22 NOVEMBER 1930, Page 60

THE BACK-TO-BACKS. By J. C. Grant. (Chatto and Windus. 7s.

6d.)—We should like to think that Mr. Grant's novel of life in a mining district is a skit on the work of those modern writers who mistake filth for force and ugliness for sincerity, but we are afraid it is not. We fear, too, that Mr. Grant and Mr. Liani D'Flaherty, who writes a preface,

really do believe that miners spend their lives. in the nether- most pits of hell; that they return gashed and bleeding every night from work and that they all lose their sight. Mr. O'Flaherty writes that the book " smells terribly of truth?, It smells (if one may borrow the phrase) of such a mass of filth that it is difficult to recognize any distinct odour among the all-pervading reek. If, as we suppose, Mr. Grant intends his work to be taken as serious propaganda, he does not help himself by describing a dawn like this :- " Night squirmed and squealed, groping blindly in his bed of woolly mist and sweat. Suddenly becoming mad, he burst into verse

` Leave me to love and the lust of my love and my dreams ! Swill not my bed with thy watery light lest I cool ! '

He wriggled like a wet-bedded worm ; his coils uncoiled. More light came, compelling him, for decency's sake to withdraw from his mistress, the earth, upon whom he had lain since sunset. Ths inquisitive beams showed up a festering sore on her arm, where his cheek had nestled in sleepy rapture. Like yellow oil it covered his purple lips."

So much for the dawn ; and Mr. Grant's descriptions of really ugly things are correspondingly worse. He goes from filth to filth, no doubt mistaking it for strength. No sane person will doubt that the lives of the miners are dan- gerous and sometimes horrible, but Mr. Grant only weakens their cause by his- ridiculous descriptions of their diseases and squalor.