those with cockroaches. so much more romantic than their Partick or Polmont counterparts? This elysian ﬂat turns out to be the fantasy dwelling that Jerome and Sylvie
inhabit in their daydreams. A couple .
of university drop-outs. they fantasise about becoming rich. but have nightmares about the drudgery of9-to-5 desk work.
In brutal reality. they live in a cramped ﬂatlet. Improvements. redecoration. repairs are never attended to since their rue de Quatrefages address is only ‘temporary'. With youth on their side. it is all or nothing. They enlist as market research interviewers. asking inane and offensive questions like. ‘Would you let your spare room to a black man?‘
Although written in 1962. the novel is not in the least dated. In fact. it is stunningly relevant to all smug. self-congratulatory Western capitalist countries today in the wake ofthe death ofCommunism in the East. which was killed by dissatisfied Jeromes and Sylvies behind the Iron Curtain who wanted the freedom to accumulate material wealth. rather than the freedom to vote per se Things can be. and was. interpreted as a denunciation of free-market economics. but it is more an examination of how the power and values ofadvertising can mould the hopes and aspirations of an entire generation. Jerome and Sylvie are the innocent children of consumerism. rather than the culpable monsters of materialism.
Up until their mid-twenties they are quite endearing. quoting authoritatively authors whose works they have not read three pages of. However. their fear ofturning into middle-aged members ofthe petit-bourgeoisieforces them to take some kind ofaction. Treadin g water in Paris. they go to Tunisia where they tread sand.
Equally disillusioned there. they return to France and take up middle-management positions. cltained to desks. ei'ett ifthey are beautiful Louis XIV reproductions. At home. they can finally afford to lounge on the long-coveted Chesterfield settees. although they are
by no means rich.
The ending is described by Perec as ‘a happy ending and also the saddest ending you could imagine. ’And indeed it is. I won 't give away the ambiguous denouement. but in my opinion the most depressing thing
aboutJerome and Sylvie is that if they
actually moved into the chic apartment of their dreams. it would be enough to make them ecstatically happy.
A Man Asleep is very good as well. an entertaining avant-garde exercise in the what-is- the-point-of-getting-out-of-bed? school of French literature. Things by itself. though. would be worth £12.50. The descriptions and gently ironic narration are a joy to read. again and again. (David M. Bennie)
‘Planets may not circle nor thunder roll In the temple oi the luture . . . No terraced temples of Babylon to reach the skies. No gold-plated palaces oi Ecbatana seven walled. No ivory palaces of Ahab. Nor golden houses oi Nero with corridors a mile long; no stupendous temples oi Egypt at Ilrst all embracing then court and chamber narrowing and becoming lower, closing in on the awed worshipper and crushing his lmaglnation; these all oi them can never be built again, lor the manner and the materials are worked out to theirllnal issue.’
On the subject of architectural mlmickry Charles Rennie Mackintosh could speak with a vigour which still quickens the pulse even ol those oi us who think Prince Charles ‘has a point’, but keep quiet about It at parties. Thrilling words indeed, but not his own In iact. Mackintosh may have been a seasoned orator by the time he was 25, but much of his eloquence was courtesy oi the rather more talented writers whom he plagiarlsed. The original author of the above quotation was actually we. Lethaby. Even so. Mackintosh's contagious and seductive way oi expressing his views on architecture Is immediately apparent in this, the first airing at some oi his lectures, diaries and letters.
That the book should be published now doubtless has something to do with Glasgow 1990, and Mackintosh does seem to have become something at a 1990 Cultural Mascot-the iamous calligraphy with the dots under the ‘o’s ceases to be so pleasing when It is careiully stencilled onto every other shop front and promotional pamphlet. Still the publication does seem all the more pertinent ior coming in the wake of the petulant tug-oi-war between iith and the Royal Institute oi British Architects. Mackintosh would not have titted comfortably into either camp, since he was a staunch opponent ol
decoration lor decoration‘s sake, but equally convinced that buildings should have ‘soul’.
