By W. J. IGOE
A GIRL FROM LUBECK, by Bruce Marshall (Collins, 16s.) THE DEVIL NEVER SLEEPS, by Pearl Buck (Pan, 2s. fid.).
SEEN DIMLY BEFORE DAWN, by Nigel Balchin (Collins, I6s.).
THE NON-EXISTENT KNIGHT & T:IE CLOVEN VISCOUNT, by Halo Calvin() (Collins, 16s.).
THE CONNECTING DOOR, by Rayner Heppenstall (Barrie and Rockliff, 15s.).
SEX was quite an interesting subject. once; it has taken the combined resources of the contemporary novel and the mass media to make it a major force for boredom.
Three of the novels under review are about sex. Two involve the Church in the business.
Bruce Marshall MR. BRUCE MARSHALL'S initial aim seems to have been to satirise an organisation like the British Council. An Englishman tours Europe lecturing on poetry "From Beowulf to Dylan Thomas". In Ltibeck a printer's error having substituted " Diana Dors" for Thomas he attracts a big audience. This includes Hannelore, " a Valkyrie" with "a gold (sic) head ... like a reliquary . . . carried in procession by invisible priests ". Hannelore, however, is not disembodied. She and the lecturer couple on a Ltibeck railway Malin platform and repeat the manouevre in Paris in a less public place with, Mr. Marshall notes, mirrors.
When the lecturer learns that the lady is distributing her favours internat,onally, he is hurt. She takes cover and he is plunged into a series of farcical situations involving brothels and departmental intrigues.
Priest's homily sHE reappears and at Ars both listen to a homily from a priest who speaks in the jargon common to Mr. Marshall's priests whether they be Scots. American, Irish or French (with slight lin
guistic modifications, of course). This makes Hannelore repent, but not before she and her lecturer have coupled again (without mirrors, Art being apparently. more provincial than Paris, in that respect). In an epilogue she appears as a nun, presumably all set to live happily ever after.
There is an epigraph from Bernanos and one wonders what he would have thought of the book.
Pearl Buck PEARL BUCK'S novel is about two priests in China, one young. one old. The young one " has not conducted Mass alone", and he gives Holy Communion to a pagan because " the sacred symbols, imaginary though they were yet none the less food for the soul " (.ric). He is 'tempted by a beauteous Chinese and does not quite know what to do about it until a " Red " takes her off his hands. The priests I know would have given her a clip on the ear and sent her home.
This is the first British edition of Mrs. Buck's book. One wonders where it first was published?
rr HE theme of an adolescent boy t sexually attracted by a mature woman is not new. But Mr. Balchin handles it with great skill, compassion and wry humour. This is an honest, adult and very readable book.
Italo Calvin() SIGNOR CALVIN() is sonicthing of an existentialist poet. Many influences have been diagnosed in his work. I thought of Lewis Carroll and Hieronymus Bosch These tales of white armour going off to war inhabited by a non-existent knight and an aristocrat cloven into his better and worse selves by a sword are quite enchanting. Fancy it what the novel in general needs. Here it is, served with grisly charm and dry pervasive irony.
R. Heppenstali EXISTENTIALISM flavours Mr. Heppenstall's study of an edgy contemplative in the Europe of 1948. This is an extremely intelligent and thoughtful book.