A Novel

Book - 2012 | 1st ed.
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The great master of farce turns to an exclusive island retreat for a comedy of mislaid identities, unruly passions, and demented, delicious disorder

On the private Greek island of Skios, the high-paying guests of a world-renowned foundation prepare for the annual keynote address, to be given this year by Dr. Norman Wilfred, an eminent authority on the scientific organization of science. He turns out to be surprisingly youthful, handsome, and charming--quite unlike his reputation as dry and intimidating. Everyone is soon eating out of his hands. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the foundation's attractive and efficient organizer.

Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki's old friend Georgie has rashly agreed to spend a furtive horizontal weekend with a notorious schemer, who has characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped there with her instead is a pompous, balding individual called Dr. Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper, and increasingly all sense of reality--indeed, everything he possesses other than the text of a well-traveled lecture on the scientific organization of science.

In a spiraling farce about upright academics, gilded captains of industry, ambitious climbers, and dotty philanthropists, Michael Frayn, the farceur "by whom all others must be measured" ( CurtainUp ), tells a story of personal and professional disintegration, probing his eternal theme of how we know what we know even as he delivers us to the outer limits of hilarity.

Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books, c2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780805095494
Branch Call Number: FIC FRAYN
Characteristics: 257 p. ; 22 cm.


From the critics

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Mar 30, 2014

Fans of British humor (Kingsley Amis, David Lodge et al) will be disappointed at this lively but uneven and not much of a laugh-inducing farce ending with absurdity. More for fans of present day American sitcoms with situational rather than literary or character humor.

IMolina3 Jan 19, 2014

I particularly did not like this book.. i gave it a couple of chances readin it, but it bored me as a fudge..

Jul 03, 2013

Spent a very pleasant afternoon reading this Frayn novel. Laughed out loud several times. Nothing serious in this book as the author pokes fun at conference organizers, attendees, guests of honor, and relationships.
Having been in airports where meeters are present with name cards, I too have wondered what would happen if the wrong person approached the meeters identifying themselves wrongly as the named person. What a fun book! I'll try some of his other novels now.

WVMLStaffPicks Jun 08, 2013

Assumed identities, false assumptions, finding strangers in ones’ beds, pretensions, cads, bounders, clever maidens, and an exotic setting add up to a rollicking farce. Shakespeare’s comedies with air travel, cell phones and modern mores.

Apr 15, 2013

Frayn is truly a master of farce. This novel would make a great play à la "Noises Off".

Mar 18, 2013

A pleasant surprise, I wasn't expecting to enjoy it much after reading scathing opinions of Booker prize buffs when it was long listed last year. However, I found it funny and charming, characters believeable albeit in an intentionally unbelieveable setting of a commedy of errors. Good old fashioned fun.

Jan 05, 2013

I laughted out loud while reading.

crankylibrarian Sep 27, 2012

Sort of like "What's Up Doc?" meets _Being and Nothingness_. The lives of two passengers on a luxury flight to Greece become hopelessly intertwined: Oliver Fox, charming n'er do well, walks off with the suitcase and identify of acclaimed lecturer and academic celebrity Dr. Norman Wilfred; meanwhile the real Dr. Wilfred finds himself staying in the villa (complete with perennially underclad girlfriend ) of Oliver Fox. What begins as a whimsical lark for Oliver becomes increasingly complicated as lovers and ex-lovers, socialites, international gangsters, saturnine cab drivers and a very confused conference director all become embroiled in his deception. Eventually, neither Oliver nor Dr Wilfred is completely secure in his own identity, as each slips further into the life of his doppelgänger. With an ear for pseduo-intellectual babble and a colorful cast of secondary characters, Frayn's satire on academic celebrity and the willingness to see silk purses in sow's ears will resonate for many.

Aug 21, 2012

Madcap comic tale set on a sun-drenched Greek island, with an unexpected ending the author doesn't seem to take seriously. A bit disappointing after Headlong.


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