Yeats and any other poet you care to name--who has written of love and the beloved so beautifully as Mr. P. J. Kavanagh has done in The Perfect Stranger (Chatto and Windus, 21s.). lie writes without pathos, without poetic devices, without nostalgia ("the rotting disease") and with power, passion and humour.
"In the presence of someone"—his Sally—"without envy or malice people become transparent and lovable" and this is most true of himself. She was the unlooked-for answer to all the prayers he hadn't known how to formulate and "possibly the most scarifying thing that can happen is to have your prayers answered."
"There is something terrible in loving another person as much as" he loved his Sally from the beginning to the sudden. shocking end.
He writes sparingly, with quiet affection, of his father, Ted Kavanagh, who made the last war endurable for millions; his grim monastic education is described with tolerance; his experience' of the admirable boss-worker relationship in a French factory is sadly instructive.
His part in the ghastly Korean war highlights as pungent an indictment of war's futility as was ever written. His impressions of Barcelona and Catalan pride, poverty and attitude to religion and women are vivid and irrefutable.
His account of his service with the British Council in Djakarta is horribly fascinating. His early comment on the Irish "with blazing exceptions" is forgivable since he later compares them to the Javanese, whom he loves.
Mr. Kavanagh is no use at all as a hater. Love is his strength and the root, sap and flower of his lovely book.