The Secret History Of Modernism

by C K Stead

The title suggests a literacy study, but although some ideas about the nature of writing are touched upon, there is nothing at all difficult about this book. In fact the clear and well-crafted writing is one of the book's strengths. The narrator is a novelist recalling his part in the love affairs among a group of expatriate students in 1950's London. This framework works well in drawing you into the story, and the balance between nostalgia and realism is nicely done. The result is a thoughtful read.


There had been moments like this before - one especially, at night, at the rail of the ship going through the Red Sea; but none so close, so intimate, so adventitious. But now there was a scuffling and a flapping noise in the long grass nearby, breaking the stillness. Startled, we jerked away from one another and up, looking to see what was going on, who or what was near. Only two or three yards away a crow flapped desperately out of a tangle of long grass, its wings lifting it four or five feet into the air, and then failing. The big bird, stalled in its take-off, fell back and disappeared. I scrambled up looking for it. I found it in the grass. It was dead.


Youth by J M Coetzee
Talking about O'Dwyer by C K Stead

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