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Politics and Other Works

Knots book cover 1st Amer. edn.


Tavistock 1970
Pantheon 1970


· Summary ·

Knots was published in 1970 and its title was inspired by a sutra dubbed 'Knots,' that Laing came across while perusing Sufi literature. Laing had already been jotting down his observations and insights into relational 'knots' for years and kept them in a folder. The image 'knots' appealed to Laing's phenomenological sensibility, and that proclivity for taking something common, teasing out certain qualities, thus bringing forth a new way of relating and understanding the phenomenon in question. He notes that knots are "strangely familiar" and tend to be associated with "tangles, fankles, impasses, disjunctions, whirligogs, binds." The dynamic twists, turns, and convolutions inherent in relationships are played out in the dialogue-scenarios of the characters Jack and Jill.

This book continues and deepens Laing's research into how the other defines one's personality. Knots was not written in a more formal academic style, but is more poetic and playful. The publishing companies in England as well as the USA did not know whether to classify it as poetry, philosophy, or psychology.

Unlike some of his other writing, Knots appealed to a wide audience and won immediate acceptance with the American audience. Within the first few weeks of its release in America, it sold 75,000 copies. Laing was pleased that this book appealed to people in the mental health community, as much as it did to the average intelligent reader. Knots later became a play, radio show, and a film.

Writing this book was a gamble for Laing and he knew that it would either be very positively received or not a success at all. At the time, he felt that he had done enough research into schizophrenia and families, and Knots allowed him more creative expression and a bridge out of psychiatry. In R.D. Laing: A Biography, Laing's son, Adrian, notes that Laing spent more time on Knots than any other book, noting that his father had painstakingly worked through eight handwritten drafts.


· Contents ·

90 pp.

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