The Server by Tim Parks - review by Toby Lichtig

Toby Lichtig

Search for Serenity

The Server


Harvill Secker 278pp £13.59 order from our bookshop

Racked with pelvic pain and ‘losing interest in intimacy’, Tim Parks was at a loss. Even his characters were becoming ‘manic and withdrawn’. Failed relationships dominated Rapids (2005), and Cleaver (2006) featured a metaphysically challenged journalist holed up in a Tyrolean mountain lodge. Parks subsequently sought relief, for himself and his characters, in Buddhist meditation. Much to his surprise, it had a powerful effect. He described this in his memoir Teach Us to Sit Still (2010), and now a novel has evolved from the experience.

The Server is set during a ten-day vipassana retreat – one of those anti-stimuli affairs that gives its guests a chance to abnegate the self. Passions are renounced, human interaction forbidden. There is no talking, no writing and definitely no sex. This is all very well in therapeutic theory, but

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