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Here, I am choosing 1912 and the publication of Saki's "The unbearable Bassington". At first, I thought it had been written in the 1930s. The man was ahead of his time.
You could say it's a biography, rather than a novel. The young Comus Bassington is extremely good-looking, charming and articulate. His mother adores him. The feeling is not returned because he is also selfish, insensitive and irresponsible. He destroys everything he touches and antagonises all those who would be ready to like or love him. In the end, he detroys himself. He is as condemned to fail as is Orestes in Euripides' tragedy. Like all of us, Comus is his own worst enemy.
So is his mother whose irrational attraction for "objets d'art" and beautiful furniture can never compensate for her lack of human warmth.
So is his best friend, a pale copy of Comus himself, but rather dull and down to earth.
So is the wealthy young lady they are both courting. She plumbs for the dull one. Given the choice between these two, she makes the right choice. Comus would undoubtedly have dilapidated her fortune. Disappointed by her conventional, dreary marriage, she enjoys a one-night stand with a Russian captain. We can't help feeling that he will be followed by many.
In self-exile, Comus chooses to commit suicide in a slow, masochistic fashion. He lets himself die.
The style is wonderful ; very light and a tad precious to start with, more sober towards the end. The "novel" starts with a succession of incisive, pityless portraits of the " le tout Londres", at times reminiscent of La Bruyère's Caractères. The plot - if you can call it that - underlines the quiet desperation of those who, in the eyes of "ordinary" people should have everything it takes to be happy.
The mixture of elegance and sadless is unforgettable.
(NB This review is appended to other public domain Saki works)
Bassington doesn't quite become the subject so much as does
His aunt and her place in society.
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