A Far Cry from Kensington
by Muriel Spark.
Introduction by Ali Smith.
Virago Books, 2009 (1988).
Spark’s novel is a deliciously piquant story about truth-telling, told by a character one almost suspects at times to be an unreliable narrator when her account is so spiky and vicious. Yet how can one doubt that war-bride Mrs Hawkins, whose training as a copy-editor is to shear away redundant prose, is giving us the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Her nemesis is Hector Bartlett, a dreadful literary hack whom she calls to his face un pisseur de copie, an act which will have repercussions in the form of lost employment, subterfuge, conspiracy, pseudoscience and suicide.
But A Far Cry from Kensington is far from being a satirical revenge tragedy involving a pisseur de copie and a copy-editor. Set in postwar London in the mid-50s during a period when Spark was herself beginning to establish herself as a novelist, this evokes conditions in the capital and the personnel she was then familiar with, even fictionalising a vendetta she’d been involved in, so that it’s easy to accept this account as reflecting veracity.Continue reading “The copy-editor and her nemesis”