SERPENT by Nicholas Mosley


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DANGER! METAPHORS AHEAD! would be an apt warning for this rather successful fictional meditation on the necessity of role-playing, the third in Mosley's five-novel Catastrophe Practice sequence, first published in an earlier version in Britain in 1981. An airplane bound for Tel Aviv carries the expected first-class passengers: screenwriter Jason, fearsome producer Epstein, leading players Wolf Tanner and Lisa Grant, all concerned with filming Jason's retelling of the mass Jewish suicide at Masada--a story whose assumptions Jason wants to question (should a society destroy itself for sake of its own principles?) by insisting that the project be scuttled (thus re-creating a mini-Masada en route to the site). Meanwhile, back in tourist, Jason's restive wife Lilia is accosted by a suspicious-looking man who asks her to adjourn to the lavatory with him--and who turns out to be Wolf's lover Julius, who just might be involved in a terrorist plot. As these characters slip in and out of their histrionic and ideological poses in Pinteresque dialogue (are they acting, or acting as if they're not acting?) interspersed with sections of Jason's screenplay about the destruction of the Jews and the survival of the execrated historian Josephus, the plane approaches Lod Airport, where a bewildered security agent can't decide whether or not a feckless bomb-carrier is joking. Double and triple meanings lurk behind every image and exchange, but the result--though naturally inconclusive--is surprisingly entertaining. An exhilarating high-modernist novel of ideas that's not quite the airborne Magic Mountain it aspires to be.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1989
ISBN: 1564782441
Publisher: Dalkey Archive