Labour pains


  • I walked across the water.

    I skied across the sea
    I took the television too,
    And it’s heavier than me.

    I fell up a mill chimney
    I slid down a sunbeam
    I have to go to London
    I was told to in a dream.

    I drove right up a mountain
    A horse rode on my back
    I felt rather excited
    But I forgot to take my mac.

    I swung across the ceiling
    Like a spider in its web,
    I say,you are so beautiful.
    Do you have a double bed?

    I am sitting on the roof top
    Drinking cider from a can.
    I wanted to get married
    But she said she wants a man.

    I climbed right up a tiger’s tail,
    I crowned an elephant
    But my most abiding passion
    Is to learn to mix cement.

    I spied for several governments
    But then they threw me out.
    Because I am an alien
    Of that there is no doubt.

    I’m not a human being
    I am lacking in some ways
    I’m too kind to kill other people,
    Even when it’s highly paid.

    I write with a big crayon
    I draw with candlewax
    I live on cottage pie and rice,
    And I’m addicted to kind sex.

    I set my curly hair on fire.
    I swam In boiling oil.
    I went down to the market
    To watch the apples toil.

    I had a lot of people
    Who were living in my house.
    I could not ever remember
    Which one was my spouse.

    I taught my doctor to love lice
    I showed him how to shoot.
    And now I’m training Isaac up
    So he can be a Newt.

    I skate across the surface
    Of everybody’s eyes
    And all I ever ask of you is
    Forget how to tell lies.

    I am coming down to your place
    As it’s twice as big as mine.
    Have you got a chip sandwich?
    To feed our love divine?

    I want to see the people
    who are living in that Palace.
    I have to tell them God told me
    It belongs to Carroll’s Alice.

    Roll your eyes like marbles
    And interweave your hair with trains.
    This is how it happens,
    When you don’t heed Labour’s pains.

My first news letter

Dear All

Well, I don’t write a  letter very often, but after finding a replica of my old pen on E bay I decided to do a Round Robin.
First of all, none of my children have got into Oxford or Cambridge nor have my grandchildren.They are all on the dim side but that is how I like them.I think IQ is very over rated and as mine is 65 you realise I am a mere imbecile and so my ten children take after me.
They all got degrees from places I’d never heard of like Chester, Bolton, Ormskirk, and Hendon.However, as I once lost a job offer from a well known university because I wore an engagement ring I kind of thought being a low flyer might be better.
My brother is very kind.He is changed very much since we were adolescents when he was too put it mildly a pain.He has now told me I am in the top 1% of intelligence in the world.Imagine 99% of the world’s population has an IQ of 64 or less.Don’t expect an imbecile to explain that
I can believe it about our delightful politicians, Theresa Paybum and Horace Yawnsome and their ilk.
My children have done well.One is a violinist in Berlin.As I never go there I cannot be sure if she is lying but she does speak good German or for all I kn, w it might be Yiddish as my great aunt was familiar with that old tongue.Perhaps my daughter is really playing the Jewish harp in a liberal Synagogue.And believe me, it would have to be very liberal to let that flame haired temptress near any married man.Is it her fault she is so attractive?After all, she is my daughter and blew dry every hair daily as a teen
My eldest son  had to  fail an exam before he was accepted at Ormskirk Dental School.You see with 21 GCSE’s grade A star they wanted him to go to Cambridge but he  knew his own limits.He preferred being near the great Nature  Reserves of the estuary of the Mersey and Nature and its exploration has kept him busy.Why he even spends whole days in the Mersey Tunnel.He said he wants to find the Universiy of New Brighton but he is still in the tunnel.I said I#d buy him a van but he prefers walking everywhere and camping on the verges of the road maybe giving relief to a few virgins en passant.Being a virgin nowadays is very hard socially.But as a Spanish waiter once said to me ” One virgin is very hard to find” Maybe two are easier.
My second daughter is married and lives in Poole. She often walks around the Isle of Purbeck with the triplets in her back pack.How her husband stands her I cannot get.She is lazy and unable to cook even frozen chips.However, the babies are still on the breast and there is a McDonald#s nearby.Her Ph.D was on “Cats in Modern Physics”.She had a wonderful tutor at Wigan University.Why, he married her! Then he got a job in Bournemouth.How she snagged him I do not know but her thesis was the first of its kind.Now everyone is doing animals in abstract mathematics.
Well, it’s time for me to warm my frozen pizza on the fire so I’ll leave the rest for next time.
Au  revoir
Kristy Krasse

Like a violin with just two strings

Shall I compare the brain to say, a garden plant
Which needs attention and the right to grow
Yet if it is not given what it wants
Development will be fragile and too slow.

