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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Nice Work - David Lodge "I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed".
- Robert Louis Stevenson - My Shadow.

"O'er grassy dale, and lowland scene
Come see, come hear, the English Scheme.
The lower-class, want brass, bad chests, scrounge fags.
The clever ones tend to emigrate"
- The Fall - English Scheme.

"Shadowing: that which follows or attends a person or thing like a shadow; an inseparable companion; hence, an obsequious follower.
- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913.

Thanks to the brilliant verses of Mr Stevenson and Mr Smith and to the didactical contextualizazion given by a preeminent dictionary, I can start my own little dissertation on "Nice Work".

In the very first day of my current English job I was given a training paper scheduling my daily activities. Between 3 and 4 pm I had "shadowing". Being pretty much unaware of the essential jargon and subtleties of the British labour market I posed my first question:
"What am I supposed to do?"

The same concept of "shadowing" was reminiscent of "shadow government" to me. I was told that I did not have to play the opposition Prime Minister for a single hour, but to shadow one of my more experienced colleagues in his daily activities, watching him in order to get the basics of my future tasks. It was fine. I knew something new.

The two main characters of "Nice Work" perform a "Shadow Scheme".
Despite of being the shadow of each other Robyn Penrose and Vic Wilcox do not have that much in common. Well, actually they do not have anything in common.

Sure, they live in the same industrial town of Rummidge and drive to and from their jobplace any given day. But these jobplaces couldn't be more different than they are.
Robyn parks her little crappy Renault under a lemon tree in the campus of Rummidge University. Vic leaves his rumbling patriotic Jaguar in a parking lot facing a foundry.

From that moment on, Robyn is wrapped up in tutorials and lectures involving feminist studies and industrial novels (think about Dickens). Vic ventures himself in meetings and discussions revolving around the rationalization of Pringle's (no crisps, but cylinder heads).

While Robyn lives alone and has a kind of open relationship with a former Cambridge colleague, Vic is unhappily married with a plain woman and has a family and a house with four loos to take care of.
And so on.

Robyn and Vic join two different clubs. Two clubs whose members pretend to ignore the existence of anything else out of their own secluded world. Two clubs named University and Industry.
We are in the 1980s. Lady Thatcher rules. Both clubs have to cope with lack of money due to the national recession. Whereas Robyn is trying to save her chair, Vic is the one who decides what and who will be cut off.

Then comes the Shadow Scheme. Robyn and Vic collide. "Nice Work" is the exhilarating and convincing account of the aftermath of this clash.