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Bay Trên Tổ Chim Cúc Cu

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Mọi chuyện ở một trại tâm thần đầy quy tắc dường như đảo lộn khi McMurphy xuất hiện. Bất trị như một chú ngựa hoang, hắn vào viện để trốn án lao động khổ sai và không hề có ý định cứu thế. Nhưng trong những ngày ở đó, cái phần tốt đẹp yêu tự do, thích tung hoành của hắn đã làm nên một cuộc cách mạng, tạo ra mối liên kết giữa những thân xác yếu ớt, những trí não bị tổn thương, nhắc họ nhớ về cá tính, về chính mình hoặc về những kẻ đã-từng-là-mình. Sự nổi loạn đó thách thức trật tự đạo đức giả mà Liên hợp áp đặt. Cuộc chiến bất cân sức bắt đầu...

Được tạo nên từ những trang văn vừa sảng khoái vừa bi thương, Bay trên tổ chim cúc cu đã chạm tới những câu hỏi phức tạp nhất về tự do và khuôn khổ, cá nhân và hệ thống, bình thường và bất thường, sự tỉnh táo và điên loạn... Một best seller, một kiệt tác văn chương có mặt trong danh sách những cuốn sách vĩ đại nhất thế kỷ hai mươi, làm chỗ dựa cho một trong ba bộ phim duy nhất trong lịch sử giải Oscar từng chiến thắng ở toàn bộ các đề cử quan trọng nhất, Bay trên tổ chim cúc cu có sức mạnh của một tác phẩm không thể bị lãng quên.

436 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1962

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About the author

Ken Kesey

84 books2,485 followers
Ken Kesey was American writer, who gained world fame with his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962, filmed 1975). In the 1960s, Kesey became a counterculture hero and a guru of psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary. Kesey has been called the Pied Piper, who changed the beat generation into the hippie movement.

Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, CO, and brought up in Eugene, OR. He spent his early years hunting, fishing, swimming; he learned to box and wrestle, and he was a star football player. He studied at the University of Oregon, where he acted in college plays. On graduating he won a scholarship to Stanford University. Kesey soon dropped out, joined the counterculture movement, and began experimenting with drugs. In 1956 he married his school sweetheart, Faye Haxby.

Kesey attended a creative writing course taught by the novelist Wallace Stegner. His first work was an unpublished novel, ZOO, about the beatniks of the North Beach community in San Francisco. Tom Wolfe described in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) Kesey and his friends, called the Merry Pranksters, as they traveled the country and used various hallucinogens. Their bus, called Furthur, was painted in Day-Glo colors. In California Kesey's friends served LSD-laced Kool-Aid to members of their parties.

At a Veterans' Administration hospital in Menlo Park, California, Kesey was paid as a volunteer experimental subject, taking mind-altering drugs and reporting their effects. These experiences as a part-time aide at a psychiatric hospital, LSD sessions - and a vision of an Indian sweeping there the floor - formed the background for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, set in a mental hospital. While writing the work, and continuing in the footsteps of such writers as Thomas De Quincy (Confessions of an English Opium Eater, 1821), Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception, 1954), and William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch, 1959), Kesey took peyote. The story is narrated by Chief Bromden. Into his world enters the petty criminal and prankster Randall Patrick McMurphy with his efforts to change the bureaucratic system of the institution, ruled by Nurse Ratched.

The film adaptation of the book gained a huge success. When the film won five Academy Awards, Kesey was barely mentioned during the award ceremonies, and he made known his unhappiness with the film. He did not like Jack Nicholson, or the script, and sued the producers.

Kesey's next novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), appeared two years later and was also made into a film, this time directed by Paul Newman. The story was set in a logging community and centered on two brothers and their bitter rivalry in the family. After the work, Kesey gave up publishing novels. He formed a band of "Merry Pranksters", set up a commune in La Honda, California, bought an old school bus, and toured America and Mexico with his friends, among them Neal Cassady, Kerouac's travel companion. Dressed in a jester's outfit, Kesey was the chief prankster.

In 1965 Kesey was arrested for possession of marijuana. He fled to Mexico, where he faked an unconvincing suicide and then returned to the United States, serving a five-month prison sentence at the San Mateo County Jail. After this tumultuous period he bought farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon, settled down with his wife to raise their four children, and taught a graduate writing seminar at the University of Oregon. In the early 1970s Kesey returned to writing and published Kesey's Garage Sale (1973). His later works include the children's book Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear(1990) and Sailor Song (1992), a futuristic tale about an Alaskan fishing village and Hollywood film crew. Last Go Around (1994), Kesey's last book, was an account of a famous Oregon rodeo written in the form of pulp fiction. In 2001, Kesey died of complications after surgery for liver cance

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,047 reviews
107 reviews4 followers
December 1, 2008
I have a love/hate relationship with this book. The writing and imagery are superb and I always love a "down with tyrannical overloads, generic living, and medicalization" moral, but its other lesson leaves me cringing. In the basic knowledge I have of Ken Kesey, the book ultimately seems very misogynistic and anti-feminist. I'm all for a gender balance, but this book botches up the entire process in a method that purposely lacks tongue-in-cheek flair.

Basically, the plot seems to involve men mentally castrated by a domineering woman who could just as easily be labeled "Bitch" as she could "Big Nurse." Enter main character--who, in my tattered, yellow-paged, 70's copy, directly labels him as "the hero of [the book]" on the back cover--a man that pretty much shakes the men up to the supposed feminization of American culture and how it's destroying their identities as males. (Read here: a huge characterization of the male ego is to dominate the female with opposites all around.)

How is this man so easily labeled a hero? Have we forgotten he has been charged and convicted, among other things, with rape of a female minor? And the main reason he's in the asylum is to skimp out on his prison sentence? How is that "masculine," if I am to continue on with the stereotypes the book itself perpetuates--and yet backpedals when necessary? Why do we consider him the "main character" when the story is being told in the first person by a Native American? Can you not be a man--a hero--unless you're white? Or perhaps it was because he was so docile?

In the end, the supposed hero of the book teaches men that, to cast off impending feminization, one must be violent towards women; muscle them out of the way, destroy them if they're relentless. If you are unable or fearful of doing so, you're better off killing yourself than being only half of a man. Oh, but wait, there's a special lesson for the ladies themselves, too; To steer clear of the eventual rape, assault, murder, or torture--and yes, it will happen--simply sexualize yourself. That's the only way to be safe and--isn't it convenient--securely a woman. So much for individualization and going against cultural norms, gentlemen. You're a dime a dozen.

Before we glorify such a book, we have to sit down and figure out what exactly masculinity is outside of a cultural setting before we can complain that culture itself is taking it away. Are we to allow a cowardly, violent, "looking-out-for-Number-One" individual give us this definition, fair and balanced?

It's one thing for him to say it, it's another for us to listen.
Profile Image for Samara Steele.
3 reviews77 followers
November 17, 2008
Last night, at about 2 am, I finished 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey.

I lay awake for a long time afterward, watching the bars of light on the ceiling, holding my eyes open until the pupils dilated enough to shrink the light, then I'd blink and have to start all over.

Finally I sat up and turned on the lights.

The book had done something to me. Like it'd punched me in the face and said, "Do something, you idiot!"

So I gathered up a bunch of sentimental shit from around my apartment, stuffed it into a backpack, hiked across town, and threw it off the Morrison Bridge.

The backpack made a loud 'thunk' when it hit the water. Like a body falling from a building. I watched it float downstream: a tiny dot weaving through the rippling reflections of the city lights, until it finally sank below the surface.

I tell you this story because, in a way, throwing that bag of stuff off the bridge is the best analysis I can make of Kesey's book.

So much has been said before, what else can I say?

Chuck Palahniuk summed it up nicely in the forward for the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. He explains that "'Cuckoo's Nest' tells the same story as the most popular novels of the last century," it focuses on the modern paradox of trying to be human in the well-oiled machine of a capitalist democracy, where you must be either a savior or a slave. Palahniuk points out that 'Cuckoo's Nest' shows us a third option: "You can create and live in a new system...not rebelling against or carving into your culture, but creating a vision of your own and working to make that option real."

Is there anything else left to say?

Reading this book is like being inside Fight Club. You take punch after punch, but keep crawling back for more because it's making you feel things you didn't know you could feel--and as long as you stay conscious, and don't give up or let your eyes glaze over, this book will creep into the very edges of your consciousness and give you new words for the questions you always wanted to ask, show you how to draw a map of your own, and give you a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, it is possible to rise above the machine of society and become human again.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
June 20, 2017
Profane, hilarious, disturbing, heartbreaking, shocking – powerful.

Ken Kesey’s genre defining 1962 novel that was made into a Broadway play and then made into an Academy Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson will inspire strong emotions. I can see people loving it or hating it.

I loved it.

First of all, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: a book that is banned from libraries has a place on my bookshelf.

So all you amateur censurers out there – you are my enemy. I don’t like you. I defy you. A book that you don’t like is a book that I do and I want to rub it in your face.

This from Wikipedia:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of America's most highly challenged and banned novels.

• 1974: Five residents of Strongsville, Ohio sued the local Board of Education to remove the novel from classrooms. They deemed the book "pornographic" and said that it "glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles, and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination".

• 1975: The book was removed from public schools in Randolph, New York and Alton, Oklahoma.

• 1977: Removed from the required reading list in Westport, Maine.

• 1978: Banned from the St. Anthony, Idaho Freemont High School and the teacher who assigned the novel was fired.

