A novel (1966) by W.F. Hermans about the psychological process of getting a PhD. The title: Beyond sleep (literally: "Never to sleep again.").

At the start of the novel, the young geologist Alfred Issendorf is on his way to Finnmark - north of the polar circle - for a field study that will be vital to his PhD thesis. Vital to this study are the working hypothesis he has been sent out to investigate, and the detailed terrain maps he will be obtaining from his supervisor's Norwegian colleagues.

These colleagues, in the politest way possible, inform Issendorf that his supervisor's hypothesis is a crackpot theory, and they do not provide him with any maps.

With his goal and his means severely in question, Issendorf arrives on the tundra, and manages to exhaust himself with the daily labors of geological research, amidst the company of colleague PhD students. They help him, but at other times appear to obstruct him - he is never sure.

Issendorf loses all confidence. He feels incompetent; his hypothesis seems futile; the professors and students he has met are absorbed in their own work and interests, and unable to help him. He realizes that he became a geologist to satisfy his mother's ambitions; he abhors his mother.

With all his illusions shattered, Issendorf returns home.

If you want to work on a PhD thesis and fail, read this book. (I did.)

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