Hugh (John Blagdon) Hood The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[You Can't Get There From Here] is the story of Leofrica, an "emergent" African nation, living at or below subsistence level. There are two tribes, Ugetis and Pineals (isn't the pineal a gland?), the UN, the USSR, the USA, a giant corporation called INTERFOODS, agents, double agents, tribal myths, trained scuba divers, two currencies (nuts and UN Scrip). The local girls use an oil pipeline for ritual masturbation, believing it to be a snake god. There is intrigue, and counter-intrigue. The descriptive prose and the dialogue are both good, and include humour of an ironical kind—for this is basically a nightmare, where a tribal civil war is artificially provoked by powerful outside interests (Albania/China). The storyline is strong, though concerned mainly with politics and finance and sometimes a bit confusing: there are almost too many agents. But the novel is both exciting and intelligent … and contains very little of the spy-story cliché. It is written with none of the snideness with which some novelists write about Africans, and seems very much the work of somebody who knows and understands Africa. Furthermore, as a kind of parable, it has a lot of relevance to the situation there today.

"Nightmare Parable," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1973; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3708, March 30, 1973, p. 340.