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 Even his characters were becoming ‘manic and withdrawn’.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