David Lodge (b. 28th January 1935)

David Lodge wrote in the London Review of Books of 4.6.81:

“…it was conditioning, it was the repressive power of the clergy, it was guilt about sex, it was the fear of Hell. Let me put forward another reason, which was perhaps not given its due in How far can you go? Any intelligent, educated Catholic of that generation who had remained a practising Catholic through adolescence and early adulthood had made a kind of existential contract: in return for the reassurance and stability afforded by the Catholic metaphysical system, one accepted the moral imperatives that went with it, even if they were in practice sometimes inhumanly difficult and demanding. It was precisely the strength of the system that it was total, comprehensive and uncompromising, and it seemed to those brought up in the system that to question one part of it was to question all of it, and that to pick and choose among its moral imperatives, flouting those which were inconveniently difficult, was simply hypocritical. This rage for consistency was probably especially characteristic of British and American Catholicism – Continental European cultures being more tolerant of contradiction between principle and practice – and especially characteristic of the working-class and petit-bourgeois Catholic ‘ghetto’. Mr Auberon Waugh, in an exceptionally hostile review of How far can you go?, asserted of the traditional Catholic teaching on sex: ‘No doubt a few Catholics who took it seriously found it oppressive; but the majority lived in cheerful disobedience.’ Well, that is what it may have looked like from the perspective of Combe Florey House and Downside, but not, I can assure Mr Waugh, from the point of view of the Catholic ‘majority’ in ordinary parishes up and down this country…

…My first two books, The Picturegoers and Ginger, you’re barmy, had had their moments of humour but both were essentially serious works of scrupulous realism. Through the experience of working on Between These Four Walls, I discovered in myself a zest for satirical, farcical and parodic writing that I had not known I possessed, and this liberated me, I found, from the restrictive decorums of the well-made, realistic novel. The British Museum is falling down was the first of my novels that could be described as in any way experimental. Comedy, it seemed, offered a way of reconciling a contradiction, of which I had long been aware, between my critical admiration for the great Modernist writers, and my creative practice, formed by the neorealist, anti-Modernist writing of the 1950s. My association with Malcolm Bradbury, and the example of his own work in comedy, was therefore a crucial factor in this development in my writing, and the dedication to The British Museum is falling down, as well as the sherry-party scene, acknowledges that debt. A few years later, Malcolm left Birmingham for the University of East Anglia. We both regretted the separation, but it was probably a necessary one for the healthy development of our respective literary careers. We are often enough linked, not to say confused, in the public mind. I was once rung up by a man who asked me to settle a bet by declaring whether I was the same person as Malcolm Bradbury…”


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