If the  plant ‘s  contorted , over-pruned
Then certain parts may never even show
Like a violin with just two strings
Cannot play concertos high and low.

So our brain is cut back by our haunts
If we  cannot play and socialise,
Then we will be subjected to  taunts
Secateurs prune  brains and so prune lives

With connections to the world of others less
We become remote and so friendless

I was reading an article which said if you do not get enough attention as a little child  your brain cuts off certain of its connections or they don’t develop and so later you find socializing very hard.Then it becomes self-replicating.. unless one has a great tolerance of pain and some good luck.

Releasing secrets is a kind of rape

Now the high ups fight  about some tapes
Princess Di spoke of her rage and grief
Releasing secrets is akin to rape

If we had no Brexit and some  hope
The government would not be such a thief
Wasting time to fight  about some tapes

What if there were tapes made by  a Pope
Would it shatter all Christian belief?
Releasing secrets is a kind of rape

Why can’t we do work that brings us hope
Brings some peace and gives our  hearts relief?
Instead, the high ups fight  about some tapes

As individuals, we can seek  for help
Or do creative acts that we believe
Releasing secrets is a kind of rape

The  government’s the habitat of thieves
Into the the river Thames let them be heaved!
Now the Lords and Ladies  hear  Di’s tapes
Releasing secrets, does it seem like rape?





Now the evening of the day before
The wedding and the guests  not yet estranged
Then I a dress of golden satin wore.
It was the evening

The priest he prayed and love was emphasized
Which looking at that world seems now so strange
Like hatred of the Jews who Christ provide.
They provided him

We took Communion, sang the hymns of praise
The wedding feast was already arranged
Thank God for Jesus whom he did not raise.
We took Communion

Like an absent father of the present day
God let Mary raise his child dismayed
Impregnating her then going off to play
An absent father

If God did choose  a Jew to be his bride
He must have liked her profile well displayed
Who knows that, his ways are not our ways?
His  Jewish lover

Strangely, Catholics cannot marry Jews
Though would a Jew desire a  Nazi’s heirs?
In  their lairs in souls of Europe, Nazis brood
We’re Nazis below deck

We think the Shoah  was sickening  just for Jews
But  it’s we who’re sick and need  a great repair
Europe’s down the chute, just watch the News.
Watch the News.

A  wedding day should  have both joy and care
For all of  those who have  affect to share
When all of humankind   can watch  the play
On a scream near you, they  want to say
No affect dare



I still admire

I have no head, no heart, no love, no fear
Invisible to all who seek to find
Just living patiently with what is near.

The angel of the river stayed to steer
She knew I was detached from my own mind
I have no head, no heart, no love, no fear

Down the mountains, wildebeest career
He took me there into his double bind
Just living pwith the beasts is very dear

But nonetheless, I sometimes tried to veer
Blown away and flying with the winds
I have no head, no heart, no love, no fear

He followed me and  drenched me in his tears
I never wished to be so cruel, unkind
Just living in the mystery with so near.

Life itself will follow no straight lines
And gifts us with extraordinary finds
I have no head, no heart, no love, no fear
My eyes are open to the works I  still admire.



That dark embrace

Do not leave me for the desolate,  earthy grave.
Do not leave me  here when you are gone
Do not leave me  to whom love  you gave
Do not leave me.

My   tender arms, I stroke  and gently bathe
To soothe my mind, when near me is no-one.
Do not leave me for  the desolate  grave
Do not leave me

For   our humorous love, I ever crave
A founding ground we have built upon
Do not leave me   to whom love  you gave
Do not leave me

A sorrow deep convulses like a wave
Washes me of  hope, of memories  done
Yet do not leave me for the desolate,earthy grave.
Do not leave me

I love not the charisma  of men suave
I love your voice and all our passion spun
Never leave me   to whom love  you gave
Never leave me.

