By WILLIAM PLOMER -
Grandsons. By Louis Adamic. (Gollancz. 7s:6d1 -
(Macmillan. 7s. 6d.)
The Camberwell Beauty. By Louis Golding. .(G011ancz. 8s. 6d.) Ma. Louis ADAMIC, an American of Slovenian :parentage, is the author of The Native's Return, a book which gives his, m- pressions of Carniola, the country of his orig;noind whioh.was well received when published here not long ago.. In his new
book he is occupied with the lives and problems of some Americans of Slovenian origin in America itself, and-the-result is of considerable interest, though it will not please ,thoSe readers who ask nothing but a brisk stcky r it is rather for those who enjoy explorations into character and a search for the truth that lies hidden, not too deeply,in the commonplace. 'Unlike some of his better-known American contemporaries, Mr. Adamic does not seem to love violence for its own sake, and does not concern himself exclusively with evening excesses
and morning headaches, aerial circuses, crimes of passion, and the mental preliminaries or accompaniments of cirrhosis -of the liver. He is neither laconic with Hemingway nor night- marish with Faulkner, and is certainly a softer writer—so much softer that his want of bitterness1S -Ritnetiines a -dis- advantage. But if he does not take refuge in Action for
Action's Sake he does not fly to whimsy and-fantasy : he is n4t . . .
a refugee at all, but writes like a kind and civilized person trying to make sense out of the confusion 'around him. , ife chooses as his chief specimens for examination three grandsons of a Slovenian immigrant who was killed in a Chicago riot in the 'eighties. One is a gangster, one a worker and agitator, and the third, Peter Gale, whom the book is chiefly about, is one of those restless young War-veterans who can't settle down, and a decidedly hysterical one.
Mr. Adamic sees Americans as the victims of an insidious and general disease of which the symptoms are bustle, noise, sudden baffling. violence, and superficiality,_ and the conse, quenees a shadowiness, a lack of reality, calm, depth, humanity and happiness_ in the individual. I _think he regards- the " spiritual vacuum beneath the external jitteriness " as a mis- fortune too exclusively American. He writes in the first person, and the narrator helps Peter Gale in the," struggle to become real" and outlives these feelings of " inner infe- riority" and" under-development" which Andy the gangster, for his part, tries to drug with eight-cylinder cars and flashy blondes :
"We are lonely, isolated, unfunctioning, not part of any great drama or heroic effort—so we go in for more sex, which for brief periods gives us the illusion we are doing something, being part of something. It's essentially the same illusion that I get, or used to get, driving a car . . ."
Nobodies nowadays keep getting it dinned into them that they can feel like somehadiei by being gad' Christians or good Communists, but Mr. Adamic seems to suggest that it is worth trying just to be calm, kind, thoughtful and patient, and for that suggestion alone. he is worth reading. . The Russian author of Storm Warning, on the other hand, takes Communism for granted, though unlike some writers he does not spend quite all his energy in trying to ram that large red pill down the reader's throat. He has been an officer in the Russian Navy, and this is mainly the story of a mutiny on - board a battleship off Helsingfors just before the War, a theme which inevitably recalls that of the film The Battleship Potem- - kin. For some reason or other the book has been abridged, which perhaps accounts for some of its abrupt transitions. As what is called a" social document," or for that matter a naval, historical or psychological one„ it is in some ways brilliant, and should be read by anybody who tIdubts 'that the Revolii;
tion was bound to happen : .
"It grew in the womb of Imperial Russia, bound to her by the laws of destiny, fed with her food and throbbing with her pulse, a
new life fated to destroy the old.";.: . .
No lessons had been learned from Tsushima or the Bloody Sunday of 1905, and the ` Romanoff ' was a hopelessly in-
efficient ship. . Th.e Nery. signal-book, the. "Sailor's Bible,".
. , .
