Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe

When there's room for one, there's room for two. W.H. Auden will share a bed in this gentle blog with fellow british writer Alan Sillitoe. As Auden was homosexual, that's an idea he probably wouldn't find too hard to accept.

Working all day at a lathe leaves Arthur Seaton with energy to spare in the evenings. A hard-drinking, hard-fighting young rebel of a man, he knows what he wants and he's sharp enough to get it. And before long, his carryings-on with a couple of married women are part of local gossip. But then one evening he meets a young girl in a pub, and Arthur's life begins to look less simple.

Here is the last paragraph of Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, a classic novel of the 1950's, as well as a testimony of English self-consciousness at its best.

"And trouble for me it will be, fighting every day until I die. Why do they make soldiers out of us when we're fighting up to the hilt as it is? Fighting with mothers and wives, landlords and gaffers, coppers, army, government. If it's not one thing it's another, apart from the work we have to do and the way we spend our wages. There's bound to be trouble in store for me every day of my life, because trouble it's always been and always will be.

Born drunk and married blind, misbegotten into a strange and crazy world, dragged-up through the dole and into the war with a gas-mask on your clock, and the sirens rattling into you every night while you rot with scabies in an air-raid shelter. Slung into khaki at eighteen, and when they let you out, you sweat again in a factory, grabbing for an extra pint, doing women at the week-end and getting to know whose husbands are on the nightshift, working with rotten guts and a aching spine, and nothing for it but money to drag you back there every Monday morning.

Well, it's a good life and a good world, all said and done, if you don't weaken, and if you know that the big wide world hasn't heard from you yet, no, not by a long way, though it won't be long now."

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