22 JULY 1972, Page 14

Political fictions

Auberon Waugh

Disraeli in Love Maurice Edelman (Collins £2.00) The Death of the Fiihrer Roland Puccetti (Hutchinson £2.50) Ostensibly, Mr Edelman's book is about the love affair between Disraeli and Henrietta Sykes, wife of Sir Francis Sykes of Basildon, Berkshire. In fact, of course, Mr Edelman is simply interested in a study of the young Disraeli, and the purpose of the love story is to give readership appeal to one politician's obsession with another. Far more than a study of a love affair, it is a study of a highly intelligent penniless Jew of Radical disposition who by unscrupulous use of his charm and wit gradually struggles into sight of that ultimate prize of all politicians — power.

"Power! That was the goal. Trade, industry, social change, the poor, that great and hungry animal with its baying mouth — all that could wait. His need was power. And the first means to power was a seat in Parliament."

Only a Parliamentarian could write this appalling truth so glibly. Nobody will be shocked, because very few people are interested in politics enough to consider its implications, and those few who are interested are almost without exception similarly tainted. Again, Mr Edelman makes Lord Lyndhurst remark: " The object of government is to exercise power."

What? Rather than formulate and administer just laws, protect the poor, old and weak, promote British interests, defend the Realm, encourage technological research or any of the other claptrap which politicians trot out whenever asked to justify •their unpleasant ambitions? Of course not. What drives them all — whether from a lovedeprived childhood or from simple nastiness — is a desire to exert power, to order other people's lives, to be important.

Again, only a Parliamentarian could put these words into Lord Lyndhurst's mouth, as he advises the young Disraeli on his parliamentary career: " One day, when you rise to speak in Parliament, you'll be faced by a body of critics who at one time or another have practised every art of pleasing, every device of humbling and hypocrisy. They're as skilled as any whore in feigning passion . . . When you stand in front of such people, you stand naked" Are we to believe that this was as true of the unreformed parliament, of limited franchise, where democracy was still a vaguely disreputable swear-word, as it is of the House we know today? Perhaps Parliament always attracted such worms long before there was any need for it to do so.

The political background, then, is beautifully sketched, and probably of considerable relevance to contemporary politics. Mr Edelman writes well about the stirrings of working class militancy, when thieves come out like lice on the war-tails of the processions. Society was better adjusted for exercising the Radical oonscience in those days, although I refuse to accept the assertion put into Buliver's mouth, that children in London regularly worked from one o'clock in the morning until midnight next day. Anybody who has tried to bully children into working for even an hour to pick some gooseberries will know how much the effort expended is greater than the returns. The whole concept of child labour as an aid to industry was one of those impossible flights of Victorian optimism, like Brunel's Suction Railway. The idea of a twenty-three hour a day working child reduces the whole thing to absurdity.

Judged as a love story, one must say that Mr Edelman writes elegantly, but the dramatic tension, which relies on doubts about Lady Sykes's previous relationship with Lyndhurst, is unlikely to be sustained for long by a modern audience. Briefly, the story is that Disraeli, falling in love with Lady Sykes at the opera, is quite gratuiously assured by her that this is her first infidelity. In fact she had been the mistress of Lord Lyndhurst, the Lord Chancellor, for a year at the age of sixteen, probably had other lovers and certainly got off with a painter at the end. Since nobody is going to judge her the worse for having other lovers than Disraeli, the moral and emotional question mark is whether or not she has deceived Disraeli, by telling him a lie.

This I could suggest illuminates a known twist of Parliamentary hypocrisy, whereby members are permitted to lie to each other across the floor of the House and to expose each other in their lies; they are permitted to fornicate to their heart's content, and even be exposed at it in the scandal sheets. But to fornicate and lie, and be exposed is somehow judged disgraceful. As I have said, very few novel readers are interested in politics, and Mr Edelman is sensible to provide a love interest. But I am afraid he will lack the Daphne du Maurier touch for as long as he expects his readers to be held in an agony of suspense over whether a woman has lied about her sex life.

Tht other politician described this week is Adolph Hitler — surely the reduction to absurdity of all popular politicians. Professor Puccetti's thesis, in one of the most extravagant and enjoyable rotters I have read since Ian Fleming, is that Hitler never committed suicide. His brain was removed while he was still alive in the Ftihrer's Berlin bunker and transplanted into the head of a nymphomaniac baroness of half Polish origin who happened to be present.A good Jewish German tracks the brain down to a medieval castle in northern Spain, still occupied as a Nazi stronghold, and in an attempt to find out which of the Nazis present has the Ftihrer's brain he goes to dinner with the baroness, who obligingly takes off her clothes as they sit down. Afterwards, in bed, she succumbs to persistent questioning by crying out, at her moment of sexual climax: " Ich bin der Ftihrer," whereupon the hero, Karl, draws a knife from between his shoulder blades where it has been concealed and impales her on the mattress.

Immediately an alarm bell rings ^,nd frantic Nazi surgeons start removing the secured brain to put into the next eager recipient. The hero has many narrov, scrapes as brain slither all over the floors, and on one occasion even has to operate on his own brain. The story is told in 'An" cient Mariner' style by an old man found sitting on a bench. He is later revealed to be a lunatic.

Nobody can possibly find Professor Puccetti's book intellectually stimulating and few will find it very credible.

Many will even find it disgusting. I can only say I enjoyed it very much indeed, thought it funny and full of vitality, and recommended it for a three-hour train journey. At one moment I found myself speculating whether Ian Fleming's brain had not somehow been transplanted into a Canadian professor. But that waY madness lies.