Digging for the past
OBIAS Hill is a young and talented allrounder of contemporary English letters. His poetry — five volumes since 1995, mixing Japanese delicacy with darker materials — has met with public approval and critical laurels, and he was selected as one of the Poetry Book Society’s ‘‘ next generation poets’’ in 2004.
Between stanzas, Hill has produced short stories, essays, journalism and even moonlighted as a rock critic at British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph . But it is his fiction that has attracted most recent attention.
Hill’s first novel, Underground , won the Betty Trask prize in 1999. His third, The Cryptographer , inspired A. S. Byatt to call him one of the two or three most original and interesting younger novelists at work in Britain. In 2003, he made the Times Literary Supplement ’ s list of best young writers.
Like Sigmund Freud, who was fascinated by the study of antiquity and called himself an ‘‘ archeologist of the mind’’, Hill tries to get beneath the ordinary surface of things in his
Tfiction. His narratives are concerned with secrecy and revelation: in common with Freudian analysis, they work to uncover truths that are themselves concealed by other stories.
Underground , a thriller with gothic elements set in the netherworld of London’s abandoned Tube stations, took this spatial metaphor and made it concrete. In its pages, a Polish immigrant’s work on the city’s subterranean transport network leads him to those lower regions of the psyche where personal and national trauma lie interred.
The Hidden uses a kindred image — an archeological dig in present-day Greece, on the site of the ancient city-state of Sparta — to revisit the metaphor, this time in terms closer to the