Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Book 6, 2018 - A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

I have kept putting off writing about this extraordinary novel, because I wanted to do it justice. As I have no time, I can only recommend it very highly. It may offend modern sensibilities, not only because in the early part of the book, set in Jamaica, it refers to the indigenous people without much respect, but also because its main characters are children, and they are portrayed without sentimentality.

I have seldom read such an original book. It is beautifully written, the plot contains shocks, the imaginary protagonists are completely vivid and believable, and the author is wonderfully observant, with great powers of description, which he combines with insight and no illusion about humanity.

This book should be on any list of great twentieth century novels. It is strange and marvellous.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Quantum Phrases

The other day I was reading about quantum physics and a theory within it that suggests that there are many parallel worlds all in existence at once; that, with minor variations, many lives are being lived by the same people. At first, my mind rejected the notion wholesale.

But then I remembered the process of writing -  the way that you can produce multiple, parallel sentences, each expressing more or less the same sentiment, while varying very slightly from the others, and I had a dim insight into the possibility that there might be some truth lurking within these barely comprehensible ideas.

The best literary demonstration of the infinitely variable parallel sentence seems to me to be that provided by Camus in The Plague. One of his characters spends months on the first sentence of his own projected novel, providing variants each time he reappears in the text.

Here they are:

One fine morning in the month of May an elegant young horsewoman might have been seen riding a handsome sorrel mare along the flowery avenues of the Bois de Boulogne.” 

 “One fine morning in May a slim young horsewoman might have been seen riding a handsome sorrel mare along the flower avenues of the Bois de Boulogne.”


“One fine morning in May, a slim young horsewoman might have been seen riding a glossy sorrel mare along the avenues of the Bois, among the flowers…”

Of course, these are only translations from French, the language Camus wrote in, which means that they are merely variations on variations.