A Landing on the Sun (Magill Book Reviews)
Brian Jessel, a loyal civil servant, is content with his monotonous job, which shelters him from much that is going on around him. In his job, he deals with such unexciting subjects as the Annual Assessment of Departmental Efficiency and the Treasury Overview Meeting. This routine is disturbed when Jessel is assigned to investigate the mysterious death-by-falling of another civil servant, Stephen Summerchild, fifteen years earlier. A television news station has reopened the investigation of the death, and the government fears a political scandal. There are rumors of Russian espionage and traded state secrets.
As Jessel investigates further, he discovers the involvement of Dr. Elizabeth Serafin, an Oxford philosophy professor originally from Russia, who was to serve with Summerchild on a Strategy Unit to study “the quality of life.” Summerchild and Serafin, both unhappily married and lonely, fell in love. Their meeting place was a garret in a downtown London British Ministry building. Jessel, investigating the circumstances of Summerchild’s death, discovers tape recordings, memos, and transcripts of their taped discussions. Proper civil servant that he is, Jessel is shocked at first when he discovers the passionate relationship between the two, but then he begins to envy them for the love they shared and to regret his own solitary existence. He does not reveal to anyone the nature of the relationship between Summerchild and Serafin and recommends...
(The entire section is 375 words.)
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A Landing on the Sun (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Michael Frayn was born on September 8, 1933, in London, England. He attended Kingston Grammar School until 1952. In 1952, he was conscripted into the Royal Army and sent to a Russian interpretership course at the University of Cambridge. He also studied in Moscow for several weeks. He was subsequently commissioned as an officer in the Intelligence Corps. His second novel, The Russian Interpreter (1966), was influenced by his experiences during this time. The familiarity of Frayn with Russia and the Russian language and people might have been a factor in his having Elizabeth Serafin, the heroine of A Landing on the Sun, come from Russia.
Discharged from the army in 1954, Frayn returned to Cambridge to study philosophy at Emmanuel College. The philosopher who dominated the way philosophy was taught at Cambridge was Ludwig Wittgenstein, a person having the greatest influence on Frayn and everything Frayn wrote. The work of this philosopher dealt with the nature and limits of language as a means of interpersonal communication and as a means of representing reality. The subject of the Frayn’s writing is often the way people impose their own ideas on the world around them. His characters generally see what they want to see or imagine they see rather than what actually exists.
While at Cambridge, Frayn wrote humorous articles for the school newspaper. After graduation from Cambridge in 1957, Frayn worked for The Manchester...
(The entire section is 1915 words.)