David Lodge

David Lodge is a professor of English at the University of Birmingham and the author of several novels. He visited Poland in November last year, on the eve of the military take-over. The record of his visit has not been revised in the light of what happened later. He sees it as having acquired since then some unintended ironies, and, for himself, considerable poignancy. Publishing it now is meant as ‘a small gesture of sympathy and concern’.

Poem: ‘A Martian goes to College’

David Lodge, 6 December 1984

(with apologies to Craig Raine)

Caxtons are bred in batteries. If you take one from its perch, a girl

Must stun it with her fist before you bring it home.

Learning is when you watch a conjurer with fifty minutes’ patter and no tricks.

Students are dissidents: knowing their rooms are bugged, they

Take care never to talk Except against the blare of music.

Questioned in groups, they hold...

Dam and Blast

David Lodge, 21 October 1982

The Dam Busters, shown on BBC Television one Sunday afternoon recently, must be the perfect war film for people like myself who don’t really approve of war, or of the military mystique of competitive valour and unquestioning obedience to authority, or of the exploitation of these things for purposes of entertainment, but nevertheless go weak at the knees at the image of a flakscarred Lancaster bomber coming in to land on a dandelion-strewn airfield at dawn somewhere in East Anglia in 1943.

The LOT plane is late leaving Heathrow because of baggage-loading problems. ‘You will understand,’ says the ground hostess, apologising for the delay, ‘that we are carrying a great deal of baggage to Poland these days.’ The passengers waiting at Gate 11 smile wryly at each other. Their hand luggage is bursting with goods difficult or impossible to obtain in Poland these days. The British Council has thoughtfully supplied us (British scholars bound for a conference on English literature organised by the University of Warsaw) with a list: soap, shampoo, washing powder, chocolate, sweets, batteries, notepaper, toilet paper, coffee, sugar … Most of us will spend the next few days trying to find ways of slipping these goodies to our Polish hosts without giving offence.

A Catholic Novel

David Lodge, 4 June 1981

In late August 1964, at the age of 29, I embarked at Southampton on the Queen Mary, 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 The British Museum is failing down and had it accepted.

What there is to tell

David Lodge, 6 November 1980

For most of his professional life, Graham Greene might have been described as the Greta Garbo of modern English letters. He preferred to be alone. A wartime Penguin edition of England made me in my possession records on the back cover that ‘he … has always lived a quiet life and shunned literary circles.’ Widely regarded as, in Hugh Walpole’s words (quoted on the same cover), ‘the finest English novelist of his generation’, he avoided the public exposure that usually accompanies such exalted cultural status. He seldom gave interviews to journalists, and was, indeed, seldom to be found by them. He travelled widely and eventually settled in France. On the rare occasions when he agreed to discuss his work on television, he would allow his voice to be heard, but not his face to be seen. His behaviour, in short, manifested an almost fanatical desire to protect his privacy and to preserve his ‘cover’, like one of his own fictitious secret agents, as he moved restlessly about the globe.

Story: ‘My First Job’

David Lodge, 4 September 1980

You don’t have to be Protestant to have the Protestant Ethic, I tell my students, when we come to Weber in my survey course on Sociological Grand Theory. Look at me, I say; Jewish father, Catholic mother – and I develop an allergic rash at the mere mention of the word ‘holiday’, with all its connotations of reckless expenditure of time and money. Accumulate, accumulate! – that’s my motto, whether it’s publications, index cards, or those flimsier bits of paper that promise to pay the bearer so many pounds if he presents them to the Bank of England. Work! Strive! Excel! For the job’s own sake! My students, lolling in their seats, mentally preoccupied with the problem of how to draw the dole and hitchhike to Greece this summer, grin tolerantly and unbelievingly at me through their beards and fringes. Sometimes, to try and make them understand, I tell them the story of my first job.


Prussian Blues

17 October 1996

As Glenn Wood observes (Letters, 12 December 1996), the fictional University of Rummidge in my novel, Changing Places (1975), has a Paternoster lift in its new Arts Faculty building. It is an object of fascination to the visiting American professor, Morris Zapp, and excites in him thoughts and feelings similar, it would seem, to those described in Grass’s novel, and in Heinrich Böll’s...

