HOW TO DIS­AP­PEAR: A Mem­oir For Mis­fits By Dun­can Fal­low­ell

DNA Magazine - - BOOK REVIEWS -

Dun­can Fal­low­ell is best known as a travel writer, but in this new book his trav­els merge into bi­og­ra­phy as he ex­plores the lives of var­i­ous in­di­vid­u­als who chose to ‘dis­ap­pear’. The most fas­ci­nat­ing piece in­ves­ti­gates Alas­tair Gra­ham, a one-time in­ti­mate of Eve­lyn Waugh, who was the ba­sis for the fa­mous char­ac­ter Sebastian Flyte (in Brideshead Re­vis­ited). By chance, in the late 1970s, Fal­low­ell en­coun­ters Gra­ham in a pub in New Quay. The con­ver­sa­tion drifts onto books and Eve­lyn Waugh, and Gra­ham makes the cu­ri­ous and tan­ta­lis­ing re­mark that Waugh wasn’t ‘well-en­dowed’. How­ever, it isn’t un­til months later that Fal­low­ell re­alises who he has en­coun­tered. When a friend starts di­rect­ing the Brideshead Re­vis­ited tele­vi­sion se­ries, Fal­low­ell takes a re­newed in­ter­est in Gra­ham and re­turns to New Quay, only to be fobbed off by the old man. Then, in 1983, Alas­tair Gra­ham dies, tak­ing his se­crets with him. Frus­trated but not de­feated, Fal­low­ell grad­u­ally un­cov­ers the enigma of this elu­sive man through re­search and a great deal of pes­ter­ing, some­thing he is very adept at! Other char­ac­ters Fal­low­ell be­comes cap­ti­vated by in­clude Bapsy Pavry, the Dowa­ger Mar­chioness Of Winch­ester, an ag­gres­sive and re­lent­less so­cial climber in colo­nial In­dia; and Maruma, a Ger­man artist, who buys the Scot­tish is­land of Eigg on a whim and ex­cites the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion into ex­pect­ing a trans­for­ma­tion of their com­mu­nity. The trans­for­ma­tion and also the promised visit by Maruma both fail to even­tu­ate. Fal­low­ell is a su­perb writer – witty, eru­dite, dogged in his pur­suit of his story – and this book is unique and ut­terly be­guil­ing. He il­lu­mi­nates the lives of some ob­scure but fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple and places with great charm and an in­di­vid­ual, in­formed voice. How To Dis­ap­pear won the 2012 PEN/Ack­er­ley Prize, an hon­our that is richly de­served.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.