Dead Man in the Silver Market

by Aubrey Menen. Scribner’s, $3.00.
An “autobiographical essay” by the author of The Prevalence of Witches and other lighthearted novels. Mr. Menen is descended, on his mother’s side, from Irish brigands, on his father’s side, from the warrior-caste of Malabar in the South of India; and his parents decided to rear him as an Englishman. He writes, here, about his English upbringing; about a visit to his Indian grandmother: a grande dame of the Old School who held court with her breasts bare and considered the British barbarians; about a sojourn with a happy Indian Prince and another sojourn with a most unhappy one; about fakirs, the causes of war, and the nature of true patriotism. The leitmotif running through all this is the fallacy of caste and class and nationalism; the danger of fanaticism, whether practiced in the name of faith, reason, or country. These are admirable sentiments, to which I fervently subscribe; but I am not, I’m afraid, one of the many who find Mr. Menen inimitably witty and entrancingly original. He seems to me mildly amusing, when he is not working at it too hard; when he strains to be clever under the cover of ingenuousness, he succeeds in being intolerably arch.