A dark, dystopian portrait of artists struggling to resist violent suppression—“queer, English, a masterpiece.” (Hilton Als)
Set amid the rolling hills and the sandy shingle beaches of coastal Sussex, this disquieting novel depicts an England in which bland conformity is the terrifying order of the day. Violent gangs roam the country destroying art and culture and brutalizing those who resist the purge. As the menacing “They” creep ever closer, a loosely connected band of dissidents attempt to evade the chilling mobs, but it’s only a matter of time until their luck runs out.
Winner of the 1977 South-East Arts Literature Prize, Kay Dick’s They is an uncanny and prescient vision of a world hostile to beauty, emotion, and the individual.
About the Author
Kay Dick (1915–2001) was the first female director of an English publishing house, promoted to the role at the age of twenty-six and mixing with what she described “a louche set” that included Ivy Compton-Burnett, Stevie Smith, and Muriel Spark. From the 1940s through the ’60s, she and her long-term partner, the novelist Kathleen Farrell, were at the heart of the London literary scene. She published seven novels, a study of the commedia dell’arte, and two volumes of literary interviews.
Lucy Scholes is a critic who lives in London, and is an editor at McNally Editions.
“A creepily prescient tale in which anonymous mobs target artists and destroy their art for the crime of individual vision. Insidiously horrifying!” — Margaret Atwood
"They is spare, troubling, eerily familiar. It evokes Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge, or Jacqueline Harpman’s I Who Have Never Known Men, occupying a space between dystopia and horror. The lush landscapes are haunted by profoundly unsettling details about the forces at work—'It was no good listening for footsteps,' the narrator tells us, 'they wore no shoes'—and all of it a backdrop for endless questions about art: What does it mean to create for no audience?" — Carmen Maria Machado
“Queer, English, a masterpiece.” — Hilton Als
“It’s incredibly unusual to find a book this good that has been this profoundly forgotten.” — Sam Knight
"Both a dystopian fable and a stealth memoir . . . Like all robust allegories, They grants the reader the freedom to imagine any number of vivid referents for the opaque." — Melissa Anderson
“Dick’s lush, transcendent nature writing contrasts with her spare, elliptical dialogue . . . [it’s] a cri de coeur against urbanization . . . They is a study of fear. Its disconcerting power lies in its dream logic and elisions—the unexplained background, the offstage violence.” — Madeleine Feeny
“[A] stunningly effective dystopian nightmare . . . Could there be a more fitting moment for the revival of Dick’s uneasy little masterpiece than our own era of isolation, fractious culture wars, widening intolerance, and environmental decline?” — David Wright
“[A] disquieting, lean, pared-back dystopian tale . . . One element that makes the book especially disturbing is that “they,” whoever they are, are not a government-sanctioned group like Bradbury’s firemen or Orwell’s all-pervading government surveillance, but rather an unsanctioned multitude, the strength of which appears to lie not in official mandates, but rather in the swell of their ever-increasing numbers . . . It’s chilling, but compellingly so.” — Lucy Scholes
“A tension of glinting malice pervades the narrator's episodic travels . . . here is a liberatory current of queer and nonmonogamous love and desire running counter to the increasingly stifling oppression enacted on the populace . . . Dick’s dreamlike rendering of virulent conformity and a quotidian bloodthirsty anti-intellectualism still resonate. A timely reissue of English author Dick's slim dystopian fever dream.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Eerie, atmospheric . . . The faceless nature of the antagonists—whose philosophy, goals, and power structures are unspoken—runs counter to other mid-century dystopian tales and leaves space for interpretation . . . Dick creates a pervasive sense of dread for those who give their lives to art. This unsettling dreamlike endeavor is a worthy rediscovery.” — Publishers Weekly