Friday, June 24, 2011
A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.
You heard! St Johns Park, New Town. June 2011.
Week two into the new job, and I'm slowly picking up reading time. One really top book this week, Tom Keneally's Gossip from the Forest, a novel which reconstructs the minutia of the negotiations surrounding the declaration of an Armistice at the end of World War I. Now don’t let that concept fool you, as this is an engaging and impressive work.
Kenneally paints vivid portraits of the key characters, and infuses a humanity that is often absent in this kind of work. The novel is a fantastic study of the profound challenge of ending a conflict that featured such brutality. As might be expected, the real interest can be found in the vanquished, rather than the victors.
This is magnified as the key Allied negotiators - vain French Marshall Foch and cold British Admiral Weymes - relish their roles as conquerors (even though the the reality was somewhat more complex than that) and that the Germans were something approaching evil incarnate. Compounding the triumphalism, the German aristocratic elite declined to show up and sent four men to face the wrathful victors to bring about a peace. Keneally superbly reconstructs these four, who were sent to plead mercy and were ill-equipped to face such immense anger.
In choosing as its central figure the German head of delegation, secretary of state Matthias Erzberger – a proletarian, civilian, Catholic member of the Centre Party and critic of both German Imperialism and the conduct of the war – the novel explores the individual experience at moments of historical import. The result is both an incredibly human story and an effective novel.
This is a rewarding book, and I’d encourage anyone to give it a go.