HOPEFUL MONSTERS by Nicholas Mosley


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This novel won for Mosley (Judith; Rules of the Game, Beyond the Pale, p. 523, etc.) the British cash-rich Whitbread Award last year, and some English high opinion--as much for, it would seem, ambition and social/moral seriousness as for its artistic merits. Mosley is a quirky and interesting novelist, severe and secretive in technique; and here he posits the yin-yang relationship of a German woman, Eleanor, and a British man, Max, who together neatly interfit to roll down the corridor of mid-century history, illustrating as they go Freud, Einstein, Fascism, Marxism, Hitler, and the Bomb. But this huge agenda (and the corollary argument, ceaselessly presented, that we must not merely biologically but also morally evolve) not surprisingly loads upon these two poor characters the enormous representative burden of always thinking about and being physically situated in the most meaning-laden nodes of modern life. The book has a ponderous march-step, then, and everyone in it bears so clear a role that they lack all personality. Also: Mosley's notion to constantly interpose Max and Eleanor's thoughts in separate paragraphs (""I thought--Indeed, there is potency in the image of the hand that draws a hand that is drawing itself"") gives the book the unfortunate feel of pre-Baroque opera or of a mystery play: vatic recitatives you find yourself sorry you didn't just skip as you read. Serious and pondering--and most of the time unbearably tedious.

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1991
Page count: 551pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive