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Old Filth (Anglais) Broché – 1 juin 2006

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Descriptions du produit


Scene: Inner Temple

The Benchers' luncheon-room of the Inner Temple. Light pours through the long windows upon polished table, silver, glass. A number of Judges and Benchers finishing lunch. One chair has recently been vacated and the Benchers are looking at it.

The Queen's Remembrancer: I suppose we all know who that was?

Junior Judge: I've no idea.

Senior Judge: It seemed to be a famous face.

The Common Sergeant: It was Old Filth.

JJ: What! But he must have died years ago. Contemporary of F.E. Smith.

CS: No. It was Old Filth. Great advocate, Judge and - bit of a wit. Said to have invented FILTH — Failed In London Try Hong Kong. He tried Hong Kong. Modest, nice chap.

SJ: Hard worker. Well — the Pollution Law. Feathers on Pollution.

CS: Filth on Filth.

SJ: An old joke. He must be a hundred.

CS: Nowhere near. He's not been retired all that long. Looks a great age, though.

QR: Transparent. You could see the light through him.

CS: Magnificent looks, though. And still sharp.

QR: He's up here doing things to his Will. He's got Betty with him. She's still alive too. They've had a soft life. Far Eastern Bar. And made a packet. Looked after themselves.

CS: Never put a foot wrong, Old Filth. Very popular.

QR: Except with Veneering.

SJ: Yes, that was odd. Out of character.

QR: For such a benevolent old bugger. D'you think there are mysteries?

SJ: Old Filth mysterious?

QR: It's a wonder he's not just a bore.

CS: Yes. But he's not. Child of the Raj, public school, Oxford, the Bar — but he's not a bore. Women went mad for him.

QR: Coffee? You going through?

CS: Yes. Ten minutes. My Clerk's packing in the next case. He'll be ranting at me. Tapping his watch.

QR: Yes. This isn't Hong Kong. Coffee? But it was good to see the old coelacanth.

CS: Yes. Yes, indeed it was. Tell our grandchildren.

The Donheads

He was spectacularly clean. You might say ostentatiously clean. His ancient fingernails were rimmed with purest white. The few still-gold hairs below his knuckles looked always freshly shampooed, as did his curly still-bronze hair. His shoes shone like conkers. His clothes were always freshly pressed. He had the elegance of the 1920s, for his garments, whatever they looked like off, always became him. Always a Victorian silk handkerchief in the breast pocket. Always yellow cotton or silk socks from Harrods; and some still-perfect from his old days in the East. His skin was clear and, in a poor light, young.

His colleagues at the Bar called him Filth, but not out of irony. It was because he was considered to be the source of the old joke, Failed In London Try Hong Kong. It was said that he had fled the London Bar, very young, very poor, on a sudden whim just after the War, and had done magnificently well in Hong Kong from the start. Being a modest man, they said, he had called himself a parvenu, a fraud, a carefree spirit.

Filth in fact was no great maker of jokes, was not at all modest about his work and seldom, except in great extremity, went in for whims. He was loved, however, admired, laughed at kindly and still much discussed many years after retirement.

Now, nearing eighty, he lived alone in Dorset. His wife Betty was dead but he often prattled on to her around the house. Astonishingly in one so old, his curly hair was not yet grey. His eyes and mind alert, he was a delightful man. He had always been thought so. A man whose distinguished life had run steadily and happily. There was no smell of old age about his house. He was rich and took for granted that it (and he) would be kept clean, fed and laundered by servants as it had always been. He knew how to treat servants and they stayed for years.

Betty had been successful with servants, too. Both she and Old Filth had been born in what Americans called the Orient and the British Raj had called the Far East. They knew who they were, but they were unselfconscious and popular.

After Betty's death the self-mockery dwindled in Old Filth. His life exploded. He became more ponderous. He began, at first slowly, to flick open shutters on the past that he had, as a sensible man with sensible and learned friends (he was a QC and had been a Judge), kept clamped down.

His success as an advocate in Hong Kong had been phenomenal for he had had ease, grasp, diligence and flair. His career had taken off the minute he had begun to be briefed by the Straits-Chinese. It was not just that scraps of eastern languages began to re-emerge from his childhood in Malaya, but a feeling of nearness to the Oriental mind. When Old Filth spoke Malay or (less ably) Mandarin, you heard an unsuspected voice. Chinese, Malay and Bengali lawyers — though often trained at Oxford and the Inns of Court — were thought to be not straightforward but Filth, now Old Filth and after his retirement often Dear Old Filth, had found them perfectly straightforward, and to his taste.

All his life he kept a regard for Chinese values: the courtesy, the sudden thrust, the holiness of hospitality, the pleasure in money, the decorum, the importance of food, the discretion, the cleverness. He had married a Scotswoman but she had been born in Peking. She was dumpy and tweedy with broad Lanarkshire shoulders and square hands, but she spoke Mandarin perfectly and was much more at home with Chinese ways and idiom than she ever felt on her very rare visits to Scotland. Her passion for jewellery was Chinese and her strong Scottish fingers rattled the trays of jade in the street markets of Kowloon, stirring the stones like pebbles on a beach. 'When you do that,' Old Filth would say — when they were young and he was still aware of her all the time — 'your eyes are almond-shaped.' 'Poor Old Betty,' he would say to her ghost across in another armchair in the house in Dorset to which they had retired and in which she had died.

And why ever Dorset? Nobody knew. Some family tradition somewhere perhaps. Filth said it was because he disliked everywhere else in England, Betty because she felt the cold in Scotland. They both had a dismissive attitude towards Wales.

But if any old pair had been born to become retired ex-pats in Hong Kong, members of the Cricket Club, the Jockey Club, stalwarts of the English Lending Library, props of St Andrew's Church and St John's Cathedral, they were Filth and Betty. People who would always be able to keep servants (Filth was very rich), who would live in a house on The Peak, be forever welcoming hosts to every friend of a friend's friend visiting the Colony. When you thought of Betty, you saw her at her round rosewood dining table, looking quickly about her to see if plates were empty, tinkling her little bell to summon the snakey smiling girls in their household livery of identical cheongsams. Old Filth and Betty were perfectly international people, beloved ornaments at every one of the Memorial Services to old friends, English or Chinese, in the Cathedral. In the last years these deaths had been falling thick and fast upon them.

Was it perhaps 'The Pound' that drew them to Dorset? The thought of having to survive one day in Hong Kong on a pension? But the part of Dorset they had chosen was far from cheap. Betty was known to 'have her own money' and Filth had always said merrily that he had put off making Judge for as long as possible so that he hadn't to live on a salary.

And they had no children. No responsibilities. No one to come back to England for.

Or was it — the most likely thing — the end of Empire? The drawing-near of 1997? Was it the unbearableness of the thought of the arrival of the barbarians? The now unknown, but certainly changed, Mainland-Chinese whose grandparents had fed the baby Miss Betty on soft, cloudy jellies and told her frightening fairy tales?

Neither Filth nor Betty cared for the unknown and already, five years before they left, English was not being heard so much in Hong Kong shops and hotels and, when it was heard, it was being spoken less well. Many familiar English and Chinese had disappeared to London or Seattle or Toronto, and many children had vanished to foreign boarding schools. The finest of the big houses on The Peak were in darkness behind steel grilles, and at Betty's favourite jeweller the little girls behind the counter, who sat all day threading beads and who still seemed to look under sixteen although she had known them twenty years, glanced up more slowly now when she rang the bell on the armour-plated door. They kept their fixed smiles but somehow found fewer good stones for her. Chinese women she knew had not the same difficulty.

So suddenly Filth and Betty were gone, gone for ever from the sky-high curtains of glittering lights, unflickering gold, softgreen and rose, from the busy waters of the finest harbour in the world and the perpetual drama of every sort of boat: the junks and oil tankers and the private yachts like swans, and the comforting, bottle-green bulk of the little Star Ferries that chugged back and forth to Kowloon all day and most of the night. This deck accommodates 319 passengers. Filth had loved the certainty of the 19.

So they were gone, far from friends and over seventy, to a house deep in the Donheads on the Dorset-Wiltshire border, an old low stone house that could not be seen from its gate. A rough, narrow drive climbed up to it, curving towards it and out of sight. The house sat on a small plateau looking down over forests of every sort and colour of English tree, and far across the horizon was a long scalpel line of milky, chalky downland, dappled with shadows drawn across it by the clouds. No place in the world is less like Hong Kong or the Far East.

Yet it was not so remote that a doctor might start suggesting in a few years' time that it might be kinder to the Social Services if they were to move nearer to civilisation. There was a village half a mile up the hilly road that passed their gate, and half a ... --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

Présentation de l'éditeur

"Jane Gardam's beautiful, vivid and defiantly funny novel is a must." The Times

"Gardam's superb new novel is surely her masterpiece . . . one of the most moving fictions I have read in years . . . This is the rare novel that drives its readers forward while persistently waylaying and detaining by the sheer beauty and inventiveness of it style." The Guardian

"The Whitbread winner scores again with a compelling novel based, in part, on the early life of Rudyard Kipling." Time Out

Sir Edward Feathers has progressed from struggling young barrister to wealthy expatriate lawyer to distinguished retired judge, living out his last days in comfortable seclusion in Dorset. The engrossing and moving account of his life, from birth in colonial Malaya, to Wales, where he is sent as a "Raj orphan," to Oxford, his career and marriage, parallels much of the 20th century's torrid and twisted history.

