THE MYSTERY OF THE SARDINE by Stefan Themerson

THE MYSTERY OF THE SARDINE

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Themerson is a Polish/English avant-gardist, two of whose novels have previously appeared here: Torn Harris (1968) and Professor Mmaa's Lecture (1975). The same strands play fairly consistently throughout his works: physics and metaphysics, ancestry, a genteel mystery angle, and sendups of the boobosity of the English upper classes--and there's an effortful interweaving of disparate plot and character elements to replicate a puzzle or game. Here (in a book whose best touch unfortunately is the title) the literary status is quo. Characters from earlier books not so much reappear as provide continuity and epiphanies. A precious agenda rules the rest, if not too clearly: a famous writer dies and his wife and his mistress/secretary become lovers and move to Majorca; a graduate student is killed on a visit to a wheelchair-bound philosopher; a local noblewoman, Lady Cooper, revisits Poland, the land of her birth, and discovers the Byzantine surprise of her lineage; a prepubescent boy writes a space-time postulation that's charming and sly. Throw in some political asides and some heavy-handed social comedy, and churn it very slowly into a stringy mass, and you have this book's sour-tasting fudge. Self-conscious to a fault but not even close to compelling.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 156478455X
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux