diumenge, 17 d’octubre de 2010


Daniel Martin

The novel begins in 1942 as 15-year-old Danny Martin is helping with "The Harvest," title of the first chapter. He is terrified by a low-flying German bomber and repelled by the more localized violence against rabbits that have become trapped in the center of a field as the circles of the reaper grow nearer. The chapter ends with his retreat into a beech wood, "innocent, already in exile..."

The second chapter, "Games," takes place in the early 1970s, in Hollywood, when Daniel Martin is now a middle-aged, successful screenwriter who is divorced from Nell, with a daughter named Caro. He is dissatisfied with script-writing as well as with his life, and is thinking of trying to write a novel. He receives encouragement from his girlfriend, a young English actress named Jenny, who proposes that he name his fictionalized self Simon Wolfe. The chapter ends as Dan receives a telephone call from England.

The third chapter, "The Woman in the Reeds," takes place in a third time period, when Dan was attending Oxford University in his early twenties. Dan is on a picnic with Jane, sister of his girlfriend Nell, when they discover a body in one of the canals. Andrew, a baronet's son, helps them recover from the shock while they wait for the police to arrive. Dan uses the word "games" to describe their superficial lives at Oxford.

"An Unbiased View" is written by Jenny as a contribution toward Dan's novel. The chapter describes the world of filmmaking as well as how they met, and how she found him attractive because she could not read him easily. "The Door" picks up with a telephone call from Jane, who tells Dan that her terminally ill husband, Anthony, wants to see Dan before he dies. Dan is stunned, and the next chapter, "Aftermath," helps to account for his reaction. After they had returned from their Oxford outing, Jane proposed that they go to bed together, just once, as a gratuitous, Rabelaisian act. "Passage" switches the scene back to the United States, where Dan is flying from Los Angeles to New York, en route to England, and thinking about what it means to be English.

"The Umbrella" returns to Dan's boyhood in the 1930s, as Dan describes how the son of a vicar grew into an atheist. Allusions to Citizen Kane help to emphasize Dan's father's lack of demonstrative love for his son. The next chapter, "Gratuitous Act," describes Dan and Jane's sexual intercourse in Dan's room at Oxford, where they are almost discovered by Barney Dillon, who lives in the room above. "Returns" takes place on the airplane from New York to London, where Dan coincidentally encounters the older Barney, who is now a media critic for a London newspaper. Dan's daughter, Caroline, is his secretary.

"Tarquinia" provides another reminiscence of the Oxford days, on a vacation when Dan, Nell, Jane, and Anthony visited Italy and "played Pagan" in the sea near the Etruscan ruins. In "Petard," while Dan stays over in London with Caro, she tells him that she is having an affair with the still-married Barney. On the subway to Padding- ton Station, in "Forward Backward," Dan thinks back to a trip he took to Devon with Caro to show her where he grew up and ended up buying a farm he found for sale, named Thorricombe. In "Breaking Silence," while riding the train from London to Oxford, Dan thinks back further to the early years of his marriage to Nell--his successes as a playwright that gained him entrée to the film world, his infidelity with an actress, Nell's acquisitiveness and growing discontent with their marriage, her accusation that Dan must be having an affair with his assistant, and her demand for a divorce.

In "Rencontre," Dan meets Jane for dinner, and in "Crimes and Punishments," he recalls how a play of his with obvious parallels in their lives had led to anger all around and a letter from Anthony that wrote him out of their lives. Now, in "Catastasis," Dan goes to the hospital to meet Anthony and finds that Jane long ago told her husband of her gratuitous act, with Dan. Anthony explains that they have had a somewhat bloodless relationship in their marriage, due in part to his religiosity, and he wants Dan to be a friend to Jane when he is gone. After he leaves, in "Jane," Dan takes Jane to dinner, where she explains why she is thinking of joining the Communist Party. When they return to Jane's house, in "Beyond the Door," they learn that Anthony committed suicide shortly after Dan left. In "Webs," NelI arrives with Andrew, whom she has married, and their daughter Rosamund. Dan and Caro drive back to London, where Dan watches an old man on the street and thinks about how separated people are from one another.I

Jenny writes "A Second Contribution," which describes her view of Dan's Jewish friends Mildred and Abe and of Dan, whose discussions have enabled her to see that he is in love with loss, and that his seeming untypicality is really what is most typical of the English: their ability to hide their true selves from others. "Interlude" provides a narrator's view of Dan, who does expect to lose women, and illustrates Dan's life with a "fable" about twin sisters, Miriam and Marjory, whom Dan allows to move in with him; they are unsophisticated (except as sexual partners), but Dan genuinely likes them. At the end of the chapter, they have moved away, and Dan is haunted by their loss.

