From half-Catholic herald to intelligent – Bible Type

From half-Catholic herald to intelligent

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Double blind, Edward St Aubyn £ 20, 239 pages, Harvill Secker

________ ________.

The opening of Edward St. Aubyn's new novel Double Blind is as beautiful as it is unexpected. Francis takes a walk near his hut and notices "the red defiance and yellow lethargy of the decaying leaves and the crows scratching in a nearby field". He notices the "smell of mushroom growing and soaked moss" and he boasts of his feelings of being part of the life of nature around him. For those of us familiar with the Melrose novels of St. Aubyn, this is a world far removed from the hedonistic, tormented, emotionally confused life of the rich drug user. This seems like a new twist, a new world away from his semi-autobiographical past novels.

Indeed it is. Francis, a Rewilder, has just fallen in love with Olivia, a biologist. Olivia, the adopted child of psychotherapists, has a best friend (Lucy) on the way from America to England. Lucy just got hired by a consulting firm to work for his "digital, technological and scientific venture capital firm" by Hunter, a drug multimillionaire (yes, it seems) (who made his money on hedge funds). Then there's Sebastian, Olivia's father's schizophrenic patient, who might … well, if you know your Shakespeare, there's a hint in the name. And there is naked hope too, but you don't really need to know much about it.

In a bizarre way, it reads more like the first novel by an intellectual Po student of French sciences than like a novel by an established master of the arts.

There is no doubt that this is a very smart book. St. Aubyn has always been a shrewd writer, but in this novel he carries his learning very strongly. In a bizarre way, it reads more like the first novel by an intellectual Po student of French sciences than like a novel by an established master of the arts. The characters speak stilted and formal, always making an esoteric point.

However, if you are looking for a novel of ideas, rather than a novel of or from the heart, there are tons of ideas to ponder. The brief description of the characters above gives you an idea of ​​the concerns St. Aubyn is pondering: reconstruction, psychotherapy, brain versus mind, money, science, morality (a little), homeopathy versus traditional medicine versus self-medication. One of the subplots in which Jäger's venture capital firm scans the brain of a monk so sacred he is a mystic has a bang in the Catholic Church. The only really charming character in the book, however, is Father Guido, a gentle, childlike man who keeps getting drunk with lemonade (margaritas) and iced coffee (espresso martinis). He's a true innocent man abroad, amazed at the luxury of Jäger's house and indulging in being able to raise and lower an electronic blind in a hotel to such an extent that he wonders if he is sinning while enjoying the pleasure so much.

There is a lot of food for thought. But with all the other subjects and ideas the novel deals with, even the beauty of St. Aubyn's prose in writing about nature, it wasn't enough to enchant.

Perhaps the novel would be more successful if fewer ideas were chewed and spat out. “Questioning the relationship between my brain and my mind” brings up some interesting ideas. "Not only was the brain not the mind, but an image of the brain was not the brain." Magritte put it more simply: Ceci n & # 39; est pas une pipe. Between Lucy's tumor and the mystic's brain scan and the difficulty of telling your mind not to think about your brain even though your brain is your mind – or is it? – There's a lot to think about. But with all of the other subjects and ideas the novel deals with, even the beauty of St. Aubyn's prose in writing about nature, it wasn't enough to enchant this reviewer.

St. Aubyn has won numerous awards for his novels – the Betty Trask for the first of his Melrose novels and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Lost for Words, his satire on book awards (how can you get meta?). The biggest disappointment in this novel is that St. Aubyn seems to have lost his sense of humor; In previous novels, he was able to make his readers laugh despite the torture and darkness of his subject, and he was able to make even the most depraved of his characters believable – sometimes even personable. The only character in this book that one would want to have for dinner is Father Guido, and the jokes are too rare to alleviate the vast amount of ideas that weigh in on the book.

Sophia Waugh is the author of Cooking People: The Writers Who Taught the English to Eat

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