Zeno Was Here by Jan Mark - review by Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

Conjuring Tricks

Zeno Was Here

By

Jonathan Cape 284pp £9.95 order from our bookshop
 

McEvoy, the protagonist of Jan Mark’s new novel, is a bundle of delightful prejudices. A bright pupil – McEvoy is a schoolmaster – poses a killer question in the Eng Lit class: ‘Sir, how do we know that this is a poem?’ McEvoy finds this difficult. He thinks of the lines that appear in the Times Literary Supplement: ‘They seem to be poems because clearly they are not advertisements. ‘The class’s lateral thinker comes up with the answer; it must be a poem because ‘Sir, it says Ted Hughes at the bottom.’

Later, in his office, a more fundamental question arises: how do we know this is a book? He receives a parcel; inside it, a paperback called Acid Test. ‘It has pages, British Library Cataloguing Data. . . a dedication; it has an ISBN.’ It has all the hallmarks of a book. But it seems to make no

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