first published by Harper & Row, New York, 1971
Secker& Warburg, London, 1971
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Toronto, 1971
Paperback: Ballantine Books, New York & Toronto, 1972
New Paperback: PaperJacks, General Publishing, Don Mills, 1976
Original jacket design by Seymour Chwast
Who is Spiegel? Is he really a junkman? He says he’s on an assignment. Is he? Is all of this really happening? Or is this a nightmare peopled with the creations of a sick mind? And who are all the whacky creatures spawned here?
Is this a put-on? Or a metaphysical mystery? Maybe it’s an allegory about man’s relationship to God. Or an inquiry into the character-author relationship. Is it a novel about a novel? Or a disguised study of a changing art form? Wait. Maybe it’s a plot to destroy the novel once and for all.
Reader, you decide. And fall in love with Spiegel, the junkman, the most delightful Everyman to come along in some time.
But be forewarned: between the lines, the laughs and the surprises, there is something puzzling, something frightening, something that gnaws at you long after you finish reading this funny, bizarre, outrageous puzzle… in a puzzle… in a puzzle.
REVIEWS for THE ASSIGNMENT:
“I rolled along through those small hours of the morning, laughing, delighted, completely taken in by this philosophical comedy, this metaphysical joke, this perfect imitation of the exitless maze of human consciousness.” – Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
“A remarkable first novel, inventive and full of controlled madness.” – TIME
“Authoritative, witty and absorbing… a kind of conspiratorial story in which the direction and nature of this conspiracy is never defined, and which seems to me to be one of the central imaginative paths of our time.” – Northrop Frye
“Funny, witty, gamy, ironic, joyful, puzzling… one of the funniest books in a long, long time… Evokes memories of Kafka and Joyce, and Eliot and Peter Devries, and the Marx Brothers.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Imagine the ambiguities of Nabokov’s ADA or PALE FIRE without the hothouse prose, a puzzle neatly contrived but in the improvisatory comedian’s spirit of ‘winging it,’ the author seen at play.” – Christian Science Monitor
“An entertainment full of humour, mystery and wonder.” – Toronto Star
“A witty, frequently disarming and highly unusual novel… with a cast that is delightful and bizarre.” – Publishers’ Weekly
“The best first novel by a Canadian to appear in years … a contemporary novel which uses avant garde devices and yet succeeds in emerging as a work of immense popular appeal.” – Calgary Herald Magazine
“A wildly comic tale… fun to read… recommended.” – Library Journal
“A feast of ironies, a philosophical comedy… and an extraordinarily readable book.” – Donald Cameron, Maclean’s Magazine
“Excellent reading… unusual for being a sort of allegory of the times without ever getting stuck in self-indulgent pessimism.” – New Statesman, London
“… more sense and substance in this fantasy than any hurried précis can suggest.” – The Scotsman, Edinburgh
“The book’s quality lies in the fact that it is genuinely obsessional, reinvolving us in a significantly nutty fictional world I, for one, thought had gone forever.”
– The Guardian
“Genuinely comic writing.” – Times Literary Supplement, London