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This article is taken from PN Review 123, Volume 25 Number 1, September - October 1998.

Notes Towards a Definition of Culturelessness Frederic Raphael

There is a standard embargo on reviewing the same novel in two places, and I do not mean to breach it. I have, however, been thinking about David Storey's A Serious Man, even though I recently wrote quite a long piece about it for the TLS. Since what I said there, and what I mean to say here, is unlikely to please the author, it may be tempting to suppose that I am pursuing some kind of vendetta. In truth, I have never met and am not jealous of David Storey. It is, however, not quite true that I have had no contact with him. Over thirty years ago, I made bold to say that a continental novel which I was reviewing, set during the Holocaust, proved that there were greater tragedies in modern history than getting your teeth bashed in playing rugby league. Was there, at that time, a measure of envy in my remark? I hoped that I was also saying something about English parochialism and the 1960s inflation of local grievances which looked silly, not to say ignoble, in the face of incomparably more terrible cruelties in far away lands of which Neville Chamberlain was not alone in being ignorant.

I should not have chosen to recall my antique jibe, had it not provoked from the then aggressively famous Mr Storey an angry letter telling me that I was, among other things, impotent and sterile, hectic charges - implying his own potency and fecundity ...


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