David Lodge (n. 1935
The British Museum Is Falling Down – 1965 - O Museu Britânico ainda vem abaixo - Edições Asa, 2007
How Far Can You Go? (edição Americana: Souls and Bodies) — 1980 - Até onde se pode ir - Edições Asa, 2006
David Lodge, um académico inglês que publicou dezenas de livros, fará 80 anos no próximo dia 28 de Janeiro de 2015.
Estes dois livros são completamente diferentes um do outro mas focam o mesmo tema: as dificuldades que encontram os jovens casais que são estritamente católicos e querem respeitar as regras da Igreja sobre o controle da natalidade. Ficam assim sujeitos à “roleta Vaticana”, a extrema falibilidade dos métodos permitidos pela Igreja Católica: o do “ritmo” e o das “temperaturas”. Mais vale estar quietos e deixar vir os filhos, se tiverem possibilidades materiais para os criarem.
O primeiro livro (atenção às datas da publicação), porém, é um texto cómico com uma acentuada base literária. O segundo é um livro mais realista pois descreve em detalhe os tormentos dos jovens casais e as suas relações com a Igreja e a sua hierarquia. Neste último, entra já em jogo a doutrina da encíclica “Humanae Vitae”, publicada em 25 de Julho de 1968, que retirou toda a esperança de ver aceites pelo Vaticano a pílula, o preservativo e quaisquer outros meios anti-concepcionais.
Foram ambos traduzidos para Português.
O primeiro livro está escrito em estilo de paródia e inclui mesmo uma dezena de pastiches nem sempre facilmente identificáveis. O livro só se tornou compreensível (até para a crítica inglesa), quando em 1980 o Autor lhe juntou um interessante posfácio que o explica. A edição americana, porém, já incluíra notas, identificando esses pastiches. O título do livro é uma referência erótico-irónica, já que se está a falar de sexo; o título português ignorou esse sentido: “O Museu Britânico ainda vem abaixo”. A história do título é interessante. O Autor queria “The British Museum had lost its charm”, da canção de Ira Gershwin:
A foggy day in London Town,
Had me low, had me down,
I viewed the morning with alarm,
The British Museum had lost its charm.
O detentores dos direitos de autor das obras de Gershwin não autorizaram. Um amigo dele, Tim O’Keeffe sugeriu então o título inspirado na canção de embalar “London Bridge is falling down”.
O livro tem algumas tiradas muito interessantes. Por exemplo, esta: “Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way round”.
O segundo livro é mais concreto mas eu diria que é algo massudo por ser muito detalhado.
Na discussão da questão do uso dos contraceptivos pelos católicos, acho que ambos os livros estão desactualizados. Não que a doutrina da Igreja tenha mudado, pois continua com a mesma rigidez. Mas até os estritamente católicos tiveram de lhe dar a volta e procurar soluções alternativas, se não têm possibilidades materiais de encher a casa de crianças.
Seria interessante uma investigação actual sobre o assunto. Acho provável que alguns confessores tenham autorizado os penitentes a utilizar a pílula e/ou o preservativo. Outros casais, respeitando embora a proibição destes, terão enveredado por métodos que lhes parecem menos ofensivos da doutrina católica (mas são-no na mesma) como o coitus interruptus, e o sexo anal ou sem penetração.
David Lodge – The British Museum is falling down
AFTERWORD – November 1980
In late August 1964, at the age of 29, I embarked at Southampton on the , bound for New York with my wife Mary, our two children, five suitcases and the first chapter of what I hoped would be my third published novel. I was beginning a year’s leave of absence from my post as lecturer in English Literature at the University of Birmingham to take up a Harkness Commonwealth Fellowship in America. This marvellous foundation allows the lucky recipients of its Fellowships to pursue their own programmes of study wherever they like in the United States, requiring them only to spend at least three months travelling, and providing them with a hired car in which to do so. We settled first at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, where I studied American Literature; before we set off, in March 1965, in our brand new Chevrolet Bel Air, on the long, leisurely journey westward that would eventually take us to San Francisco. I had finished and had it accepted.
