LONG DISTANCE by Penelope Mortimer


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Well, there's this place. I haven't started to explore it properly. Once I tried to make a map, but it was useless. . . ."" Uncharted then, at a long distance from the past or from the world once known (it is all a question of beginning again) Penelope Mortimer's novel, insidious at the outset, is increasingly baffling--taking place under a cloud cover of dislocation. Where is she then--this anonymous woman (but a woman first which of course means last--many feminist themes are stated), who is ""a blank slate, an empty glass,""--who is doomed to repeat experience until it is remembered--who will be doomed to delete experience which might betray any independence of spirit or show of feeling. At first in a world where time has been obliterated (there are no clocks) and where personal memories are vaguer than collective ones. To be sure other people come and go--the energetic, confident, masculine Gauleiter Gondzik (Gotzink, Gizdonk, Godzonk) or the housekeeper-jailer Mrs. April or a few for whom she cares--a dog, a crying baby, and the gentle Simon who spends time with her after she is demoted to the institutionalized West Wing where eventually there will be shock and drugs to teach her to conform. For a while this one world/no world seems to be a form of the collective unconscious; in time it ramifies to represent the automated, authoritarian sick society (intimations of Laing abound). "". . . I don't understand."" ""No. That's the trouble."" ""You will. In the end."" Perhaps. But even if you don't, Mrs. Mortimer's novel is extremely inductive and it contains some of the best writing she has ever committed to the page. To paraphrase Auden, it becomes real insofar as it reads us.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1974
Publisher: Doubleday