If its author were not FRANçOISE SAGAN, I doubt that THOSE WITHOUT SHADOWS (Dutton, $2.95), a juniormiss-sized work of fiction, would have been published in book form. My guess is that it was intended to be the opening section of a much longer work in which Mlle. Sagan lost interest. Whether or not this charitable supposition is correct, what is presented to us reads like a first act: it introduces a set of characters and their problems, and then breaks off. Mlle. Sagan’s story — she is now writing in the third person — spans a year in the lives of a group of young Parisians, and its subject matter is toujours unrequited amour. Nicole is in love with her husband, Bernard, a morose fellow who is struggling to write a novel which he finds boring, and who has a grande passion for Josée which she finds boring. Josée, a rich girl, has a crush on Jacques, “a typical, rather brutish student,” who is swotting for his medical exams and has no time for her except in bed. The other main protagonists are an aging editor and his youthful nephew, both of whom are infatuated with a lovely young actress who is wholly infatuated with her career.
The novel’s emotional tone and philosophic temper can be readily conveyed by direct quotation. Here are Josée’s musings about the attraction her boorish lover has for her: “It’s not a physical question, really. I don’t know whether it’s the reflection of myself that he sends back to me, or the absence of such a reflection, or his own personality. . . . But he’s fundamentally uninteresting. I doubt if he’s even cruel. He exists, that’s the most you can say for him.” Here are Bernard’s thoughts, after he has gone off to the country alone to do some work on his novel: “the morass [in which he had foundered] was not his passion for Josée, his failure to write a good book, or his weariness of Nicole. It was something lacking in this passion, this failure, this weariness, something to fill the vacancy he felt when he woke up every morning.” And here is the parting scene between Bernard and Josée, who has drifted into a brief affair with him: “They sat on a bench, under the rain. . . . She said she didn’t love him, and he said it didn“t matter. . . . The soggy cigarette that Bernard tried vainly to light was a symbol of all they had in common, for they could never be really happy, and they knew it. And at the same time they knew, obscurely, that it didn’t matter. It simply didn’t matter.”
The function of the artist is to find something that does matter — to seek point amid the seeming pointlessness. Mile. Sagan, unfortunately, identifies with the emptiness, the boredom, and the limp suffering of her characters. After her remarkable first book, which had a core of genuine feeling, she has slid into progressive apathy. Her present novelette has nothing to say except that life is a mess and a trivial one at that — all is banality. For all her literary skills and graces, which are considerable, her juvenile worldweariness has become tiresome.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING TITO
The importance of being Tito is brought home to us in various ways by three books recently off the presses THE HERETIC: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOSIP BROZ-TITO (Harper, $5.95) by FITZROY MACLEAN; TITOISM: PATTERN FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMUNISM (St. Martin’s Press, $6.00) by CHARLES P. MCVICKER; and THE NEW CLASS: AN ANALYSIS OF THE COMMUNIST SYSTEM (Praeger, $3.95) by MILOVAN DJILAS.
Fitzroy Maclean is the former brigadier who headed the British Military Mission to the Partisans in World War II, and the most valuable part of his book is the section devoted to the war years. These pages go a long way toward disposing of the Mihajlovic controversy: they document precisely the extent to which Mihajlovic’s subordinates collaborated with the enemy, and they bring into clear focus the role of that unfortunate general, whose patriotic desire to save his country from Communism led him into conduct with overtones of treason. Maclean also gives us a solid and exciting account of the Partisan campaign, and he traces in fascinating detail Tito’s wartime correspondence with Moscow, whose prolonged failure to give him even token help may well have sowed in his mind the seeds of distrust which blossomed into the break of 1948. It must have been only too clear to Tito that Stalin’s ruling concern was to get all the aid he could out of the West, and that — until Churchill and Roosevelt switched their backing to Tito — Stalin was ready to see his disciple perish rather than risk offending the purveyors of lend-lease.
Maclean’s chronicle of the first phase of Tito’s career — of the young metalworker’s development into a brilliant Party organizer; of his amazing comings and goings as a hunted conspirator, his years in jail, and his virtually singlehanded rescue of Yugoslav Communism from fragmentation and collapse — is based largely on Vladimir Dedijer’s official biography, but it is a story that bears retelling. The whole of Tito’s life is a saga of incredible tenacity of purpose, resourcefulness, and daring — one of his worst enemies, Himmler‚ acknowledged that he was made of heroic stuff. Mr. Maclean, an agreeable and vigorous writer, has done well by his stirring material, especially from the narrative standpoint. As an interpreter whose goal is “neither to approve nor disapprove but to understand,” he is somewhat less successful. His overriding interest is in Tito’s relations with Moscow and the West, an understandable approach but one which, unfortunately, distracts Maclean from trying to put himself in the shoes of the Yugoslavs and from examining as searchingly as he might what Tito has done in his own country.
Anyone who wishes to delve into Tito’s domestic policies and ideological development since the break with Moscow will find these subjects studiously explored in Titoism by Charles P. McVicker, a graduate of the Foreign Service who has held a post-war appointment in Yugoslavia and now teaches political science at Yale. The limitation of Mr. McVicker’s book (which grew out of a Ph.D. thesis) is that it is more concerned with theory than with how policies work in practice — the relaxation of police state controls in Yugoslavia has not gone so far as to allow foreigners unhampered investigation of what actually goes on. Here are some of Mr. McVicker’s broad conclusions: “Titoism is neither communism as practiced in the Soviet Union nor democracy as it is known [in the West]. Instead it is a compromise, a synthesis of those parts of MarxismLeninism and those parts of Western democracy which the Yugoslav leaders consider necessary or practical to their cause. As a system of minority rule, Titoism is at best a benevolent dictatorship which attempts to recognize human rights but does not dare to grant the one human right which is fundamental — the right of the individual to choose his own government and to control [its] aims.... The average Yugoslav citizen, if he is careful to avoid openly challenging the regime, has all the ordinary freedoms, except the most vital one, political freedom.”
The Titoists are launched on an uncharted course, and they are wallowing in a sea of troubles, political and economic. But Mr. McVicker believes that the example of Yugoslavia — “a half-way house to freedom” wherever the control of the ruling minority is not threatened — is bound to force a course of “liberalization” upon other Communist countries, a development fraught with far-reaching possibilities of change.
This forecast finds support in The New Class by Milovan Djilas, the Partisan hero who was Yugoslavia’s vice president in charge of propaganda and Tito’s heir apparent until his campaign for more democratization finally landed him in prison.
Djilas (whose book was smuggled out of Yugoslavia) has this to say of Titoism and its effects: “In reality, national Communism is Communism in decline; [it is] a heresy which nibbles at Communism as such,” especially in the case of Communist parties that are not in power. Djilas’ subject, however, is much larger than Titoism. The New Class is the anti-Communist manifesto of a lifelong revolutionary who has “travelled the entire road open to a Communist.” It should have a powerful impact on the more thoughtful Communists it reaches, because the author reasons in the Communist’s own idiom: his Marxist training is stamped all over the book’s plodding but forceful dialectics.
Communism, says Djilas, has shown itself to be total state capitalism. It simply concentrates ownership, power, and privilege in the hands of a new class — the political bureaucracy — and shores up the position of this oligarchy by giving it a monopoly of ideology. Communism, in fact, is the only system which has ever succeeded in vesting a combined monopoly of ideology, power, and ownership in the hands of one class. The true Communist is neither just a careerist nor idealist, but “a mixture of a fanatic and an unrestrained power holder.” His basic, aim is authority — the new class is more self-seeking, more voracious, more singleminded in defending its status than any previous oligarchy, and it is as exclusive as an aristocracy. But its members delude themselves; they do not see themselves as owner-exploiters but as servants of a prescribed ideology.