In my heart, your name shall be engraved
In my mind,  you circle like the sun
Do not leave me for   your desolate earthy  grave
Do not leave me  for death’s dark embrace~
That dark embrace

Boot sale

 P1000262 1


Archimedes’ pocket calculator in working order
Cleopatra’s nightie [washed and ironed]
Aristotle’s chair with footstool and TV remote
Abraham’s bras [unworn]
Isaac’s laughter [ CD]
Euclid’s ruler [plastic]
Zeno’s hair [combed]
Ten live Greek tortoises with name tags.
Book of Numbers [ In Hebrew]
Fifty limericks and Wordsworth’s hair [1 only]
Wittgenstein’s cat. and ten tines of food
Freud’s mirror
Jung’s shadow.
Churchill’s black dog

Emile’s nerve

  • Wikipedia

    Stan was happy for a few moments when he woke up.Then he realized Emile was not anywhere to be seen.Mary had already gone out as she wanted to catch a very early train to London.She needed to visit the British Library.She urgently wanted to find evidence that Wittgenstein wore a hat in bed.
    Stan went searching around the house but Emile had vanished.Usually at 8 am he would be dashing about pretending to chase flies and giving a balletic performance worthy of Sadler’s Wells.
    I wonder who Sadler was, Stan muttered as he filled the kettle with fresh water and put some Earl Grey tea into the teapot.
    Then, a strange feeling came over him.He looked up and there was Emile
    crouched on top of the highest cupboard in the kitchen.
    Emile, he cried, What are you doing up there?
    I’m training to be a spy, Emile replied nonchalantly.
    But how could this kitchen be of interest to the Intelligence Services?
    Well, the cat murmured, I am practicing hiding.
    You gave me a terrible shock, Stan said.I had this feeling I was being watched.I wondered if it was paranoia.Then I saw your gleaming eyes.
    So, you need to get some dark glasses, Emile said.
    No ,I would still feel that horrible feeling.And how were you planning to get down from that high ledge?
    I’m not sure, the cat miaowed faintly
    Well, the first lesson for a spy or even a detective is,
    Never go anywhere unless you can make a quick exit,
    As it is ,I may have to ring 999.
    Just then the front doorbell rang.There stood a man with a white beard and moustache.
    Hello ,he said holding out his hand to shake Stan’s.
    I am called Peter Fried.I have just moved into one of the new flats across the road.I am a psychoanalyst.I have taken on another flat to use as a consulting room and a waiting room
    A psychoanalyst! Do we need one round here? Well, Good morning, I have just brewed some tea.Would you like to join me?
    How kind, said Peter.
    I say, old bean, did you know there’s a cat on top of your cupboard?
    Yes, that is Emile.Today he has surpassed himself in wickedness.How I will get him down I don’t know.
    My training analyst used to say, What goes up must eventually come down.
    That seems a bit weird for an analyst.To what was he referring… something to do with sex I don’t doubt.It’s all sex with you people.
    Yes, some of us are very peculiar…that’s why we enter the profession.
    What I meant was, if Emile got up he can get down.How did you get up, Emile?
    I leaped, answered the tense animal.
    Can you leap down?
    I’ve lost my nerve, replied the poor creature softly.
    Well, as it happens, being a therapist, I always carry few spare nerves with me.I’ll climb up this step ladder and pass you a new nerve.
    And without waiting, Peter climbed the ladder.He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a golden thread.
    Here you are,Emile, Catch this in your claw.
    Emile caught the golden thread and wrapped it around his neck.
    Can you leap down now? enquired Stan.
    Emile leaped down and landed in a bowl of hot water in the sink.
    It’s a good thing I wasn’t making chips, laughed Stan hysterically
    Come here, Emile and let me dry you on this old towel.He put Emile
    in front of the fire and he and Peter drank mugs of Earl Grey tea.
    I have got a mistress, Stan told Peter.
    Well, do you want therapy for your conflict?
    Oh,no.I’m far too old for therapy or indeed for a  mistres. She liked helping a man making tea, typing notes, calculating averages and calling the ambulance.. you know what I mean.She likes the paramedic, Dave ás well.
    Is she not married?
    No , her husband fell into the wheelie bin during the night and alas he was taken away with the rubbish.
    That is a strange story.Are you certain?
    No, it could be he grew tired of her and ran away.Then she invented this story,
    Well , this may be a quiet suburb but I can see there is plenty of material here for me to write my next book:
    Deceptive appearances and the fascination of apparent dullness.
    Oh, that sounds very unusual.
    Well, I’ve never believed in true dullness.There is always a story.
    See, I’ve just met you a man of 98 yet you have a wife, a mistress and a crazy cat.. and I’ve only been here for one day.Imagine 6156119_f260

