The Human Touch

The Human Touch
Published : 1 Oct 2007 - Faber & Faber
Philosophical issues have always been at the root of Michael Frayn’s fiction and drama. THE HUMAN TOUCH is the product of his life-long engagement with the great questions of consciousness. Why can we never catch ourselves making a decision? How do we know what we know? How can we describe the mind’s dialogue with the universe? The answers he provides are exciting, unexpected, and sometimes disturbing - but they’ll change the way you think (and the way you think about thinking) for ever.


Michael Frayn here turns from his playwriting and novel writing to show that he’s equally accomplished as a philosopher – an approachable one too.

First Post

As a novelist and dramatist, Frayn has a better sense of what will engage ordinary readers. His book is a witty examination of the ways in which so many of our beliefs about reality slip through our fingers when we attempt to seize them.

Sunday Times

Anyone who thinks philosophy boring should try Michael Frayn, a novelist and playwright, on the subject here. His sense of wonder… never leaves him and his prose shines throughout.


This text crackles with humour, erudition and wisdom. In an age of increasing specialisation, his polymathy is a protean delight.

The Times

Novelist Michael Frayn waxes philosophical in this wide-ranging study of human consciousness and our role in relaying the world….this is a welcome reinvigoration of the oldest philosophical questions, which have become not less relevant but more urgent with new arguments for and against science and religion rearing their heads.

Sunday Business Post

This book contains moments of pure relief and delight.

The Observer

Frayn stretches the mind in his erudite, dazzlingly clever investigation into out part in the creation of the universe. It delves into the most significant questions facing human contemplation – mankind’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe, our fleeting contacts with the world around us and the philosophical and scientific certainties that turn out to be grandiose illusions.

Ham and High

Frayn’s intention is to use his gift of language and imagery to make these scientific frontiers understandable to the non-specialist.

The Boston Globe

Readers looking for exciting intellectual vistas will find them here. A rare work illuminating both the syntheses of art and the rigor of science.


A masterpiece of gentle subversion in keeping with Frayn’s overall playful and user-friendly approach.

Kirkus Reviews

'In the case of Michael Frayn something extraordinary has happened... suddenly, he produces a large book about life, the universe, and everything, which is just as clever and twice as stimulating as any professorial tome... The subject here is not dumbed-down; rather, the reader is gently and ingeniously clevered-up... Frayn is at his best when teasing away at little features of familiar human experience... A personal view, patiently put together by an unusually intelligent and supple-minded person... almost any other person... will benefit from reading it.

Sunday Telegraph

Here is a book by an author who tackles philosophical problems by thinking them through for himself intelligently and lucidly, who writes beautifully and who conveys a living sense of the puzzling character of thought and the world that lies at the root of all genuine philosophising ... impressive ... This book is a philosophical treatise and it is better than many produced by salaried university professionals ... A fine introduction to philosophy ... Michael Fray's book is accessible to any interested reader, for whom it will prove a rich and absorbing foray into some of the deepest, most interesting and most significant questions facing human contemplation. I shall vigorously recommend it to all who enquire.

Literary Review

Particularly engaging ... as one might expect from a brilliant crafter of farces, a delightful wit regularly peeps through.

The Economist

THE HUMAN TOUCH is Frayn's testament, an expansion of thoughts about life, the universe and everything.

Financial Times

Difficult ideas are effortlessly dealt with, leaving the reader with a sense of mild intoxication. Frayn's exultant prose entices and ultimately overwhelms you. Reading his arguments, I felt as though I were floating down a warm river, caught up in its playful, whirling eddies… Frayn's gift for exposition and explanation is a godsend. His effervescent style, which nibbles at a subject from all sides until it is helpless to conceal its secrets, perfectly matches the elusive nature of the quantum world… THE HUMAN TOUCH makes an important contribution to 21st century philosophy.

LA Times

[THE HUMAN TOUCH] is characterized by close analysis and an insistent pursuit of exactitude…. But apart from its humor, it is also brought to life through Frayn's instincts as a playwright. His informed theatrical metaphors are more meaningful than most, and his style is auditory, as if honed by writing dialogue. But mostly, it's that Frayn tests lofty concepts the way a playwright must: in everyday detail and human behavior.

San Francisco Chronicle

This has got to be one of the funnier philosophical books I’ve read lately.

Jim Holt

Bold, original… Robust intellectual curiosity, keen powers of observation and ingenious sense of humour… Frayn’s ecstatic embrace of a human-made universe is a fantastically persuasive ride.

Publishers Weekly

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