• 1982: Challenged at Merrimack, New Hampshire High School.

• 1986: Challenged at Aberdeen Washington High school in Honors English classes.
2000: Challenged at Placentia Unified School District (Yorba Linda, California). Parents say that the teachers could "choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again".

The teacher who assigned this as reading was FIRED??? The year 2000? The year 2000??? We are in the 21st century and someone is calling this garbage??


First of all, McMurphy is alive.

“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

The dramatic tension between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched was literary diamonds – rare treasure. Kesey created a novel wherein was a clash between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Clash! That’s what it was and a reader could see it coming from a mile down the tracks, like a freight train whistling and steaming. Here it comes.

McMurphy was the novel’s tragic hero – a red headed Irish American troublemaker who everyone loves deep down. The Big Nurse – Mildred Ratched, is the Man. She is the embodiment of the institution, the rules, the law, the Order. Kesey has drawn an epic clash between chaos and order and did so within the halls and bleached clean walls of an insane asylum.

Though I could not help picturing Jack Nicholson as McMurphy while reading this, Kesey’s McMurphy is really described more like Charles Dickens’ Fagan, a red headed trickster, and perhaps in mythic terms he is Coyote, or Loki, he is THE TRICKSTER GOD, he is that opposing force that makes the orderly way of the universe stronger.


In another way, McMurphy is the quintessential American, and he can be seen as a metaphor for the spirit of America. He is the entrepreneur, the self-starter, the untamed rebel who makes his own rules. He is the great equalizer, the leader who kicks down the boundaries, who champions the little guy, who colors outside the lines and who picks the small boys and the fat kids on his team and then wins anyway and wins big.

“All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.”

Kesey’s narrator is also an unlikely selection: Chief Bromden, nicknamed Chief Broom because he is made to sweep the halls. A giant of a man, the rational, modern world has emasculated him, made him small and without a voice or strength. Chief is clearly schizophrenic but also lucid, he and the other patients are humans, deserving of respect and sympathy; one of the central points made by Kesey, who is as humanist as Kurt Vonnegut and as fun as a barrel full of monkeys. Chief’s dramatic and dynamic evolution is the barometer of this great work.

The Chronics and acutes. When McMurphy arrives at the institute, the residents are informally divided between the chronics – those whose condition has demanded their lifelong commitment; and the acutes, those whose insanity may be temporary and remedied. Interestingly, many are there voluntarily. McMurphy’s friendship with Chief (an erstwhile chronic) and his championing of the acutes status is a central theme of the book.

“What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or somethin'? Well you're not! You're not! You're no crazier than the average asshole out walkin' around on the streets and that's it. ”

Like Upton Sinclair’s muckraking journalistic exposures in The Jungle, Kesey’s novel can also be seen as a bright light shined on the mental health facilities in the 60s.

“He Who Marches Out Of Step Hears Another Drum”

A book that should be read.

Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,462 reviews3,611 followers
March 4, 2023
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a groundbreaking book and it is a manifesto about the rights of man to have an individuality…
…a guy has to learn to get along in a group before he'll be able to function in a normal society; how the group can help the guy by showing him where he's out of place; how society is what decides who's sane and who isn't, so you got to measure up.

Are you different from the others? Then we’ll correct you, make you fit and suit.
…people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.

Society strives to pull mentality of its members down to the level of total conformity and it tends to destroy those who try to be original.
But there are always those who crave to escape the cuckoo's nest.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,263 reviews2,437 followers
December 29, 2022

This novel tells us the story of despotic Nurse Ratched, who works in Oregon State mental hospital, and McMurphy, a patient who questions the rules imposed on the inmates by her in the hospital. It is considered one of the most controversial medical novels ever written and was banned multiple times for several reasons.

Multiple actresses turned down the role of Nurse Ratched when this novel was made into a movie. Everyone was scared to play her role as they were afraid that it would affect their image. It was ironic that Louisa Fletcher, who at last played the role, won the Academy Award for best actress along with her costar Jack Nicholson who won it for the best actor.

This book is, directly and indirectly, telling us a lot about healthcare problems during that time. It has a remarkable position in history as it changed the way Americans approached mental health. This is not a perfect book as there are many mistakes while the author tried to recreate a mental institution in the 1960s. Still, the author's personal experience due to his job in a Psychiatric hospital helped him a lot in creating this novel. This is indubitably one of the best Medical novels I ever read. Its silver screen version is also one of the best movies I have ever seen.
"He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy."
Profile Image for Adina .
889 reviews3,524 followers
June 11, 2021
“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” “He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.”

Ken Kesey’s novel has been on my TBR since March 2014. I do not know why it took me so long to finally read it, maybe it was the subject, but I am satisfied that I finally did. It is indeed a masterpiece and it will break your heart, as good books seem to do.

In short, the novel is set in a psychiatric ward with strict barbaric routines and treatment procedures. The ward is ruled by Nurse Ratched and her reign of terror is disturbed when a new patient comes in. McMurphy is laud, fun-loving and a trickster. After he sees how the „inmates” are treated he makes it his mission to disturb the routine. The novel is written from the Pov of a patient, "Chief" Bromden, a native American who feints being mute and deaf to be left alone.

“All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.” “If you don't watch it people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.”

The quotes above sums up the plot very well. McMurphy chose the stubbornness and you get to wonder, was it the right choice? But if you don’t fight then you lose yourself. Having read Stoner after this one, I got to also see the resigned behavior and the consequences are not less dramatic sometimes. Hard novel to read but it is worth it.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,898 reviews378 followers
April 19, 2022
4/18/22 gosh how many times have I actually read this now? I honestly do not know. And every time it’s like I’ve never read it; I take away something different. Tonight’s lesson is I think will be self esteem and how fragile that is, how it can take one person to tear it down or one person to build it. How no matter how hard you try to be positive, how you want to love yourself just the way you are and you even talk to yourself in the mirror-in the bathroom, in the driver’s seat, maybe the swiveled camera on your cellphone just one word, one look shreds your soul. Why do we have to show our age ? How is it we go to bed one night and it seems that overnight you look like your mother, who you love with all of your heart, but you’re not ready? You’ll never be ready.

10/9/20. The movie is currently on Netflix and it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time in my life. I broke out the audiobook, blew off the dust, and reminded my inner McMurphy to stay strong. Im currently on medical leave from work for the third time this year. I feel bad for my psychiatrist. She’s definitely earning her money with me.

I first read this book in 2007 after I became a daytime outpatient at Our Lady of Peace, my city's mental health facility. I had a nervous breakdown after losing my teaching job. I went 5 days a week; I ate lunch there. I was so medicated they transported me. Somehow this book and movie, and especially the character of McMurphy, was how my dad related to me during this trying time. Mental health is a trigger issue with me. It's not understood today. It certainly wasn't understood in the '60s. Let's just keep them caged, sedated, and manipulated. Make them feel guilty about their problems. Take away comfort and leisure. No friends, no family, no fun, no fresh air. Yeah, that sounds healthy

Addendum 2/13/18: just bought this on audible. 50th anniversary edition read by John C. Reilly
Got me thinking of my dad asking his McMurphy how Ms. Ratchett was today. That was probably the roughest patch of my life, but I would never have changed a thing. I learned so much about myself, and became so much stronger in spirit. However, I realize that if I had lived in an earlier time period my outcome could have been much gloomier and permanent. I’ve been reading various other mental health books lately, and sadly some things never change as advanced medicine has become. We just can’t seem to grasp the BRAIN.


How many of us "have been told dragons do not exist, then been dragged to their lairs?"

How many of us "forget sometimes what laughter can do?"

I think out of all the characters out of all the books, Billy the most breaks my heart. Tag teamed by his mother and Nurse Ratchett, he never had a chance in life. All he wants in life is love, and he proves himself to be such a gentleman.

As I drove home from work this morning listening to this book, I glanced at my speedometer; I was driving 40 mph on the interstate. It was during the gas station scene when the gang learns being insane can still mean being powerful. That’s when I finally realized how much hope McMurphy instilled in these terrified, suppressed lives, which makes the last couple of hours of the story all the more tragic. McMurphy gave these men another glance at happiness, reminded them how to be assertive, inspired a little self-worth again. He basically he showed them they were men, they were deserving of humane treatment. They were not anyone’s “ Boys” even at Billy’s age, the youngest at 31. They didn’t didn’t deserve the underhanded, demeaning manipulations and insinuations of a sadist. But these these new emotions did not germinate and bloom, only malice and grief took root.
Very few books hold my heart through years as this one does. I appreciate Kelsey’s honesty on the pages.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,846 followers
January 2, 2023
It´s not as if MKUltra was the worst thing

Because at least it ended.
And we won´t imagine all still secret, ongoing, and future brainwashing programs, sci fi has many marvelous madnesses regarding mind penetration. But what has been and still is done to mentally sick patients is a prime example of

When the cure is far worse than the illness
Because electroshocks, deprivation, far too hard drugs (we´re not talking about the stuff necessary to reduce hallucinations, the dangers for the patients themselves and others, etc) to keep patients calm and submissive, etc. are no medicine. That´s a combination of very bad psychiatry, that has nothing to do with a modern, interdisciplinary combination of neuroscience, brain surgery, and strongly imaging modality, AI, and big data fueled psychiatry, and sheer greed. Because, how surprising,

Some people are making very much money with mentally sick people
Just as the prison industrial complex loving mass incarceration and draconic laws to get enough customers, everyone selling and producing drugs, building mental asylums, imagining new mental illnesses to sell them, and oneself as the only one able to teach and cure, sees very sick people as cash cows. Besides that, Kesey is of course also

Showing society the consequence of intolerance
Discrimination, hate, and ignorance, fueled by the incompetence and greed of mentioned entities, created the argumentation for and belief that any

Mentally sick people, but also nonconformists and weirdos have bad working brains that need to be repaired
So give them a cure like, let´s say, a . By that, they´re not just less dangerous in the hellholes we threw them into, they are costing less. Not so much damage and work for the medical personnel, so that they can fully focus on expanding their

Dark empath emperor kingdom
How many there might be is as open as the question of how many sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, anti social disorderists/paths, etc. people are out there, but they are a freaking new way to manipulate. So 1 in 50, 100, or 500 people working in medical and social jobs might be the best hidden, undetectable, and totally credible monster. Because they can create real emotions for MRI detectors, learn how to act and create their according mimic, read much about medicine, psychology, and psychiatry, and have an education in one of these fields, they´re the ultimate and perfect wolf in sheep´s clothing. Nobody will see them coming, because nobody suspects them to do so. Nurse Ratched's obvious and clumsy sadistic torture methods are kindergarten in comparison.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
August 21, 2021
(Book 436 From 1001 Books) - One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) is a novel written by Ken Kesey.

Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the narrative serves as a study of the institutional processes and the human mind as well as a critique of behaviorism and a celebration of humanistic principles.

Bo Goldman adapted the novel into a 1975 film directed by Miloš Forman, which won five Academy Awards.

The book is narrated by "Chief" Bromden, a gigantic yet docile half-Native American patient at a psychiatric hospital, who presents himself as deaf and mute.

Bromden’s tale focuses mainly on the antics of the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, who faked insanity to serve his sentence for battery and gambling in the hospital rather than at a prison work farm.

The head administrative nurse, Nurse Ratched, rules the ward with absolute authority and little medical oversight. She is assisted by her three day-shift orderlies and her assistant doctors and nurses.

McMurphy constantly antagonizes Nurse Ratched and upsets the routines of the ward, leading to endless power struggles between the inmate and the nurse.

He runs a card table, captains the ward's basketball team, comments on Nurse Ratched's figure, incites the other patients to conduct a vote about watching the World Series on television, and organizes a deep-sea fishing trip wherein the patients were going to be "supervised" by prostitutes.

After claiming to be able, and subsequently failing, to lift a heavy control panel in the defunct hydrotherapy room (referred to as the "tub room"), his response—"But at least I tried"—gives the men incentive to try to stand up for themselves, instead of allowing Nurse Ratched to take control of every aspect of their lives.

The Chief opens up to McMurphy, revealing late one night that he can speak and hear.

A violent disturbance after the fishing trip results in McMurphy and the Chief being sent for electroshock therapy sessions, but such punishment does nothing to curb McMurphy's rambunctious behavior.


عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «پرواز بر فراز آشیانه فاخته»؛ «دیوانه از قفس پرید»؛ نویسنده: کن کیسی؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز ششم ماه اکتبر سال 2005میلادی

عنوان: پرواز بر فراز آشیانه فاخته؛ نویسنده: کن کیسی؛ مترجم: سعید باستانی؛ تهران، نیل، 1355؛ در 332ص؛ چاپ دوم 1357؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، هاشمی؛ 1384؛ در 368ص؛ شابک 9647199090؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

عنوان: دیوانه از قفس پرید؛ نویسنده: کن کیسی؛ مترجم: امیر اسماعیلی؛ تهران، توسن، 1368؛ در 170ص؛

داستان در بیمارستانی روانی، در ایالت «اورگن آمریکا» می‌گذرد؛ و نگاهی به ساختارهای قدرت، در سازمانهاست؛ همچنین رمان به نقد مکتب روان‌شناسیِ رفتارگرایی می‌پردازد، و اصول انسانی را می‌ستاید؛ نویسنده ی داستان، مدتی را به عنوان کارمند بیمارستان روانی، در «منلو پارک کالیفرنیا» سپری کرده بودند، و نسبت به بیماران روانی، احساس همدردی می‌کردند؛ این رمان نخستین بار، در سال 1963میلادی بصورت نمایشنامه به بازار آمد، اما برداشت بسیار مشهورتر از آن، فیلم «دیوانه از قفس پرید» است، که در سال 1975میلادی، با کارگردانی «میلوش فورمن»، و بازی «جک نیکلسون»، بر اساس همین داستان، ساخته شده‌ است؛ فیلم برنده ی پنج جایزه اسکار شد؛ پیش از خوانش کتاب، فیلم «دیوانه از قفس پرید» را در آن سالهای دهه ی شصت از سده ی چهاردهم هجری خورشیدی بارها در «تهران» دیده بودم؛

هشدار: اگر هنوز این کتاب را نخوانده اید و میخواهید خود آن را بخوانید، لطفا از خوانش چکیده داستان خوددداری فرمایید

چکیده: داستان از زبان بیمار روانی دورگه ی سرخپوست-سفیدپوست قوی هیکل اما بی جربزه ‌ای به نام «چیف برامدون» روایت می‌شود؛ «برامدون» وظیفه نظافت راهروها و سالنهای بخش را دارد، و به همین خاطر لقبش «چیف بروم» (بروم به معنی جارو) شده‌ است؛ چون «برامدون» خودش را به کری و لالی زده ‌است، می‌تواند به رازهای بین کارکنان آسایشگاه پی ببرد؛ پدر «برامدون» رئیس یکی از قبایل سرخپوست بوده، که با زنی سفیدپوست (مادر «چیف برامدون») ازدواج کرده بود؛ در پی احداث سد آبی بر رودخانه «کلمبیا» قبیله «چیف» از سکونتگاهشان بیرون رانده شده‌ اند، و پدر «برامدون» نیز، که زمانی قوی هیکل و شجاع بوده، به مردی شکست خورده، و الکلی بدل شده ‌است؛ «برامدون» از قدیمیترین بیماران روانی آسایشگاه‌ است، و با وجود سابقه ی ورزشکاری، و یادگیری الکترونیک، پس از شرکت در جنگ جهانی دوم، به بیماری روانی، مبتلا شده‌ است؛ «برامدون» گاهگاهی از دنیای واقعی کاملاً بریده می‌شود، و به گفته ی خودش «در مه غلیظ فرو می‌رود»؛

آسایشگاه روانی ��ه ظاهر زیر نظر یک دکتر روانشناس اداره می‌شود، اما قدرت واقعی در دست «پرستار بزرگ» هست؛ «پرستار میلدرد رچد»، مشهور به پرستار بزرگ، پرستاری پنجاه ساله و مجرد هست، که با انضباطی بسیار خشک، و با منکوب کردن بیماران و کارکنان، و شرمسار کردن آن‌ها در برابر دیگران، همه چیز را (حتی دکتر روانشناس را) تحت کنترل دارد، و آسایشگاه را با کمترین نیروی انسانی، در مقایسه با آسایشگاه‌های مشابه اداره می‌کند؛ زیردستان فرمانبر پرستار «رچد» از سه کارمند سیاه‌پوست، و یک دختر پرستار جوان مجرد، شکل گرفته ‌است؛ نام «رچد» یادآور (چرخ جغجغه) هست، که تنها در یک جهت، اجازه چرخش می‌دهد، و با هر حرکتی، باعث سفت‌تر شدن طناب مهار می‌شود؛ قهرمان اصلی داستان یک زندانی عادی به نام «رندال مک مورفی» هست؛ «مک مورفی» از کهنه سربازهای جنگ «کره» بوده، که به جرم تجاوز، به دلیل همخوابگی با دختری جوان‌تر از حد قانونی، محکوم به زندان گردیده؛ اما برای فرار از کار اجباری در زندان معمولی، ادعای دیوانگی کرده‌، تا بتواند دوران بی دردسری را، در آسایشگاه روانی بگذراند؛ به زودی شخصیت پر انرژی «مک مورفی» و شخصیت سرد و خشک پرستار «رچد»، با هم برخورد می‌کنند؛ «مک مورفی» سلطه ی «مادرسالارانه» پرستار بزرگ، و جو نادوستانه، ناشاد، و پر از استرس آسایشگاه را نمی‌پسندد، و تغییراتی را در اداره آسایشگاه خواستار می‌شود، که به بهانه ‌های گوناگون با مخالفت و مقاومت «پرستار بزرگ» روبرو می‌شود

با این وجود «مک مورفی» منصرف نمی‌شود، و اقدامات مختلفی در راستای شادی بخشیدن و ایجاد اعتماد به نفس در بین بیماران روانی انجام می‌دهد؛ یکبار «مک مورفی» ادعا می‌کند، که هر وقت اراده کند، می‌تواند میز سنگین (کنترل پنل فولادی-بتنی) دستگاه آب درمانی را، به پنجره ی آسایشگاه بکوبد و به شهر برود، بیماران دیگر شرط می‌بندد، که او نمی‌تواند میز را تکان دهد، «مک مورفی» شرط را می‌پذیرد، و می‌کوشد که میز را تکان دهد، موفق نمی‌شود، ولی برمیگردد و به بیماران دیگر می‌گوید: «لااقل من سعی خودم را کردم»؛ این حرف او، به دیگر بیماران جرئت می‌دهد که در برابر مشکلات، پیش از تلاش کردن تسلیم نشوند، و در مواجهه با مشکلات، بیشترین تلاش خود را به کار ببرند؛ «مک مورفی» هوشمندانه به راز راوی داستان، «چیف برامدون»، پی برده، و می‌داند که او خود را به لالی و کری زده ‌است، و دوستی پنهانی بین «مک مورفی» و راوی داستان شکل گرفته‌ است

