Dirk Bogarde D.A.N. Jones - Essay

D.A.N. Jones

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The title [A Postillion Struck by Lightning] is rather dowdy, for a film-star's memoirs…. But this is a very different sort of book, deliberately avoiding humorous anecdotes and name-dropping. Dirk Bogarde has attempted to present certain episodes in his life as chapters in a poetic novel, and one often suspects that he has bent the facts towards fiction….

Look up the reference to Virginia Woolf [mentioned in the index] and you find she is the lonely, creepy lady who disturbed the boy Bogarde and his friends as they were fishing in a Sussex river: they rejected her friendly advances and wondered, after she had gone, why there were so many witches in Sussex. This seems the opposite of name-dropping. Bogarde wants the lonely woman as an image, for poetic purposes, and her name is unimportant, tucked casually into this odd index…. Perhaps, though, he is being craftily throwaway. He will introduce a friend of his youth, tell a story relevant to his narrative, and then slip in, so casually, the friend's famous name, Scofield or Ustinov….

The first part of the book is an evocation of summer childhood in Sussex. Bogarde is very fond of his childhood memories, and has attempted to re-create its atmosphere at his home in rural France. He refers to Christopher Robin and to the William books, aware that he is himself indulging in the artificially sweet-tempered sentiment of such books…. But his account of this idyllic life has its sour moments—the meanness and selfishness of children, their ruthless and wounding behaviour, as well as their charm and joy. The whole section is admirably balanced and convincing….

Selective as ever, he deals with his film career in one impressionistic chapter, one chosen "scene" … But the whole book is, indirectly, relevant to his acting career….

D.A.N. Jones, "Brief Encounters," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1977; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3915, March 25, 1977, p. 340.