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Old Filth

Jane Gardam's Old Filth is a book to love. The title perfectly demonstrates the impact that changed perspectives can have on our judgments of other people. To bear the name "Old Filth," as Sir Edward Feathers does, would seem to be shameful, but in the sometimes topsy-turvy manner of English exaltation, it is actually an honorific, or at any rate has become one by the time the book begins. It is, moreover, an invention of its bearer, a joke made by the protagonist in the prime of his life - the time of his life that we see very little of, perhaps because it's so easy to imagine and recreate. In his prime an important barrister who, for sound reasons, decided to relocate his practice to Hong Kong, Sir Edward slapped himself with an acronym: Failed In London, Try Hong Kong. There's an irony in the fact that Sir Edward hasn't failed in London at all (although this doesn't emerge until the end of the novel, and is easy to miss). There's mystery, too, because of the occlusion of Sir Edward's maturity; in the novel, he is either an ingenuous, vulnerable, but stout-hearted youth or an octogenarian legend. We don't see him become rich and famous. It is suggested that he owes his success to a lucky shipboard encounter followed by well-honed diligence. Business as usual. Asked to consider writing his memoirs, he demurs: "I've grown my image, Veneering. Took some doing. I'm not going to upset it now."

Continue reading about Old Filth at Portico.


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Jane Gardam is an astoundingly acute writer, not a word out of place.
I am very much enjoying "back-reading" your blog. I stumbled here by peculiar accident, yours was the first english language blog to come up when I googled 'fait divers'.


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