This is easily the shortest period of time in which I have ever succeeded in writing a novel. My freedom from teaching duties, combined with the generally stimulating and liberating effect of the American experience, was one obvious reason for this. But another reason for the relative rapidity of composition was my conviction that I had lighted upon a subject of considerable topical interest and concern, especially (but not exclusively) to Roman Catholics, and one that had not been treated substantively by any other novelist as far as I was aware – certainly not in the comic mode in which I proposed to treat it. That subject was the effect of the Catholic Church’s teaching about birth control on the lives of married Catholics, and the questioning of that teaching which had very recently begun within the Church itself. I wanted to get my novel out while the subject was still a live issue, and before any other writer cottoned on to its possibilities.
I need not have worried on the first score: Rome did not attempt to settle the matter until 1968, and Pope Paul VI’s encyclical of that year, , endorsing the traditional prohibition of artificial birth control, succeeded only in provoking a much more fundamental debate, which continues to this day, about authority and conscience as well as sexuality. Since I have treated this subject in the course of a more recent novel, (1980), as part of a longer, wider look at changes and developments in Catholicism over the last quarter of a century, I would like to remind readers of the reissue of that it was first published in 1965, some three years before . The relationship between the two novels, and the differences between them, can hardly be understood without bearing this in mind.
Adam and Barbara Appleby are not portraits of myself and my wife, and the circumstances of our married life never, I am glad to say, corresponded very closely to theirs. Nevertheless, it would be idle to pretend that I would have thought of writing the novel if we had not, in the early years of our married life, found (like most of our married Catholic friends) that the only method of family planning sanctioned by the Church, known as ‘Rhythm’ or the ‘Safe Method’, was in practice neither rhythmical nor safe, and, therefore, a cause of considerable stress. In ? a number of the characters, gathered in a pub, ask themselves why they ‘persevered for so many years with that frustrating, inconvenient, ineffective, anxiety-and-tension-creating regime’, and come up with a variety of answers: 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 ? 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 , 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.
September 18, 2010
In the week of the Pope's visit, DJ Taylor reflects on the tradition of the 'Catholic novel', from moralistic Victorian tracts, to Waugh, Greene and Spark, and contemporary writers David Lodge and Hilary Mantel
As the nation's 5.5 million Catholics braced themselves (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, last week's Tablet offered a hot 100 of the lay-people who "put Catholicism at the heart of public life". Politicians and philanthropists abounded, but there was also a gratifyingly large contingent of writers – at least 10, if you count the various ramifications of the Pakenham family – ranging from last year's Booker winner, Hilary Mantel, to the recent convert Paul Bailey. Naturally, some distinctions need to be made. Hardly anyone here could properly be described as a "Catholic novelist": the majority were simply Catholics who had written novels, or, like Mark Lawson, noted that much of what they wrote had been shaped by a religious education. All the same, the presence on the list of writers as varied in their tastes and affiliations as David Lodge, Rachel Cusk and Julian Fellowes suggests that the Catholic tradition in English letters is alive and kicking.
Why should the entity known as the "Catholic novel" occupy such an outsize space in domestic literary life? It is not enough to suggest, as George Orwell once put it, that the conflict between this world and the next is a fruitful theme that the ordinary unbelieving writer can't make use of. Rather, it derives from Catholicism's status as a minority and occasionally a pariah religion, keen on a kind of proselytising that the Anglican church rarely likes to engage in. The earliest "Catholic novels", born out of the mid-19th-century Tractarian movement, tend to be straightforward toeings of the party line: Newman's Loss and Gain(1848), for example, written shortly after his departure to Rome, orCallista (1855), a defiantly propagandist work set in third-century Greece in which a beautiful Christian sculptress is tortured on the rack, dies for her faith, but has a portion of her remains spirited away for use as a holy relic.
