Nicholas Mosley has always written ‘novels of ideas’, and one admires his increasingly bold experimentation, even into his eighties; but what might have been intriguing as a short story this time struggles to hold together as a novel.
The narrator of Look at the Dark is a nameless, aging Englishman, a linguistics philosopher turned TV pundit – the career change an expression, apparently, of his belief in Middle Eastern Gnosticism. After being hit by a car, he is doped up with morphine to kill the pain of a smashed leg and head. Such an infirm narrator is not a bad metaphor for the Western mind today; or, at least, his state of mind – struggling between chaos and reason – fits well with Mosley’s ‘clash of cultures’ side theme. Moments when the narrator’s psychological crisis is reflected in social observation – as when he pinpoints the sickening vacuity within the cycles of public discourse since 9/11 – are sharp, but unfortunately few.
Through a not always successful interlacing of past and present, the narrator examines his life’s relationships. A recurring theme is the way that seemingly manipulative, selfish or morally suspect acts – such as following a little girl home on a bus – may be suddenly redeemed by chance, or, as