Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The desi roman a clef

“I read Glenarvon too, by Caro Lamb…/ Goddamn!” In 1816, when the Lady Caroline Lamb published her infamous roman à clef, Glenarvon, Lord Byron’s response summed up his dismay at discovering the history of their tempestuous romance preserved for posterity. Glenarvon, now barely read, went into multiple editions at the time; Caro Lamb was ostracized and condemned; Byron continued his devastating career despite the scandal.

The reviews were stern and moralistic (the British Critic lamented the sorry influence of the excesses of the wicked, depraved Continent-oh, those Italians!-upon staid, upright English society), and the sales were spectacular: in other words, Glenarvon surpassed the hopes that any publisher of a roman à clef may harbour.

Good fiction and good gossip have a lot in common-so does bad fiction. James Wood once dismissed John Updike’s suburban-America stories as so much “gossip in gilt”. The pleasure of the roman à clef lies in the drawing-room thrill of the guessing game, as has happened with Hindutva, Sex and Adventure (Roli Books), by ‘John MacLithon’.

Full report here Business Standard

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