از نقاط عطف داستان، جاییست که «مک مورفی» پی می‌برد، که بر خلاف زندان معمولی، که مدت محکومیت محدودی برایش داشت (شش ماه)، می‌توانند او را به ‌طور نامحدود در بیمارستان نگاه دارند، و ترخیص او از بیمارستان روانی، تنها با اراده ی پرستار «رچد» ممکن هست؛ از این پس «مک مورفی» شیوه ی محافظه کارانه ‌ای در پیش می‌گیرد؛ در این میانه، یکی از بیماران به نام «چارلز چزویک» که از هواداران «مک مورفی» است، به امید همیاری «مک مورفی»، پرستار «رچد» را به چالش می‌گیرد، اما حمایتی از «مک مورفی» که محافظه کار شده، نمی‌بیند، و ناامیدانه در استخر بیمارستان خودکشی می‌کند؛ پس از آن رویداد، «مک مورفی» تصمیم می‌گیرد که محافظه کاری را کنار بگذارد، و خطر باقی‌ ماندن در بیمارستان را بجان بخرد

از اقدامات دیگر «مک مورفی» می‌توان به تلاش او برای دیدن مسابقات «بیس بال» از تلویزیون آسایشگاه، یا برنامه ‌ریزی سفر با کشتی ماهیگیری اشاره کرد؛ در این سفر، یکی از دوستان «مک مورفی»، دختری تن‌فروش به نام «کندی» به او یاری می‌کند، که بیماران را، از بیمارستان به بندرگاه ببرد، و با بیماران همسفر می‌شود؛ سفر موفقیت ‌آمیز است، و یکی از بیماران، «جورج سورنسون» که ماهیگیر، و ناخدای ماهری است یاری می‌کند، که بیماران با موفقیت در ماهیگیری، احترام مردم بندرگاه را، کسب کنند؛ در آن ماجرا یکی از زندانیان به نام «بیلی بیبیت» که مردی خجالتی، مبتلا به لکنت زبان، و کم تجربه در برابر زنان است، به «مک مورفی» اظهار می‌دارد که از «کندی» خوشش آمده ‌است؛ پس از آن، «مک مورفی» برگشتن «کندی» به آسایشگاه را، برنامه ‌ریزی می‌کند، و حتی در جایی، از فرار چشم پوشی می‌کند، تا آن برنامه اجرا شود؛ در روز موعود «کندی» به همراه یکی از دوستان دخترش، به آسایشگاه می‌آید؛ «مک مورفی» با رشوه دادن به نگهبان شب آسایشگاه، زنان را به داخل آسایشگاه می‌آورد، و جشن بزرگی را در آسایشگاه برگزار می‌کند؛ مقدمات هم بستری «بیلی بیبیت» با «کندی» فراهم می‌شود، و «بیلی» بکارتش را از دست می‌دهد؛ صبح روز بعد، «پرستار بزرگ» به ماجرای شب پیش پی می‌برد، و از جمله به بازجویی از «بیلی بیبیت» می‌پردازد، «بیلی» برای نخستین بار بدون لکنت کلام صحبت می‌کند، اما «پرستار بزرگ» آن بهبودی را نادیده می‌گیرد، و تهدید می‌کند، که ماجرای شب پیش را به «مادر بیلی» خبر خواهد داد؛ «بیلی» که از مادر خویش بسیار حساب می‌برد، اقدام به خودکشی می‌کند؛ پرستار بزرگ، «مک مورفی» را مسئوول جان «بیلی» می‌داند، و در برابر «مک مورفی» کنترل خود را از دست می‌دهد، و به پرستار بزرگ، یورش می‌برد، و یونیفورم او را پاره می‌کند، و می‌کوشد که گلوی او را بدرد؛ پرستار بزرگ، پس از مدتی به آسایشگاه برمیگردد، اما آسیب وارد شده به حنجره ‌اش، قدرت کلام او را کاسته ‌است؛ پرستار «رچد» دیگر از سوی بیماران جدی گرفته نمی‌شود، و مجبور هست با بیماران که در برابرش جری شده‌ اند سازش کند؛ بسیاری از بیماران هم که به‌ طور داوطلبانه در بخش مانده بودند آنجا را ترک می‌کنند و به جامعه بازمی‌گردند

در برابر یورش «مک مورفی»، به دستور پرستار بزرگ، او را مورد عمل جراحی «لوبوتومی (ایجاد دو سوراخ در ناحیه پیشانی برای خارج نمودن بخش‌هایی از مغز)» قرار می‌دهند، و به انسانی بی‌احساس، با زندگی گیاهی، بدل می‌کنند؛ «چیف برامدون» این وضع زندگی برای «مک مورفی» را برنمی‌تابد، و از آنجا که نمی‌خواهد، تن بی‌روح «مک مورفی» به مظهر شکست مقاومت، در برابر پرستار تبدیل شود، او را به قتل می‌رساند، و با پرتاب میز سنگین آب درمانی به پنجره ی آسایشگاه، قفس را می‌شکند، و به سوی آزادی پرواز می‌کند؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 11/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 29/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews735 followers
November 14, 2019
I just watched an interview with Stephen Fry and he mentioned this book. Read it a long long time ago. Read it for highschool already I think. Remember being shocked and amazed. Scary, funny, dark and wonderful at the same time. Un-be-lievable. And I just realized this is one of the best and impressive books I ever read. Definitely a top tenner ever.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,616 reviews985 followers
September 2, 2021
This modern classic book overshadowed by the modern classic Jack Nicholson movie of the same name, still packs a punch at face value... the story of a cocksure womanising drifter who feigns insanity to avoid imprisonment and finds himself compelled to fight against the regime of a mental hospital ward run by the 'dark' Nurse Ratched; he also strives for his fellow inmates to get more out of their lives.

So lovable anti-hero versus evil domineering nurse, who is allowed to abuse her power because of the way the state is complicit in its desertion of the mentally unwell - BUT WAIT A MINUTE - lead character McMurphy was convicted of statutory rape and justly sentenced, then FAKED insanity and got himself committed. Apparently despite women and Black people by far the worse abused by American mental health institutions over many decades - we have to side with and feel for all these poor White men, including the doctor on the ward at the mercy of this 'evil women' and her Black henchmen. What!!!!!! Even worse the White men are given somewhat fleshed out characterisations (including the doctor), while Nurse Ratched, her Black staff and all the supporting female cast are one-dimensional cut-outs. Big hoo hah, that the narrator is Native-American... I mean for Heavens sake they called him 'Chief'!

Oh but it was the sign of the times? STOP! A few other books written in 1962 - Travels with Charley: In Search of America, Another Country, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Death of Artemio Cruz, Island, Something Wicked This Way Comes etc.
I give a 6 out of 12 for this debut novel, a study of the boundaries and similarities between insanity and sanity! A bit weird having a female nurse and Black Men as the bad guys, when this was written in 1960's America, where both had limited power!
Profile Image for Matt.
935 reviews28.6k followers
August 12, 2019
“All I know is this: nobody’s very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.”
- Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

This is a book I had little interest in reading. A novel set in an insane asylum? No thanks.

I spent four years of my legal career defending indigent clients facing commitment before our local Board of Mental Health. It was an experience I had not trained for, prepared for, or frankly could have imagined before I started. It was an eye-opening glimpse into the world of mental illnesses. Underfunded and understaffed hospitals. Patients with deep paranoiac beliefs, their minds spinning webs within webs within webs. Patients who suffered terrifying hallucinations. (I was once told, while interviewing a client, that I appeared to him as a skeleton). Patients capable of sudden, violent changes of moods. (The one piece of advice I ever received: sit next to the door. Always sit next to the door). Patients who were stigmatized, ostracized, alienated from families and friends.

One of the lasting takeaways from those years is a healthy skepticism of the way mental illness is portrayed in popular culture. Typically, we’re either dealing with a psychopathic killer (ala Michael Meyers) or a person whose mental illness is portrayed as a moral failing, a character flaw that can be overcome with a better attitude (ala Hurley in LOST, or the entire cast of Dream Team).

With those prejudgments in mind, I likely would have ignored Ken Kesey’s counterculture classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I imagined it as shallow hijinks, with a plot that struck me as a bit like Cool Hand Luke getting involuntarily committed.

But then it was chosen by the Eastern Nebraska Men’s Biblio and Social Club, and the choice was out of my hands.

Even so, I hesitated, until just a few days before our meeting. Grudgingly, I opened the first page, and read the first odd, discombobulating lines: “They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.” Suffice to say, Kesey had my attention.

Those words are spoken by Chief Bromden, the tale’s first-person narrator. Bromden, known as Chief Broom, is a Columbia Indian who has convinced everyone on the ward that he is deaf and dumb. Because of this perception, no one pays attention to him. He is able to see things others wouldn’t be allowed to see, and hear things other wouldn’t be allowed to hear. And so he is able to relate the story of Randal P. McMurphy, a red-haired Steve McQueen-type with a personality disorder, who shows up on the ward and engages in an epic battle of wills with the Nurse Ratched, a.k.a., the “Big Nurse.”

