England’s Chum

John Bayley

  • The Hand, Great Anarch! India 1921-1952 by Nirad Chaudhuri
    Chatto, 979 pp, £25.00, November 1987, ISBN 0 7011 2476 8
  • The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian by Nirad Chaudhuri
    Hogarth, 506 pp, £7.95, November 1987, ISBN 0 7012 0800 7

Power stalks the corridors as it has always done, and operates in the same ways, but it increasingly prefers to do so in a mean privacy. Shakespeare today would no longer have the feel of what happens there. The media have taken over the forecourt; and art, in the true sense, no longer has the entrée. Even the Russian novel cannot get in, as it was able to do without effort in the days of War and Peace and Resurrection, following the novels of Balzac and Scott. A contemporary novel like Rybakov’s Children of the Arbat uses the old tradition, alternating domestic and family matters with scenes in the Kremlin and among the Soviet bigwigs. But the result is unconvincing, with no naturalness about it, and the reason seems to be that art can no longer convey the association of power with style. Or perhaps style no longer goes with power, except in terms of making people up for the TV cameras?

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