Thursday, 17 July 2008
Browsing in Oxfam just now, I picked up a volume of essays by V.S. Pritchett, The Myth Makers - short pieces about various Russian, European and South American writers, published in 1979. The fact that this was priced at £2.99 - first edition in dust wrappers - shows clearly enough that Pritchett is not exactly collected. Nor, I imagine, is he much read - which is a great pity, as he was a very good writer, with a sharp eye and mind, a sense of humour and (which probably did for his reputation) the common touch. He's immensely readable - try his memoirs, if you haven't - and his work is pitched at that species now deemed extinct, the 'common reader'. So are the short essays in The Myth Makers. I made straight for the essay on the Portuguese writer Eca de Queiroz, a bit of a favourite of mine. It's barely seven pages long, considers only one of his novels (and not the best) - but it captures the spirit of the man and his writings (and the essence of the Portuguese character) perfectly, and would surely leave the 'common reader' eager to read more of this unique writer. What more could you ask? And where would you find such a brief, illluminating essay (or, come to that, biograpy) today? Incidentally, it's good to know that he's the grandfather of the funniest topical cartoonist in the country (by miles) - Matt.