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This review is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

Cover of Fourth Person Singular
Sasha DugdaleThe Lyrical Task
Nuar Alsadir, Fourth Person Singular (Liverpool University Press) £9.99;
Leontia Flynn, The Radio (Cape) £9.99
Nuar Alsadir’s Fourth Person Singular is a subtle and occupying book. I’ve been carrying it round for months in my tote bag and in my head, returning to it in libraries, on trains, discovering notes I made on the text, forgetting a detail then and rereading it in a sort of déjà-vu – wondering if I had had that thought myself, if it had welled out of my own unconscious, or if it had been planted there by Alsadir at an earlier reading. It’s the seismograph of a never-still brain. Perhaps ironically, for all the insistence on the conditional nature of consciousness in Alsadir’s texts, I was heartened every time I read it by the sure knowledge that there was a consciousness like mine (like yours), constantly turning over, a car engine at the lights, generating endless associative and lyrical threads of thoughts. Like all literature worth its salt, it recalls the familiar neural engine in new ways.

Fourth Person Singular opens with a series of fragmentary lyrical thoughts, many of which are resplendent in their truthfulness about thought and consciousness:

Thinking off the page: a plane circling over its destination, waiting for a signal to land.

A text message in the night poked into my dreams like a magnetic rod and scrambled them, redistributing the metal shavings.

These ‘shavings’ laid out associatively, a constant quick-witted interior monologue with no exterior motivation, reminded me of the brilliant asides in a nineteenth­-century novel, but all put together, without the endless social detail, the suicides, the mud, the arduous ...

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