional meta-analysis. Why? Because it's one of those “irregular verbs”: canonical literary novelists publish meta-literary uchronias; fans write homages; weirdos on the internet do some weird thing called fanfic which we will never admit does the same thing as a text written by a serious novelist and published by a named imprint. There are very interesting theories as to why people write fanfic, or meta-literary uchronias, as I'm going to call the genre from now on: one is that what motivates people to produce it is their desire for 'more' of something which is present in the text but they do not feel they have had enough of, and one is their desire to 'fill the gaps' of something which is absent in the text. So for instance fiction in which Jane Eyre marries St John Rivers might be motivated by a reader wanting more - perhaps of their interactions or of the possibility of a relationship between them which the text suggests but then cuts short.

One might apply similar theories to why people rewrite history - Robert Harris, for instance, clearly has an imagination stirred by the Second World War and has produced several texts out of a desire to satisfy that imagination in a way that the historical and fictional narratives he reads and watches do not meet.

And if it's true that what motivates people to write is to fill a lack, then perhaps the fiction which does not provoke this kind of writing does not produce a lack in its most admiring readers. I can well believe that an avid Joycean might imagine in their head an alternative version of Bloomsday, but would they dare compete with him to write it in that style? Or perhaps they read not for the plot but for the style, so why bother to rewrite the story when what you really want is more of Joyce's writing, something only he can produce?

As for why historical Alternate Universes (as the plebby fanfic writers call them, sorry, I keep forgetting, “meta-literary uchronias”) only came into being at a certain moment: well, you can't have an alternative historical novel before you have the historical novel proper, and while fiction has always been set in the past, that past was not, generally, recreated with a sense of the historical distance between that past and the writer's present until Scott. So it's not at all surprising that the genre came into being after Scott's version of the historical novel had been assimilated.

What if the Spanish Armada hadn't sunk? What if the American Revolution never happened? What if the Confederates won the American Civil War and joined the Allies and the US joined the Axis powers (or rather their alternate universe equivalents)? What if we threatened the main character’s balls? “The Alteration” looked like some of some of Harry Turtledoves’s novels where alternate history books are a bit SF, like “The Guns of the South” where time-travellers give the Confederates AK-47s (in Amis’ novel the equivalent is snipping gonads…). Amis' Uchronia, ”The Alteration”, before anyone asks, is nothing new that we haven’t read before in SF but done much, much better.



SF = Speculative Fiction. ( )
  antao | Jun 6, 2021 |
"Off With His Balls!!!"

Or maybe, another alternate title, "What PKD would have written if he was mired in Lutherism and he wanted to write something to counteract the hedonistic oddity that was [b:Gravity's Rainbow|415|Gravity's Rainbow|Thomas Pynchon|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1414969925s/415.jpg|866393]"

Seriously, this is what Philip K Dick would have written if he was focused on Popes and the total emasculation of humanity. And rather than Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, we've got a ton of snipping or at least talk of snipping going on. :)

Let me talk about the world-building. It's all way below the surface, with most of the action focused on this poor kid who's about to get his balls chopped off for the sake of his beautiful singing voice, but right below this is a bunch of straight homages to alternate histories and even a direct love letter to PKD's [b:The Man in the High Castle|216363|The Man in the High Castle|Philip K. Dick|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1448756803s/216363.jpg|2398287], only taking the switch back WAY in the past, keeping science a dirty word and the Holy Roman Church in high supremacy.

Pretty cool, right? Well, yeah, I guess it would be based on just this description, but it really just feels like a "Poor me, I'm about to get snip-snipped, all the adults around me are acting REALLY strange, and now I'm getting asked questions like 'Do I play with myself and have you ever wondered what it would be like to do that with a girl?'"

Ahem. This is such a penis-oriented 70's novel. Like, totally. But it's really focused not on the bright side of parading about with a boner, but rather, the fear of losing that big "B" forever. Alas.

And it only gets really funny by the end of the novel with the global implications.

Too bad we didn't get a bit more of that earlier on, right? Alas.

Still, it's a pretty cool book on the straight traditional fiction front, with a lot of characters and grounded explorations, but the SF portion is still kinda light. That's my main complaint. Oh, plus, all the little crazy strangenesses that have crept into Political Christianity over the last six hundred years. :)

