25 SEPTEMBER 1936, Page 36


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By WILLIAM PLOMER He's Got a Million. By V. y.qpnriv. Translated by Malcolm

Burr. (Allen and Unwin: is. Si:), • , -

Summer Will Show. Show. By Sylvia Townsend 'Wainer. (Cita t t o and Windui. 8s. &I.).- - Major Operation. By James k3ark'. (Collins. 8i. 6d.) Under, Moscow Shies. 13y -3fstirii3e 10.. 6d.) THESE 'four books all have to dowitli:3-EViAlOri.•;. He' Got A Milititkikhe" lightest and most obv ioiish- entertaining.: • It is a sequer:to Out for A in:these.pagei 'last , DecerOber),' which- described .ther -fortune-hunting 'Arseny Pavloviteli-Aristarkho in pre-WitiRUSsia. The new volume traces Aiseny's career_right_up .te..the:ontl4eek •_of the. Revo- lution, it shows-hint., act,ing on 'the prineiple.„Jhat"money is power ! money is joie. de: vivre a.1 _and-moying in that extravagant and extraordinary gt:I9eteraiiirglifeiviiire and corruption, wine, -women -and -ballet,- specUlators and 'con- cessionaires, of grandees loading their 'insides with rich food - • and champagne and their inistresses With jewels- py... Faberge:: There is a good deal of this sortofthing _ " They say you- are tire'inckiest woinan World, Felixa

AdolfoVna. I think" Yitcrii:o; lOviering

his voice as the Grand Duke Ivan appnpachoda Ttie Grand buke was pleased by the- Witticism. He ponredir*t &eine old 4Oc*a into a golden:051ot; WithTtlIe nionogranile.:5!efer.th7Great;'ind invited Arseny to drink with tarn to_Felixa's health." : I There are glimpses of Ra:sputiii. There are: worthy of the Marx •Brothers : - -- • - -•- - - • " Sonieorie asked ari.Armenian if an owl is a bird or a fish. A fish,'.-answerecLthp ArMenian. '11, Then .why does it sit in a tree ? ,f Because its dotty.' - And there are some nice glimpses of home life. Take Kasheheev, . for instance, whose family was 0-rather.complicated." " His wife . lived with her daaghter-in-law's brother. One of their sons had married a singer= f icau.k.O2ils_aret , but had thrown her Over, and was now" ving with the wfft.of...the other brother. The singer's children, offspring of some indeterminate fether,!ivere being brought up With-the Haslicheey. family. Kagheheev's daughter was married, but had left: het: husband and was living with a jockey, and his children by two other Women were likewise being brought 'up at -Hashclheev's expense."_ The author declares thathis picture is in noway exaggerated, that the eharaeterg are all based on personalities known, to him, and that the incidents either occurred or are based on actua Occurrences. It was part of his intention to show the inevitability of the Revolution, but, as he has :" never :had any connexion whatsoever with the Soviet authorities," he

sticks to his business of depicting human behaviour and spares

us from any suspicion that he is secretly addicted to prose- lytising or uplift. The St. Petersburg he writes about " fed upon the rest of Russia like an orchid upon a rotten trunk," but there is nothing orchidaceous in his -Manner. With

robust gaiety and good sense he follows the same method as before, a method of quick transitions which never obscure

Arseny, a by 'no means despicable nouveau riche, for he always felt that " as soon as he had money he would work for

something higher and more valuable, although he did not yet quite knoW what." He has moved a long way from his childhood among the Old Believers, when " all our life at home was saturated with religion based on Fear," and the lifelong climber has discovered not only that the stairs have collapsed, but " that upper storey itself is there no longer—it has all crumbled away." At least he and the society to which he belonged had 'a hearty run for their money: .'

Miss Sylvia • Townsend Warner's revolution happens in Paris in .1848, but the revolution she is chiefly concerned with takes place in a. humanheart and her book may be called the story of a conversion. It may also be called a work of art. It is seven years since Miss Warner Publisked a novel, and that delay seems in itself a mark of distinction in a time of over- hasty and over-copious production. I think I am right in

