Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2

Me fail? I fly!

Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2 (©1995, Harper Perennial 1996)

0060976926The narrator of Galatea 2.2 is a 35 year old ‘humanist in residence’ at a massive, cutting-edge scientific research centre somewhere in the USA. Recently returned from years in The Netherlands, he is still hurting from the end of his first great love relationship. When an odd, misanthropic scientist invites him to collaborate in a project to develop an artificial entity capable of producing literary commentary that will pass for human, he accepts the challenge. They are doing it for a bet, and start out thinking of it as an elaborate scam. The novel’s reference to the story of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his statue Galatea, which then came to life, sets up clear enough expectations.

A complicating factor is that the narrator’s name is Richard Powers, and as he tells the story of his past in a second, retrospective narrative…

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