A Pair of Lobsters in a Murky Tank

Theo Tait

  • Seven Lies by James Lasdun
    Cape, 199 pp, £14.99, February 2006, ISBN 0 224 07592 6

‘A woman threw her glass of wine at me,’ James Lasdun’s second novel begins. At a party held by a wealthy philanthropist in New York, a woman walks up to the narrator and asks: ‘Excuse me, are you Stefan Vogel?’ He says yes; she flings her wine in his face. In keeping with the novel’s mood of dreamlike self-absorption, the event is replayed many times. Immediately beforehand, Stefan has been politely snubbed by a distinguished elder statesman named Harold Gedney. His hostess introduces him as ‘a wonderful dissident poet’ who has fled from East Germany some years before. Bearing what he calls ‘the various inaccuracies of her introduction’ in silence, Stefan is left there blinking as Gedney makes an abrupt escape. Then a woman he has never met before approaches him and asks if he is Stefan Vogel. ‘Yes,’ he replies.

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