Self Condemned (Voyageur Classics)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Self Condemned, originally published in 1954, tells the story of Professor René Harding and his wife, Essie, as they find themselves in Momaco, a fictionalized version of Toronto, following René's resignation as an academic in London, England. Reduced to a position at the second-rate University of Momaco, René and Essie suffer through a bleak and oppressive isolation in a dreary and alien city.
The novel, a devastating, disturbing satire of life in wartime Canada, explores the difficulty individuals face as they struggle to adapt to new surroundings while preserving their sense of wholeness, as well as the bond that develops between people during a shared experience of isolation.
The Russian, Scandinavian, Finnish, Negro, and other groups are greatly inferior in numbers. Some enterprising slave-driver went to the Ukraine about forty or fifty years ago, and imported great numbers of Russians for agricultural peonage. All the railway stations of Eastern Canada were full for months of hairy men in sheepskin coats. Then at last they had all settled: and they too — unlike the Anglo-Saxons — are great ones for breeding. It would be impossible to understand a ROOM in a Canadian hotel without obtaining a clearer picture of Canada than that possessed by the average European.
And René, lifting his bearded face in the air, gave his ho-ho-ho laugh: and she echoed delightedly, in a higher register, his famous ho-ho-ho. Pauline turned to Hester, and another girl was now descending the steps. They were going to the ballet at Covent Garden, Hester was told: and then Pauline stood just below René, with her face in profile, presenting him, for a few moments, a heredity “Welwyn eye. ” Then she looked up, and enquired, “When am I coming to hear you lecture? They say you are a wonderful lecturer.
So a great experiment would have come to an end. The problems of consciousness had often preoccupied René: he thought of it as enlightenment, as a light unaccountably breaking in upon a darkness, and the mind born with this light modifying the creatures affected by it. In other words, men. He estimated that we were perhaps rather more than half-way across that, in geological terms, infinitely brief era of “enlightenment. ” Men, he felt, were less enlightened than they had been. — Slowly men awakened from the sleep of nature, or recovered from the madness of nature, as René preferred to say.
Being friendless, there was no temptation to leave their neighbourhood, and be depressed by the squalid monotony. Accordingly the rows of backyards, twelve feet beneath their windows, constituted their unchanging horizon. The walls of the penitentiary were the houses enclosing the backyards. Their Room was cell 27A. But they were blessed with an amusing and loquacious warder, in the person of the maid. How much land does a man require? The landowner Count Tolstoi asked that. It is one of the massive fundamental questions.
During a period of eighteen months Mr. Starr had been encountered mainly in bookshops, perhaps a half-dozen times. René had never admitted this anything but attractive little man behind his social defences. There was a certain event, coming at long last, which very slightly endeared Mr. Starr to him; but it was not until this December of the following year that he so far weakened that he had invited this queer little object to tea. It was with no delightful anticipation that Hester and René dragged themselves from their siesta a half-hour before the established time, to act as hosts.