0 Oriental Tales Marguerite Yourcenar (£2.95 Black Swan) Definite ‘Litrichure‘ these ten tales- worthy of not a little mental mastication. Ifyou like a tall story. with the promise of a good dollop of metaphysical deep-meaningfulness. then you‘ll like these. The Belgian-French Yourcenar. writing in the 1930s. probes an unseen. shadowy world ofillusions and sensuality as her characters move into a haunting twilight ofbeauty. death and eroticism. Working within the Romantic concept of the imagination. Yourcenar imbues her stories with a lyrical sensuality and a
Gothic horror akin to Keats. Hellenic nymphs slip through the pages of ‘The Man Who Loved Nereids' and ‘Our-Lady-of-the- Swallows‘ to taunt mere mortals with their permissable and innocent sexuality and to fascinate with their perfect beauty and otherworldliness. Human passion brings death in ‘Aphrodissia. the Widow‘. harlotry in ‘Kali Beheaded' and is compromised by old age in ‘The Last Love of Prince Genji‘.
But it's not all bad news, for Yourcenar points to that last bastion of human hope — imperfection makes us beautiful. Allegory and symbolism. the Wise Old Men who pop up from time to time to prove
No doubt this will astound you but many moons have passed since I last talked megabucks. But when Jack Higgins and his several aliases landed in Edinborough (his spelling) it was perhaps inevitable that we should examine the state of his bank balance. I can report he is in the black. Three hundred thousand devalued pounds for his new novel Night of the Fox (Collins £9.95). A million or so greenbacks for US rights. Add some rupees, a cheque torthe paperback and a lilm option, take away the agent’s tenner and he is left with a very cool £2,000,000. l was drooling; Mr Higgins ‘pondered’ a haircut.
Money is a ‘prosaic’ subject as far as he's concerned and he's nottoo enamoured ot the rich who pound
Bergerac’s beat, tree from the fright oi thetaxman’s butt envelopes. Higgins retreated to Jersey alter earning ‘silly' sums for The Eagle has Landed, but exile apart, wealth has not changed Harry Patterson — except his name.
No sirree. He doesn't drive a Porsche - he doesn’t like them. And he isn't interested in Mercedes either. He has a ‘modest’ house (with two terraces) and doesn’t mind who sees him in his leather bomber jacket. And it he fancies lish and chips, well, he goes right ahead and has a poke. He is just a lad o’ pairts (Newcastle, Belfast, Leeds) who has made a few bob.
Smart London literary chaps don’t like these nouveau riche novelists. Mr Higgins was still bristling from ‘a review in a national paper which said I was on the level olJanet and John, and Night of the Fox was as it the writer of Janet and John was now trying to write war comics. He said the first two sentences of the book were unintelligible'. See what you make of
‘The Romans used to think that the souls of the departed stayed neartheir tombs. It was easy to believe that on a cold March morning with a sky so black that itwas as itnight was about to tall.’
Makes you think, doesn’t it? Mr Higgins is the first to admit he is not Tolstoi, just as Jettrey Archer has never claimed to be Dickens, butl doubt ilthe author of Janet and John could have managed anything quite so challenging. Aherthat there follows another250 vaguely similar pages in which a philosopy don-cum-double - agent roots round Jersey during World War II. It has its origins in the true story of Vivienne Myle, a professor of French, a person, says the author, of some wit and intellect. None of this has rubbed off on Mr Higgins, but since what we critics have to say makes no difference to the public’s response to his work I don'tsuppose he will worry too much. A sell-confessed member of the ‘stream of consciousness school’ he’ll go on letting it ‘pour out‘. I believe him. (Alan Taylor)
the world finite — all are
overwhelmed by the evocative sensuality which would have given the older Romantics apoplexies. Drawing on legend and myth, Yourcenar‘s fables are of the highest order— they are ironic. You‘ll find yourselfcompulsively looking for a proscriptive moral, chasing the tales round and round, but never getting one in your mouth. (Kristina Woolnough) 0 Among the Goths Christopher Salvesen (£4.95 Mariscat 1986) Edinburgh-born Christopher Salvesen expresses his travelogue in poetry which describes the complex soul ofWestern Europe via a microcosm ofscenery — a Venetian garden. a British university. a path along the Danube. This diversity is bonded by a common history, which Salvesen, as historian, alludes to throughout the collection with vivid imagery, ranging from the political and religious bloodshed of the great wars to the creative fervour of the Renaissance. The resulting imagery apprehends our common understanding and develops it into a more fundamental understanding nature:
Then, great River, support
remind us of Time
That it makes us. recall, in your
moving, the upstream,
The destined to come: lead on the
[and in its reaches. This prose-like style dominates and projects a nonmusical, at times stilted work, if. indeed, we approach it questing poetic artistry. Rather, Salvesen‘s strength lies in his ability to recreate a moment with acute detail. From France, he records his thoughts and sensations while visiting a museum:
‘Europe ’s oldest man ’ — the sign
Fora momentmisled me:
Some ancient peasant, I thought,
Some monument wizened yet
Sprightly with years and yogurt. Such humour, appropriately subtle, is inserted sparingly, which amplifies the serious tone of this stirring and reﬂective collection. (Paola Trimarco)
0 Out to Lunch Paul Levy (£10.95 Chatto and Windus). The faddy foodie regurgitates and reheats deep-frozen pieces. Some, like ‘Great Sandwiches of the World’ and ‘Fire in the Kitchen‘ retain their ﬂavour, others, particularly the annual reports ofthe Oxford Food Symposium’s beanfeasts, ought to have been kept under cling-film wraps.
0 Death at My Aunt C.H.B. Kitchin (£2.95 Hogarth Press). Country house chiller (no central heating), simultaneously gauche and gripping but recommended reading for the plus-fours and mauve shirt brigade. 0 Peggy: The Wayward Guggenheim Jacqueline Bograd Weld (£15 Bodley Head). Breathless biog of the wealthy heiress and art(ist) collector who had more flings than a Highland games.
_ A nice place to visit, '
wouldn’t want to
The epic misadventures _ .of two aliens
. on a" secret mission 10 Earth.
The List 31 Oct — 13 Nov 41