The pauses were turning into silences and beginning to feel like the wrong kind of normal.
Don DeLillo, The Silence

DeLillo’s spare, startling new novel — only 116 pages — seems to echo Samuel Beckett’s legendary story “Lessness,” where language has broken down to its bare bones. In The Silence, his characters are confronted with a sudden, mysterious shutoff of digital technology: phones, laptops, iPads, TVs. And what do they say when faced with this unexpected severing of the contemporary lifeline? Not much. As if in a flickerless dream they grope for words. Or mumble, repeat themselves, curse, or slip into silence… staring into darkness, the empty dead screens that form the walls of our world.

One young man begins channeling his idol, Albert Einstein, quoting fragments from a manuscript in a German accent. What words can fill the terrible silence when our crutches are gone, without explanation. Is it a giant digital glitch, a terrorist attack, or Armageddon? No one knows , and people are wandering in the street like zombies.

DeLillo’s The Silence (Doubleday) is laced with subtle absurdist humor, but at heart unleashes a cold wind which seems perfectly timed to our lives during this seemingly unending pandemic.

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