This ideology, says Djilas, has by now run its course: it has been downgraded morally throughout the nonCommunist world, and in Communist countries “ideas no longer play the dominant role in [controlling] the people.” Djilas considers, however, that there is as yet no prospect of an early collapse of Communism. It will take place, according to his analysis, when the best minds of the new class fully awaken to its exploitative character; when they can no longer disguise from themselves that they are not really moving toward the goals of the ideology which is their justification. In other words, he expects Communism to destroy itself through doubts, cleavages, and apostasies when enough of its leaders cease to believe in it. Djilas’ psychology seems to me sound. The whole of history attests to the need of the human mind to bolster itself with justifications for its actions; the simon-pure cynic is perhaps the rarest species of monster. It therefore seems plausible that the shock of recognition experienced by Djilas will in due course be experienced by other high-ranking Communists‚ particularly now that his explosive message has started on its travels.
To admirers of EVELYN WAUGH, his latest novel should have a special fascination, for THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT PINFOLD (Little, Brown, S3.75) is the first book in which Waugh has freely indulged in direct self-revelation. A prefatory note says: “ Three years ago Mr. Waugh suffered a brief bout of hallucination closely resembling what is here described. . . . ‘Mr. Pinfold’ is based largely on himself.”
The book opens with a marvelous “portrait of the artist in middle age,” which despite — perhaps because of — undertones of defiance is curiously moving. Mr. Waugh has led us to think of him as a man who arrogantly exults in his crotchety and uncompromising rejection of the age into which he was born. But there emerges from the Pinfold portrait a terrifying picture of isolation, irritability, and ennui. Pinfold’s toryism is so reactionary as to be regarded by his conservative neighbors in the country “as being almost as sinister as socialism”; and though a steadfast Catholic, he remains aloof from the corporate life of the Church. “His strongest tastes were negative. He abhorred plastics, Picasso, sunbathing, and jazz — everything in fact that had happened in his own lifetime.” The old cronies who once found him singular and diverting now betray signs of coldness. He suspects that he is growing into a bore, and is depressed whenever he thinks of the time that lies ahead of him. “The tiny kindling of charity that came to him from his religion sufficed only to temper his disgust and change it into boredom. . . . He looked at the world sub specie aeternitatis and he found it flat as a map; except when, rather often, personal annoyance intruded.”
Plagued by insomnia. Pinfold has been dosing himself recklessly with chloral and bromide laced with crème de menthe, and he begins to show symptoms of a general crack-up. The doctor prescribes a long sea voyage, but no sooner is Pinfold on board than he hears sinister voices which appear to come from the ship’s intercommunications system. Waugh’s story is the record of Pinfold’s persecution by an assortment of imaginary enemies who accuse him, among other things, of being a Communist, a sodomite, and a rotten writer, and keep threatening to beat him up. Waugh’s wit, verve, and polish make the going lively enough, but the novel suffers from two basic failings. The reader cannot share Pinfold’s excitement and suspense, since he knows that the threatening voices are not real. (They cease shortly after Pinfold finishes his supply of the toxic sleeping draught.) More importantly, the interest of a confessional story of this kind depends to a considerable extent on the self-understanding that emerges from it, which in this instance appears to be nil. Pinfold doesn’t even grasp that he who imagines an ordeal by persecution probably harbors a persecution complex.
Among the new novels are two minor works by major writers —ALBERTO MORAVIA and GRAHAM GREENE. The latter has converted a script written for the cinema into a novelette entitled LOSER TAKES ALL (Viking, 95¢); it is published in a paperback edition, is labeled “an entertainment,” and is referred to in a dedicatory note as a “frivolity.” This modesty is laudable, but, alas, justified. Greene’s novelized scenario makes the worst of both worlds. The characterization and plotting remain cinematic — thin, contrived, and splashed with sentimentality; and only a perfunctory effort has been made to re-create what was subtracted — the solidity of background and atmosphere visually projected by the camera.
