Thursday, March 14, 2013

Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark

A murder committed in 1974 and a separate case of fraud involving fake stigmata were the true crime inspirations behind Muriel Spark's dark and funny novel, Aiding and Abetting. "Lucky," the 7th earl of Lucan, was convicted in absentia of killing his children's nanny in England. Twenty-five years later, a psychiatrist with a criminal past has two new patients -- and both claim to be the missing Lucan.

"The receptionist looked tinier than ever as she showed the tall, tall, Englishman into the studio of Dr Hildegard Wolf, the psychiatrist who had come from Bavaria, then Prague, Dresden, Avila, Marseilles, then London and now settled in Paris.

'I have come to consult you,' he said, 'because I have no peace of mind. Twenty-five years ago I sold my soul to the Devil.' The Englishman spoke in a very foreign French.

[...] 'I don't know how it struck you,' said Hildegard (Dr Wolf) to her patient. 'But to me, selling one's soul to the Devil involves murder. Anything less is not worthy of the designation. You can sell your soul to a number of agents, let's face it, but to the Devil there has to be a killing or so involved.' "

Spark's assured and compact style makes the outlandish plot work. As an added treat, the fabulous Davina Porter narrates the audiobook [Recorded Books: 4.5 hours].

Dame Muriel Spark has come up several times on my blog in the past few years, although I don't think I read any of her work before she died (in 2006). I might have a bit of a thing for Scottish authors.


Claire G said...

"a bit of a thing for Scottish authors"? Now there's a teasing final line. Care to elaborate? I could dip into your extensive archives, and I do sometimes, but it would be nice to read your reply.

Lindy said...

At first I thought I was only enamoured with lesbian Scottish authors - Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Ali Smith - but then I realized that other Scottish writers, like A L Kennedy, Kate Atkinson and Muriel Spark are on my list of favourites too. What are the similarities between them? I'm not sure. Intelligent wit, skillful use of everyday vocabulary to offer new insights, and an outsider's point of view. I wonder if the historical emphasis on education, the long tradition of Scottish poetry and the adjacency of a more politically-powerful nation have contributed to this?