16 OCTOBER 1953, Page 28

New Novels

MR. HARTLEY, as we know from the Eustace books, looks at children with a keen, loving and unsentimental eye. The Go-Between, a man of sixty, called Leo, is looking back upon a childhood visit in fine summer weather and the tragedy that happening then made it impossible for him to grow up properly. As a little boy Leo goes to stay in a grand house where the son Marcus, his schoolboy friend, instructs him in the manners of a superior social grade—only cads fold their clothes up and eat their porridge sitting down. Leo is very hot in his careful caddish Norfolk suit and so Marcus's grown- up sister Marian buys him some green summer clothes and light shoes to go with them. This is very important because now Leo can laugh and play and become popular. Marian affectionately makes use of him to carry messages to the handsome farmer she is having a love affair with. The beauty of the hot Norfolk summer time, the fields, and poppies, the grand affable guests, especially the tender Hugh who is Lord Trimingham, are beautifully brought to life and smell, Mr. Hartley can engage all the senses. But Marian's mother suspects an intrigue and accompanied by the unwilling Go-Between tracks the lovers to the outhouse where Leo, looking down, sees the Water Carrier and the Virgin (he has long had these zodiacal phan- tasies) in each other's arms. The effect of this shock, his prolonged fever and loss of memory, and its permanent influence on his adult life, seem a little melodramatic and so does the farmer's suicide; it is like a black ink shadow on a pastel drawing. Perhaps Mr. Hartley should have risked contenting us with a Norfolk picture of a child jumping haystacks with his farmer friend, worried (for emphasis) by nothing more serious than social qualms, puzzling errands, memories of school fights and his mother's affectionate and foolish letters. It must also be said that the conversations between Leo and Marcus touch a hilarious level of excruciating realism.

The Charioteer is an odd book for a woman to have written because its subject is masculine inversion, about which she uses, though mostly in dialogue where perhaps it is unavoidable, the repulsive current euphemism "queer" as noun and adjective. It is a skilful story and a long one. The two who are to become lovers, Laurie and the older boy Ralph, meet at school, and readers will hero find themselves on all too familiar ground. War comes and Ralph, now a naval officer, is in charge of the ship which brings Corporal Laurie with a smashed knee-cap home from Dunkirk. Among the conscientious objectors working in Laurie's hospital is Andrew, a young Quaker boy. So there is this triangle because Laurie has a "pure" love for Andrew and Ralph has an "impure" love for Laurie who loves him too. The author works out this situation with sympathy and insight and with some excellent non-emotional detail about human beings working hard under conditions of war- time strain, the cockney "good sort" and the public school-girlish nurse being particularly well drawn. Miss Renault's superior inverts, to use Havelock Ellis's term for it, are Mainly in an awkward predicament and the inferior ones, the Tonys, Boos and Totos, are equally plainly a social calamity. The book is affectionate and sensitive and without making a case out of it echoes the school- mistress 'splea in Madehen in Uniform—"Die Liebe 1st tausendformig," love of any sort being held preferable to an absence of love, and this without prejudice to the sad commonplace that among the lower denizens of the world of inversion love so often takes a shape indis- tinguishable to the normal eye from plain malice. It is courageous of the author to finish the book with Laurie and Ralph settling down in a flat together; many writers would have dodged the issue by having one of them killed off. Her emphasis upon the afflictions of her leading characters—the wounds, lameness, mutilations, headaches and general fatigue—dark circles under the eyes, fainting and pallor—is perhaps of more interest to the alienist than the general reader. It is an interesting book.

There is something in Miss Dick's style—or. is it her heroine's?— which in spite of occasional lapses in grammar and clarity, yet appeals; a certain liveliness. The story is told in the first person by an English girl in flight to Paris from an unsatisfactory love situation. She falls in casually with Pierre,' a gentle sensitive lover, and with Pierre's tough Canadian friend, James. Round about the streets and cafés they go, in and out of the hotels and bedrooms. The girl is an outward-looking creature for all her diary-like report of love's progresses and setbacks. . . . "There is enough knowledge in me to know how much knowledge I lack and to realise how linked I am and yet evolved I am from the jurassic dawns." No human being with this feeling is going to be glum for long, and she does indeed enjoy not only herself and her situation but all the sights and smells of Paris, the food, drink, people and the weather. If the portrait of this girl, so honest, aggravating, ravenous, comical and occasionally pompous, is an objective portrait, the use of the "I" being carefully calculated to enhance the colours, it is a work of art. But did the author, slapping on the paint with such generous abandon, mean the result to be quite in fact what it is? As the book is entertaining and at times oddly truthful perhaps it does not matter.

The Swedish Nobel Prize Winner, Mr. Par Lagerkvist, is very well translated by Miss Alexandra Dick, who loses nothing of the simplicity and restraint of this writer. The story of life at the court of a Renaissance prince is told by the prince's dwarf, a creature filled with anger and with pride in his ancient race of dwarfs, born of normal human beings but in his opinion and in his own person at least, for he does not think much of other dwarfs, superior to them, of ancient dragon blood and like mules sterile. Painters and poets come to the court and especially the painter of curious inventions who so interests his master. Through the dwarf's eye one sees the purposeless wars to which in a minute suit of armour he proudly follows the Prince, sees the famine that comes after, and the plague, and sees also, misted by dwarf malice, the beauty of the love of "that idiotic girl," the Prince's "probably bastard" daughter, and the "disgusting" young man, who, creeping into her palace room, himself princely-born on the enemy side, is betrayed by the dwarf and slain in bed with his beloved girl who goes out and drowns herself (he remembers how the "silly creature" was so upset when he cut off her kitten's head). Implicated in the death of the Prince's erotic and hysterical wife, the dwarf is chained up in a dungeon, where, supported by the insane conviction that the Prince will "send for him," he may, one feels in tribute to this author's calm and horrifying offhandedness, still be found.