Inevitably, to a modern, secular audience the dilemmas of the Victorian Catholic novel can seem faintly ridiculous. Mrs Humphry Ward's Helbeck of Bannisdale (1898), for instance, set amid the Westmorland fells, features a Catholic hardliner who falls in love with his sister's lissom step-daughter. Unable to accept the remorselessness of his doctrines, she drowns herself; the grieving suitor turns Jesuit. And yet the tensions of Victorian Catholicism were conspicuously present in Ward's own life (her father was a convert). Helbeck's real achievement, consequently, is to demonstrate, even to those who don't believe in God, how serious and important a business it is if you do. No doubt any religious novelist faces this problem – the absolute necessity of opening up the exclusive private club to which you belong to the non-members who don't wear its tail-coats or drink its claret. On the other hand, with Catholicism a whole range of other factors – social, historical, sometimes narrowly aesthetic – combine to give the books that advertise it a very distinctive flavour.
Not that this flavour is always easy to swallow. The high-water mark of the propagandist-tract novel, it might be argued, comes in the work of RH Benson, a son of the Archbishop of Canterbury who "went over" in 1903, and whose The Conventionalists (1908) may perhaps be taken as representative. Algy Banister is the diffident and spiritually troubled second son of a wealthy country gentleman whose heir dies unexpectedly of a burst appendix. Moved by the (Protestant) rituals of his brother's deathbed, Algy decides to convert to Catholicism, retire from the world and become a Carthusian monk. All this is gamely facilitated, in the teeth of familial opposition, by a gang of resourceful Catholic apologists – the author appears as "Father Benson", smoking endless meditative cigarettes and offering sage advice – and Banister senior is eventually appeased by his son's decision to forgo his inheritance. A younger brother takes over, and our last glimpse of Algy is a late-night vision of him "entering the great church with his lantern . . . rising from his first sleep for his two or three hours' prayer."
The distinguishing mark of Benson's work, as with his more talented colleagues GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, is his absolute sincerity. His subject is the working out of divine providence, however problematic divine providence might become when introduced to an art form that generally relies for its effects on realism and irony. But the religion of the Catholic novel of the post-first world war era rarely comes undiluted. Belloc and Chesterton, the period's most vociferous partisans (see the abuse flung at "Father Hilaire Chestnut's latest book of RC propaganda" by Gordon Comstock in Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying), were inextricably caught up in the ideological battles of the 20s and 30s, battles in which Catholicism often seemed to be merely a side-issue. Meanwhile, another strain of distinctively Catholic writing had crept in more or less by the back door – the chasuble-fingering, clerical-naughtiness strain exemplified by Ronald Firbank's Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli (1926), whose hero – all too prophetically, alas – drops dead of heart failure while chasing a roguish choirboy around the altar.
Unsurprisingly, the real impetus to the Catholic novel's mid-century rise was provided by converts: Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and, slightly later, Muriel Spark. The delight which Catholic intellectuals took in their success is nicely captured by a scene in David Lodge's How Far Can You Go? (1980) in which a bookish teenager proudly informs his friend that "it says in the Observer that they [Waugh and Greene] are the two best English novelists going, so that's one in the eye for the prods". But even Catholics found some of the complaints levelled at Waugh and Greene by their contemporary critics difficult to ignore. Even to certain believers, Waugh's Catholicism was a symptom of his pursuit of "smartness", that zealous romanticising of upper-class English life in which Brideshead Revisited (1945) positively revels. Orwell's quarrel with Greene turned on the idea that the situations in which his characters found themselves were psychologically implausible. Scobie, in The Heart of the Matter, is, according to Orwell, incredible
because the two halves of him do not fit together. If he were capable of getting into the kind of mess that is described, he would have got into it years earlier. If he really felt that adultery is mortal sin, he would stop committing it . . . If he believed in Hell, he would not risk going there merely to spare the feelings of a couple of neurotic women.
