Imber Abbey is home to an enclosed order of nuns. A new bell is being installed and then the old bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered by teenager Toby, abetted by Dora the erring wife who returns to her husband.
Michael Meade, leader of the community outside the convent, is confronted by Nick Fawley, with whom he had disastrous homosexual relations, while the wise old Abbess watches and prays and excercises discreet authority. Religion and sex are the motifs here - Michael also impulsively kisses Toby which sets off another series of events... . Iris Murdoch's funny and wise novel is about religion, the fight between good and evil and the terrible accidents of human frailty, but is also deliciously funny, leading to a hilariously tragic climax. A great introduction to Murdoch's novels like THE SEA THE SEA, THE UNICORN, THE RED AND THE GREEN and many others. BBC did a nice serial of THE BELL in 1982, with Ian Holm, Michael Maloney and others, it would be nice to see that again.
Published posthumously in 1958, the book remains a marvellous read. Luchino Visconti of course made one of his best films based on it, released in 1963 (as per my comments at Visconti label). The characters are so vivid: Don Fabrizio the still virile Prince, his large family, Tancredi and Angelica, and that sumptous ball at the end, when the Prince realises that things have to change in order to stay the same. The novel too gives us flash-forwards to the characters, like Angelica, in their later years. I particularly like my early '60s edition, nicely hardbound and embossed.
COLLECTED POEMS by C.P. CAVAFY. I cherish my Hogarth Press edition of Cafavy Poems (and also that paperback, a different translation, with the David Hockney illustrations, below). I have now seen this new edition BEFORE TIME COULD CHANGE THEM, 'The complete poems, with an introduction by Gore Vidal' - and just had to have it, so it is on its way to me.
|"In the dull village"|
There are so many of his poems I like and return to: "The City", "Candles", "In The 25th Year of His Life", "He Swears", "Before Time Altered Them", "Two Young Men 23 to 24 Years Old", "Days of 1909, '10 and '11", "Kleitos' Illness" as well as specific Greek themes like "Waiting For The Barbarians", "Ithaka", "Nero's Deadline", which splendidly evoke the Ancient World. If you do not know Cavafy, do try to discover his works.
YEVTUSHENKO: SELECTED POEMS - This Penguin Paperback was an early '60s favourite of mine, it was interesting finding it again the other day. The blurb says: "Yevgeny Yevtushenko is the fearless spokesman of his generation in Russia. In verse that is young, fresh, and outspoken, he frets at restraint and injustice, as in his now famous protest over the Jewish pogrom at Kiev. But he can write lyrically too, of the simple things of all humanity - love, a birthday, a holiday in Georgia. And in "Zima Junction" he brilliant records his impressions on a visit to his home in Siberia". Yevtushenko is now much older, but was the Rudolph Nureyev of poetry then. Even now looking at those titles like "Lies", "Waiting", "Colours", "Encounter", "People", "Babi Yar" and that long marvellous poem "Zima Junction" brings it all back, being 18 or 19 again.
Part 2 soon (Jane Austen, Muriel Spark, Edna O'Brien, Mary Renault, James Joyce).