Although Lushington is the protagonist of Venusberg, the focus of its action, and the narrator of its plot developments, he is not as well-defined as one would expect. A mere part of a sentence is devoted to his physical appearance (he has “a pink and white face”), and the reader does not learn much more about his background: a brief mention of a professional family and the information that he has drifted into journalism constitute everything the reader knows about him. In the absence of more precise knowledge, the reader is forced to infer Lushington’s actual character from the little he does say about how he behaves and how other people relate to him.
Powell is sometimes excessively reticent about Lushington’s thoughts and emotions, to the point that it is difficult to empathize with him. When Lushington observes the actions of others, the narration is detailed, objective, and clear. When, however, his own behavior takes center stage, the absence of internal motivation and psychological data distances the reader from him. Although appropriate for overtly political and philosophical works, such as the plays of Bertolt Brecht, in a novel about an individual’s interaction with society this distance between reader and protagonist is unnecessary.
If Lushington remains a rather shadowy figure, several of Venusberg’s other characters do make strong impressions. Ortrud Mavrin is an intriguing combination of the frankly...
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