    what else I may discover here.
    They heard a siren.
    Oh, no!We’ve not even rung 999 and here is the ambulance….
    Mary will be so angry.You see Dave is bisexual
    My goodness, are you having an affair with him.
    No way, shouted Stan.My life is tough enough already.He can be bisexual or even trisexual but I’m not interested.
    What does trisexual mean, enquired Emile.
    I have no idea but I thought it sounded good, admitted Stan.
    Peter stood up.
    I think I’d better go home and start to see my patients.
    Now Emile, put your nerve somewhere safe.We don’t want you to lose it again.
    Thank you, darling cried Emile.I think I’ve formed an erotic transference with you already.
    Peter rushed out.
    Is it me or is it them?he wondered.
    I thought it would be quiet here on the edge of Knittingham but I think now wherever you are there will always be something unexpected happening.But I hope Emile will not begin to follow me around.I shall have to buy a lady cat and then Emile might fall in love with her instead.So off Peter went whistling a Bach cello suite and wondering how to cope with life in a suburb.. clearly it was not as dull as he had imagined.

Don’t think

Alfred North Whitehead wrote that “Too much thinking is bad for you” see below.

“It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.”

The avenue of life was made too straight

The avenue of life was made too straight
Vienna with its harshly cut off trees
No one ever had to navigate.

We saw the gravestone in the day or night
But we did not see what life we might have seized
The avenue of life was made too straight

Life is more like sailing or birds flight
Where we move according to the breeze
We deeply wish to feel and navigate.

Life is more like dance than soldiers fight
All the soldiers surreal. a clean machine
The path to God  could never be so  right

Oh,  diurnal owl,  his wants  are slant
From  Tyne to Tees we sleep his cruel dreams
He’s known by his will to navigate.

Yet God created hawk and owl and scene
No straight line will  any bird  demean
The avenue of life is not so straight
We in danger learn to navigate.


