This book can be described as an 'oblique memoir'. The central underlying and repeated themes of the book are exile and displacement; lives (and deaths) during the Third Reich; mother-daughter and sibling relationships; the generational transmission of trauma and experience; transatlantic reflections; and the struggle for creative expression. Stories mobilised, and people encountered, in the course of the narrative include: the internment of aliens in Britain during the Second World War; cultural life in Rochester, New York, in the 1920s; the social and personal meanings of colour(s). It also includes the industrialist and philanthropist, Henry Simon of Manchester, including his relationship with the Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen; the liberal British campaigner and MP of the 1940s, Eleanor Rathbone; reflections on the lives and images of spinsters. The text is supplemented and interrupted throughout by images (photographs, paintings, facsimile documents), some of which serve to illustrate the story, others engaging indirectly with the written word. The book also explains how forced exile persists through generations through a family history. It showcases the differences between English and American cultures. The book focuses on the incidence of cancers caused by exposure to radioactivity in England, and the impact it had on Anglo-American relations.
Isle of Man. The ‘internment of
aliens’ – a peculiar and rather hysterical measure taken by the British
government after Dunkirk. He had only been married for four months.
But I suspect he really enjoyed the ironic freedom of that year.
This is my father as an alien. He is alien to Britain and to Englishculture. Surrounded by those who are not alien to him, he is
captured in an alien environment. And this image of him as the
central figure is one which is entirely alien to me. His existence
on the edges of my childhood, his refusal to engage with me or to
suggesting that Englishculture
did not encourage a spirit of bold, risk-taking entrepreneurship or a belief that
the principle of making profit should be extended to all forms of activity, and
that these attitudes, stemming most of all from the public schools, were a vital
factor in Britain’s relative economic decline.6 Racing provides a less simplistic
model. On the one hand it should be clear that racing was never a profit-maximising industry dominated by commercial values. With only rare exceptions,
racecourses never tried to maximise dividends. Most owners and some
Exacting anxieties have haunted his witness of his journey from the
‘exotic’ periphery to the centre of Englishculture through
the practice of a vocation he idealises and conceptualises with such
Negotiating the periphery
In 1958, on the eve of the Notting
Hill riots, Naipaul saw himself as an ‘exotic writer’,
‘liv[ing] in England and depend[ing] on an English
by the love games in
Jane Eyre, and, especially, the daring representation of a sensual heroine
who challenged patriarchal power and claimed the right of self-possession. Brontë’s exploration of these themes fused elements of Gothic literature with the domestic, so that, as Elaine Showalter argues in The Female
Malady: Women, Madness, and EnglishCulture, 1830–1980, her writing
‘shows an evolution from Romantic stereotypes of female insanity to a
brilliant interrogation of the meaning of madness in women’s daily lives’.3
The images Brontë conjured up of female
Sarah Orne Jewett, The Tory Lover, and Walter Scott, Waverley
Baym, American Women Writers, pp. 1–10.
Sir Walter Scott, Waverley, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1972, p. 492.
Letter to W.D. Howells, quoted in Donahue, ‘Introduction’, The Tory Lover,
p. viii. For information on Jewett’s family, see Blanchard, Sarah Orne Jewett,
Cairns Craig, Out of History: Narrative Patterns in Scottish and EnglishCulture, Edinburgh, Polygon, 1996, p. 71 (his emphasis).
Ina Ferris, ‘Story-telling and the Subversion of Literary Form in Walter
Scott’s Fiction’, in Shaw (ed.), Critical Essays, pp. 98 and 101. This may partly
publishers instead proceeds on the opposite basis. The lament
is not for the loss of black innocence but for that lost possession of imperial power, which itself takes on the aura of a pure and innocent condition. Apartheid is lamented for driving a fatal wedge between the empire
and ‘its’ black subjects. The violence that apartheid has done is primarily
to its white English ‘victims’; it is their authentic culture, not that of black
South Africans, that has been destroyed. And part of that Englishculture
is its dynamic developmentalism. Events of 1948 have removed from
exchanged with the same number from England. The latter would raise families of Englishculture or household economy – food, clothing, manner of life – the former would be widely distributed and absorbed in Englishculture. 23 But the attempted Anglicisation of Ireland was one instance only of a history of ambitions to transform identity, ranging from compulsory changes in religion, or dress, or language, through expulsion and colonisation, to mass killing. Attempts to destroy peoples, both by the killing or expulsion of their members, or by destroying their government
Englishculture attends to the differences suggested by Jorgensen and Garrison by using the term ‘household’ rather than ‘family’ to discuss these kinship networks, which, during the medieval period, often exceeded nuclear and biological units. Ryan writes, ‘[a]cross the medieval period … [b]elonging to a household was a general principle of both productive and affective ties’.
radically, it marked the recognition that civilisation, the symbolic
ordering of human life, is power. Today, with the insights of
Gramsci and Foucault part of the common currency of at least some
domains of the academic intellectual culture, such notions trip easily
from the tongue. A generation ago this was not so. In the British case
– yet more if we were to think of the dominating position of