- The Woman and the Ape by Peter Høeg, translated by Barbara Haveland
Harvill, 229 pp, £15.99, January 1997, ISBN 1 86046 254 5
- Great Apes by Will Self
Bloomsbury, 404 pp, £14.99, May 1997, ISBN 0 7475 2987 6
Archimedes thought that he could move the world if only he could get outside of it, and the same idea inspires writers in the transcendental genre of fiction. Find some place sufficiently far out and put your fulcrum there. The leverage you achieve will lend authority to your voice. Both these books hope that higher primates will supply the required pivot. The Woman and the Ape looks up to them for moral edification; Great Apes looks down on them for comic relief. Each is, in its own way, amply unsuccessful.
Vol. 19 No. 13 · 3 July 1997
From Paul Jenkinson
Jerry Fodor’s review of Peter Høeg and Will Self’s novels (LRB, 19 June) was, as he put it, good enough for a read in the bath. However, his assertion that putting a fulcrum sufficiently far out would increase the leverage of one’s voice would have made Archimedes leap out of the water and run naked through the streets. Moving the fulcrum in the manner described would in fact reduce the leverage. It is by increasing the separation of fulcrum and effort, not load, that leverage is increased, which is why Archimedes, whose effort was the potentially motive force, only asked for a long enough lever and a remote enough place to stand in order to move the Earth.