Tag: pritchett

Pritchett, “The Corsican Inn” (1932)

the corsican inn v.s. pritchett

Corsica. (Jeffrey Barry)

Another story that has Pritchett in draft mode, a story that, like Updike’s Morocco but without the bigotry, is more of a travelogue’s meal, in the highlands of Corsica, than a story. An unruly man in an inn, the innkeeper’s glares, the exclamations, the tempers, that sort of thing. A bit stereotypical: Corsicans and their tempers. That Pritchett overwriting that you never see even in young William Trevor: “Everything seemed to stand in isolation as though there were no audible communication between one thing and another, not even a thin intermediary wind.” But I liked his imagery of mountains as cathedrals, if also overdone for a story, but not for a journalistic travel piece:

Now I was mounting not only from ridge to ridge, wondering how it was possible for mortal road to go higher, but from silence to silence too: just as, when one walks in a cathedral, dead anthems of deepening stillness seem to come down from the walls to numb body and mind. These mountains were like cathedrals. At first they had seemed tumultuous in their confusion: then, as the road disposed valley and massif on either side, the summits were established with the majesty of towers. There were naves and aisles of granite and a transept of fine magnitude appeared upon which gleamed windows of rain. There were buttresses of out-flying spurs, and round green hills were put at their feet like chapels. Then I entered the silence of a dark moonless night.

The passage in the first paragraph has no connection to the story that follows, its characters, its thin intermediary outbursts. “Everything seemed to stand in isolation.”

Pritchett, “Fishy” (1930)

pritchett fishy

(Peter Stevens)

Fishy all right. A weakling in a collection of weaklings, nothing but down from a promising opening paragraph: “He had not been near the place for thirteen years. All gone now, the boys. Kelly dead. His son dead. Denny, that waiter fellow dead too, he supposed. The good old days dead. Above all, credit dead, strangled by tightening purse-strings—and tightening heartstrings too, for that matter. That was the worst of all. Ireland had hardened. In the old days now, if you hadn’t the money in your pocket, sure any day would do.…” Then it’s all about the old days, booze and oysters in a haze of weak similes and metaphors in a dialogue at an Irish pub: “Heffernan winced in the alcoholic mist which hung over him like a cloud over a mountain, but the sight of those oysters gave him confidence.” There’s a theme of loss lost somewhere in there.

Pritchett, “Tragedy in a Greek Theatre” (1932)

The artist William Bantock in his cliffside studio in Sicily, constantly painting sketches of Mt. Etna or the Greek theater. After his death the narrator and landlord intrude on the studio. “It was as though the thoughts Old William had left there in his lifetime were still present; as though his breath were still there, vapid, thick on the amber air. I was depressed. I felt we had intruded on the scene of a suspected tragedy, the tragedy I had half sensed during his lifetime.” The narrator tells Bantock’s story. Bantock thought himself Greek. Puigi is the landlord, frustrated by Bantock, who arrived, turned his room into a pigsty and never left. Puigi sets him up in a cottage. Figures maybe he can make a mint from Bantock painting Etna for tourists. But it doesn’t work.

The story is generously overwritten—about the cliffs of Messina, the clanking of the train, the clock tower that “gestured over the hot black pauses not of time, but of eternity.” Pritchett is figuring out how to write before our eyes, his descriptions overenthused and ceaseless, “this straying, bleated eloquence“ he ascribes to Bantock. Beyond that, it just seems pointless, shallow, dull, neither character coming off the canvas.

[The image of Etna is by Marek Lenik]

The Spanish Virgin and Other Stories