Robert Olen Butler

Severance

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'In concept, Severance is brilliant. In execution, it’s even better – beautiful, hilarious, horrifying and humane' – Dave Eggers

The human head remains in a state of consciousness for one and a half minutes after decapitation.

In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at a rate of 160 words per minute. Inspired by this, Robert Olen Butler wrote Severance, sixty-two vignettes each exactly 240 words in length, that capture the flow of thoughts that go through a person’s mind after their head has been severed. Here are the imagined ultimate words of famous and invented figures — Medusa, Sir Walter Raleigh, Anne Boleyn, Jayne Mansfield, and a chicken, beheaded for Sunday dinner.

Severance is a dazzling tour of history and humanity as told by those who have lost their heads. From the moment of death, we are given sixty-two perfect testaments to the joys of being alive. Robert Olen Butler has once again proven himself to be one of the most profoundly creative voices in fiction today’ – Ann Patchett

‘With Severance, Butler has one-upped himself… he has brought the dead back to life, through the limitless will of his imagination’ – New York Times
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59 printed pages
Original publication
2015

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