Eunoia, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (5 ratings)


'Eunoia', which means 'beautiful thinking', is the shortest English word to contain all five vowels.

This book also contains them all, except that each one appears by itself in its own chapter.

A unique personality for each vowel soon emerges: A is courtly, E is elegiac, I is lyrical, O is jocular, U is obscene.

A triumphant feat, seven years in the making, Eunoia is as playful as it is awe-inspiring.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Poetry
  • ISBN: 9781847672445

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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

This book is definitely an acquired taste, and one which I would recommend only to people who love words, word games, and linguistic oddities. It just so happens that I’m one of those people. The majority of Eunoia consists of five chapters; A, E, I, O, and U. Each is dedicated to its title vowel, the only vowel to occur within the chapter. The rest of the book is a section called ‘Oiseau’ and consists of a series of clever poems/word exercises.The first five chapters were largely enjoyable, each managing to follow a story to a greater or lesser degree. Chapter E was absolutely outstanding - a retelling of the Iliad focusing upon Helen of Troy – and for this chapter alone Bök deserves a literary prize. At the very back of the book there are rules listed for what each chapter must contain, and although I think the rules should have been placed before the ‘Oiseau’ section I was pleased that they were included after the chapters. By introducing the rules after the reader had already worked through the chapters, and enjoyed them on their own merit, it allowed the chance to reread the stories and appreciate them in a new light. The only thing which really spoils these chapters is Bök’s insistence on adding rather pervy sex scenes: it’s utterly unnecessary.The ‘Oiseau’ section is, if possible, even more obscure. The highlights have got to be the poem containing only the letters in the word ‘vowel’ and the ode to the letter W. I adored most of this book, and have a great deal of respect for Bök’s linguistic abilities, but feel I should point out that it is really not for the average reader.

Review by

I first heard of this book through a radio program and it intrigued me. Eunoia (meaning "beautiful thinking") is the shortest English word containing all five vowels and each of the five main chapters of this book are restricted to just one. There are additional rules:i) Each of the chapters must refer to the art of writing.ii) Each chapter must describe a culinary banquet, a prurient debauch, a pastoral tableau and a nautical voyage.iii) All the sentences have to have an, "accent internal rhyme through the use of syntactical parallelism." (I have to confess, I don't know what syntactical parallelism is).iv) The text has to include as many possible words in it as it can.v) The text must avoid repeating words as much as The letter "Y" is to be avoided.So you can see that, irrespective of my thoughts, or those of anyone else, this book is a pretty impressive feat.Additional chapters (grouped in "Oiseau" (bird; the shortest word in the French language to contain all five vowels) include "And Sometimes", a list of all words in the English language containing no vowels; "Vowels", a series of poems in which all the words are anagrams of the words in the first line; and "Emended Excess", a poem which using the words containing just the letter E, not used in Chapter E.It's very clever and the rhythms that emerge from the single vowel chapters had very distinct sounds - something I enjoyed. However... I suspect that this book would probably be appreciated far more by someone who really enjoys analysing poetry. For me, (and here I confess that I do not read a lot of poetry - an important aside), it was just trying a little too hard - it was too calculated. I couldn't help but feel that if all the additional rules (or at least the first two in combination) weren't there, the text would flow so much better. For example, in nearly every chapter, it felt disjointed to skip from talking about writing, to the "story" part.So, while my imagination was caught by the idea of the exercise, I didn't really get beyond this. Almost certainly a book for someone who likes to pull apart their poetry and admire the technique however.Oh, and I enjoyed the discovery of a great new word (Eunoia)!

Review by

I was lucky to get a copy of the paperback version of this book as a prepublication copy through the member giveaway programme.Eunoia is an amazing book - it is, to my mind, a book of poems in that the beauty of language is the focus more than the story.The first five chapters are each dedicated to a vowel (in alphabetical order), and each chapter only contains words containing that voewl and no other. What is more, the author has constrained the stories in other ways and used the majority of all words that he could use in the writing.After these five chapters there are other random experiments in language, such as the poem written only with the letters in the word "vowels".I am very glad I read this book. It was an amazing feat of language that took the author 7 years to write (and the only surprise was that he could complete it at all). On the downside it is not an easy read! The constraints of the book make the language hard going. There were words there I had to look up (and I generally don't have that problem). The mixture of words that in other works would be clearly pretentious with occasional gutter language also felt odd. Particularly in the "u" chapter, I was both impressed and dissapointed that the writer could describe sexual intercourse using just words with the "u" vowel - but imaginations will not run far as to which words he used. That rather sullied the beauty of the book in my opinion.Hard going it might be, but this was not a long book and it was very much worth the read. Anyone who loves language cannot help but be impressed by what is achieved here.

Review by

A small but complex book, more sound poetry than anything else. The first section is a series of chapters using only one vowel and as many different words as possible, As a very visual person I missed the other ' rules' as I got caught up in the patterns, the spikiness of i for instance is particularily clear. A tour de force of word play that I need to revisit to look for the internal themes.

Review by

"Eunoia, which means 'beautiful thinking', is the shortest English word to contain all five vowels."The concept behind this book is intriguing: Five chapters, one devoted to each vowel, that vowel being the only to occur in its chapter. This could go one of two ways: Clearly, it's a wordsmithing exercise and could easily be what I refer to as "mental masturbation," or it could end up being delightfully euphonic and imaginative.I feel Bök was striving for the latter but that the result was closer to the former. There were certainly moments, as images ethereal flitted by, evoked by words that, because of the nature of the exercise, flowed from subject to seemingly disparate subject in what felt like stream of consciousness. But then there was the awkwardness, as the meanings of words were drastically bent to make them fit the exercise, foreign-language phrases substituted for wrong-vowelled English words, and laundry lists of words gratuitously thrown in. In the end, rather than being delightful to read, I found it mostly tedious.Eunoia describes itself as a novel, but it's more like a prose poem or concept piece. The only chapter that has any coherent sense of plot is Chapter E, a retelling of The Iliad. (Other chapters have plots, but they are so absurd and disjointed that I can't take them seriously.)Now, my friends know that I am anything but a prude, but I found it just a bit disturbing that every chapter contained graphic sex. Then I read the explanatory pages at the very end and it made more sense: "Eunoia abides by many subsidiary rules. All chapters must allude to the art of writing. All chapters must describe a culinary banquet, a prurient debauch, a pastoral tableau and a nautical voyage. All sentences must accent internal rhyme through the use of syntactical parallelism. The text must exhaust the lexicon for each vowel, citing at least 98% of the available repertoire…. The text must minimize repetition of substantive vocabulary…. The letter Y is suppressed."These final few pages should really have been a preface. I might have enjoyed the text more as a word game of sorts had I been aware of these subsidiary rules instead of attempting to parse it as a story.There is more to Eunoia than the exercise in assonance. After the five single-vowelled chapters there is a small collection of "poems". These are also wordsmithing exercises, but they are more enjoyable to read. The elegy for the letter W is particularly delightful.In conclusion, if you like clever, challenging word exercises, you might enjoy Eunoia. But if, like me, you're looking for more, you're likely to find it rather tedious.

Also by Christian Bok