David Lodge has written numerous books. How long has he been writing? Six decades? From all his books, this one is the one standing out to me, it is a little different, and it is great.

Here are a few reasons:

  • overall, Lodge is a brilliant writer, and he certainly shows off in this one
  • the fun, light-hearted start instinctively makes you want to read on
  • it is not quite his usual style
  • it takes you from what seems a comical topic to the discussions about the essence of life

Desmond Bate’s is retired, he is in his 60s after all and his health is not what it used to be. His ears more than his general health, actually. He was a professor of linguistics and his job isn’t quite over yet – he agreed to help Alex (or Axe, as he first understood her name when he thought he didn’t need his hearing aid), an American  doctoral student. Agreed is an overstatement. It was a misunderstanding because he couldn’t hear what she said. And from the first missed meeting – because he didn’t hear it of course and had no idea he made it – she is less focused on her doctorate on suicide notes than on… other things. They involve tying herself naked to a bed, spanking, and sticking her panties into Desmond’s back pocket.

His wife is getting equally annoyed with his deafness. She has none of the ageing signs; she has a new career and is busy. There is little time for conversations such as “It’s noisy in here.” “What?” “I said it is noisy in here.” “I am sorry, I can’t hear you, it is so noisy in here.”

The eye-opener for Desmond though comes when he sees his ailing father, who really is going deaf and completely isolated. After one too many “soiled by Cubism” incidents (which of course was originally “spoiled by tourism”) he retracted from social gatherings and started a very lonely life. What is the point in going out anymore? All he hears is “so we spent most of our time in our shit, the cows’ in-laws finding they stuttered”! (See if you can guess! Scroll to the bottom for the answer.)

While his social mishaps make a hilarious read, he doesn’t enjoy other people’s company anymore and loud, crowded events become his nightmare. Seeing his father living his solitary life however makes him rethink his situation and the novel slowly turns from laugh-out-loud misunderstandings and accidents to insights into essays of deafness, and finally takes on a much more serious note of thoughts about his marriage, his first marriage, his late wife he lost to cancer, and his faith.

This is what readers mean when they say a book takes you on a journey!

Deaf Sentence, by David Lodge
First published 2008
ISBN: 1846551684; ISBN13: 9781846551680

And here is the answer

“so we spent most of our time in our shit, the cows’ in-laws finding they stuttered”
what was originally said was: “the last time the friend went to France it was so hot they spent most of the time in their gite, cowering behind the shutters”

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