I don't know if I'd really recommend this for anyone except fans of [b:The Man in the High Castle|216363|The Man in the High Castle|Philip K. Dick|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1448756803s/216363.jpg|2398287] and people who like weird major twists in Catholicism. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
My Kingsley Amis reading marathon marches on, but this latest was quite a ride; but first, a word of caution from the UK's Guardian: MOST PEOPLE THINK CASTRATING CHOIRBOYS IS INHUMANE... AT THE HEIGHT OF THE CRAZE FOR MALE SOPRANOS [19TH CENTURY], 5,000 BOYS A YEAR WERE CASTRATED IN ORDER TO PRESERVE THEIR UNBROKEN VOICES. THOSE WHO PROVED MEDIOCRE MOULDERED AWAY IN PARISH CHOIRS, BUT THE SUCCESSFUL "SACRED MONSTERS" WERE COSSETED AND ADORED. (Now, decades ago, I knew a fellow whose "side gig" was pressing bootleg LP's of great Opera performances and selling them to enthusiasts and collectors. He swore to me that he had an actual recording of one such "castrato" whom he would not identify, but after he had downed a few, he would fantasize about putting his record on the market. Well, thanks to the internet, I searched for just such an item and it exists, a recording of the very last Castrato early in the 20th Century. Now, if I found this, you can too, and that is all I will say as I barely know what I am writing about and I do not want to think any more about it, lol!)
So, imagine centuries ago, when Martin Luther challenged the Church, that rather than resisting him, thereby starting The Reformation, the Church fathers said, "Luther, come to Rome, we are making you Pope," what today's world would look like. Yep, a theocracy, perhaps a Western Iran? And that is the premise of this "counter-factual" novel, one that 'won' the award for best sci-fi novel for 1976! Now, cue up ten-year old boy soprano, Hubert Anvil, singing in an English cathedral during the funeral service of the just-deceased Pope (most Popes are English, but serve out of Rome), whose immaculate voice brings him to the attention of powerful Vatican officials. In short order, steps are taken, with Hubert's approval, to set in motion the procedures to have an, ahem, 'alteration.' But when Hubert at the same time discovers the biology behind it, as well as girls and sex, murder and mayhem ensue. Most enjoyable in this wildly entertaining literary fiction are the references to entities like the Benedict Arnold Memorial in NYC, the Second Mass of Mozart or the 20 Symphonies of Beethoven, an obscure American (the US is New England) playwright named Will Shakespeare, and, best of all, a heroic New England naval warfare hero, one Edgar Allen Poe! A fun and brilliant read! ( )
  larryking1 | May 25, 2020 |
If the Vatican ruled the world....what might the world be? It’s 1976 in the novel but most of the world is Christendom and is smothered in bureaucratic tyranny conducted for the glory of God. As noted by reviewers it is a terrific study in tyranny but with a good story. Hubert must decide whether it's worth giving up a sexual life he is too young to know about for a singing career. Of course, many of the other characters have much to gain or lose from Hubert’s choice. Creative, a great read and a timeless message on government. ( )
  77nanci | Dec 7, 2019 |



The Alteration - Surely one of the most imaginative and oddest novels I’ve ever read, a striking cross between, believe it or not, Anthony Trollope and Philip K. Dick, as if Kingsley Amis wrote his novel on the weekends after sipping tea and chatting with Mr. Septimus Harding from Trollope’s The Warden on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and enjoying the time-bending hallucinogenic drug Chew-Z from Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch on Tuesday and Thursday. Sound incredible? It is incredible. Here are a number of facets of this literary diamond as to why it is both out-of-sight and a kissing cousin to our present world:

ALTERNATIVE HISTORY
It’s England and the year is 1976. There’s been no protestant reformation, no eighteenth century age of enlightenment, no Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud or Frederic Nietzsche. Europe has been in cultural deep freeze for the past nearly five hundred years, a continuation of the church dominated middle ages right up until the end of the twentieth century. Everything and everybody is part of Catholicism – even Jean-Paul Sartre is a Jesuit writing in Latin and David Hockney along with Willem de Kooning create religious art for the mother church.

THE ALTERATION
Ten-year-old Hubert Anvil has a special gift - he has, by far, the most beautiful singing voice in living memory. There would be great benefit to the church and, according to the Abbott and other church officials, greater glory to God almighty himself if Hubert submitted to a surgical operation, an “alteration,” so as to retain his superb God-given talent and become a world-renowned castrato. The theme of being castrated, living in arrested development resonates throughout the novel, to note just two: 1) European civilization held in check by demonizing all science and technology, and 2) literature held in check by making science fiction illegal, especially science fiction addressing imaginary alternate worlds or parallel histories.

CLANDESTINE READING
Back at the dormitory of their church-run school, Hubert and his buddies are addicted to their favorite kinds of banned books: TR and CW. And that's Time Romance (TR), science fiction with a focus on inventive ingenuity, and Counterfeit World (CW), anti-church novelistic twists to present-day reality. One of these CW books is written by an author with the name of Philip K. Dick, the title being The Man in the High Castle, an invented world free of church domination. For those familiar with the real PKD and his actual novel with this title featuring an imagined 1960s America after a Nazi and Japanese victory and also a novel within the novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, about a fictionalized world after a Nazi and Japanese defeat, we recognized Kingsley Amis has turned PKD’s novel inside out and upside down. As William Gibson writes in his Introduction to this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition: “This business of TR and CW strikes me, as it plays so artfully through the book, as likely the best Jorge Luis Borges story Jorge Luis Borges never wrote."

