Take a Valium. Have a party. Go on a demo. Shoot a soldier. Make a bang. Bed a friend. That’s your problem-solving system . . .
But haven’t we tried all that? Howard Kirk, product of the Swinging Sixties, radical university lecturer, and one half of a very modern marriage, is throwing a party. The night will have all sorts of repercussions: for Henry Beamish, Howard’s desperate and easily neglected friend, and for Howard’s wife Barbara, promiscuous ’70s liberal and exhausted victim of motherhood. The History Man is Malcolm Bradbury’s masterpiece, the definitive campus novel and one of the most influential novels of the 1970s.
Funny, disconcerting and provocative, Bradbury brilliantly satirizes a world of academic power struggles as his anti-hero seduces his away around campus. But beneath the surface is an altogether more affecting portrait: it reveals a marriage in crisis and demonstrates the fragility of the human heart.
It was on just such a holiday that I came to read Ivy Compton- Burnett’s Pastors and Masters and Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man in quick succession. And since one is the predecessor of the...Read more