The live lectures which make up the substance oi the book were given between 1891 and 1902 and address the subjects of Scottish Baronial Architecture, a Tour in ltaly and ‘Seemliness’. Two are on architecture in general. Also included are the diary Mackintosh wrote while in Italy and letters relating to the trip. Each lecture ls well annotated and Introduced by essays which steer away lrom academic analysis- such an approach would hardly be appropriate since Mackintosh himsell eschewed academia, embracing instinct and verve. There is also a good introductory essay by Pamela Robertson, Curator oi the Mackintosh Collection at the Hunterian Art Gallery, and the whole book is beautifully and generously Illustrated.
Mackintosh’s spontaneity is most apparent in his ltalian diaries. The trip
..-.. 0"“) «t. ""
was the result at his winning a scholarship, and he was expected to give an account of it on his return. But his notes are hardly thorough: of one church he says simply ‘golly what an interior. Fairly took my breath away.’ Rome is a great, albeit lamlliar, disappointment, bits at it bearing ‘a very striking resemblance to some parts oi the east end oi Glasgow assuming about two thirds ol the population to be dead ol cholera.‘ What makes Mackintosh's writing particularly endearing are the rampant spelling mistakes; In tact. It seems that he may have been dyslexic. But it Is impossible not to be lniected - and ediiied — by these progressively powerful pieces. (Miranda France) Charles Rennie Mackintosh - The Architectural Papers, edited by Pamela Robertson, is published by White Cockade at £15.95. An exhibition oi Mackintosh's architectural drawings is currently showing at Glasgow's Hunterian Gallery- see Art listings.
I The Colloghi Conspiracy Douglas Hill (VGSF £12.99 hardback. £4.99 paperback). A humorous science fiction novel which reads like Rich Man Poor Man would have done had it been written by Isaac Asimov. only it‘s a bit funnier.
Del Curb is a complete prat who dresses garishly. gets into terrible scrapes and has sex with small furry creatures. Despite the character failings he finds time. in this book. as in its predecessor The Family Fracas (also available now in paperback). to take on the might ofthe space mafia. This time he reluctantly attempts to thwart an evil scheme to suck the brains and the bank accounts of ‘planetillionaires’ dry at an outlandish health resort.
As a piece ofscience fiction the book works reasonably well; all the usual ingredients are here and in the right order. As a piece of humour it is less successful. Harry Harrison's
.S'tainless Steel Rat books. for example. are much funnier as well as being superb reads. The idea of'I‘he Dirk as Space-Hero. though. is a nice one but. as this book shows. a difficult one to pull off. (Iain Grant)
NON-FICTION BLOODY BROTHERS
I Blood. Class and Nostalgia (Anglo-American lronies) Christopher Hitchens (Chatto & Windus £18.00) ‘Hitch‘ may have been transferred from the left-wing ofthe liberal literati‘s First XI to Establishment United for a massive signing-on fee. but he remains ideologically sound and scores some delightful own-goals against his top-batted. cigar-smoking goalkeeper. In this book. which is a mixture of historical analysis. political polemic and cultural observation. he considers the origins. meaning and consequences ofwhat the British still refer to as the ‘special relationship'.
but which the Americans do not (many Americans are inclined to cite France as their oldest ally. and for many Yanks Israel is most deserving ofthe laudatory title ‘special relation‘). Nevertheless. Hitch cogently argues with his customary acerbic wit that through the bond of common blood. language and history. Britain still exercises a degree of inﬂuence over WASP opinion-formers out ofall proportion to our international standing (we've just been overtaken by Italy in the economic league table for God‘s sake).
The ‘Anglo-Saxon/US-UK’ bloc. an alliance within an alliance. resulted in Britain being at the mad cow‘s tail at the beginning of European unity. But all parents must learn to let their children go. In my opinion. we ought to stop sitting on the fence in typically British fashion and eitherthrow in our lot with Europe — even if it means shopping with ecus-- or apply to become the
The List 2".luly — I) August l99ll75