In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Honey and WaterMichael Irwin

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
The Beekeepers 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 156 pp., £5.50, July 1980, 0 7100 0473 7
Show More
F for Ferg 
by Ian Cochrane.
Gollancz, 117 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 575 02862 9
Show More
Events Beyond the Heartlands 
by Robert Watson.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £6.50, July 1980, 0 434 84200 1
Show More
Show More

In the first chapter of Peter Redgrove’s novel we are introduced to a poet named Guy, who is about to read aloud some poems he has written about bees. He breaks off a meandering introduction to tell his audience:

I can see you saying, ‘Why doesn’t he keep to the point?’ But not keeping to it, is the point. You need poets to remind you of what you keep on forgetting by keeping to the point. It’s a difficult profession, because it’s often what the poet prefers to forget too. But the thoughts swarm like bees, and cluster round a theme. However sharp, however stinging the individual thoughts, they work together and give pleasure. The rich honey-smell, the rich hum. Dante saw the souls of the blessed feeding on the great petals of paradise. And their song was a bee-song, made of many hymns. There is a psychological type called ‘introverted intuitive’. Most of you are ‘extrovert intellect-sensation’ types. The hive needs us all. We poets are like the despised drones. You may not like us, but we scatter our seed, and the Queens are fertilised.

It is a passage that suggests both what the novel is about and how it is to work. It also gestures towards a couple of interesting dilemmas which the author is to explore but arguably leaves unresolved.

Guy is a heavy drinker, but gives up alcohol when he feels ‘that boozing as I did was to quieten something in me that needed to speak.’ He devoutly believes that dreams and hallucinations of all kinds have a meaning accessible to the conscious mind, and that psychological ills represent a speeding-up, and hence a painful distortion, of the visionary process. As he withdraws from drink he undertakes a variety of psychic experiments that he hopes will ‘slow down the messages’. He is joined in his venture by another middle-aged poet, his friend Matthew, who has actually had a first bout of DTs, seeing on his bedside table ‘a large green insect, about the size of a dictionary, staring at him with cobbled eyes and slowly-champing jaws’. Conscientiously the two men stock up with a crystal ball, dowsing-rods, a planchette and other mystagogical gear. As a matter of general policy they try to follow the advice of an old doctor Matthew saw when afflicted by drunken delirium: ‘Think of bees.’

Partly, no doubt, because of the metaphorical congruity between running water and the liquidity of honey, or of the bee-swarm, both poets find the dowsing experiment a dramatic success. Matthew, indeed, feels such a surge of power that he is knocked unconscious. From this moment the paths of the two men diverge for a full year. Matthew goes to the mysterious ‘Institute for Study’ run by the old doctor, where he is involved in sexual rituals and apparently becomes a medium. Guy remains with his girlfriend, Millie, and manages to endue himself with a ‘water-energy’ so strong that the briefest reverie on rain or streams will set him writing automatically, in a state of trance. The resulting messages are incoherent until one day he scrawls a sustained narrative, as recounted by a woman, of the planting of a bomb in a crowded pub. The story breaks off two and a half minutes before the projected explosion. Almost immediately Matthew visits them from the Institute. He produces his own sheet of automatic writing, which proves to fill in the missing two and a half minutes of the bomb story.

It wouldn’t be fair, or, for that matter, particularly enlightening, to reveal more of the plot than that: but there is a good deal to be said about Peter Redgrove’s themes and subject-matter. This is an original, highly-charged, dotty novel that provokes speculation, perhaps more speculation than it can satisfy – but perhaps not. The emphasis on intuition is clearly central, but it gives rise to an inevitable doubt. The novel includes a number of Guy’s poems, which aren’t markedly dissimilar from Redgrove’s own. At one point the fictitious author admits: ‘I can’t work out what these poems mean sometimes; though I knew when I wrote them.’ Characteristically, the poems consist of image-sequences that are appealing or disturbing without necessarily exhibiting the kinds of control that might prompt one to investigate the nature of the appeal or the disturbance. Guy, or Redgrove through Guy, could be merely exploiting at random a flair for meretricious poetic effects. Correspondingly, the novel itself might prove flirtatiously obscure – nothing more than a high-class tease.

But this very possibility is part of the subject-matter of the book. Guy’s experiments are attempts to trace creative intuitions to their source, to find out more ‘about the place poetry came from...’ Redgrove, on behalf of his readers, is asking why certain images, and collocations of images, seem peculiarly arresting. Does the poet deal in conjuring tricks, or has he access to magic? The author has two ways of arguing for the second of these alternatives. He can persuade the reader, through the inner logic, the imaginative coherence, of the novel, that there is a magnet behind the iron filings, that his thoughts have indeed ‘clustered round a theme’. More bluntly, and therefore more contentiously, he can demonstrate, through the practical results of Guy’s experiments, that poetry is the expression of some supernatural force. This he boldly attempts to do.