Old Filth was nominated for the 2005 Orange Prize.

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 256 pages
  • Editeur : Europa Editions (1 juin 2006)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 9781933372136
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372136
  • ASIN: 1933372133
  • Dimensions du produit: 13,5 x 2,2 x 20,9 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 193.627 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Roger B. Dew le 1 août 2009
Format: Broché
Beautifully written, jumping from present to past constantly, but I believe that the author had some difficulty in finishing the story.
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Amazon.com: 348 commentaires
280 internautes sur 286 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Return to Youth 6 juillet 2006
Par Roger Brunyate - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
A wonderful novel! However, I should say right away that my enthusiasm for the book is probably enhanced by its personal resonances; more about that in a moment.

Only the title is awkward. "Filth" stands for "Failed in London, try Hong Kong," which is a misleading soubriquet for the central character, Sir Edward Feathers, a distinguished advocate and judge, and a man of the utmost probity. Born in the Far East, he was educated in England, spent most of his brilliant professional career in Hong Kong, and has now as returned to England in retirement. He is shown as a lonely old man, unable to make close personal connections, even with his wife of over fifty years. One of the book's many beauties is the way in which Feathers reaches out in old age to repair at least a few of these missed connections.

The book takes the central portion of Sir Edward's career mainly for granted, concentrating instead upon the way memories of his first quarter-century come back to haunt him as he enters his last. Born in Malaya of a mother who died in childbirth and a half-mad father who never spoke to him, he was shipped off to Britain as a young child, spending his formative years with an abusive foster-mother in Wales, and then at various boarding schools. The book describes his dysfunctional relationship with various distant relatives and close friendships with a family who are not relatives at all, his sexual education, and his wartime service guarding the Queen Mother -- all experiences that turn out to have shaped his life. The warmest contacts seem to be the most transient, and he almost entirely lacks the strong family structure that would have given him stability. As the story progresses, dodging backwards and forwards in time, the reader begins to understand how the man could have become so aloof and afraid of emotion. More importantly, Feathers begins to understand a little in himself also.

Gardam uses a term that I had not heard before, "Raj Orphan." It refers to the children of British colonial administrators sent Home in early childhood, often not seeing their parents again for many years. My father had such a childhood, and I believe was seared by it; his two brothers, like Sir Edward Feathers, both went into the law; and all of us, including myself, underwent a similarly spartan education. At times, I felt I was reading a family biography!

But I think it would work for other readers also, especially if they have an interest in a vanished past or of an age when it is more fascinating to look back than to peer forward. I am not convinced that it all quite hangs together as a unified narrative; there is an encounter with two distant cousins of the next generation that seems a little out of place, and I find myself wanting to know more about Old Filth's adult years than I do, but that would have made a much longer book. Gardam's style is lucid and sometimes luminous, her comparison of lives and attitudes over a sixty-year span rings entirely true, and -- even though writing about a man who cannot easily feel emotion -- her own power to evoke feeling is quite remarkable.

I also want to say that the Europa paperback edition is a real joy: flexible yet solid, with distinguished typesetting on quality paper with lots of space.
67 internautes sur 68 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Rich and moving portrait 23 septembre 2006
Par Mary Hanna - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
What a wonderful book - the writing is exquisite. I loved Faith Fox and Queen of the Tambourine also, and can't wait to read more of Jane Gardam. She has such insight and empathy for her characters, and is also wickedly funny.

Sir Edward Feathers, a retired and elderly judge, is from all appearances a man who has lived an uneventful life and been smiled on by fortune - or so his colleagues apparently believe. We are taken back to his earliest days in Malaysia, where we look in at a little boy happily playing in the mud, not knowing the English language, and living an uncomplicated life. He is soon wrenched away, sent to a foster family in England and we then peek in on his life at various stages.

