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Babel Tower

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Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book
At the heart of Babel Tower are two law cases, twin strands of the Establishment's web, that shape the story: a painful divorce and custody suit and the prosecution of an "obscene" book. Frederica, the independent young heroine, is involved in both. She startled her intellectual circle of friends by marrying a young country squire, whose violent streak has now been turned against her. Fleeing to London with their young son, she gets a teaching job in an art school, where she is thrown into the thick of the new decade. Poets and painters are denying the value of the past, fostering dreams of rebellion, which focus around a strange, charismatic figure -- the near-naked, unkempt and smelly Jude Mason, with his flowing gray hair, a hippie before his time.

We feel the growing unease, the undertones of sex and cruelty. The tension erupts over his novel Babbletower, set in a past revolutionary era, where a band of people retire to a castle to found an ideal community. In this book, as in the courtrooms, as in the art school's haphazard classes and on the committee set up to study "the teaching of language," people function increasingly in groups. Many are obsessed with protecting the young, but the fashionable notion of children as innocent and free slowly comes to seem wishful, and perilous.

Babel Tower is the third, following The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life, of a planned quartet of novels set in different mid-century time frames. The personal and legal crises of Frederica mirror those of the age. This is the decade of the Beatles, the Death of God, the birth of computer languages. In Byatt's vision, the presiding genius of the 1960s seems to be a blend of the Marquis de Sade and The Hobbit. The resulting confusion, charted with a brilliant imaginative sympathy, is as comic as it is threatening and bizarre.
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At the heart of Babel Tower are two law cases, twin strands of the Establishment's web, that shape the story: a painful divorce and custody suit and the prosecution of an "obscene" book. Frederica, the independent young heroine, is involved in both. She startled her intellectual circle of friends by marrying a young country squire, whose violent streak has now been turned against her. Fleeing to London with their young son, she gets a teaching job in an art school, where she is thrown into the thick of the new decade. Poets and painters are denying the value of the past, fostering dreams of rebellion, which focus around a strange, charismatic figure -- the near-naked, unkempt and smelly Jude Mason, with his flowing gray hair, a hippie before his time.

We feel the growing unease, the undertones of sex and cruelty. The tension erupts over his novel Babbletower, set in a past revolutionary era, where a band of people retire to a castle to found an ideal community. In this book, as in the courtrooms, as in the art school's haphazard classes and on the committee set up to study "the teaching of language," people function increasingly in groups. Many are obsessed with protecting the young, but the fashionable notion of children as innocent and free slowly comes to seem wishful, and perilous.

Babel Tower is the third, following The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life, of a planned quartet of novels set in different mid-century time frames. The personal and legal crises of Frederica mirror those of the age. This is the decade of the Beatles, the Death of God, the birth of computer languages. In Byatt's vision, the presiding genius of the 1960s seems to be a blend of the Marquis de Sade and The Hobbit. The resulting confusion, charted with a brilliant imaginative sympathy, is as comic as it is threatening and bizarre.
Product Details
Paperback (640 pages)
Published: June 24, 1997
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9780679736806
Other books byA.S. Byatt
  • Possession

    Possession
    National Bestseller   Winner of England’s Booker Prize and the literary sensation of the year, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.  An exhilarating novel of wit and romance, an intellectual mystery, and a triumphant love story. This tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets became a huge bookseller favorite, and then on to national bestellerdom.

    Ragnarok

    Ragnarok
    “Brilliantly effective. . . . Surely among the most beautiful and incisive [pages] Byatt has ever written.”—Paul Binding, The Independent (UK) “A brilliant, highly intelligent, fiercely personal rendition of the Scandinavian mythology. . . . A gorgeous enrichment and interpretation.”—Ursula K. Le Guin, Literary Review (UK) The gods meet their cataclysmic end in this acclaimed work of fiction from the inimitable author of Possession and The Children’s Book, now in paperback. As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new life, whose dark, war-ravaged days feel very removed from the peace and love being preached in church and at school. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods—a book of ancient Norse myths—and her inner and outer worlds are transformed. She feels an instant kinship with these vivid, beautiful, terrifying tales of the end of the gods: they seem far more real, far more familiar during these precarious days. How could this child know that fifty years on, many of the birds and flowers she took for granted on her walks to school would become extinct? War, natural disaster, reckless gods, and the recognition of the world's impermanence are just some of the threads that Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, Ragnarok is a landmark piece of storytelling from “one of the most brilliant minds and speakers of our generation” (The Independent).

    The Children's Book

    The Children's Book
    From the Booker Prize-winning, bestselling author of Possession: a deeply affecting story of a singular family.   When children’s book author Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of a museum, she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends. But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. The Wellwoods’ personal struggles and hidden desires unravel against a breathtaking backdrop of the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, as the Edwardian period dissolves into World War I and Europe’s golden era comes to an end.  

    The Matisse Stories

    The Matisse Stories
    These three stories celebrate the eye even as they reveal its unexpected proximity to the heart. For if each of A.S. Byatt's narratives is in some way inspired by a painting of Henri Matisse, each is also about the intimate connection between seeing and feeling--about the ways in which a glance we meant to be casual may suddenly call forth the deepest reserves of our being. Beautifully written, intensely observed, The Matisse Stories is fiction of spellbinding authority. "Full of delight and humor...The Matisse Stories is studded with brilliantly apt images and a fine sense for subtleties of conversation and emotion."--San Francisco Chronicle

Favorite QuotesFROM THIS BOOK
  • It might begin: The thrush has his anvil or altar on one fallen stone in a heap, gold and grey, roughly squared and shaped, hot in the sun and mossy in the shade.

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  • Es könnte so beginnen: Das Drosselmännchen hat seinen Amboß oder Altar auf einem der Steine eines Trümmerhaufens, einem goldenen und grauen Stein, heiß im Sonnenlicht und bemoost im...

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  • Human beings invented Original Sin because the alternative hypothesis was worse. Better to be at the centre of a universe whose terrors are all a direct result of our own failings, than...

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  • And they went on walking, and if the Krebs did not catch up with them, they are walking still.

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  • Und sie wanderten immer weiter, und wenn die Krebs sie nicht eingeholt haben, dann wandern sie noch heute.

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