In "Hollow Men," Dan meets Barney for lunch, and they discuss his life, including Caro. At breakfast the next day, in "Solid Daughter," Caro tells Dan that Jane thinks him to be two persons, and Caro suggests that he does not want her to know him either. The topic leads Dan to write "The Sacred Combe," about why Robin Hood is the perfect myth for England because the English love to retreat behind masks, to melt into the trees. Dan notes that his own impulse to write a novel may be evidence of this wish to escape from social responsibility into a self-chosen exile, into a private world of self-indulgence.

In "Rituals," Dan meets with David Malevich, his producer, about their next film project, and David suggests that Dan visit possible shooting locations in Egypt. Dan attends the inquest into the suicide and then takes Rosamund, Jane's oldest daughter, to dinner. Dan spends the weekend at "Compton," the title of the next chapter and country estate of Nell and Andrew, where he ponders the existence of the upper class and discusses the state of England with a cynical ultraconservative named Miles Fenwick.

"Tsankawi" is another reminiscence, of a visit to an archeological site in New Mexico. Dan identifies strongly with the place, and is offended that Jenny wants to make gifts out of potsherds she finds there.

In "Westward," back in England, Dan invites Jane and her teenage son Paul to visit Thorncombe. Paul is somewhat obsessed with medieval agriculture, so he agrees to come along if he can visit some sites of historical interest. Dan recalls how he acquired his gardener and housekeeper, Ben and Phoebe, and then, in "Phillida," how he fell in love as a boy with Nancy Reed, who then lived on the farm Dan has bought, until their parents put an end to the romance. After they have arrived, in "Thorncombe," Dan tells Jane about his wish to try writing a novel, and she tells him about Marxist views of the novel and of culture. On impulse, Dan invites Jane to accompany him to Egypt. That night, "In the Orchard of the Blessed," Dan ponders the devaluation of happy endings in contemporary culture but decides that his novel will have one nonetheless. In "Rain," Jane reluctantly agrees to go along to Egypt, and Dan has two strained transatlantic telephone conversations with Jenny.

In "A Third Contribution," Jenny describes a supposedly fictional but extremely detailed sexual liaison with her costar, Steve. When they talk by telephone again, in "The Shadows of Women," she apologizes for having sent it.

Jane and Dan arrive in Cairo in "Pyramids and Prisons," where Dan discusses the film project with an Egyptian agent and Jane visits the pyramids. They attend a dinner party at which the jokes told by an Egyptian playwright reveal much about Egyptian culture, including, in Dan's view, much it has in common with Jewish culture. In "Barbarians," they start a tour up the Nile at Karnak and reflect on the ancient Egyptian obsession with size, which reminds them of ancient Rome and the modern United States. An old German archaeologist named Otto Kirnberger befriends them and offers suggestions about purchasing artifacts. In "Nile," they encounter other tourists, including an American couple, the Hoopers, who disagree about Vietnam but are enthusiastic about visiting Palmyra, Syria. In "The River Between," Kirnberger tells about himself and offers insights into cultural and biological differences. When they arrive at Aswan and "Kitchener's Island, they find a paradise surrounded by technology run amok. Jane imagines living in a house there and accepts some beads from a little girl. Dan increasingly wants to reveal the growing affection he is feeling toward Jane, but instead, he proposes a side excursion to Palmyra on their trip back to England. Back at the hotel in Aswan, "In the Silence of Other Voices," Dan experiences a mental crisis of anxiety that he must choose himself, and of confidence that he alone can create a world in film or fiction, let alone in life, but he sits down and composes a scene that he believes will work. The chapter title "Flights" refers to the return by air to Cairo and to Jane's demurral when Dan declares that he does not want to leave Jane, that there was something right about their day in Oxford, that they should try living together.

In "North," Dan feels depressed. After they arrive in Beirut, he sits in a bar and feels that he must be condemned to pursue emotional situations that contain the structure of their own destruction, for which his thwarted relationship with Nancy Reed was the seed crystal. The drive to Palmyra in the fog takes them to "The End of the World," a desolate landscape Dan compares to the possibilities Jane has destroyed over the courses of their lives. He persuades her that she should stop conforming to an ideal of nobility and sacrifice, acting as if Anthony is still watching her, and instead join him in movement toward a sympathetic, loving relationship. For the first time on the trip they sleep together. The next day, in "The Bitch," still wary of love but proceeding on instinct like the mother dog of the chapter title, Jane buries her wedding ring in the sand.

In the last chapter, "Future Past," Dan meets Jenny in a London pub to discuss why he is ending their relationship. They walk on Hampstead Heath and part. Dan goes into the Kenwood Museum and looks at the Rembrandt self-portrait there, which seems like a sentinel. Dan will not turn back but will continue to choose and to learn to feel and to write his novel. Indeed, the last sentence of Dan's novel, which exists only as an idea in Daniel Martin, John Fowles as Dan's "ill-concealed ghost" has adopted as the first sentence of this novel: "Whole sight; or the rest is desolation."