Heart Of The Matter Essay Research Paper

9 September 2017

Heart Of The Matter Essay, Research Paper

Heart of the affair Any Human Heart William Boyd 503pp, Hamish Hamilton A citation from Henry James furnishes the rubric of William Boyd & # 8217 ; s new novel: & # 8220 ; Never say you know the last word about any human heart. & # 8221 ; These & # 8220 ; intimate diaries & # 8221 ; of Logan Mountstuart ab initio seem ready for the challenge. But, as becomes clear, both world and art have a manner of infinitely bifurcating the whole truth into many. Born in 1906 and brought up in South America, Logan is the boy of a Scots beef baron, Francis Mountstuart, and his secretary, Mercedes de Solis. & # 8220 ; I stir the memory soup in my caput trusting gobbets of Uruguay float to the surface. I can see the frigorifico & # 8211 ; a huge white mill with its rock breakwater and looming chimneystack. I can hear the lowing of a 1000 cowss waiting to be slaughtered, butchered, cleaned and frozen. & # 8221 ; Logan & # 8217 ; s life & # 8211 ; either as diary entries, or redacted into little, third-person bridging transitions & # 8211 ; is likewise prepared for public ingestion by Boyd. We see him at public school in England in the 1920s with his friends Peter Scabius and Benjamin Leeping, and so at Oxford, where he falls in love with the cryptic Land Fothergill. A public, historical narrative shadows the personal 1: & # 8220 ; Coffee with Land Fothergill at the Cadena. She was have oning a velvet coat that matched her eyes. We talked a small stiffly about Mussolini and Italy and I was embarrassed to observe how much better informed she was than I. & # 8221 ; Embarrassment turns out to be Logan & # 8217 ; s cardinal note, as we follow him into a literary calling, several matrimonies, and meetings with a host of celebrated common people through the century. But the flipside of modest, retiring Logan is sexual staggishness and a refusal to be cowed by expansive public figures. After a monograph on Shelley and a bestselling novel about a Gallic cocotte, he drifts into intoxicant, criminal conversation and literary unfavorable judgment. A peaky brush with Virginia Woolf is followed by meetings with Picasso and Joyce in Paris. A enchantment as a newsman in the Spanish Civil war brings him into contact with Hemingway and into ownership of three Braque canvases. The pictures are finally sold by Logan & # 8217 ; s old schoolfriend Leeping, now a successful gallery proprietor & # 8211 ; who will, in clip, offer Logan a occupation as his New York representative. In the interval come both the book & # 8217 ; s most entertaining and agonizing subdivisions. Working for Ian Fleming ( another womanizer ) in naval intelligence during the 2nd universe war, Logan is posted to the Bahamas to maintain an oculus on the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson. Edward is suspected of links with German moneymans. The slaying of a Bahamian kingpin seems to affect the Duke, and Logan feels honour-bound to look into. But the whole thing is hushed up. Recalled to London, he is parachuted into Switzerland, where he is to present as a Uruguayan shipbroker offering transition to flying Nazis. Picked up about at one time by Swiss intelligence, he spends the remainder of the war in prison. On returning to England, he suffers a nervous dislocation. It subsequently turns out that his treachery to the Swiss may hold been Edward and Mrs Simpson & # 8217 ; s avenge upon him. Logan

runs into them again on New York’s 5th Avenue in the 1960s. “I can’t resist it and shout out: ‘WHO KILLED SIR HARRY OAKES?’ The look of terrified panicked shock on their faces is adequate compensation for me – for everything they did to me, for all time. They can do their worst now. They scramble into their limousine and are swept away.” The characterisation of these public figures is superb – especially Mrs Simpson as a kind of nightmare granny – but unknown characters also spring to life. There are some wonderful vignettes of Logan’s mother in increasingly reduced circumstances. She eventually has to take in lodgers. Logan himself – as his friend Peter Scabius rises to literary stardom – also suffers a mighty fall. By the 1970s, after a period as a schoolmaster in Biafra, and now quite forgotten as a writer, he is living on dogfood and selling revolutionary newspapers in London – a profession which leads him into involvement with the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Inconceivable as it may seem, the links between these different lives are plausibly entwined. The only false thread is the introduction into the New York art-scene sections, alongside Jackson Pollock and Frank O’Hara, of the bogus American painter Nat Tate, whose “biography” Boyd published as a hoax in 1998. The device punctures the realism Boyd has so carefully built up in the rest of the novel. At the same time, however, the Tate references remind us that Any Human Heart is a created work expressing the concerns, passions and hobbyhorses of its begetter – just as, in one sense, Logan’s journal does. As he puts it: “We keep a journal to entrap the collection of selves that forms us, the individual human being.” Yet while it proclaims its own internal flux (”the true journal…doesn’t try to posit any order or hierarchy, doesn’t try to judge or analyse”), Any Human Heart is actually a highly ordered and controlled encounter with that classic French literary form, the journal intime. If it is not quite as successful as what might be taken as its companion among Boyd’s other volumes, The New Confessions (1988), which used Rousseau as a sounding board to recount another 20th-century life, that’s because that book was one of the best novels of recent times. And while both have French models, it is Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh who are Boyd’s true ancestors. Both writers appear in Any Human Heart . Powell is “affable”; Waugh, or a drunken man at a party who Logan thinks is Waugh, “stuck his tongue in my mouth”. Logan’s true secret sharer, the real tongue in his mouth, is Boyd himself, of course. From his 1981 debut, A Good Man in Africa, onwards, he seems constantly to have been searching for a unifying identity across different fictions, trying to make sense of a life comprising a brutal public-school education, Africa in wartime, Oxford (where he did a PhD on Shelley), literary London and New York glamour: to a large degree, the plot of Any Human Heart . So when all is said and done, the heart the novel tries to dissect is the author’s own. It is, as ever, an enjoyable spectacle for his readers. Giles Foden’s new novel, Zanzibar , is published by Faber in September.

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