In Lars Iyer’s 2014 novel Wittgenstein Jr, undergraduates follow their philosophy tutor around Cambridge, wishing to become, ‘if not fellow thinkers, then at least … companions in thought’. The narrator of Iyer’s brilliant trilogy of novels, Spurious, Dogma and Exodus, meanwhile refers to himself as ‘a friend of a friend of thought’. You might call Iyer’s books novels of ideas, though it is perhaps more accurate to think of them as novels of an idea of ideas: his characters always believe they live at a remove from things of importance. In Nietzsche and the Burbs, a chorus of hyper-intelligent provincial teenagers yearn to be at the centre of things, and for spiritual intensity.
Chandra and his friends Paula, Merv and Art are about to sit their A levels at a comprehensive in Wokingham, Berkshire. While they feel stifled by their suburban existence, it also gives them something to rail against. They talk about films by Lars von Trier and Andrei Tarkovsky.