David Lodge’s new novel concerns a bestselling novelist whose progress through the first half of the twentieth century offers a unique slant on historical events – and a great deal of sex. Visiting Russia in 1920, for example, he tries to disabuse Lenin of his Marxist views, converses with Gorky and Pavlov and, inevitably, seduces his tour guide, Moura. She escapes to the West years later and becomes his mistress, but in a melodramatic twist it transpires that she has probably been spying on him for the Soviets all along. Although the tone of the novel is generally sober and reflective, its protagonist’s career never lacks for sensational developments.
With his early writings he virtually creates the science-fiction genre, positing the atomic bomb thirty years before it was invented. His more realistic novels have been hailed by James and Conrad as masterpieces.