6 A touch of Dutch

by Malcolm Redfellow

This one was long overdue. It had been reduced to the attic shelves, a long-term inmate of the guilt-pile. Only because malcolm was evicting the dross and the trash, to make room for more worthy tenants, did it come to hand.

The back of the title page suggest it might be a second print (the stickered dust-cover announces it as “Winner of the 1998 Booker Prize”), which suggests it has lurked a long while, waiting for Malcolm’s full attention. It’s concise, just 178 pages of quite large type:

Poor old Virgil, back in the first century B.C., despaired that he was a school-book. Many a classics student has despaired over his writings every since. Some, like Malcolm, even have key bits by heart, remembered all the way from the High School, then still dusty in Harcourt Street, and Irish Leaving Certificate:
Conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant
inde toro pater Aeneas sic orsus ab alto…

The same fate has already befallen this book: it is now set for study and examination. There are, therefore, potted study guides and cribs.

McEwen has only himself to blame. Write a compact little morality, clearly marked as a five act drama, with neatly differentiated “scene” divisions, and the pedagogues have you well and truly to rights.

Malcolm regrets only one thing about this book: that he didn’t get to it a decade or more ago.