Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Image of a Drawn Sword (1950) by Jocelyn Brooke

It seems King Penguin had decided to adorn their reprints of Brooke's works by illustrations depicting him in some fashion, though for what reason I do not know, beyond perhaps them striking onto the autobiographical nature of his works and running with it as a theme

When one starts off a description of something by calling it Kafkaesque, one is bound to shoot oneself in the foot if not carefull. Jocelyn Brooke's The Image of a Drawn Sword has been described thus by the press, and even the publishing company King Penguin couldn't restrain from cojuring up images of the old but un ageing Prague Jew. And yet I find this description not quite fitting.

Kafka certainly did not invent the fantastic creeping into one's life unawares and without explanation, nor the sense of disassociation and general 'wrongness' that can apply to a situation, and by extension to one's whole life. Brooke contradicted himself on whether or not he had read Kafka by the time when he wrote Sword, but I should  come to the man's defence, after having read his book, and say that the situations presented do not warrant the accusation, as it were.

The story, if anything, feels a bit anemic on that front, at any case. The title character, Reynard, finds himself experiencing odd moments where his lethargy seeps over into the slow unravelling of his personality and consciousness. Perhaps this is the clue for later events, but whatever may occur, it seems Reynard finds himself suddenly in situations which, contrary to all his personal experiences, seem very much distanced in time from occasions which, to him, seem a couple of weeks distant at first.

Yet there is never a jolt where Reynard finds himself unsure where he is or how he had gotten there. Indeed, he passes along through the novel quite smoothly, it is only the time of the place he arrives at that seems at odds with his own internal clock.

One regrets then that Brooke did not make the novel any longer or expand at all upon this theme. While the idea is interesting, and the events in the latter section of the novel are gripping enough, the concept as a whole could be utilised a bit better, and the alterations and sudden, unaccountable leaps in his consciousness could furnish a bit more meat to the story. A quick read, and an enjoyable one at that, yes, though if one wishes to experience this idea done in a more fantastic sort of way, I'd say Ruthven Tod's The Lost Traveller might satisfy due to it's superior length. If anyone wants a story of this type with answers well, it seems I don't know what to tell them.

Most interestingly, the novel is not without connection to other work written by Brooke. Anthony Powell, King Penguin's court Biographer on Brooke, completely fails to mention the fictional Dog Inn, located in the untraceable, fictional region of Clambercrown, is the title subject of Brooke's semi autobiographical novel, The Dog at Clambercrown (1955).

Having nothing more to say, I will end my review as suddenly as Brooke ended his book.

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