Sunday, December 26, 2010

John Lawton on nationality and civilization

I don't know how John Lawton's books wound up being called crime novels, but if the label lures unwary readers (as it lured me), they'll be the better for it.

A Lily of the Field, seventh and most recent of Lawton's Troy novels is shaping up, like its predecessor Second Violin as, among other things, a touching meditation on the fragility of nationhood as a vehicle of identity:
"Magda was Austrian through and through, Roberto was the son of Italian immigrants, Inge was as Viennese as Magda — but Jewish."
"Since 1926, Imre had worked side by side with Phillipe Julius. A man as Viennese as he was himself, but with origins as mixed as his own. The Voyteks had come west a generation ago from Hungary. The Julius family had travelled east from France at about the same time. Central Europe was less a fixed point in geography — more a flying carpet."

(Prepare for A Lily of the Field with Lawton's essay on Second Violin. You'll find a fair sample of his righteous anger, a bit of Wodehousian wit, and a look back at an unedifying episode in England's wartime past.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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Anonymous kathy d. said...

Fantastic article by John Lawton about the British government's attitude and behavior to Jewish refugees prior to and ad the start of WWII.

And, about the British ruling class's anti-Semitism, not really a secret.

My mother--who was always right, and who fervently read about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor--avowed that his abdication was forced because he was too close to the German (Nazi) ruling class, for the British government to deal with.

Just saw an article in the Guardian from Jan. 25, 2003, with U.S. documentation about their closeness to the Nazi regime. It even infers that Wallis Simpson was passing secrets to them.

Apparently, they were exiled to Spain and Portugal, not sent to internment camps off England's coast, even though they betrayed their own country in the war effort, while Jewish refugees fleeing the worst conditions, were interned.

Lawton has some great information and points.

I had known about the Windsors aka the Saxe-Coburgs.

I wonder if the British wealthy and government have lost their anti-Semitism or not.

Thanks for posting this. More to ponder about this terrible period in history.

December 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, Lawton's novels are a kind of social history of England in the middle of the twentieth century. I've liked the wartime books best because of the convincing illusion they give of what life must have been like in times that most of us can;t imagine. You see from the essay that Lawton thinks deeply about serious matters. He can also be quite entertaining.

December 27, 2010  

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