Mervyn Jones Paul Ableman - Essay

Paul Ableman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The struggle referred to in [Today the Struggle] is, broadly speaking, the struggle to enlarge, or even merely to preserve, political decency in a world perpetually besieged by barbarism. The actual struggle fought out in its pages is to use the classical resources of the novel to examine what Mr Jones takes to be key episodes in recent history. I don't think he succeeds. Nor do I think anyone else could. It is not a matter of talent, or vision, or research, or noble intentions. It is simply that the dynamics of our scientific-technological culture can no longer be exposed by exploring the interaction of fictitious individuals….

Today the Struggle certainly tries. It is an ambitious work of five hundred tightly-packed pages and is divided into three main sections. These concern the Spanish Civil War, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and what, lacking an official title, one might designate the Present Struggle for Economic Survival. Marginal treatment is accorded other contemporary campaigns, the women's movement, black liberation etc. In Mr Jones's view, these are, of course, all facets of the same, unending struggle. His book concludes with a reminiscence of a brave lady called Marie Durand who, at the time of the Huguenot persecutions in France, spent forty years in a cell rather than renege her faith. In that cell one can still read the inscription: résister.

And most of Mr Jones's characters, throughout most of the book, are honourably engaged in resisting…. The trouble is that they are not free simply to resist and fade into history. Their fictional life must endure the length of the book. Thus while a few of them perish the rest get caught up in the most...

(The entire section is 711 words.)