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This review is taken from PN Review 18, Volume 7 Number 4, March - April 1981.

THE CLOSED DOOR Leo Aylen, Return to Zululand (Sidgwick & Jackson) £2.95
Derek Stanford, The Traveller Hears the Strange Machine (Sidgwick & Jackson) £2.95

It is difficult to tell moral tales. If they are intended to appeal to sensibility, intelligence may accuse them of sentimentality. Leo Aylen's Return to Zululand includes three poems entitled 'Parable I', 'Parable II' and 'Parable III', and three called 'Monk Poem I', 'Monk Poem II' and 'Monk Poem III'. In 'Parable I' all kinds of retailers and consumers do business outside an elaborately carved door which is never opened. We are clearly intended to deduce that the door gives on to something not at all mundane, but spiritual. This is fair but it feels wrong that nobody should ever have opened the door, not even a chosen few or even the parabolically gifted Christ Himself. 'Monk Poem II' is a dialogue between a Sultan, whose dinner has seventeen courses and is followed by a choice of three hundred and sixty-five concubines, and an Ascetic, whose dinner is one raisin. In the last line of the poem the Ascetic says to the Sultan, 'You've sacrificed . . eternity'. The two dots and the small 'e' seem uninten-dingly significant. If eternity is known only as a received item of lexis, is a contented sybarite going to be convinced of feeling the loss of it? It would of course be unappreciative of, precisely, the spirit of these poems to expect them to be as logically rigorous as a theological treatise, but Leo Aylen's moral tone is high enough to attain to invective and one feels bound to run to the defence ...


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