(Side note: I watched the movie after reading the book. Jack Nicholson is a fine actor. He is not Randal P. McMurphy).

Chief Bromden is a fascinating choice as narrator, because he is not – at least initially – the central focus. Instead, Bromden barely figures in the early plot, serving mainly to describe McMurphy’s attempt to upend the ward that Nurse Ratched runs with an iron hand. The action flows around him, like water around a rock.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest unfolds episodically, with Ratched and McMurphy trading figurative blows, notching both victories and defeats as they struggle for the soul of the other patients. Kesey’s Bromden has an inimitable voice, and is a classic unreliable narrator (“it’s the truth even if it didn't happen”), prone to long, hallucinatory digressions that serve as a jarring reminder that his brain chemistry is different from that of others. There were times when his phrasing is so breathtakingly brilliant that it takes you out of the story – after all, this is supposed to be Bromden talking, not literary star Ken Kesey. Mostly though, the hypnotic progression of events leading to the shocking endgame leave little time for such quibbles.

The power play between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy is a classic pitting of “the Man” versus “the Rebel.” It was published in 1962, and the authoritarian-antiauthoritarian dialectic is part of the larger context of those times.

However, Kesey is also critiquing the mental health establishment. He once worked in a psychiatric ward, and famously experimented with a host of psychoactive drugs. His observations and insights are baked into Bromden’s story. By the time Cuckoo’s Nest came out, electroshock therapy and lobotomies had started to lose their luster as panaceas, though they were certainly still employed. Thus, Kesey’s critique isn’t focused specifically on the primitive barbarism that marks the history of psychiatry (though the barbarism is certainly present); rather, he focuses more on the insidious oppression he felt he observed. The patients on the ward are controlled, but controlled in such a subtle fashion that most don’t know they are being coerced. It is McMurphy who arrives to show them the light (though, because we can never get in his head, we never know his angle; we don’t know, either, whether he has a diagnosis or is merely malingering).

It’s always great when a novel is worthy of deeper exploration. When it has layers upon layers. However, at the end of the day, there also needs to be some level of entertainment factor. That’s what makes this so memorable. It is filled with scenes that come alive in the imagination, and stay in your memory. There is, for instance, a big set piece where the inmates take a “field trip” on a fishing boat. The scene is played for big laughs but also subtle poignancy. When I read it, it gave me a rare exhilaration, like I felt the first time I watched The Shawshank Redemption.

McMurphy laughs. Rocking farther and farther backward against the cabin top, spreading his laugh out across the water – laughing at the girl, at the guys, at George, at me sucking my bleeding thumb, at the captain back at the pier and the bicycle rider and the service station guys and the five thousand houses and the Big Nurse and all of it. Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy. He knows there’s a painful side; he knows my thumb smarts and his girl friend has a bruised breast and the doctor is losing his glasses, but he won’t let the pain blot out the humor no more’n he’ll let the humor blot out the pain.

The ending, too, is unforgettable and near-perfect. The movie has made this denouement iconographic, but I think it works far better on the page than on the screen.

To be sure, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is flawed at times, especially in tone. There are several ugly strains running throughout the book, including casual racism, misogyny, and violence against women. I’m not going to defend this by saying the book is “a product of its time.” I will note, though, that some of it is idiomatic, meaning it is the product of the imperfect world view of the storyteller. Still, several scenes, which were probably meant to elicit certain responses, definitely don’t play as well today.

These unsettling aspects do not fatally detract from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Indeed, the sense of unsettledness is pervasive, almost a calling card. The humor and the violence and the sadness and the joy and the discomfort are all of a piece. They do not mesh together perfectly, just as they do not mesh perfectly in real life. That, for me, is why this is a masterpiece.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,028 reviews17.7k followers
September 21, 2023
"A heavy weight of hours has chain'd and bow'd
One too like thee - tameless, and swift, and proud."
Percy Bysshe Shelley.

When is deep conviction at the Hand of The Absolute ENOUGH? The simple answer is it may Never be Enough. Depends on the depths of sin within us.

The Absolute, of course, is The State, which bears no resemblance to our absolute, loving God. And it is the state psychiatric hospital into which McMurphy is plunged, for his medical Cleansing By Fire.

McMurphy has no choice. He has sinned against all 'normal' prudence and probity. And that, of course, is nowadays the unforgivable sin. A Sin against political correctnss.

By 1970 my earlier conviction had Obviously not been Enough. Once autistic as a log, my sudden fear was now at fever pitch, and I had to be Stopped dead in my Tracks. And made to see that blinding light which, at midnight - as John of the Cross says - was my Dark Night of the Soul.

Converted by subtle subterfuge to a mad midnight sun (religious tenacity being labelled a danger).

Crossing that invisible line, I now felt, as Salman Rushdie suddenly did under edict of that fatal Fatwa, permanently and irrevocably denuded of any and all ordinary human rights and privileges.

With the right meds, I'd be contained. A mess, but contained. A Chronic. Once cured, I'd be released, a 'Cured' Chronic. Vegged-out normal.

The State had its reasons.

God is My Bright Abyss. My first DARK abyss was in 1970 (but I still didn't see it). In 2021 I saw only my Blinding Anger, still as an Acute, because my hold on fractious reality was tenuous. I still believed in happy ever after endings, and never in simple, ordinary, banal reality and the necessary blunt awakening it gives.

I liked my miasmal aspie mist!

Anyway, as I ordered Kesey''s grim Tale of Nurse Ratched when the hoar frost blighted the pumpkins last November, 2021, my hypertension meds seemed useless. I was still angry. Some guys never learn. My learning curve was still too steep for the soft sorta introvert I was.

I was now an "Acute"; they wanted to heal me by turning me into a harmless Chronic. Kesey was neither, when they corralled him into going there.

For medicated Chronics like us, the world has now become a bland Flatland. I've learned now that's my only chance for escape. (Though my mind has been labelled No Exit by my meds.)

Escape... never again in this world, as the Acutes even now in their fury still believe. That's nuts. Look around you! Our very own worldwide little middle class life is now a Flatland.

What happened? Nothing, really. Many of us now believe in nothing. But I believe in the Redemption of Christ, who followed the Path of Peace.

A peace in Spaceland (read more in the book, Flatland!).

That will come for us all. 3D conviction, no exit.

Christ gave us the straight goods. Our chances outta here are between slim and none, but we can at least find refuge in being a voice for Peace. A Chronic Believer.

The straight and narrow path lies between, on one side the playful Pharisees, and on the other, the grim-faced Saducees.

Ever seen that Jack Nicholson (as Kesey) Film on Netflix? You should read the book FIRST. The book is Written from multiple POV's - from the vicious outre orderlies to the Wizened Chronics - and won't let you GO.

It is an Inside Scoop on the Funny Farm - through Kesey's masterly eyes! It's so good it's to DIE FOR. This is how it really feels to be inside. We are ALL there now. Just call our all-seeing Big Sister in the Sky, Nurse Ratched, to doublecheck.

If you admit such a thing to your friends, they'll henceforth see you thru jaundiced eyes. So it goes.

Get stronger first!

But you’ve Gotta read it.

Even if you're only Politely Prepped by the Flick.

Though I started it in 2021, when the world had to be squeaky clean hygienic, the best part was in 2022 -

When the world through COVID overkill had finally learned to Keep Its Polite Distance from Too Much Reality (and from me) -

I, finally, was Strong Enough to Bear it all, now that I had been given the Grace to do it.

And at last found therein my clear Chronic Peace.

That mad midnight sun runs but a simple circular course. Seen through as being useless, it finally sets.

Though for the one who finally flew over -

The Peace that Passes all Understanding is Pyhhric.
Profile Image for Julie G.
895 reviews2,919 followers
December 14, 2020
Reading Road Trip 2020

Current location: Oregon

I took a hard fall last week on a couple of steps and injured my right foot. I can't drive, and I'm walking with a cane, and, to make matters worse, it snowed for a couple of days, and both my front porch and my back porch are now covered with ice.

As if I hadn't already had two partially collapsed lungs from COVID earlier in the year, as if I haven't already been home, 24/7, with my two youngest children, since March 13, as if I didn't already have a multitude of other personal problems that have reared their ugly heads this year. . .

Now I can't drive or walk, and I can't even stand on my back porch and admire nature. I can only sit in a chair with my foot propped up, listening to my daughters verbally abuse each other, looking out on scenes from the Arctic Circle.

I mean. . . who needs “soft leather cuffs to fit our arms?”

The truth is. . . we don't need a setting as obvious and damning as a mental institution to make us feel trapped.

I'm ready to bite off my own hand right now, to free myself from these cuffs, and I've got central heat and a stocked frig.

But how brilliant was Mr. Kesey to go over the top and give us the most exaggerated example of what it feels like to be stuck in an actual cage?

And not just stuck in a cage, but watched over by an evil witch who misses nothing through her looking glass?

Sure, there's the appearance of a young maiden, she with her bouncy breasts and her steps like “copper springs in the sun," but, mostly, it's just a life full of fear for these mentally castrated eunuchs who dared to wander into the wrong woods, under the spell of this wretched witch.

All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.

But, into these dark woods wanders a “big redheaded brawling Irishman,” a gambler (a woodsman?), a man who is not mentally ill, but has “escaped” a jail sentence by being committed at this particular institution. He's a man of great gusto and great sexual appetite, this Randle (Randy?) McMurphy, and the only thing bigger than his erections is perhaps his laughter.