Greene’s story centers on a middleaged London accountant whose boss, hearing that he is about to be married, capriciously insists on sending him to Monte Carlo with his young fiancée, promising to join them there, arrange the wedding, and take them honeymooning on his yacht. The tycoon fails to keep the rendezvous, and in order to meet his hotel bill Greene’s hero, who is something of a mathematical wizard, goes to work at the gambling tables with a system he has devised. He wins millions of francs, but riches and roulette fever spoil him; and his girl - a Poverty Snob whose heart’s desire is a sausage-and-cider style of living — announces that all is over between them. The conclusion, however, couldn’t be cozier. It might almost have been devised by a Victorian moralist.
In Moravia’s new book, ROMAN TALES (Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, S3.75), the field of vision is not, as hitherto, the bourgeoisie but the working class: the protagonists, who address the reader in the first person singular, include a taxi driver, a barber, a plumber, an itinerant guitarist. Originally written for newspaper publication, Moravia’s twenty-seven brief racconti are better described as fictional sketches rather than as short stories. Like swiftly executed pencil drawings, they achieve, at their best, jabs of human insight, telling scraps of social reportage, or vigorous, economic anecdotage in a mordantly ironic key; at their worst, they have the roughdraft quality of pages in a sketchbook and the point they register is commonplace.
As in Moravia’s more important work, the theme most frequently encountered is man’s capacity for self-deception. A sissified young husband, who has cooked, helped his wife keep house, never left her alone for a moment, can’t understand why she should have walked out, without explanation, on so exemplary a mate. A draper’s assistant who fancies himself a protégé of Fate — something nasty has always happened to those who cross him — provokes a fracas with the smoothie who is stealing his girl only to find that his rival is even more potently protected by “a mysterious force.” Two of the best tales — half a dozen or so are really excellent — deal with petty crime and punishment. One centers on a young grifter’s obsessive longing for a decent pair of shoes; the other on the attempt of two tramps to steal a dead man’s ring — they are trapped, grotesquely, by the corpse itself.
UPSTART AND DOWNSTART
ROOM AT THE TOP (Houghton Mifflin, S3.75) by JOHN BRAINE deals with a theme which, though it has become intolerably hackneyed in American writing, is a novelty in English fiction: his book is a whatprice-succcss story whose hero is a new type of upstart produced by the English social revolution of the nineteen-forties. THE ISLE OF PRINCES (Simon & Schuster, $3.95) by HASAN OZBEKHAN is a whatprice-pride story whose hero is a downstart produced by the Turkish social revolution of the nineteentwenties.
Mr. Braine, whose book has been the most discussed and perhaps most praised first novel of the year in England, belongs loosely in the group of young writers (Kingsley Amis, John Wain, and others) who have been bringing a new perspective to English fiction. Their heroes are resentful, calculating, boorish young men of lower-middle or working-class origin, who, though they have risen through the favors of the welfare state, are angry, often selfpitying, and paranoiac in the presence of wealth or an upper-class accent. What is unusual about Braine’s novel is that he is the first writer of this group to concern himself with the price paid for their opportunism by these Julien Sorels of twentieth-century England.
Braine’s narrator, Joe Lampton, has moved from the squalid Yorkshire mill town in which he grew up to a more attractive town, also in the North Country, where he has a decent job as a municipal accountant. He is desperately hungry for money, social advancement, and women (whom he grades according to the income of their husbands or fiancés.) Through an amateur theatrical group, he meets a married woman (upper grade), with whom he has a very real and stirring love affair; and a ravishing young girl (top grade), who represents to him an irresistible prize even though he does not love her. His behavior is consistently cagey and caddish, but there are moments at least when it disgusts him. And his betrayal of love for ambition is followed by the recognition of crippling loss: the recognition that he has become a hollow man who cannot feel or care. Mr. Braine has gifts which could carry him far — humor and vitality, an unsmutty forthrightness in the handling of erotic love, and a capacity to project with passionate sharpness the hungers of youth.