Tea with Emile


Mary was washing her rug on the patio watched by Emile who had pondered over the notion of leaping into the warm water in the big bowl.Fortunately, he had seen Mary was using biological detergent,
What will happen to my fur if that gets onto it? he asked  his  human mother
It will kill all those bacteria on it, she replied.And if you lick it then it will taste nasty,
Mary’s new boyfriend was coming for tea and she wanted the house to look clean.
I will give you a bath too Emile as Ron wears linen trousers.He will be angry if you leave footprints on him.
I am not interested in Ron , Emile replied.I wanted a lady cat to canoodle with.
I am sorry Emile but there are no websites for love deprived cats.You will have to run around the town until you find another lady friend.You are very handsome and your amber eyes are a true beauty to behold
Emile sobbed.I miss Stan, he cried.
So  do I, Mary murmured, but we have to move on
How can you have found another man so soon.You are still grieving
Well, it’s just chance, Ron fell over a brick on the pavement and landed in my arms.I didn’t know about the brick and thought he was an acrobat like Norman Wisdom.I imagined he must like me and invited him to have coffee in the Mathematical Symbols Cafe otherwise known as the Pie Shop.
Ahaha, went Emile.That’s a good one.Who paid the bill?
The manager was so pleased to see me look happy he didn’t charge us a penny
That is unusual, Emile purred.I bet  he was not English
I believe they are Turkish, Mary told him.They are very kind and polite
And how about Ronald? Did he like them?
He thought making pies was unusual for Turks.He has been all over that area and seen the wonders of the world.
The doorbell rang.It was some secret Catholic missionaries asking Mary if she read the Bible.
Of course not, she said, Catholics like me can’t read the Bible.It’s full of sex.
Is it really, an elderly red faced man exclaimed.Can you give me the references?
Try the Song of Songs she said and then  look up Sodom and Gomorrah
I’d want something easier, he told her.I am still a virgin.
Well, that is a surprise.Did you never get married?
Being married does not always lead to sex, he informed shyly.My wife was very  timid
Why did  she marry you then, Mary said anxiously
I am very rich, he said and she liked my car
That is a silly reason for getting married.Did you never cuddle or canoodle on the sofa?
No, her mother always came with her wherever we went
Did that not tell you there was something odd about her?
I didn’t know what to think.
I hope her mother did not share your bed?That would be a sure way of making sure you were both virgins.Although her mother was obviously not one.She sounds what we call ” Intrusive”.If you marry again, make sure her mother is dead first!
You seem a very charming lady.Are you married?
I am not but I have a boyfriend.
Are you engaged?
Do people bother now?
Yes, he cried as he knelt down and offered  her a large diamond ring he had in a little box
Will you marry me?You have such beautiful eyes.
You don’t even know my name, Mary shrieked.
Does it matter, he responded hopefully
Just then Ron arrived with a big bunch of red roses.
What is going on, he asked Mary plaintively
This gentleman wants me to become Catholic, she said politely
Do they give everyone a diamond ring? Ron enquired softly
Well, actually I am Jewish, the man told them.But my mother never arranged a marriage though I did marry once and it was annulled.We never consummated it, you see.
You seem to have left it late, Ron said nicely
Do you think you might be gay?You can get married now if you find the right man who might be the love of your life.
I might annoy the Rabbi, the man said.We Jews are keen to  increase in numbers after the Shoah
Did you know there are only 13 million Jews alive now?If we compare that to the number in the Roman Empire, then proportionately there would be 200 million He began to sob.
You’d better come in, Mary said.What’s your name?
Sol, he replied
Well Ron, bring Sol through and I will make the tea.
As Emile had been listening he ran into the drawing room and jumped onto Sol’s knee
What’s your name, asked Sol impudently?
Emile Tangent-Turnip, the cat replied.
Wow, a talking cat.What next?
Annie, Stan’s former mistress came in.She pushed Emile off Sol’s knee and sat there herself.
What do you think of transcendental numbers, she piped up?
I never heard of them but if you like them I will like them as well.Tell me about them,he demanded ardently
I am afraid I don’t know, said Annie.I am a complete idiot.I thought men preferred that
No, most Jewish men like educated, intelligent women, he solemnly informed her.
But do you like large bosoms and makeup?
I think you are getting impertinent, he screamed. into her ear.Most men like bosoms but we don’t like women who talk this way.
Oh, dear, said Annie.I’m terribly sorry.You see I am a virgin and don’t know how to deal with men.
Do the two things always go together, he enquired.
It’s not being a virgin that stops you talking to men, it’s not knowing how to talk to men that keeps you a virgin.Though no man likes women who talk too much.
Ron laughed.Who defines what is too much , he asked, like a professor of logic? Surely it depends on the topic.He winked at Mary who was carrying a large  iced chocolate cake into the room.
Emile ate a  piece of cake as he watched the humans talk.Now if they were cats, he thought they would not all still be virgins at the age of 108.So being human stops people enjoying their bodies because they  think Adam would still  be  a virgin if Eve had not offered him the apple.Then where would we all be?Nowhere, that is the answer.
Ron got up and said he was going to ring 999 because Sol was looking peculiar,
Do you mean he is looking at you peculiarly or he looks unwell or mad, asked Annie nervously?
Do you want to go to A and E, she asked Sol.
Why not?It will make a day out,he replied wildly.
The thing is,once you get there you could be there for hours,Mary said.
I once was there with Stan and at midnight the nurse asked me if I wanted to be admitted.He was still lying there with his eye bleeding,his nose broken and feeling weak owing to lack of food.He had passed out because of low blood sugar but they gave him no food.Very odd.I am not going to come with you.
Sol looked anxious.I thought you might like caring for me, he told her petulantly
Do you really think women like serving men all the time?Well, we only do it for men we love and as I’ve only known you for an hour in a non-biblical sense it seems a bit much to expect.Why don’t we play a game instead?
Ron came in, what sort of game?
Consequences,Annie cried!
Too out of date.
I think I’ll go  to bed,said Mary
And so say all of us.Except Ron.He doesn’t know what to do.Like the old lady in the shoe.What do you advise?



A paleness in the air, hollowed out the
Bed of a scream.A shadow of nothing.
A footprint indeterminate and grey, like old soap ;
worn out bras  and underpants
Men’s hankies
Boiled weekly in Daz.
Scrub it, dear.

Who is here, like the sun in fog
The coal dust makes a canopy
over the crib
Of the unknown baby
Who is not.

The sun hangs off the edge of the day
Like  a mother unwilling to participate
The expression in her eyes
And how it died
Melts into me
And makes me the sculpture  of an aegro-tattered art student
The faker of days.
Well, will we pay?
The sun gets right in my eye.
Arithmetic of nadirs.

The sunrise and the odour of men’s feet?

Will Theresa May be merrier  next year?
Will Boris Johnson  super dye his hair?
Will British people stop their hateful strife
As Brexit has struck fear into our hearts?

Why can we not enjoy the pleasures sweet
The sunrise and the odour of men’s feet?
The  dirty laundry blinds us with its white
And all my poems are  called a  load of tripe.

Can we not enjoy the polyester shirts
Of men who sweated copiously a-flirt
The nylon sheets will roll us out of bed
They can be washed by water in a flood

Will Charles become our King and rule us well
Will Princess Di rise up and give him hell?