Maybe he couldn't understand why we weren't able to laugh yet, but he knew you can't really be strong until you can see a funny side to things.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, this McMurphy breathes new life into these inmates. Sure, he sometimes takes advantage of them with his unfair wagers, but he brings music and laughter and gusto, too.

When he wrangles a rare “day pass” to take a small group of men from the mental ward out onto a boat to go deep sea fishing, we see “McMurphy surrounded by his dozen people,” and we realize that he's being compared to Jesus and his twelve disciples. He's a man who has arrived as an unlikely savior.

The wicked witch sniffs out the trouble, notices that “he seems to do things without thinking of himself at all, as if he were a martyr or saint.” She won't have some randy woodsman chopping her down.

What follows will break you. Well, it broke me.

This is the 48th book in my 50 state Reading Road Trip project, and I dub it the winner. If you're ever unclear of what a FIVE STAR book looks like, it's this one.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,604 reviews5,987 followers
April 19, 2015
My friend Ed was recently updating his books with reviews on here and this book popped up in my feed. It's my husband's favorite movie/book of all time and I realized that I had never picked the book up. I've watched bits and pieces of the movie in the three thousand times that my husband has watched it, but I had never experienced it first hand.
I'm gutted.
Why have I not just sat down and watched the film that was made from this book? I'm completely off my rocker.

Randle Patrick McMurphy. That guy who plays crazy to get out of a work detail. Goes into the mental hospital and completely owns it.

He gets the "inmates" to smoking, drinking, having women and fishing. He makes them back into the men that they were.
I wanted to reach over and touch the place where he was tattooed, to see if he was still alive. He's layin' awful quiet. I told myself, I ought to touch him to see if he's still alive...
That's a lie. I know he's still alive. That ain't the reason I want to touch him.
I want to touch him because he is a man.

The evil in this book. Nurse Ratched. I usually have a fond spot for the villains but this woman scares me. She has got to be one of the top baddies of all time. I still have goosebumps from her.

I've always been hit or miss on books that are called classics and that's probably why I have not tried some that now I'm beginning to reconsider. Because if they are like this one I'm definitely missing out. Thanks Ed for pointing out this most wonderful book to me.

He'd shown us what a little bravado and courage could accomplish, and we thought he'd taught us how to use it.

Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
March 9, 2023
So, I re-read this book for my postwar fiction class. Read it first when I was 21, working at Pine Rest Christian Hospital (in Grand Rapids, MI) as a psych aide, very shaped by it in many ways, I now realize in reading it some 40 years later. I think (because how can I know for sure?) I liked this book better this time than I did when I first read it. As I said, it shaped my view of myself, of institutions, of psych hospitals and psychiatry in general, of madness, of Society, of the need for Freedom, man, and the process of self-knowledge itself. I think now it feels very much like a period piece, an experience of the late Beats to early hippie sixties, from On the Road with the Merry Pranksters to Woodstock, or to maybe something Kesey realized Woodstock would never deliver. It feels horrific and cartoonish and a little too easily separating the good from the bad for much of it, and then it changes very very quickly at the end (spoiler alerts all over the place) and becomes more sixties nightmare than romantic dream of peace and freedom.

Yes, for me it was also reading as autobiography, as, like Randle in some respects, I also made a mess of my life (and others) leading from the joyful end of the sixties to the terrible end of the seventies. I think I may have cried at the end of the book when I completed it at 21, still romanticizing Randle McMurphy as a symbol of freedom, nature, and the visceral life I had not known as a young Calvinist going to church twice on Sundays. He was wild, unbridled, laughed heartily, lived lustily, joked inappropriately, raged passionately, loved life; he was my Uncle Lee, my Dad's brother-in-law, who was unlike any of my family members, smoking 4 packs a day, drinking constantly, swearing hilariously, fighting with my Aunt Ag publicly, frighteningly. He picked the young me up when he saw me and sang, too loudly, sometimes (I think) drunkenly, "Davey, Davey Crockett, king of the wild frontier!" I didn't want to be him, exactly, at 300+ pounds of profanity, but I loved parts of him. I wanted his sense of freedom, as he drove truck all over the country.

Now I read Randle as, yes, a symbol of Freedom and Nature and Laughter vs Nurse Ratched's sterile Institutional authority, but now not so innocent, as I realize I think about myself. I read it with some self-reflective regret as he crashed and burned and hurt others as in some ways I crashed and burned for a few years there. I did and do come, too, to appreciate Randle for the good he tried to do even as so much bad happened because of and in spite of him. At first I thought this was a cartoon--Nurse Ratched is so evil as to not be believed (are there any believably good women in this book? Nope. Ratched is Rat-shit, get it, a ratchet wrench for cogs in a machine, monstrously Anti-human, even anti-woman, and then there are Candy and Sandy, the prostitutes.

In that sense, it feels like a very (male, most definitely) adolescent fantasy of "The Man" or Society, or the Adult World (never trust anyone over 30!); it's like Ferris Buehler's ride with all the cartoonish adults you always find in YA films and books, only a ride that makes a sharp turn to Hell, as the one who strays from the flock MUST be destroyed. It's a romp of sorts, for much of the book, as Randle takes on the evil Big Nurse with an intent to destroy her in the name of fun and freedom.

What is Society to the Beats and Hippies? Squareness, Order, 5,000 white picket fence suburban homes with 10,000 identically dressed suburban children playing on identically manicured lawns (cue David Lynch's Vision of suburbia in Blue Velvet, opening sequences, here). And what does the straight life, the life of business and capitalism and science and technology lead to, as we recall in postwar America? To the Holocaust, to millions dead in countless wars, to suicidally unhappy rich people accumulating wealth beyond imagination, to the destruction of the Chief's Indian lands and culture for profit, trading Paradise for a Shopping Mall.

So what do On the Road's Dean Moriarty and Randle do (and literally did, as Neil Cassidy literally drove Kesey's Merry Pranksters bus?!!)? Why, they go on a road trip, as Randle does to go salmon fishing in the Sound with several lovable crazies from the psych hospital and Candy. Who's NOT in? Who doesn't want in his card game, his various challenges to authority (why CAN'T they watch the World Series, damn it?! Rules, argh!!!), his partying? To say no is to become a Vegetable or to be part of the Problem, a Cog in the Machine, dude!

But the power struggle turns dark, at the end (spoiler alert, I said!) when, at the high point of the drunken party at the hospital (this time with Candy and Sandy) and Billy has lost his virginity and his authoritarian-Mom-induced stutter, and in maybe ten pages of a 280 page book. it all unravels quickly: Ratched, (The Satan of this Miltonic struggle between Good and Evil) shames Billy, and he kills himself in despair; Randle beats up and rapes Big Nurse in retaliatory rage (prefiguring Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, where she shows us rape is about destructive male power and control over women, accomplished through sexual means); she retaliates by making sure Randle gets a lobotomy (chalk one up for Society, who always crushes individuals who are want to be "different"); Big Chief kills Randle to save him from becoming Ratched's ward symbol of destructive freedom, and our amazing narrator Big Chief (and he IS amazing, one of the great voices in American literature, I think) smashes down the walls, lets the Moon in, and escapes the psych hospital.

Randle is not so innocent, no hippie freedom lover, he becomes violent and rapes and nearly kills Ratched, he is out of control with his freedom, no flower child, finally, and by the way, where did all the flowers go, finally? To Vietnam, to Wall Street, and for me to divorce and some lost years. But we have hope when the Chief is on the road, at the very end, after many years maybe able to live his life in the woods again, and in many ways, I took my chance to remake my life as well. I have my kids and loving wife and picket fence, with humble thanks that I am still here and able to still learn and still try to some good in the world if I can.

But I was talking about Kesey's book, wasn't I? Well, I really liked this book, second time around. I liked the sketches in this edition from Kesey himself, the cover pages done by Joe Sacco, the preface on the sixties from Kesey, the introduction on madness and psychology seen through a sixties lens--all very good. The images of the psych hospital early on were horrific, then there were an increasing number of darkly hilarious and often insightful episodes about institutional control that seem to be still relevant (even if still comically exaggerated) today, and finally the comedy turns amazingly and effectively to tragedy, though in the coda we are again a little hopeful that a return with Chief Broom to the Garden (or, the Rez, in this case) (and Music and Art and Nature) may still offer us some possibilities. . . so as we hitch a ride with him Home.
Profile Image for Lena.
199 reviews91 followers
April 24, 2023
Modern classic for a reason. A lot of deep hidden meanings behind the tragic story of outcasts. Simple short but rich with symbols and emotions it's easy to read but sometimes hard to comprehend. Beside the quite obvious 'man against the system' plotline I really liked that the narrator is indigenous. I really come across such characters so it was a bit of revelation to read about that kind of racism and unjustice.
Profile Image for Brian.
706 reviews355 followers
July 6, 2019
"There is generally one person in every situation you must never underestimate the power of."