Hasan Ozbekhan’s The Isle of Princes is pitched in a key of romanticism which is nowadays unusual. The setting is Istanbul and a neighboring island, the domain of the aristocratic Tekinhan clan, which is struggling to live up to its lordly traditions in the face of relentless harassment by the Mustafa Kemal regime. Young Davud Tekinhan and his cousin, Refet, are in love with two beautiful sisters, impoverished orphans who have grown up with them on the island. The girls realize more clearly than the young men that when the Tekinhan patriarch, Davud’s formidable grandfather, dies, the stately and idyllic way of life on the island will be swept away. They sense that Davud and Refet must be forced to make a fresh start abroad; that to tie them down by marriage will doom them to spiritual suicide, for there is no place in the bustling new Turkey for a haughty and romantic Tekinhan, filled with family pride and scathingly contemptuous of corruption.
This drama forms the core of Mr. Ozbekhan’s novel. It is flawed by occasional fuzziness in the motivation, overtones of sententiousness, and a lack of assurance in the plotting. What is attractive is its loving re-creation of an unfamiliar world and its intense concern with quality in an age mesmerized by quantity.
COME THE REVOLUTION
AYN RAND, author of that weird best seller of 1943, The Fountainhead, has now produced a novel of over half a million words which might be mildly described as execrable claptrap; but which, I suspect, is going to rival the huge sale of its predecessor. ATLAS SHRUGGED (Random House, $6.95) is the gospel according to Ayn Rand dressed up in fictional trappings which set a record for solemn grotesquerie. At the risk of sounding as though I were indulging in lunatic flights of fancy, I shall endeavor to summarize the credo which the author elaborates with obsessive repetitiveness. Miss Rand assures us that she means what she says and has always lived by the philosophy presented in her book.
Its basic premise is that nothing is more “obscene” than to do anything for any reason other than self-interest, which is virtually synonymous with monetary gain, for “money is the root of all good.” Christ and the other prophets of brotherly love have swindled the bulk of mankind into paying tribute to a morality which is hideously immoral. Altruism is the quintessence of evil. Charity, compassion, the desire to give pleasure to others are the vilest of vices — the very use of the word “give” is verboten in Miss Rand’s Utopia. These sprightly notions are supported by reams of crackbrained ratiocination to the effect that they are the products of pure reason; that they follow inexorably from the proposition that A is A, which craven humanity is unwilling to face.
From the ethic outlined above there emerges a mystique of production and money-grubbing. “There’s nothing of any importance in life except how well you do your work.” The machine is most exalted of man’s creations. The dollar sign is the Holy Grail.
Ayn Rand’s estimate of present social and political trends makes our most reactionary journals sound like the abject accomplices of do-goodism. The plot of her novel is at once a zany projection of her hateridden image of our society and a vindictive fantasy of how we are destined to be punished and reduced to unconditional surrender to the Rand party line. The crux of the proceedings is that America’s greatest productive geniuses start to disappear mysteriously, one after the other, sabotaging their enterprises before they vanish; and presently the world is threatened with a breakdown of civilized life. The novel’s heroine, a toothsome superwoman who runs a railroad, stumbles upon the Utopia which the supermen have sneaked off to create; and from which an arch-superman is masterminding his plan to “stop the motor of the world” and restore humanity to the worship of Mammon. Among the founding fathers of Miss Rand’s earthly paradise are a pirate who, to avenge the accursed work of Robin Hood, is robbing the needy to enrich the rich, and a copper magnate whose awesome brainpower we are supposed to deduce from the fact that he dearly loves to slip into black silk pajamas and play marbles by himself with semiprecious stones. Space precludes, alas, further documentation of the novel’s dotty ingredients, which undeniably exerted on me a repulsive fascination.
Here and there — for instance when she talks about the powerseeking which often underlies dogoodism — Miss Rand—s perceptions are sound. What she apparently fails to perceive is that the outlook which animates her book is an extreme expression of the aggressiveness and power worship which have been the Black Death of this century. Her heroine, significantly, refers to sexual congress with the man she loves as “an act of hatred”; and the phrase perfectly sums up Atlas Shrugged.