Anger and Dismay

19 July 1984

SIR: For God’s sake! What is so terrible about invoking the Russian Formalists’ distinction between fabula and sjuzet that it should provoke the usually articulate Denis Donoghue to such an ejaculation (LRB, 19 July)? Since he prefers an alternative spelling of sjuzet, I presume that the terms are familiar to him, and indeed it would be surprising if they were not, since they have been...


7 June 1984

SIR: Marilyn Butler is wrong about Kingsley Amis’s Stanley and the Women (I say nothing about the rest of her review: LRB, 7 June). She claims that this novel is not, as advertised and widely received, a work of blackly misogynist import, but an ‘enlightened’, ‘decent’ and ‘compassionate’ critique of gender stereotyping and, in the portrayal of its central...

Faculty at War

4 March 1982

SIR: Reviewing Re-Reading English, Tom Paulin describes its contributors as ‘frustrated sociologists who believe that sonnets and beer mats ought to be treated on an equal footing and examined as interesting “cultural artefacts" (this stupidly philistine term is favoured by David Lodge and other members of the new critical generation).’ ‘Cultural artefacts’ seems to me...

A Polish Notebook

4 February 1982

David Lodge writes: I would not wish to exonerate the Church in Poland from some responsibility for the tradition of anti-semitism in that country, but there is plenty of evidence that recent manifestations of anti-semitism – in 1968, and during the period of Solidarity’s success – were deliberately generated from within the Party for political purposes (see, for example, Neal Ascherson’s...

Not cricket

4 June 1981

SIR: Alan Hurst (Letters, 20 August) thinks it isn’t quite cricket to publish critical commentary upon one’s own novels. Perhaps he missed, or misread, your editorial note which explained that the article to which he objects, ‘A Catholic Novel’ (LRB, 4 June), was written as an introduction to a reissue, by Secker in July of this year, of my novel The British Museum is falling...

Whisky out of Teacups: David Lodge

Stefan Collini, 19 February 2015

In​ the preface to The Ambassadors written for the New York Edition of 1909, Henry James insisted that although the conception of the novel required that the unfolding action be in some sense...

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Big Head, Many Brains: H.G. Wells

Colin Burrow, 16 June 2011

In 1892, while H.G. Wells was transforming himself from a draper’s assistant to a student of science, he married his cousin Isabel. He ungallantly described her in his Experiment in...

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Decrepit Lit: David Lodge

Lorna Scott Fox, 8 May 2008

Thirty years ago, the campus novels of David Lodge and Malcolm Bradbury mythologised a setting that expressed, better than any other, the cultural and ideological chaos of the 1960s and 1970s....

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Living as Little as Possible: Lodge’s James

Terry Eagleton, 23 September 2004

Since the Modernist revolution, writing has been seen as an intensely private activity, a view which might have come as something of a surprise to Chaucer or Pope. For liberals such as Henry...

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Graham Coster, 12 September 1991

Had the Pentagon, back in the late Sixties, accepted Boeing’s tender for a massive new cargo aircraft for the United States Air Force, David Lodge would not have been able to write Paradise...

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Let’s get the hell out of here

Patrick Parrinder, 29 September 1988

Here, in these three novels, are three representations of the state of the art. In The Satanic Verses the narrator, who may or may not be the Devil, confides that ‘what follows is tragedy....

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Denis Donoghue, 6 November 1986

This is a gathering of David Lodge’s easy pieces: they are footnotes, shouldernotes and headnotes to the formal work in fiction and literary criticism he has published in the past twenty...

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Jogging in the woods at Bellagio

Frank Kermode, 19 April 1984

Small World is in the author’s words ‘a kind of sequel’ to Changing Places, published nine years ago. The place-changers, Zapp and Swallow, are again central characters; the...

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Structuralism Domesticated

Frank Kermode, 20 August 1981

This is a collection of essays by one of our best literary critics, in fact exactly the kind of thing one would expect from him; it simply continues the good work in the manner of his last two...

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A week or two ago I reviewed a novel about rock-climbers. A very absorbing tale it was too, but specialised; and one was bound to say that to a reader wholly without interest in the technicalities...

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