I Paradise News David Lodge (Seeker and Warburg£14.99)I'm sure that many people in this great country await the publication ofa new David Lodge novel with the kind of anticipation others reserve for news of the latest crop circle or Gaultier Parisien collection. In this case. even his legions of loyal
disappointed as a Jean-Paul groupie with rounded tits. The story, as ever in a Lodge book. has a main character roughly the author‘s age, social class and religious bent doing something which Lodge has done —
to see an aged aunt. And that. bascially. is it. There are a few comic vignettes featuring peripheral characters but once the opening scene at Heathrow has passed merrily by. it's downhill all the way.
i The fact that it will still be all the way - to the bank for Lodge is nothing short of a disgrace. (Philip Parr)
I A Day at the Office Robert Alan Jamieson (Polygon £8.95) A monument to writing‘s word-processing revolution. this journey through the wandering mind ofa central Scotland office functionary employs a host of : differenttypefacestosignifythe ' multi-Iayered voices echoing in the = protagonist‘s head. The technique amounts to more than mere gimmickry as Jamieson illustrates the fundamental alienation ofthe ' characters his day-dreaming ‘ functionaryinventsbydramatising i their constant‘doubleness‘. Thoughts and feelings stand distinct from their accompanying words and actions in different typefaces; a continual. often ironic. commentary on their meanderings through the i city.
The imaginary characters are effectively drawn. representing various human strata in the twilight ‘ world ofdrug-dealing. greasy-
spoons and smelly late-night buses.
List readers can expect to recognise
ﬁfﬂfﬁma 4W: [I I2: Ala:
supporters are almost certain to be as ;
on this occasion. travelling to Hawaii 5
On the brink
Terrorists aren't like the rest of us, we're told. The label carries notions of empty-eyed, aberrant monsters, cold-blooded, inhuman killers, utterly undeserving of sympathy or understanding. The work of South African author Andre Brink has always probed the human dilemmas and tragedies arising from apartheid, and in his latest novel, An Act of Terror, he turns to the human side of terrorism - making us first of all lace the uncomfortable fact that it has one. Thomas, the central character, is (like Brink) an Alrikaaner, from a family which traces its lineage back through thirteen generations to the first Dutch settler. He’s been raised to expect all the privileges accorded to those of his colour and clan - yet when he grows up he joins the armed struggle and plants a bomb to blow up the state president. As we follow him through the attack and his long, desperate flight across the country, the sequence of events and choices which culminated in the bombing unfolds, steadily chipping away at any clear-cut notions about violence we might have harboured at the outset. Thomas is a sensitive, intelligent, humanly
complex, and in many ways, ordinary young man; he has doubts, suffers guilt, grapples painfully with the consequences of his terrible act. Through him, terrorism is brought in from the no-man's land of righteous media outrage, examined as the product of difficult, often agonised, decisions by thinking, feeling individuals. The novel is not an apology forviolence, farfrom it. It’s an attempt to explore and explain, the
betterto understand, a phenomenon common to all societies.
It's a big book in all senses - over 800 pages wrestling with themes of morality, crime and punishment, the responsibility of individuals to take action against perceived evil. Occasionally it reads a little too much like a philosophical disquisition, occasionally Brink’s evident emotional commitment to his subject spills into excessive sentimentality. But in the main his skill at characterisation, manifested through the novel's polyphonic structure (as well as Thomas, we hear from a host of other players: comrades in the struggle. relatives, strangers met in passing during his fugitive Odyssey), keeps the drama at a human rather than an abstract level. The small explosions triggered by these encounters reflect those which happen whenever people’s lives collide, even momentarily; one of the novel's most powerful ideas is that violence consists of more than bombs and guns. Any human contact, with the breaching of boundaries it inevitably entails, is a violent act and it’s on this form of violence Brink seems to be saying that our hopes for change must rest. (Sue Wilson)
An Act Of Terror by Andre Brink is published by Secker 8. Warburg at £14.99.
themselves or their friends within these pages — a testament to Jamieson‘s vivid characterisation. enhanced by his post-modern method. The ‘plot‘ is rather more problematic. but then the absence of excitement and the resulting lacklustre feel are more than likely intentional. The odd bit of over-poetic triﬂing aside. this is an excellent and original work by an intriguing new voice in Scottish fiction. (Alan Rice)
WI 1 breast ass TIPS
I Wilderness Tips Margaret Atwood I (Bloomsbury £14.99) As long as , there are dark. lonely corners of the
mind. Atwood will have fresh material for her fiction. One by one.
rcmorselessly. exquisitely. she peels | off the layers ofdelusion and convention beneath which her characters huddle. In each of these short stories. she exposes hidden. muted longings. Full ofsurprises. her writing exhilarates and disquiets.
Ifthere is a theme that binds this collection together it is betrayal. Bloated and breathless. Toronto looms like a character in every story. A small town grown big and cruel. it has betrayed its past. Likewise. most of the characters are running scared. fighting desperately to reinvent themselves. to escape what they are or have been. Trying on lovers like clothes off the rack. they fail to widen or enrich their worlds. Quite the opposite. They end up jaded and alone. sobbing behind locked bathroom doors or shrieking with fear inside pee-drenched phone boxes.
Relentless. claustrophobic and a damn good read. ((‘arl Honore)
I The Night of the Amazons Herbert Rosendorfer (Seeker and Warburg £13.99) Saucy topic for a book number one: thirties cabaret bar in Munich. We know what to expect. But then the author takes our preconceptions and casually tosses them onto a smouldering bonfire. Glam and sleaze are so much in the background in Night oft/1e Amazons as to be virtually indetectable. The book concentrates on one insignificant. ugly little man who rides on Hitler's coat-tales to build
his own mini-fiefdom. Your
standard analogy with the gross man himselfit maybe but Rosendorfer tells the tale in an utterly unique way. Factual events and people are seamlessly intertwined with his own imagination creating a world which is plausible yet surreal. There is a pervading sense of unease as we chart Hitler‘s rise to power in spite of the ridicule which assails him at every turn and the end result is a tense. understated and gripping read. (Philip Parr)
Ilansen (Hamish Ilamilton £15.99) Here is a real gem of a travel book. Having first encountered Yemen inadvertently. in the wake of a shipwreck. Hansen recalls his subsequent visits to this remote country with understatement and wit. A closed society is opened up with stories of heavy-handed bureaucracy and endless ‘qat‘ sessions where Yemeni men chew hallucinogenic leaves through the night. Hansen. a participant- observerthroughout. makes time for frequent shrewd asides on the male-dominated. tribalistic society. Most pertinent. and funniest. are
tales of Western clashes with the traditional culture. as when an aid agency offers to modernise a public toilet in an ancient Yemeni city. The Iiuropean employed to count convenienee-users. to ascertain I which is the most popular toilet. is
The List 27 September — it) October 1991 75
% NON-FICTION ’ ; TOILET HUMOUR
' I Motoring With Mohammed Erie