Martin John by Anakana Schofield

martin john FINAL

Anakana Schofield

Price: £10

Trade Paperback


eBook ISBN:

Original language:

Published by:
And Other Stories

Publication date:
4 February 2016 (UK & Europe)


To every question he said he didn’t know.
Still they came, the questions came.
I don’t know did not put a stop to them.

– from Martin John

Martin John must put a stop to it. They have an agreement, he and Mam. Get out to Aunty Noanie on Wednesday. Stop talking rubbish. Don’t go near the buses and don’t go down on the Tube. Keep yourself on the outside. Get a job at night. Get a job at night or else I’ll come for ya.

But Martin John can’t stop. Meddlers are interrupting him and Martin John doesn’t like Meddlers. If he’s interrupted he can’t complete his circuits; if he can’t complete his circuits, bad things may happen. That’s a fact.

Written with all the electrifying humour of her award-winning debut Malarky, exhibiting a startling grasp of the loops and obsessions of a molester’s mind, Martin John is a testament to Anakana Schofield’s skill and audacity—and stands as a brilliant, Beckettian exploration of a man’s long slide into deviancy.

Advance Praise for Martin John

  • ‘Ambiguous; funny; distressing and complicated . . . this novel challenges our reactions to what Martin John does, to what men do.’ John Self, The Guardian
  • ‘Schofield writes without judgment, making her new novel an exceptional, albeit uncomfortable, reading into the mind of a paranoid, compulsive sex offender . . . Schofield shows her skill through precise, singular and forceful prose. Five stars.’ Cassie Davies, Sunday Telegraph
  • ‘Be warned: regardless of one’s views on sexual deviants who prey on women . . . Martin John will make you ill with laughing but also guilty for smiling at a human tragedy . . . Many writers have brazenly wandered into the minefield of mental illness, but few with Schofield’s peculiar decency and candour.’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
  • ‘Schofield tells the story from inside [Martin John’s] anxious mind, in a voice jagged, funny and unsettling . . . Irresistible and humorous.’ Jeffrey Burke, Mail on Sunday
  • ‘In Martin John – more than the detailed research into sexual deviancy that has gone into creating a terrible life with its own nauseating logic and rules – it is the invisible maker, shaping and endlessly fiddling with the content of the story, who draws us in and makes it real. Schofield gives us a portrait of someone who is not only believable, but understandable.’ Kirsty Gunn, New Statesman
  • Utterly brilliant . . . bleakly hilarious, incredibly painful and one of the most formally exciting books around. Eimear McBride, 2016 Summer Books pick, Times Literary Supplement
  • Martin John is a work of marvellous contradiction: the uncomfortable content belied by ravishing style, irresistible rhythm and exquisitely murky humour. This is risk-taking fiction at its most insightful.’ Sara Baume, Irish Times
  • A grown-up tale of how blighted lives carry on . . . fizz[ing] with surface humour . . . this is a book about social breakdown as well as mental breakdown, with a portrait — almost in passing — of a no-questions-asked migrant labour market in which Martin John can be tolerated but not helped. Anthony Cummins, The Spectator
  • ‘Deploying some serious literary gumption, Schofield’s frequently hilarious, and distinctly modernist, linguistic games are always gainfully employed in the uneasy, indelicate task of placing her reader nose to nose with the humanity of a sex offender . . .  addictively reflexive, and potentially lethal. Eimear McBride, New York Times
  • ‘Frenetic, risk-taking . . . deliberately cryptic and bleakly funny, Martin John puts you inside the mind of a person you’d strive to avoid in real life, but also points to the fundamental elusiveness of character. New Yorker
  • ‘Eerie and elliptical . . . Ms. Schofield renders Martin John’s consciousness through a kind of staccato anti-poetry.’ Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
  • ‘A necessary and urgent visit to one of society’s great evils.’ Sunday Business Post
  • Schofield eschews an excess of detail to terrific effect. The novel’s harsh, sometimes broken language, paired with a minimum of punctuation, crafts a deliberate and effective sense of confusion, as if entering a mind or minds in the midst of great turmoil . . . This is an important and brilliantly unconventional work.’ Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • ‘An extraordinary, startling piece of writing . . . Schofield brings warmth and humanity to her characters, and the formal experiments she attempts within the text are always in service of their inner realities rather than ostentatious stylistic flourishes.’ Kirstin Innes, The Herald Books of the Year 2015
  • ‘Profane, strange, hilarious, and necessary, Martin John is a beguiling triumph.’ Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor
  • ‘This is a very moving and terrific book.’ Daniel Handler (alias Lemony Snicket)
