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The Library of Babel

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

Out of the Shelter - David Lodge Who could have wondered that once Davide Lodge wrote a novel like this?

We have no visiting professors here neither Catholic couples coping with unwanted pregnancies, but a surprising half self-biographical story about a British teenager named Timothy visiting an Americanised Heidelberg in the early 1950s.

Coming from the grey, depressing/depressed and starvation obsessed Britain of post World War II, young Timothy Young (sic!) experiences a stunning blowout of food, goods of all sorts and, yes, hormones.

In this process I've found particularly convincing the decision of ignoring romanticism. Unlike many other literary-fictioned teenagers Timothy Young doesn't yearn for a chaste kiss, but aims higer..er, pardon, lower. Nevertheless, he's far too shy and goofy for seizing the day. You may like it or not, but this way of thinking is extremely realistic as not all the youngsters were and are exactly passing through the same sorrows of young Werther.

We never know anything about, say, the color of the eyes, the delicacy of the features or the softness of the hair of a girl named Gloria Rose. What we know is that she may show her breasts for one dollar and this is what later makes Timothy pining for her. Without struggling too much.
Gloria Rose in all her apparent, almost mythological exuberance stands as an updated version of James' Daisy Miller while Timothy Young is an aspiring Goldmund with nothing of his inborn beauty and subtle malice.

Overall, "Out of the Shelter" is narrated with the usual skillfulness by one of the greatest contemporary British novelists.
The first chapter about the London bombings is unforgettable. The Heidelberg parts are not always at the same level of the brilliant opening while the last pages with a grown-up Timothy were completely unnecessary.

Anyway, it's such a shame that this book is also one of the less, if not the least, known among the ones written by David Lodge.