saying that her early books tended to -be_fastidious," a little fantastic; and -perhaps-:even a little precious. It is evident not only:. (to quote the. blur that her new book ",displays a deeper-interest in eharacteriAtion and emotional compleYity " • but that her talent has greatly. developed—and a talent that develops is something not at all common. Summer Will Show is obviously • a frnit of thought and emotion. Written -with great care, it is welt reonStrizeted and with rare skill—par- ticularly in the choice andarrangenient of descriptive-detail— - it builds up a picture in the reader's mind so that afterwards it seems. almost like some old memory revived, some personal experience recalled : and what more can one ask ? The-first Part of the 1i-0k-tells us of life at Blefidtinief, a country house in DOiSef,lif:Karly Victorian times. Therelivs;iiith her tiro eh ildreiti Sophia Willoughby, who, d es 2rtect Of. at least-neglected by her husband, seems correct, even a little stiff and cold, hut-is in fact a Wornan•Ofspirit and-imagitiation^an l hai in her the germs of that rather grand eceentrieity_whichwai44.to hreak,oUt, and still is, in women of ,her.racepnd class 1$e Childien-dfi, Sop ra goes to an•s arid' , n .does bkeek out only Lde net thipc-Miss Warner.would call it that ; I think she asks us quite plainly_ to zrgard Sophia as a woman saved _from'. conventional nullity by love, imagination, and reVolutionary action gtiargely; but iciinehOW7convincingly, the influence that warms and-fertilisislher latent" poWlers emanates from_ none other than her husband's mistress; a 1.4thuanian Jewess. The husband:is alirn)- and a cad, and is a little Surprising that Minna:Would-ever have fallen for him, but it is not really surprising .that Minna should have been the means of turning the lady of the manor into a citixeriezis, for with such warmth and charm, such a unique mixture of passion and disinterestedness, she was 'able: to provide something that Sophia could scarcely have found in her narrow English environment. It may, however, be.as well to remark-that this novel, though controlled .and is not witkout something of that quitsi-meligitliiii*ryoUr which is apt to animate Communist& „*- *1„.

In the case of Mr. James' r. zs quite ■ -x undisguised; and Major Operation tl be 'called -a tract The plot has a curious similarity to:Miss Warner's. In SuMmer Will Show a woman of the oW' Mpg glass, unhappily Married, learns to love a woman ,i9„,,gtpther ,sphere of _fife and to accept her ideas, :then :there is a martyrdom at the barricades and a dedicated soul is left to carry on In Major Operation a Soraldl"e-eliisi man, unhappily - learns in a time of -phySleal, arid emotional crisis to love a Man of the working-elass and' to` accept his ideas, then there is a martyrdom during -a riot and a dedicated-soul ii•left to carry on. . . . Miss Warner has the advantage as an artist ; Mr. Barke, one would _suppose, has been-in-closer touch with the proletariat. His book, says the blurb, " from the all-embracing standpoint of dialectical .-matetialiSM„" and the keynote is -struck in --a thapter heading WIVE YESTERDAY : CLASS ENEMY TODAY—so that's that. Instead of Paris in 1848 we have Glasgow, " Second City of the Empire," at the present day. Our troubled bourgeois, bankrupt in every sense,- is George Anderson, a softy and a prig and a bit of a masochist, who seems to have reached the prime of life without giving a thoUght to anything worth thinking about. Our true hero is John MacKelvie, one of those rather too heroic workers,.. " a mountain of incor- ruptible, imperturbable and untiring purpose " which never doubts or wavers, unlike some mountains. They meet in hospital and John converts George : " MacKelvie : you have this much faith in me ? ' Comrade : there's a plade in the ranks for you and I'll be proud to lead you to it.' " Like some old-fashioned preacher, Mr. Barke is intolerably long-winded, and hiS sermon is ' at times soporific. His platitudes are outrageous—" There is no pleasure without pain," &e. But there are some very good passages about 'life in a hospital, and a death=bed scene that is really 'moving. The book as a whole is crude, serious, sincere, and sentimental.

I will not pretend that after reading 150,000 words by Mr. Barke I have read every one of Mr. Hindus's 25%000 or more. This time it is Russia in 1929-1930. Mr. Hindus

explains that all the characters in book are fictitious and. all the situations but one imaginary, and then Acts his fictive iinpulso_go Plodding:along. It seems to me that ' what may "be interesting in this isOok coiner froth knowledge acquired and observations made on the spot, and that what is hardly at all interesting is the attempt to. get round. the reader by telling him. a story. -Like Mr. Barke, Mr. Hindus would have a far better claim to attention if he had taken the -trouble to be concise, and it may be-that- his-book- ought not to have been a novel at all.