All the Conspirators: A Novel

All the Conspirators: A Novel

All the Conspirators: A Novel

All the Conspirators: A Novel

Excerpt

A cormorant, startling them with its queer cry, broke Rapping from unseen rocks below and vanished into the empty gulf of light westward, like an absurd impulse of desperation, towards America.

It amuses me to regard the above sentence -- the last of the first chapter of this novel -- as an unconscious prophecy. Nearly twenty years ago, its author with his queer cry flapped his way across the Atlantic. His eldest book now belatedly follows him and comes to roost for the first time in America, beside some of its younger brothers on the friendly perch of New Directions.

I started writing All the Conspirators in the spring of 1926, when I was twenty-one years old. Two years later, after rejections and revisions, it was published in London by Jonathan Cape. If you should care to read about its origins I must refer you to my autobiography, Lions and Shadows.

Cyril Connolly, in his brilliant but too generous introduction to Cape's 1939 reissue of this novel in their Travellers' Library series, writes politely of its author's 'austere and conscientious assumption of a co-operative and intelligent reader'. If you flatter yourself that you are co-operative and intelligent, see what you can make of, for example, the first three and a half pages of the last chapter! I now detect a great deal of repressed aggression in this kind of obscurity. Young writers are apt to employ it as a secret language which is intelligible only to members of their group. Outsiders are thereby challenged to admit that they don't understand it or dared to pretend that they do -- to be unmasked in any case, sooner or later, as squares.

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