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Submitted Literature

Quantity Theory of Insanity

By Will Self


Self’s “Quantity Theory of Insanity” is a collection of short stories, some of which interlink within each other and within Self’s other work. “Ward 9" is the story of an Art Therapist, Misha, who discovers some odd secrets about Dr Zack Busner’s psychiatric ward. “The Quantity Theory of Insanity” focuses on a mock conference, providing a satirical take on academia and also featuring Busner and his history.  Formed of short stories and novella, “Dr Mukhti and Other Tales of Woe” again picks up the comical characters of Mukti and Busner who gradually become locked in a strange clinical warfare, each referring increasingly dangerous, complex or difficult patients to the other in a battle of sanity.  “The Sweet Smell of Psychosis” explores drug-induced psychosis and the increasingly common use recreational substances among certain media-related career groups.

Key Themes:

  • Medical Training
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

128 – “My own early life was fraught with neurotic illness.  The debacle surrounding my analysis by Alkan is well known to the public, so there's no point in trying to hide it.  The received understanding about my background, my early life, my schooling, and indeed my undergraduate studies with Muller, is that they were all spectacularly mundane.  My circumstances and character-if you listen to these biographers-that's the absolute banality of a Hitler.”

Reference: Will, Self. 1991. Quantity Theory of Insanity. London: Bloomsbury, 2006


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Monday 23rd March 2009