5 speakers 15 minutes each
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? Will Eaves is the author of four novels and two collections of poetry. He was Arts Editor of the Times Literary Supplement from 1995 to 2011, and now teaches at the University of Warwick.