Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker

Click to buy from Amazon or support your local bookshop by buying it from them.
Click to buy from Amazon or support your local bookshop by buying it from them.

This was lent to me by a friend, she said I had to read it, that I would love it. No pressure!

It tells the story of a postgraduate student, he’s writing his thesis on the work of the famed writer and once ‘infant terrible’ Paul Michel. He is also falling in love with a fellow student who is studying Schiller’s work with an inspiringly singular intensity.

His girlfriend convinces him that if he really cares about Paul Michel, he should rescue him from the insane asylum he has been interred in since vandalising a graveyard the week after his hero Foucault’s death. 

Although hesitant at first, eventually he is persuaded and sets off to France in search of him. He first finds the authors letters to Foucault and discovers just how deeply he loved the philosopher. Is this what drove him mad? 

This book made me feel intelligent, ignorant and nostalgic all at the same time.

I felt ignorant because I have never read Foucault and hadn’t heard of Paul Michel. He and his books were written so vividly that I felt sure he must be a real author. 

I felt intelligent because regardless of my ignorance, this story carried me along effortlessly. It’s written in the first person and it felt like the author was relating his tale to me, a respected friend. The fact that this book was recommended to me by a friend whose intelligence I respect boosted that feeling I’m sure.

The nostalgia was a weird feeling though. It really felt like I was reliving a portion of my own life. Possibly because it is set in 1993, when I could have been writing my own thesis if I had only bothered to go to Uni! 

But as high brow as this book sounds it is never stiff or formal. It also isn’t really about Foucault or great literature. It’s about the meeting of minds, love and madness. Three sides that create a real love triangle.

5 bites. 

I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.