But what exactly was being fought over here? Both Greene and Waugh believed that their characters' religious sensibilities gave them a dimension that most people in novels no longer possessed. As Greene himself put it in his essay on François Mauriac (1961): "With the death of James the religious sense was lost to the English novel, and with the religious sense went the sense of the importance of the human act . . . the characters of such distinguished writers as Mrs Virginia Woolf and Mr EM Forster wandered like cardboard symbols through a world that was paper thin." Later generations of Catholic novelists, it might be said, still had a sense of the importance of the human act, but they were much less interested in "belief" as a thing in itself. Benson's characters were exercised by the problem of who God is, what he expects from us and how we should deal with those expectations. His successors divide into two: a largeish group of writers who are fascinated by the social and emotional consequences of being, or having been, a Catholic, and an infinitely smaller group still beguiled by the individual relationships that it is possible to achieve with one's creator.
The characters in Lodge's brilliantly funny The British Museum Is Falling Down (1965) – about a Catholic couple's desperate efforts not to have another child – or the much more austere How Far Can You Go? are less interested in their dealings with God than in the sheer practical difficulties of living their lives as Catholics. For an old-style examination of the consequences of "belief" it is necessary to turn to novels such as Piers Paul Read's The Upstart (1973), a nasty little parable of the class war whose vengeful hero redeems himself by strolling into a confessional, or John Broderick's The Pilgrimage (1961), the story of a disabled man with an adulterous wife, whose final sentence – "In this way they set off on their pilgrimage from which a week later Michael came back completely cured" – is the least ironic in the book.
For all the brio of the writing, Read's novels are pattern examples of the procedural difficulties an old-style Catholic novelist experiences when operating in his chosen form. The Upstart, for example, with its agonisings over what to wear at hunt balls and the misery of being snubbed by the grand family in the big house next door, begins life as a work of scrupulous realism, only to change aesthetic tack from the moment Hilary Fletcher walks into the confession box. To go back to Orwell on Greene, there is no point in the critic complaining that nothing in Fletcher's previous life has hinted at the possibility of this transformation. Read would simply reply that God works in mysterious ways, that there is no accounting for the effect of divine intervention on the individual will. From the angle of religious belief, this is simply the numinous in action. From the angle of the novel, on the other hand, it is a kind of having your cake and eating it too, a failure to harmonise two very different aesthetic approaches into an imaginative whole.
Read's latest novel, The Misogynist, goes some way towards solving this dilemma. Jomier, its 60-something ex-barrister hero, is a resentful solitary, whose wife has run off with a richer man and whose high-flying son thinks him a failure. Only his much-loved daughter Louisa, now married and living in Argentina, offers the kind of human relationship he craves. The twitch upon the spiritual thread – to borrow the title of one of Chesterton's Father Brown stories, itself borrowed by Waugh inBrideshead – comes during a Christmas trip to Venice when Jomier and the girlfriend he can't bring himself to marry attend midnight mass at St Mark's. Brought news that Louisa is dangerously ill, Jomier does a deal with God: her life for his repentance. She survives, only for Jomier to discover that she is not his daughter, a fact that, in the one genuinely selfless act of his career, he charitably conceals from the culprit.
Orwell thought that Brideshead Revisited's plausibility lay in the fact that its situation was "a normal one" in which "the characters bump against problems they would meet with in real life: they do not suddenly move on to a different intellectual plane as soon as their religious beliefs are involved". Jomier – niggling, tight-fisted, spending hours over his spreadsheets in an effort to apportion the expenses of the Venice trip – is exactly the kind of person to try to strike a deal with God, exactly the kind of person, too, to believe that his side of the bargain ought to be fulfilled. We believe in him as a moral agent, even if we have our doubts about the belief that is the novel's philosophical core. The same could be said of Jonathan Tulloch's Give Us This Day (2005), whose port chaplain hero Father Tom merely develops, during the course of the novel, into the person he was meant to be – something that might be regarded as the first duty of every novelist, Catholic, non-Catholic or somewhere in-between.
Lucia Opreanu, The British Museum is Falling Down: the Roots of David Lodge’s Academic Echo-Land- Ovidius University Constanţa, Romania
Veronika Šaurová, Comic features in some of David Lodge's novels - Masaryk University in Brno, Faculty of Arts, Czech Republic
Ruth Margaret Anne Baldwin, The University of British Columbia, May 1999, Redeeming flesh: Portrayals of women and sexuality in the work of four contemporary novelists