A novel that celebrates the counterculture and the aspects on the fringes of society, "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a book that mythologizes the individual (even the dishonest or vulgar individual) over the restraints of society. I have mixed feelings about that message.
The battle between being true to oneself and giving into societal expectations is identified here as the battle between one's mind and the "Combine" as personified by the "Big Nurse" Ratched. The action takes place in a mental institution where most of the patients have voluntarily committed themselves, a key but often overlooked plot point, somewhere in Oregon in the early 1960s. Keeping in mind the time period is an important consideration in enjoying this text, as the book is extremely misogynistic (only 1 minor female character is presented in a halfway decent light) and the ideas of nonconformity were a much bigger deal in 1962 then they are today. To take the novel out of its original context is to loose some of the enjoyment of reading it. Be careful to not judge it by today's standards.
Ken Kesey was obviously a gifted writer, and he has some truly unique ways of crafting a text to resemble the scrambled mind of a person enduring electroshock therapy, and he was a clever user of figurative language. He was also gifted at crafting character, as the text has four (to my mind) that stand above and beyond the book they inhabit. The first is the novel's narrator, Chief Bromden, whose dry and insightful narration has the right mix of intelligence and self doubt to keep the reader on the edge of their toes. Another delightful and well rendered character is the mental ward patient Harding whose intelligence and wit serve as a nice foil to McMurphy's vulgarity and broad humor. Harding is a man who loathes what he truly is, and watching him mask that pain and self awareness is one of the most touching aspects of the novel. The "hero" and the "villain" of the piece, R. Patrick McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are nice personifications of abstract ideas and Kesey endows each with a depth and realism that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has paid even the remotest attention to human nature. The passive aggressive animosity and unhappiness inherent in Nurse Ratched is unnervingly real, and the chaos and self destructive behavior in McMurphy is equally impressive. The reason I think these two characters stand out to readers is because there are bits of both of them in most of us. The war between those two poles comprises not only the major conflict of this text, but also of many of our lives.
There is a lot to digest in this book, and it will yield rewards on rereading it years later.
Enter Kesey's world. It might not be a fun journey, but it is a worthwhile one!
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews926 followers
August 19, 2020
“You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest | EW.com

I was very familiar with the 1975 movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest starring Jack Nicholson, but I had never read Ken Kesey's novel. I am happy to have changed that! I don't know why I didn't think about whose viewpoint the story was being told from when I watched the movie, but this perspective in the book added another dimension to a story I thought I knew well. Well-written and engaging. After completing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I felt like I wanted to know more about Ken Kesey so I picked up Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. 4.25 stars

Cuckoo Quotes. QuotesGram
Profile Image for Annemarie.
250 reviews696 followers
April 29, 2018
I needed some time to get used to the writing style, but letting the Chief (an outside figure, who, due to his "deafness", doesn't intervene with the main storyline too much) is certainly a stroke of genius, and after a while, I got used to his way of telling the story.
All the characters found a place in my heart, and they are what make the book so remarkable and memorable.
I thought they were some unnecessary scenes, but they were really minor, so they didn't put a huge dent into my enjoyment.
The end certainly came unexpected and surprising to me, but I thought it was fitting and rounded the whole thing up.
Despite it not being one of those books that absolutely blew me away, I know that it will stay in my mind for a very, very long time - maybe even forever.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
July 4, 2021
A Spectacle of Lit's Power to Stand against Oppression
"I remember when, I remember ... when I lost my mind

Does that make me crazy?"
Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, 2006.

The monotypic, iconoclastic novel illustrating the evils of unbridled government oppression in institutional forms within a democracy, both subtle and ruthless. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest evinces the fortisimmo force of literature as a "monument of wit" that "will survive the monuments of power." Francis Bacon.

After working at a mental institution, Ken Kesey wrote this easily accessible novel, published in 1962. Set in an Oregon mental ward, the novel's centers on the battle between Randle McMurphy and Nurse Ratched, the former a rebellious, gregarious low-level convict who saw the ward as an easy way to serve his few months of prison time, the latter one of the most memorable and monstrous villains in all of literature.

The book's primary metaphor is that of the government as "The Combine," as it's called by the story's narrator "Chief" Bromden, as a mechanism for manipulating individuals and processes. Kesey personifies The Combine in Nurse Ratched, a hellhag who uses a bagful of disciplinary tactics, most so subtle that the mental patients can't see they're being controlled and some so heinous it's unimaginable they could be used as a punitive measure without some sort of due process (e.g., electroshock "therapy" and lobotomy).

The novel is, by turns, infuriating, intelligent and hilarious.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,301 reviews43.9k followers
December 11, 2021
My choice for Flashback Saturday is something deliciously thought provoking and liberating for this meaningful day!

When the jurisdiction on the psych ward gets controlled by dictatorial, forceful, dangerous people because of the uncontrollable power thirst of the management, the rebellion and chaos are inevitable !

Tyrannical Nurse Ratched is a quite great metaphor for not only mental institution , she is also symbol of dictatorial governing, society who try to control and categorize the people by putting pressure on them to mandate strictly.

The book truly questions the thin line between sane and insane. The institution starts to change with McMurphy’s arrival. And the patients slowly wake up from their deep sleep! Is he insane? Actually he is not! He represents freedom, sexuality, determination, fighting against restrictions, taboos!

That’s what makes this book one of the most provocative, challenging reading of American literature! It was banned from school libraries on seventies and on 2000 a teacher in California was fired because she assigned this book for students’ reading list! Yeap, it’s still too much thought provoking for our new century!

That’s why this is one of my all time favorite books! And Milos Forman’s amazing adaptation, Nicholson’s McMurphy performance are most remarkable successes in motion picture history!

Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

“If you don't watch it people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.”

“He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.”
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
March 7, 2012
"Ting. Tingle, tingle, tremble toes,
She’s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ‘em inna pens
Wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock
One flew east, one flew west
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

O-U-T- spells out… goose swoops down and plucks you out."
The title of the book was taken from a nursery rhyme but the first 3 and last lines were from the book, i.e., thoughts inside the head of the schizophrenic narrator, Chief Bromden as the nursery rhyme was used to be sung to him by his grandmother when he was young. “Cuckoo” here is used to refer to insane people and “flying over the cuckoo’s nest” means either going too far or leaving the nest. It is also known that cuckoos lay their eggs in other bird’s nests, and do not have nests of their own. The cuckoo, upon hatching, throws the other birds out of the nest out of instinct. (Source: Wiki)
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I was 11 years old when the 1975 movie by Milos Forman was shown. Jack Nicholson starred as Randle Patrick McMurphy, a criminal sentenced on a prison farm for statutory rape and transferred to an Oregon asylum because of his insanity plea. Cuckoo’s Nest was the 2nd time a film won all the five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay) following It Happened One Night in 1934 and followed by The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. Both of which I saw also. Freaking, movie addict! Despite the major awards of Cuckoo’s Nest and despite the fact that the movie was faithful to the book in terms of the sequence and the events contained in it, the emotion and the impact of the book is totally different from that of the movie. The funny antics incorporated in the brilliant performance of Jack Nicholson gave an interesting and comedic taste to the movie eclipsing or diluting, in my opinion the book’s wake-up shocking message – that some mental wards are not designed to cure their patients but rather serve as instruments of oppression. The character of sane-yet-confined-in-the-mental-institution McMurphy is the first irony in the movie. As he is sane, he fights against the wrong methods and stands up against Nurse Mildred Ratched aka Big Nurse who, being an obsessive compulsive lady, wants to have everything in order and done by the tick of the clock. Hers is the second irony in the story as, unlike the prison in say Shutter Island, there is no conventionally harsh kind of discipline here. The setting is also not as dark as the scary cells in The Silence of the Lambs. In fact, in this asylum, the patients watch the TV, play cards, roam in the basketball court and at one time they even go out for fishing! The rest of the story shows their constant power struggles as they try to outwit each other. The ending is tragic and almost feels like not the right ending because it does not offer any hint of resolution to the revealing message. However, as one of my friends here in Goodreads has explained in one of my previous reviews, offering a solution may not be the author’s objective. Rather, it may be just to present the issue so people will be aware of what’s going on.

This thought made sense to me since Wiki also stated that the book was a direct product of Kesey’s time working the graveyard shift as an orderly at a mental health facility in Menlo Park, California. So, he, Ken Kesey (1935-2001) knew and probably experienced some of these things.

One can get lost in amazement reading (book) or watching (movie) McMurphy and Nurse Ratched especially with their Oscar-worthy performances. However, what makes this book different in a great way, is the narration. Just like Nellie in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Chief Bromden is also not a reliable narrator. Nellie has a crush on Heathcliff or Edgar and the feeling tainted her actions as a housemaid and her story as narrator. Similarly, the Chief is unreliable because he is a schizophrenic but Kesey made use of this to come up with a strangely beautiful interesting narrative. Come to think of it, had this been narrated in a straightforward manner, i.e., sans insanity and scattered prose, the novel would not have the same impact. Time Magazine included this novel in its “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005” and it is an achievement that Kesey deserves even without the Oscar awards of Nicholson and Forman.

For its shocking revelation and its brilliant loony narrative, reading this book should send shivers down your spine…
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
May 13, 2020
Painful and heartbreaking to witness humanity's struggle to have a decent life while living within the boundaries others set for them. Not to be a rabbit, that is the ultimate goal!

Truer than ever...
Profile Image for Guille.
782 reviews1,740 followers
December 14, 2022

“La cosa contra la que luchaba nunca podía considerarse definitivamente vencida. La única posibilidad era golpearla y golpearla, hasta que uno quedaba sin fuerzas y otro tenía que ocupar su lugar.”
La novela es una gran metáfora construida en torno a dos descomunales personajes y contada por un gigante.

