Enid Bagnold The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The devastated areas would strike most people as a singularly unpromising scene in which to place an idyll, yet Miss Enid Bagnold has performed this feat with striking success [in "The Happy Foreigner"]. The very incongruity between the little human romance and gloomy, uncomfortable reality in which it is enshrined is pleasing; and one is not sure whether one admires more the author's skill in keeping the love passage—which is the idyll—light, delicate, and fleeting, though poignant, or the descriptive power and poetic feeling with which the ruins left by war and the workers engaged on clearing them up are represented.

On the whole, we should give our vote for the descriptive power, which never flags….

Miss Bagnold seems to see [the postwar action] with a personal detachment which blends with an intense sympathy for others: for the French who starve their prisoners, as they starve themselves, but will not shoot them: for the Americans who are generous with food and ruthless with rifles: for a Scotsman left with pale Chinamen to tidy a vast cemetery: for conquered Germans, and for all suffering and all courage…. If Miss Bagnold is rather irritatingly fascinated by the fragmentary style, for which we have to thank Miss Dorothy Richardson, her power of getting to the heart of things carries her through. She has a splendid equipment for a novelist.

"New Novels: 'The Happy Foreigner'," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1920: reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 963, July 1, 1920, p. 422.