myself am hell by Henry Wright


This novel is a work of literary fiction that provides a unique insight into the mind of a character experiencing the ravages of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Quentin Carter is a bright and confident Cambridge English literature student with a mind filled with the poetry of John Milton.

Obsessive thoughts break down Quentin's mind and character to the point where he questions his sanity and considers suicide. 

This novel is literary fiction that spans several genres and worldwide locations as Quentin's battle with OCD takes the form of multiple narratives and stories.

Connections to Afghanistan and Tokyo are established in the first section, before the book immerses readers in those locations later on.

This novel is a counterpoint to the myths about OCD: that it is a cuddly or eccentric condition that means someone likes neatness or cleans a lot. 

'Myself am Hell' shows OCD as the debilitating mental health condition it is. It does not flinch from the terrible effects the condition has on people's minds. As a writer, I used every tool at my disposal to show the nature of intrusive and obsessive thoughts and how they break down both the mind of my main character, Quentin, and the narrative itself.

There is also a great sense of hope as Quentin uses his creativity and love of words and literature to do battle with the condition.

There are recurring figures or totems of creativity that occur throughout the novel and are discussed below. 

The book is available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback.  


Creative totems 

The poetry of John Milton

John Milton (1608-1674) symbolises creativity on an epic scale in the novel. He dominates the thoughts of my main character, Quentin. Of his works, 'Paradise Lost' and 'Comus' feature most heavily in the novel. 

'Comus', an early and significant work of Milton's, chimes with the eager mind of the young Quentin who is striving to live the life of the poet, and for whom OCD at this stage is little more than a quirk of the mind that he notices and analyses from time to time. 

The bacchanalian Comus tries to tempt The Lady into surrendering her virtue. When this is unsuccessful, he immobilises her and carries her away to his raucous scene of revelry and abandon. She is steadfast in stating that her freedom resides in her mind and she will never surrender this to him. 

'Comus' is a masque and the emphasis is on music and play. Its tone connects to the youthful temptations encountered by Quentin at university. Like The Lady, he knows the importance of his mind and his mental state. He knows that there is something different about his mind, but The Fall has yet to come.

In 'Paradise Lost', Satan's realization that the mind of an individual determines their state of wellness or otherwise is key to my exploration of OCD. Quentin has started at Cambridge and is living out his dreams in the college of Milton. Yet, just as the pride of Satan grows in stages and gives birth to the horrible forms of Sin and Death, So Quentin's OCD is always there, awaiting its moment to strike.

While 'Comus' is the poem of the early undergraduate Quentin, 'Paradise Lost' is the epic of suffering, fall, hope, and redemption that underpins Quentin's battle with the tempter and inveigler inside his own mind - the obsessive thoughts.

Satan wants Eve to do something she knows in her heart and soul to be wrong. He uses the spurious logic and false reasoning to which his pride and defiance gave birth. He traps Eve by inviting her to apply human (and necessarily flawed) reasoning to God's command. Satan's deception gets the reaction (the compulsion?) that he intends.

I can't help but see comparisons between Adam and Eve's temptation and fall and the response that obsessive thoughts try to elicit from people with OCD. 

I see 'Paradise Lost' as a study not only in the origins of Sin, but in the origins of mental illness as well.  

Miles Davis

Miles Davis (1925-1991) performed at Shinjuku Koseinenkin Hall with his band on Feb 7th 1975. This performance of innovative electronic jazz fusion forms the background to the opening of the Tokyo section of this novel. The restlessness of Davis' creativity complements the fast-paced thriller genre of this section. Tokyo here is the world of the yakuza and the corrupt property tycoons who are in their pockets. Miles Davis is the symbol of hope to young Lucy and her Mother Megan, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds facing them. 

Davis is the 'trumpeter with the hair and the shades' in this section. He is front and centre on the stage, but not in my narrative. Rather, his spirit acts as a guiding force, just as Milton's spirit guides Quentin in his battle with OCD.

Creativity and innovation emerge as key allies to Quentin in the battle with OCD. The poetry of Milton and the music of Davis are weapons in his arsenal. 


The Buddhas of Bamiyan

The Bamiyan Buddhas towered over the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan from the 6th century AD until their destruction by the Taliban in March 2001. Here, they symbolise hope and tolerance against the Taliban's oppression.

They represent endurance and perseverance in the face of tyranny, and they continue the book's overall theme of art and creativity opposing hatred, greed, and misery. 

Their destruction cannot lessen the soothing effect they have on the minds of young Mustaffa and Yusuf.

They enter the lives of the boys on the day of the Taliban massacre in the city of Mazar. The Buddhas symbolise for them the unity in suffering that will bind them for the rest of their lives. 

The plight of Afghanistan under the Taliban can be seen in the pointless and tragic destruction of the Buddhas. In my book, they live on in the hearts and souls of Mustaffa and Yusuf as they come to terms with the inherited trauma of their country of birth.