Sweet it is to live and die

Caterpillars, snails with whorls.
I dream contented, all enwrapped
With reverie and dream I’m lapped.
The inner seas will comfort me,
While gods allow my eyes to see

Oh, sweeter than confectionery
Is my worn old dictionary.
The words whirl round and fall to shape
The sentences, which my world drape.
This furnishing is rich and strange
Yet magically self-arranged
Oh, sweeter than the love of man
Is reading works of poets long gone;
And feeling deeply their dark tides .
Upon which our boats may glide.
The sea infinite we float on
Is the same warm sea where ancients swam.
Sweeter still is this spring air
And the blossom spreading fair.
We’ll drown ourselves in deep green fields
To the gods of poetry yield.
We’ll rise again and spring up tall
To grow more rich ,until we fall.

 Sweet it is to live and die
And to write my  poetry
Touch me with your ardent souls
My mind and yours shall all  be whole

No self ,no torturer, no sisters dear

Outside wa house ‘t new umbrellas drip
~Wun is red and wun is pretty beige
They’re  wa sunshades,  t’weather’s hit a blip

If A wer a child A’d sail a ship
Or dash in pools  u’ water in mi rage
Outside wa house ,’t new umbrellas drip ; [Het means the]

Times there were Mam’s moods would get a grip
Then it wer quite hard to re-engage
Hide  wa sunshades,  mother’s hit a blip

Mam we’ clever but she  lost her top
The hint of  h’ mad  sayings hasna wage
Outside wa house ,’t new umbrellas drip ;

Nuns told me off for speaking in my voice
To get to Oxford, I must  Me erase
Now I am a foreigner down here
No self ,no torturer ,no sisters dear



Lord have mercy;Jesu pity all.

Affectless survivors lose all heart
Numb like stone  or robots we perform
Our death ,thought far away,  now truly starts

From grief, we are unable to depart
As we’re frozen,  tears can’t run so warm
Affectless survivors lose all heart

In a web or maelstrom we are caught
At most we voice a fierce yet tactful moan
Our death ,thought far away,  now truly starts

Love and pity cannot open forts
Where well defended, hide I fearful with my groans
Affectless survivors freeze dark hearts

Yes,I entertain the guests whom he has brought
My soul is in the kitchen ,frozen whole
My death ,once far away,  now timely starts

Lord have mercy;Jesu pity all.
Numb like bricks we stroll the Shopping Mall
Affectless survivors lose worn hearts
Death ,thought far away,   makes a  real start.



The War is still fascinating to many



n Britain and the US, the war is thought of as a righteous war, stout-hearted democrats against genocidal aggressors. It is not to deny the essential truth of that, or the wickedness of the Nazi and Japanese missions, to recall the more nuanced reality: the fact that Britain began and ended the war as an imperial power, withholding democratic rights from millions of subjects, the fact that the US fought with a racially segregated army and made use of senior Nazi scientists and Japanese officials after its victory, or the fact that to beat Hitler it was necessary to appease Stalin, to the point of allowing his murderous prosecutors to sit in judgment on Nazis at Nuremberg. The best novels of the war, like Gravity’s RainbowCatch-22 or The Tin Drum, are informed by a sense of the fragility of the concept of ‘enemy’, showing characters being systematically betrayed by those on their own side. Unlike Hollywood’s versions of the war, which inflate American valour in inverse proportion to America’s shrinking enthusiasm for personal risk, this year’s flood of war novels are aware that living through a war, as opposed to watching it from a distance of time or space, involves living with rumour, lies, ignorance and prejudice, and that dignity and righteousness are more to be pasted together afterwards than experienced at the time. It is for historians, biographers and screenwriters to write the bardic tales of military heroism which rocked the Sumerians’ world. For novelists, war is the bass line, not the melody.

‘The war is in fashion. There’s still money to be made,’ says Anna, one of the twins in Tessa de Loo’s book (they were separated as children, experienced the war on opposite sides, and met by chance as old women in present-day Spa). I don’t know whether de Loo meant to be ironic – her book has sold more than a million copies – but the success of The English Patient and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and the fascination with the war on the part of the human mint that is Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s ListSaving Private Ryan and soon Band of Brothers) must speak eloquently to publishers. In one direct sense at least, the Second World War is about money: it was the last war that materially affected the lives of all the inhabitants of the world’s richest and most powerful countries. It could be called the last G7 war (one of the reasons post-Soviet Russia has been so anxious to make up the numbers to G8 is that it sees the grouping as a club for old war players). It is not just that the rich world’s ancestors went off to fight, but that those who stayed behind were living in a state of war, too.


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