Self Condemned, which concerns the strange life of an English emigre in Canada, took Toronto off the map. The first part of the novel, which attempts to explain and justify Rene Harding’s reasons for leaving England in 1939, is emotionally but not intellectually convincing. Harding, whose rational premises are mistaken, deliberately drives himself to ruin. He moves blindly out of England without ever clearly explaining why he left and moves to Canada without any realistic sense of what he will find there. His Secret History of World War Two led The Times of London to call him “fascist-minded.” His most impressive intellectual quality is a power of analysis so penetrating that nothing can withstand its intense and ultimately destructive scrutiny. Perhaps the most forceful reason for abandoning his profession and his country is expressed in Harding’s confession: “Through looking too hard at the material I was working on, I saw the maggots in it, I saw the rottenness, the fatal flaws; had to stop earning my living that way.”
The Hardings refuse to sail on the Athenia and later hear that it has been torpedoed only one hundred miles from their own ship. War is announced as they are crossing the Atlantic; to avoid submarines, they zigzag to the north, bound for Greenland. They ultimately arrive in Momaco, Canada, a town devoid of all character and charm, a living death from which no speck of civilized life could ever come; it is a variant of Mimico, a suburb southwest of Toronto on Lake Ontario: “The place was the grave of a great career: the barren spot where you ceased to think, to teach, or to write, and just rotted away.” The timorous academics of the university in Momaco are anti-English and close their ranks against the renowned outsider. Harding is cut off from all money in England, has to buy copies of his own books from secondhand dealers, and becomes a columnist on the Momaco Gazette-Herald.
(The entire section is 808 words.)