THE MIND AT PLAY
ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY (World, $5.00) by CLIFTON FADIMAN is a consistently enjoyable and, to borrow Bernard Berenson’s telling adjective, “life-enhancing” collection of essays.
Mr. Fadiman — besides being, as everyone knows, witty, widely read, and the possessor of a well-turned style — has the enormous merit of not being dogmatic, morose, conformist‚ parochial, or earnest: he is simply cheerfully serious. His introductory piece, a discussion of the uses of leisure, outlines the Fadiman credo about work and play: Work is done under compulsion; leisure activities are things engaged in for their own sakes, and the most rewarding of them have to do with the “unaffected but conscious training and exercise of the mind.” “I plead for the play of the mind.” Fadiman writes, “on the ground that it is necessary. . . . For we are indeed beginning to be afflicted with a new kind of tedium . . . that comes of a surfeit of toys and a deficiency of thoughts.” And elsewhere Fadiman notes that the unsalable book he is often tempted to write would defend the unpopular thesis that “the secret of happiness, if any, lies in unpeace of mind — that is, fairly continuous, useful mental activity, though not necessarily of a highly intellectual order.”
Mr. Fadiman, in these essays, lets his mind play over quite a diversity of subjects — the decline of privacy, house hunting, and the migration to exurbia; the significant differences between eggheads, intellectuals, ideologues, and highbrows; Videomatic speech or Televenglish, U and non-U speech in America, the delights of clerihews and limericks, and the anatomy of puns. Along with Zoroaster, Charlemagne, Pascal, Casanova, and Talleyrand, Fadiman is an ardent turophile and an eloquent one: his dissertation on cheeses is an objet d’art that stands out amid the bric-a-brac of contemporary gastronomic writing. He also writes evocatively and sensibly about his love affair with wine. And his collection is fortified by several good literary essays — among them an Introduction to Crime and Punishment and a study of the booms in literary reputations.
My feelings about LORD HALIFAX’S memoirs, FULLNESS OF DAYS (Dodd, Mead, $6.00), can perhaps best be suggested by citing one of its more engaging anecdotes. As ambassador to the United States. Halifax once spent an evening answering questions at a club in Des Moines, and was duly thanked by a speaker who observed: “Some of us here would have expected to find the British Ambassador . . . too smart for us. After meeting Lord Halifax, we shan’t think so any longer.” For a man who was a prominent participant in the great events of three decades — viceroy to India during Gandhi’s campaign of civil disobedience, foreign secretary in the late nineteen-thirties, and Britain’s wartime ambassador in Washington — Halifax has written a disappointing book: stiff, chilly, and too discreet to be particularly revealing. He makes what seems to me a bad defense of the policy of appeasement and the Munich settlement; of Baldwin and Chamberlain (whom he admires and clearly felt more at home with than with Churchill); and of the hypocritical doctrine of non-intervention in Spain, which allowed the Germans, Italians, and Russians to have a field day on Spanish territory. The best pages are those which describe the childhood of an English aristocrat on a great country estate in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
THE MEMOIRS OF A REVOLUTIONIST (Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, $4.75) is a collection of the essays on political and cultural subjects written by DWIGHT MACDONALD during the past two decades. Mr. Macdonald has been successively a Communist sympathizer‚ Trotskyist, revolutionary socialist, and pacifist, and now he is an ex-revolutionary socialist and ex-pacifist who “critically” supports the West against the East. Basically, he has always been the same thing; a man with the bump of criticism — his refrain is “J’accuse.” While his reasoning strikes me as frequently fallacious, perverse, or merely a matter of hair-splitting, his writing is an unfailing delight: he is quite possibly the wittiest and liveliest polemicist on the American scene. Among the gems in his collection are a devastating and hilarious “Memo to Mr. Luce” about the high-brow magazine which Luce once abortively planned to publish, and an equally comic and deadly commentary on the curious career of William Buckley, Jr., the author of God and Man at Yale.