By Will Eaves
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Taking its cue from the arrest and legally enforced chemical castration of the mathematician Alan Turing, Murmur is the account of a man who responds to intolerable physical and mental stress with love, honour and a rigorous, unsentimental curiosity about the ways in which we perceive ourselves and the world.
Convicted of gross indecency with another male in 1952, Turing was sentenced to a regimen of punitive hormonal injection. He grew breasts, survived the year-long ordeal, but died in 1954. Verdict: suicide. Alec Pryor – the book’s avatar for Turing – is caught between fascination and horror as he becomes a new version of himself. The novel asks: what does great bodily change (torture) do to a person’s mind? The bulk of the book is a sequence of dreams and letters; these are bookended by extracts from a fictional journal that show a brilliant intellect struggling to come to terms with the effects of that change. It further asks: how does a mathematician, so used to removing personal bias from analysis – the sine qua non of scientific method – fit the personal experience of pain/joy/love back into a neutral explanatory scheme?Tweet