" ainded in royal yards; foot-ropes, 'chain-whiles, flying -104-4 sheet oringlee, and all the racy terminology of the sailing-ship days 'when the volume was composed :' with the fond zeal of an arcbaeo. ' logist, it preserved in ita fifteen hundred pages the majestic battle orders, ram the enemy," prepare to board," rake the enemy's
rigging.' . . ." - With many neat ironical strokes and a discreet usc of rhetoric,
, Storni Warning is written with Something Of that freshness of observation which has alwaYS been one of the graces of Russian literature. Over-squeamish readers Will deteet a few' touches :of coarseness, but we Seem to have no' writer' at 'present 'except Mr. Robert Graves capable of such a readable historical-novel,
_ . .
, romantic -sagas apart.
In -Blind 'Gunner, romantic but net a saga; Cori-animism iS for a change somewhat Unfavourably contrasted with dictator. ship: The Conimimist, JeSe de Munoz, is " a sineere loon," his head "crammed with propaganda' , and philanthiopy" the -dictator is General Torriente of Lthe__South. American republic of-San Martin, net merely; iv-great Man- bid a: super- man, "not introspective" but not without' imagination, and 'given to a- bantering Suavity in moments of Crisis that is more often found at Hollywood or Shepherd's Bush than in palaces or chancelleries. Jose is the son of the gipsy mistress of a
, previous dictator, ousted and executed by Torriente, 'against
, whom she has sworn vengeance : hence the "rei-olutionarj: -leanings of her son. The gipsy's curse has also helped to 'animate Concha, the beautiful daughter, a "mettlesome animal" who " radiates a shameless sensuality," and" it 'is not very difficult to guess that there is going to be some ada between this dazzling creature and the dictator. So far, wt have risen no higher than the level of a:magazine story, but in fact an interesting idea is _ involved, and leads to a striking if unlikely sequence of events. The-idea. is simply that an, extremely successful 'dictator _May. get tired of always . having his own way, especially :in matters of the heart. The protagonists are brought together, and their meeting results in a strange experiment in government on the part of Torriente, an experiment of which the motive at any rate is plausible, _provided we accept-Mr. Croft-Cooke's suggestion that a man- who possesses great.power can grow
i sick of success, and that
"to Torrionte it seemed that there could be no hell more agonising than a life in which always, and in every way, one's mere dreams were satisfied and one's aspirations towards failure alone were cheated."
It is a relief to get right away from these political preoccupa- tions, now the mainspring of so much fiction, and to be enter- tained by a detailed description of life in a place of which it can be said :
"Trying to keep alibe ain't no mattuh heah,,it being abbe and inakin everybody know you is, what eonnt ; "
a place where the honey-seller strolls along singing : "You gots honey roam, I gots honey.
Who ybu gots dat honey ?
I gots it in de ja'."
The place is Charleston, the people are of course negroes- bon't You Weep, Don't You Moan is as good a novel about them as has appeared for some time, not because it sheds any startling new light on them in any startling new way, but because it catches neatly. the rhythm of their lives. And it is up to date; for Mr. Richard Coleman holds the' belief that "the first duty of a novel" is, like that of a newspaper, to "reflect the times." He Mixes all the 'necessary and by now
familiar ingredients — domesticity, dancing, superstition, humour, and especially the...." all time- talkin'• 'bout lovin'," and by no means only talking. As for the dialogue, it is so natural that after closing the book one is left feeling quite thick- lipped, though the attempt to transcribe negroid English with phonetic realism is, as always, somewhat exhausting to the reader.
Those in iettrelt of-anything but seribils reading niay prefer Mr. Louis Golding's new tale of a fanciful chivalrous expedi- tion to Sicily undertaken by some assorted. inhabitants of a Chiswick by-street who find themselves Mixed up with matins and magic and kidnappings. There are generally very good reasons for the popularity of a popular writer, and in Mr. Golding's case, to judge om The Qin:berg:ell Iteaafy,..twa of the ?reasons -must- be-his .'unntistakitble !benevolence, .1111d'the
, . .- —
gusto with which his pages have been written.