Hearing them speak is commonly understood to be a good thing for both cultural and political life, as well as for literary fiction. This essay, however, argues that there is something intolerable about hearing the voices of others. Taking the 1940s as a historical starting point, the difficulty of hearing the voices of others is traced in two registers: first, in the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion's writing on the psychotic core of collective experience; second, in the post-war writers Muriel Spark and Penelope Fitzgerald's fictional meditations on the infrangibility of the human voice. Writing 'out' of the 1940s, both psychoanalysis and literary fiction are read as engaging with the question of how listening to others is always compromised by a persistent and over-proximate relation to the voice and the fantasies of authority it supports. Hearing them speak, the essay concludes, is not the natural corrective to the perilous pleasures of a collective submission to tyranny it might first appear. © 2005 Taylor & Francis.