El gigante es uno de los pacientes más antiguos del hospital psiquiátrico en el que se desarrolla la novela, “el jefe” Bromden, hijo mestizo de un antiguo jefe indio. Brondem es esquizofrénico y vive con el temor constante de que el «Tinglado» lo triture con su despiadada maquinaria. Para evitarlo, lleva años haciéndose pasar por sordomudo, lo que le sitúa en una privilegiada posición desde la que contarnos todo lo que pacientes y personal de la planta hacen y dicen sin tener en cuenta su presencia, y que él nos hace llegar con su visión lírica y alterada de la realidad que observa mediatizada por sus constantes alucinaciones y delirios.
“Nadie se queja de la niebla. Ahora ya sé por qué: aunque resulte molesta, permite hundirse en ella y sentirse seguro. Es lo que McMurphy no comprende, que queramos estar seguros. Sigue intentando hacernos salir de la niebla, ponernos al descubierto, donde sería fácil atraparnos.”
Todo ello confiere al relato un cierto tono de cuento de hadas en el que se narra el enfrentamiento entre dos fuertes voluntades, la de la maléfica bruja Enfermera jefe y la del valiente y pícaro Randle Patrick McMurphy, dos personajes que permanecerán en sus mentes para siempre.
“McMurphy lo ignora, pero está sobre la pista de lo que yo comprendí hace ya mucho tiempo, que no es únicamente cosa de la Gran Enfermera, sino que es todo el Tinglado, la gran fuerza reside en el Tinglado a nivel nacional, y la enfermera no es más que un oficial de alta graduación dentro del mismo.”
Esta lucha va a simbolizar el control que el «Tinglado», encarnado por la Gran Enfermera y sus secuaces y violentos enfermeros, es capaz de ejercer sobre las sociedades indolentes y conformistas, los pacientes, que prefieren la seguridad del control a la responsabilidad y la libertad de elegir y dirigir sus destinos, una metáfora sobre la capacidad manipuladora del «Tinglado» para hacerles olvidar incluso que están siendo controlados y hacerles creer que son ellos los que manejan el cotarro.
“Creo que no tienes una idea muy clara de cómo es el público, amigo; en este país, cuando algo no funciona, todos se inclinan por la solución más rápida.”
El problema con el relato aparece cuando la actual sensibilidad choca con ciertos clichés que en la novela son llamativos: las mujeres son putas, enfermeras represoras o madres castrantes, por un lado, y los pacientes son todos blancos, excepto “el jefe” Bromden, que es mestizo, mientras que los violentos guardias/enfermeros son negros, por el otro. Tampoco es un gran acierto por parte del autor presentar con tanta ligereza el delito sexual por el que McMurphy es condenado.

No he visto la película, lo haré en cuanto pueda, pero, por lo que he leído, parece que esta bascula más hacia la lucha de voluntades que hacia la metáfora sobre el poder, por lo que debo anunciarles a todos los que sí la hayan visto que tienen una razón poderosa para leer también la novela.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
March 14, 2013
Like most people who grew up in the 60s, I loved this book and, even more, the film version with Jack Nicholson. I was reminded of it yesterday when Not and I got to talking about the Winona Ryder movie Girl, Interrupted.

"Oh," said Not dismissively, "it's just a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

But I completely disagree. In fact, I think it's the most coherent criticism I've ever seen of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and does a wonderful job of subverting the message. Throughout most of the movie, you are indeed tricked into seeing the world through Winona Ryder's eyes: she's a free spirit, who's been incarcerated in a mental hospital despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her. In fact, she's saner than everyone around her, especially the Nazi-like staff. But you know what? In the end, she makes a surprising discovery. She's out of control, and these appalling fascists are actually trying to help her. She'd somehow missed this important fact.

Much as it pains me to say it, I suspect that Winona Ryder might be right and Jack Nicholson might be wrong. It's extremely disappointing.
Profile Image for Nat K.
425 reviews158 followers
June 20, 2020

"I never been in a Institute of Psychology before."
- Randall P. McMurphy

"... but you do understand: everyone...must follow the rules."
- Nurse Ratched

I'll start this review by saying that yes, I did see the movie. Though it was such a long time ago, I can't pretend to remember a lot about it. Vague scenes flash through my mind: the maniacal grin of Jack Nicholson's character, the quiet grace of the giant Indian chief who at some point loses it, the absolute menace of the nurse.

When Ron suggested this as a buddy read with Dawn, I was keen. It's one of those things where I wonder why I've never read a certain book before, especially one most certainly considered a "classic". And a cult classic at that.

This book is set in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. Our narrator is Chief Bromden (aka "Broom" or "Chief"). Six foot seven of solid, brooding silence. Purportedly deaf & mute, he sees far more than most realise. And hears far more than they know.

"I'm cagey enough to fool them that much."

Chief explains that the men are split into one of two categories: Acutes & Chronics. The first haven't been broken yet and can still be "saved"; there is a chance they will once again rejoin the big wide world. The second are lifers, who are long since broken and society has forsaken; they ain't going nowhere.

Then there are the sub-categories. The Wheelers, the Walkers, the Vegetables. You get the idea.

Each man has his place. Each man knows his place.

Enter one Randall Patrick McMurphy. Boisterous, vital, cracking jokes, full of life, full of himself. Into this sterile world of disinfectant and mysterious therapy rooms, McMurphy is like a breath of fresh air. Like the windows being flung wide open in a house that's been locked up for too long.

"Yet he looks like he's enjoying himself, like he's the sort of guy that gets a laugh out of people."

But the problem is, not everyone is keen on fresh air... not the medical staff and especially not Nurse Ratched, who runs her ward like a tight ship. She is the mistress of her domain, make no mistake. And she doesn't appreciate anyone rocking the boat.

McMurphy is a riot of colours and emotions. Ratched is cold hard steel. Fire meets ice.

McMurphy has ended up in this institution by feigning mental illness to avoid working on a prison farm. His logic being he'd be fed three square meals a day and have "...orange juice every day for breakfast!" Jesus wept.

Don’t get me wrong, McMurphy certainly is no angel, and wasn’t working on a prison farm for no reason. But the ending...oh the ending.

As the story progresses, we see into Chief Broom's mind. We see flashbacks of the platoon he served in. We see his Daddy, an Indian Chief living on a reserve. And the fog... always the fog making everything a bit blurry. Which is preferable to seeing it clearly. That is until McMurphy arrives to chase the fog away.

Which begs the question, how much of Chief's narrative is true? Is the story he tells us about McMurphy, Nurse Ratched & others fact or fiction? Or a blend of the two? Is he a reliable narrator? How many of us are reliable in relating events that happen in our daily lives?

I have to admit that I couldn't help but laugh at so many of the things McMurphy said when he attended his first Group Therapy Meeting. He's quite the character and certainly stole the show. As he did with future meetings. And in his unofficial cold war with Nurse Ratched.

Here's a great line from where his punishment is to clean the latrines.

"I try and try, ma'am, but I'm afraid I'll never make my mark as head man of the crappers."

McMurphy goes out of his way to stir the pot and to antagonize Nurse Ratched. Which is something that hasn't happened before. He starts a rebellion amongst the men who have been there for years. To speak up, to think. Once the can of worms is open, you can't put them back in.

The use of humour puts the spotlight on the powerplay between these two strong characters. Which on reflection makes this book even more dark.

From the opening lines there is an air of menace about this story. A malevolence. A definite sense of disquiet and discomfort.

"...society is what decides who's sane and who isn't..."

This was a tough read, in the sense that it brought home to me how delicate our minds are, how they control our entire being. Our good bits, our bad bits & all the bits in between. How easy it is for us to break. And how the power of people supposedly given the duty of care of people who need help can be abused and take an ugly turn.

Is McMurphy an anti-hero to be admired? Perhaps. Did he push the boundaries? You bet. Did he pay for it? Absolutely.

This is a definite must read. At least once in your lifetime. Tick it off your reading bucket list. Utterly disturbing. 3.5★s

*** Buddy with Dawn & Ron. Thanks for joining me. Another intriguing pick which left me with a lot to think about. Make sure you check out both of their reviews. ***

As an aside, it's interesting to note that Ken Kesey and his pals the "merry pranksters" dropped LSD & cavorted around the countryside in a fluoro, psychedelic decorated bus. One of the pranksters & the driver at the wheel being none other than Neal Cassady, best friend of one Jack Kerouac. Wowza! Talk about six degrees of separation. And of truth being stranger than fiction.
Profile Image for Brett C.
801 reviews183 followers
March 12, 2022
"...because a moving target is hard to hit." pg 82

This was a very enjoyable read for me. The story honestly was unique because of the setting and the tone given from the narrator. The tone and dialogue felt very organic and everything meshed well from beginning to end. The underlying theme of the book was led by the rebellious McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson in the movie). The book constantly showed the problems that arise when there's an imbalance: in power (both perceived and achieved), inner and outer harmony, and with interpersonal interactions. McMurphy's personal file explained he was a POW who led a successful escape from a Chinese prison camp during the Korean War. This alluded to him as a rebel, natural leader, and driven to undermine his captors by playing the angles.

The setting was a residential psychiatric facility during the reform years when the overall institution was undergoing changes in evaluation, assessment, and treatment within the mental health profession. The narrator is the half-Native American, Chief Bromden, who pretends to be deaf and dumb throughout the story. He reflects on his youth, his upbringing, and gave the tone of missed nostalgia throughout the narrative. Jack Nicholson's voice jumped off the pages as I read! The movie had terrific acting in my opinion and did the book justice.

Overall I really enjoyed it. The story was filled with humor, tragedy, and had me reflecting on the little things in life; little things that can make all the difference. I recently read Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and it missed the mark for me; this was much better in my opinion. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a solid read. Thanks!
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