Ward (Pseudonym of Reimond Karel Maria de Belser) Ruyslinck Roger Garfitt - Essay

Roger Garfitt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The subtlety of Golden Ophelia … lies in its creating a picture of a 1984-like society that comes suspiciously to resemble the present…. The moral seems to be that it isn't only totalitarian regimes which reduce human values: they can reduce themselves quite informally, under conditions of material affluence….

[The novel at first appears to be] a satirical parable from which the English reader, spared the experience of a totalitarian regime or an enemy occupation, can feel safely detached: but personal as well as social morality is at issue. Golden Ophelia is both a rose and [the protagonist's] name for the country girl who grew it and with whom he falls in love. To reveal the ending would be unfair: the shock is not that the worm should have found out the rose's bed of joy but that the rose should have been expecting him. What harrows the reader is to hear in the voice of Ophelia the tones of a moral vulgarity that he recognizes as in some measure his own, for he has foreseen her fall and Stefan [the protagonist] has not. Masterly in the development of its imagery and in the ironic echoing of phrases of dialogue, Golden Ophelia is a novel of great economy that ends in a controlled explosion.

Roger Garfitt, "Breaking Curfew," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3834, September 5, 1975, p. 998.