It's heart-wrenching to see the pain inflicted on the little boy in his new circumstances, all the more painful as we have seen his innocence and delight in his former life. We witness the effect this pain - as well as the casual indifference of other adults who should have cared for him - had on his sense of self. He is shown kindness by his headmaster, "Sir", and I believe he would have been lost if not for it. We end up with a rich portrait of Edward Feathers - with each glimpse into his life another nuance is added. The story of his journey from childhood into old age is powerful and moving, and the juxtaposition of the small boy playing in the Malaysian mud, innocent of the hurt that people can inflict, and the "spectacularly clean" and proper judge soldiering on into old age will stay with you.
95 internautes sur 100 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"All my life I have been left or dumped...I want to know why." 14 septembre 2006
Par Mary Whipple - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Sir Edward Feathers, known as "Old Filth," is, ironically, "spectacularly...ostentatiously clean." His nickname derives from the fact that as a lawyer, he "Failed In London, Tried Hongkong." A "Raj Orphan," Filth is a child of British civil servants of the Empire in Malaya. Like other Raj children, he is sent back to England, alone, at the age of five , to begin school in a country he's never seen among people he does not know. For Filth, the alienation is tripled--his mother died when he was born; his father, suffering from shellshock and alcoholism, always ignored him; and, living in the Malayan longhouse with the servants, he saw himself as Malay, more comfortable with that language and culture than "his own."

Gardam writes a powerful character study of this intriguing character whose fate it was "always to be left and forgotten." Now in his early eighties and living in Dorset, his wife dead, he reminisces about the past and hints at some terrible event that took place when he was eight, living in Wales with Ma Dibbs, who took care of him and two young cousins.

The narrative moves gracefully between present and past, following the life of Filth as he attends school in England, becomes part of his best friend's family, gets caught between cultures when World War II breaks out, begins his London law career, and, eventually, "tries Hongkong." Now, at the end of his life, he is in Dorset, aware that he has never really known love and has never had a home, and equally aware that he must now reach out, deal with his memories, and take control of his life if he is ever to find peace.

Gardam's supplementary characters appear and reappear throughout Filth's reminiscences--his wife Betty, more a friend than a lover; his best friend Pat Ingoldby, whose family "adopted" him; his two cousins, who survived Ma Dibbs with him; his golf-obsessed aunts who ignore him; and Veneering, a man he and Betty knew in Malaya, who becomes his neighbor in Dorset. Gradually, Filth reveals his secrets and his fears, while maintaining his elegant outward reserve, and the reader empathizes with this man, a product of his culture forced to fend for himself from the age of five.

Subtle and elegantly written, this novel, shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2005, is also compulsively readable with its poignant scenes and ironic humor. Filth, for all his class-consciousness, is likeable and often earnest, and he engages the reader's emotions from the outset. His late-in-life questions about whether his life has had meaning resonate with the reader. n Mary Whipple
25 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Cradle-to-Grave fictional biography that really works 31 décembre 2006
Par Constant Weeder - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Gardam, Jane, Old Filth

I found this cradle-to-grave fictional biography fascinating for several reasons. One is the portrayal of infancy of an English child in India under the Raj and the sudden transportation of that child to an unforgiving foster parent in Wales, in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling's "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep." The characters of Filth's relatives come through clearly and stay with the reader throughout the rest of the book. The other reason is the description of Filth in his old age, nearing 80, and then moving on to his death at almost 90. The author has a peculiar sensitivity to this period in a person's life, when friends and spouses die off and one loses one's independence and faculties gradually, with occasional bright intervals. Another striking feature of the novel is the description of Britain's decay, not only as it lost its empire but as it is today, boiled down to crowds, cell phones and a Ferris wheel. Certain passages are poetic and memorable: "Garbutt found Filth, looped up to drips and scans, trying to shut out the quack of the television sets and the clatter of the public ward where male and female lay alongside each other in various stages of ill health, like Pompeii." I can't describe the novel as comic or inspiring, but it lays out things we would rather not think about, and does so masterfully. Kudos to the author.
22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Curried egs for breakfast 12 mai 2007
Par J. H. Levie - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
This is a book by an old author about an old lawyer looking back over a long and very British life and in large part about a world that no longer exists, the British Empire in the far East. It is full of strange, wonderful and unlikely things and people. People think the protaganist was an old stick. Well, yes he was but oh the things that happened to him. And less of a stick than people thought., The book is about being old, the end of empire, the oddnesses of life and the elusiveness of happiness. It is likehaving a meal from an exotic cuisine--Malaysian perhaps?--in the middle of ordinaary days and an ordinary diet. You might not want it for your daily diet but it's quite wonderful. It takes a certain amount of age and experience to enjoy the book properly but if you have them you will have the time of your life. Is it "relevant". Yes really. I'm an old lawyer myself and the newspapers are warning about the end of our empire.
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