  • ‘This is literature serving its most essential function: illuminating the darkest recesses; dragging the unspoken and suppressed to the foreground of our consciousness; throwing light across the blackest of humanity’s vistas. This is writing at its most fearless: visceral and searing, yet textured and nuanced; the darkest of comedy and the deepest of insight, combined in a manner unique to Anakana Schofield.’ Donal Ryan, author of The Thing About December and The Spinning Heart
  • ‘You might hold your breath while reading this novel. The story transgresses the body with or without our permission, and illuminates important ideas we often look away from. And yet, it is now, more than ever, that we need to reread the body.’ Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water
  • ‘Martin John is one of the most original and compelling contemporary novels I’ve read. The writing is an astringent and unforgettable experience.’ Krys Lee, author of Drifting House
  • Martin John is singular in contemporary literature as a deeply imagined, almost operatic view of marginal characters trapped in the absurdities and perversions of systems: mental, social, and familial. Anakana uses devastatingly specific prose that conversely portrays the poetry of human suffering. Moving, profoundly human and darkly humorous.’  Thalia Field, author of Bird Lovers, Backyard
  • ‘[Schofield’s] incantatory prose does not miss a step . . . a brave, discomforting book.’ New Internationalist
  • ‘As easy to devour as it is difficult to stomach.’ Gary Kaill, The Skinny
  • ‘As an avant-garde Canadian novelist, Schofield is in a class unto herself. [Martin John] is a novel that deserves to be discussed.’  David B. Hobbs, Globe and Mail
  • ‘The novel all your favourite novelists will be reading.’  Globe and Mail
  • ‘Anakana Schofield has eloquently captured the inner life of a hapless pervert — of whom there are many in our society, but who we little understand. Read Martin John and experience the ineluctable pull of one such guilt-ridden deviant and his overbearing mam.’ Patricia Dawn Robertson, Toronto Star
  • ‘A novel that mirrors its protagonist’s obsessive and deviant behavior in its elastic prose’ The Toronto StarTop 5 of 2015
  • ‘A fearless look at a broken soul. . . Do pick [Martin John] up if you are enthralled by what the novel with its variable and elastic form can do as Schofield pushes the boundaries in careful calibrations of narrative structure and language that bites.’ Candace Fertile, Vancouver Sun
  • ‘Schofield’s first achievement is to burrow into Martin John’s rackety mind. Her second crucial achievement is to turn this unsettling apprehension into a necessary, extraordinary act of empathy.’ Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Review
  • ‘[Martin John] is an exhilarating follow-up to her First Novel Award-winning Malarky . . . Martin John’s fractured narrative perspective is positively adrenal . . . Schofield’s ability to get us jacked up from exquisitely written and deeply troubling jokes . . . makes the Irish Canadian novelist one of the highest-flying and funniest working today.’  Emily Keeler, National Post
  • ‘The funniest, and possibly darkest novel of the year.’ National Post Books of 2015 (no. 3)
  • ‘Simply brilliant. With its discomfiting portraiture, dazzling brain-puzzle of a storytelling technique, and utter assurance, Martin John easily matches the tremendous promise of Malarky, Schofield’s debut.’ Brett Josef Grubisic, Macleans
  • ‘Martin John is not so much a character as a caricature of masculinity, a figure that, though, granted a privileged position in meaning’s labyrinth, is, nevertheless, caught in his own circuit, fumbling with his zipper.’ Full-Stop
  • ‘Possessed of a biting, acerbic voice influenced by Beckett, Joyce, and O’Casey, Schofield offers a sardonic, funny, and stylistically innovative breath of fresh air to a literature that too often feels starved of oxygen.’ Quill and Quire
  • ‘An intelligent, deeply thought-provoking — and brave — novel.’ Reading Matters
  • ‘A profound, innovative, and poignant meditation on identity.’ Large-hearted Boy, Favourite Novels of 2015
  • ‘Everything about this book is unique . . . The subject may be difficult for some. But it is so well written that it is a must read and it is very deserving of its nomination this awards season.’ Good Books and a Cup of Tea

More Information

  • Read more about Anakana Schofield on our authors’ page.
  • Martin John was shortlisted for the 2015 Giller Prize (Canada’s answer to the Booker), and the 2016 Ethel Wilson Prize for Fiction.
  • You can read Anakana Schofield’s short piece 5 x 5 Rooms for the Human Rights Day ‘Writing Rights’ series in the Irish Times.
  • Anakana Schofield’s debut novel Malarky won the First Novel Award and the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in 2013. 
  • If you had subscribed to And Other Stories before 27th July 2015, we would have sent you a first edition copy of the book – in which all subscribers are thanked by name – before its official publication. To receive up to 6 And Other Stories titles per year, find out about subscribing to here.

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