ACROSS THE POND
There is one province free from church dominion – a slice of America referred to as New England. Kingsley Amis adds even more spice to his counterfactual equation by having Hubert along with his three roommates discuss a Counterfeit World (CW) story that puts forth the preposterous notion this New England colony under the British Crown declared itself an independent republic in 1848 and now, in 1976, is the greatest power in the world. One of the boys reacts: “‘Wish-wash!’ said Decuman loudly, pulled himself up and repeated quietly, ‘wish-wash. That mean little den of thieves and savages the greatest Power in the world?’” Did I mention how The Alteration is kissing cousins with our present day?

NATIVE AMERICANS
One of my favorite parts of the novel is how Amis incorporates Native Americans (called “Indians” in the novel). The Indians share a large measure of the work for the New Englanders since in this version of history there never was any importation of slaves from Africa. One New Englander tells Hubert how these Indians are not to be treated as fully human, having smaller brain capacity and a stunted sense of morals (ah, another arrested development!). However, in many ways, Amis conveys the nobility and compassion of these non-Christian peoples in much the same manner as we find in James Fennimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

THE IRON FIST
Between sips of tea, many of these Brits who are members of the church chat about this man or that woman not heeding God’s will. If we read ever so slightly between the lines in Amis’s alternate world, we can see how religion is being used as a billy club to not only strangle an individual’s sexual activity and critical reasoning but to keep an entire society and culture within tightly circumscribed boundaries. Another William Gibson quote: “It’s a terrifyingly serene totalitarian nightmare, its massive stasis threatened only, we eventually discover, by the extent of its own success.” You do not have to be a fan of science fiction or alternative histories to take an enjoyable readerly plunge into this highly engaging, philosophic novel.


Kingsley Amis - Author with soaring imagination. The Alteration, a world where the priests burnt William Shakespeare's books and playhouse before excommunicating him and sending the playwright off to New England. ( )
1 abstimmen Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
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Gibson, WilliamEinführungCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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Hubert Anvil's voice rose above the sound of the choir and full orchestra, reaching the vertex of the loftiest dome in the Old World and the western doors of the longest nave in Christendom.
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Wikipedia auf Englisch (2)

"In Kingsley Amis's virtuoso foray into alternate history, it is 1976 but the modern world is a medieval relic, frozen in intellectual and spiritual time ever since Martin Luther was promoted to pope back in the sixteenth century. Stephen the Third, the king of England, has just died, and Mass (Mozart's second requiem) is about to be sung to lay him to rest. In the choir is our hero, Hubert Anvil, an extremely ordinary ten-year-old boy with a faultless voice. In the audience is a select group of experts whose job is to determine whether that faultless voice should be preserved by performing a certain operation. After all, any sacrifice is worth it for the perfection of art. How Hubert realizes what lies in store for him and how he deals with the whirlpool of piety, menace, terror, and passion that he soon finds himself in are the subject of a classic piece of counterfactual fiction to equal Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. The Alteration won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science-fiction novel in 1976"--

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Buchbeschreibung
Man schreibt das Jahr 1976 - aber in einer Welt, wie sie durchaus existieren könnte, jedoch nicht die geschichtlich bekannte Wirklichkeit geworden ist. Martin Luther nämlich ist in Rom zu Kreuze gekrochen; also fand die Reformation nicht statt. Die römisch-katholische Kirche hat die Welt fest in der Hand, in Europa ist ihre Herrschaft absolut, und nur in Amerika ist man etwas aufmüpfiger gegen den Papst und ein bisschen liberaler, was Wissenschaft und Technik betrifft. Doch es ist auch eine andere Kirche, als wir sie kennen, eine, die nicht herausgefordert und gedemütigt wurde. Sie ist die Mutter der Gläubigen, in deren weiten Gewandfalten ihrer Hierarchie auch Typen ihren Platz gefunden haben, die in unserer politischen Geschichte als Schurken linker oder rechter Provenienz Karriere machten. In dieser Alternativwelt lebt im London des ausgehenden 20. Jahrhunderts ein Junge namens Hubert Anvil, der über eine begnadete Stimme verfügt. Es ist der Wunsch der Kirche, dass ihr diese Stimme zum Lobe Gottes erhalten bleibe. Das würde ein Leben in Ruhm und Reichtum bedeuten, versichert man ihm, und sein Vater fühlt sich geehrt. Erst allmählich erkennt der junge Hubert die Tragweite dessen, was der gottgefällige Schritt für ihn bedeuten würde: die Kastration. Den Nachstellungen der Kirchenoberen entzieht sich Hubert durch die Flucht in die Botschaft New Englands, von wo er per Luftschiff (benannt "Edgar Allan Poe") nach Amerika gelangt. In Amerika florieren angeblich Demokratie, Protestantismus und moderne Technik (so etwa die verbotene Elektrizität). Aber er kommt vom Regen in die Traufe: Die ´aufgeschlossenen´ Protestanten erweisen sich als gewöhnliche Rassisten, die ihm den Umgang mit den Ureinwohnern verbieten, welche sie wie Kinder behandeln, da sie "kleinere Gehirne als richtige Menschen" hätten. Huberts Flucht war vergeblich.
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