Animal Farm

Drawing of Squealer by Pett and Freeman

(by George Orwell) The best political allegory since Swift.  Venerable pig, Old Major (‘Willingdon Beauty’ as his show name), a Karl Marx figure, outlines an animal world of milk and honey and soft straw. The animals rise up, kick out the nasty farmer, see off the counter revolution, and settle down to run the enterprise themselves, in a workers’ paradise of co-operation, truth and mutual respect. But some animals are more equal than others… Who would have thought Napoleon the Pig, circa 1940, would look so much like Vladimir Putin?  Sorry, I mean Josef Stalin. Don’t I? Our mild suggestion…

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Anna Karenina

(by Leo Tolstoy) That part of this huge novel taken up with Anna, Karenin and Vronsky is a work of art, startling in its modernity. The bucolic pages concerning Constantine Levin, on the other hand, are the highest schlock. O for an editor with the spine to suggest to a nobleman the wielding of shears and a blue pencil! Anna is a great flesh-and-blood character, in a situation not dissimilar to Madame Bovary or Hedda Gabler.  But being Tolstoy, the rich inner drama is cast on an epic scale.

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Tranquility in Sorrento

Sorento

I essentially completed my novel, Tranquility in Sorrento, Tasso’s town, circa April 2013.  Unlike Joseph Conrad, who, when finishing Lord Jim one early morning, shared a piece of chicken with his cat, I couldn’t hear my cat’s insistent calls to breakfast: he was thousands of miles away.  Moreover, there was no feeling of triumph, merely relief floating in a sea of fatigue and alcohol.  I started this thing in 1979, ignorant of vast swathes of modern fiction, an ignorance that cannot be overcome, perhaps only palliated, by reading 24/7.  By 2013, having worked on it in time to spare and short periods…

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The Silent Partner

When Dennis Sheldon lifted his head from his desk on Monday morning, he had already been dead for some hours. While working on Sunday afternoon in the dim electric hum of the otherwise empty office he had begun to feel queasy, had felt the half-expected chest pain, had seen the traditional bright light and had fallen forward, denting his now senseless forehead on the corner of his Italian marble desk-set. The desk-set had been a gift from his father.

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