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her charmless despair spoke of desertion and betrayal. She was inconsolable and immune to pity. The man took her hand from time to time and stroked the flesh adjacent to the thumb. He made no speech of sympathy or distraction. He sat with her as though she were a sentient corpse, beyond retrieval but deeply loved and regretted. It seemed that knowledge of the woman’s state passed between them without any call for speech. The father, if that is what he was, became more and more tender as the meal continued, without ever seeking to encourage or cheer the woman whose dry anguish appeared to be sealed into her character, not the consequence of any specific misfortune. Why has Arnold Wesker been largely rejected by a cultural establishment which, for a while, seemed eager to embrace him? The fall of individuals is an aspect of an unconscious social scheme for dealing with the kind of criticism which, taken seriously, might lead to self-doubt. There is a limit to the kind of things a society will allow, and even encourage, in the way of reproach. In their vanity, Raleigh and Byron dared to wager themselves against antagonists who outnumbered and outgunned them. The careers of illustrious scapegoats indicate the limits of insolence. Society becomes particularly resentful when its critics claim to have a world (or even happiness) elsewhere. Any establishment is frustrated by being unable to reach its critics. One may do most anything one pleases in England, but it had better be in England that he does it. ‘Fat? She was like bring a friend, you know?’ Philby: the deceiver’s abiding pleasure is the conviction that he is in charge. The clever liar has sole custody of the truth. He opened his lifelong rival’s memoirs with trepidation. By the end, his worst fears had been confirmed: he was never mentioned.

Frederic Raphael © Volatic Ltd 2018


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