Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This review is taken from PN Review 96, Volume 20 Number 4, March - April 1994.

DIPOLOMACIES FREDERICK RAPHAEL, A Double Life (Orion) £14.99

When he was going blind somebody suggested to Sartre that he should use a dictating machine. The old man was shocked: you can't get three layers of meaning, he is said to have snapped, out of a machine. At a moment when many a fiction appears to bear at least the machine-marks of dictation, A Double Life is a highly written novel.

The hero is a French diplomat, Guy de Roumegouse, and the layered style cloaks the man like a cape of many linings. His recollections of his experiences in the Resistence, of his career, his wives and his women (prostitutes mainly) are embedded in narrative yet relentlessly analytical. Though full of incident, emotionally it is a dead life, written up with a chilled elegance, like a despatch from the tomb. The result is rich with the sap of suppressed feeling.

It happens that, having worked with French diplomats in Paris and other capitals, I can vouch for Guy de Roumegouse's existence as a type - for his intellectual humanity so to speak. Guy knows his job, in both senses. He compares his functions to those of Pia, his Roman prostitute friend: 'The wooing of colleagues and foreign dignitaries might be devoid of any emotional element, but it required the same frigid attentiveness which is the mark of the competent whore. Like a diplomat, Pia knew how to ritualise routine, so raising it to the level of a courtesy, or even a favour.' Fortunately Pia's ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image