For Guy and Matthew poetry is ‘more like an end than a means’. They suspect that it is ‘an image of a place or condition they wished one day to arrive at, in full self-possession’. This belief renders the poet’s function pretty obscure. To credit the intuitive writer, as Redgrove seems to, with intuitive physical powers seems both sentimental and negative. It is as though a poet were no more than a dowser or clairvoyant manqué. Guy claims that ‘we scatter our seed, and the Queens are fertilised’ – but what does the claim mean? Who are the Queens? What is involved in the act of fertilisation? What are the progeny? Millie points out that for most human beings the ability to ignore much of one’s sensory input has survival value: ‘we have evolved because certain characteristics, including a receptivity that would hold us spellbound and helpless with sensed detail, have been bred out of us.’ Why, then, does the hive need poets at all?

Peter Redgrove’s novel doesn’t for a moment suggest that he would regard such inquiries as obtusely literal. He wins a great deal of credit for his odd enterprise by the sheer good sense and practicality of his comments on poetry and the supernatural. Any questions that he leaves unanswered, or doubtfully answered, are questions that he himself has generated. The Beekeepers is a notably enlivening work: it rouses the reader both imaginatively and intellectually.

Ian Cochrane’s new novella buttonholes you immediately with its easy Irish conversational style:

Fergus Moore was new in the village. Well, he had been there for three months but nobody had got to know him. He came from the city. His Da had got one of the big houses just outside the village because he got the job as manager in the textile factory. We didn’t like him. Partly because he was richer than all of us and partly because he had a better education. Anyway no one ever likes the manager’s son.

Familiarity and directness of this kind aren’t as unproblematical as they might seem. The writer’s familiar manner can easily degenerate into affable garrulity: the experienced reader is wary of being trapped between hard covers by the pub bore. Happily there need be no such fears concerning F for Ferg. The apparently artless storytelling is under tight control. Ian Cochrane knows exactly the scope of his enterprise. His narrator, Johnny, is giving an account of Fergus and of Fergus’s hopeless attempt to find acceptance and friendship in a hostile village. Simultaneously, though less directly, the author is describing the village itself, and drawing up an indictment against it.

The first of these objectives is powerfully achieved. The portrait of Fergus is both sad and funny. Plagued by all the pains of adolescence, ugly, awkward, sweaty, sensitive, affectionate, idealistic, dopey with confused sexual longings, Fergus is natural prey for the village wags and bullies. Innocently he stumbles from one humiliation into another, looking for the friendship and love that he will never find in that environment.

But Cochrane’s picture of the village is less convincing. At first it seems no more than entertainingly odd and diverse:

He bought everything he set eye on. He bought a baby’s pram and he bought a lawn-mower – although he had no lawn. He bought a machine too for picking up leaves from a lawn and he bought a railway carriage and that’s where Sam Kerr set up house. Him and Jack were in the same boat. Jack lost his eye and then Sam went and lost a couple of fingers and made a fortune too. In the end they closed that factory down because half the people working there had lost part of their bodies and had claimed compensation or hadn’t come back after they had got the money, and the other half were on sick leave.

Gradually it emerges that such descriptions are literal and typical. The village is a nightmarish place, infested with cruelty, sloth and envy. Johnny alone can muster up a spark of sympathy and disinterested kindness for the wretched Fergus. The narrative eventually abandons comedy and spirals out of control to an apocalyptic climax. By this stage Ian Cochrane has fallen foul of the second danger incident to his narrative method. His storyteller has come to seem something of a stooge, made to dispense a condemnation and a pessimism that he himself scarcely grasps. The author has diverted attention from the puppet to the ventriloquist.

Events Beyond the Heartlands is the story of Gus and Kate Baedecker’s attempt to find a new mode of life. When Gus is made redundant, he buys a cottage in a remote Welsh village and retires there with Kate and his two children. The motives of the couple seem confused in that Gus is going to need a metropolitan job again – and will hence have to sell up soon after settling in – while Kate is pregnant, and should presumably be looking to be in the vicinity of a hospital. A great deal happens: marital estrangement, shipwreck, birth, death, murder, the inauguration of a Welsh commune. It isn’t clear, however, what the novel is centrally about. The narrative is oddly jerky. The focus of interest will shift bewilderingly. We will suddenly be told the thoughts of a character who has hitherto been described only from the outside. Robert Watson seems to have been undecided as to whether to write a realistic, if lurid novel about the problems of family life, or a quasi-allegorical story about the condition-of-Wales question. His book lunges clumsily in different directions. But what matters, in a first novel, is that it has the strength and vitality to lunge at all.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.