20 February 2008

Alan Judd, The Devil’s Own Work, 1991

Working effectively on three levels The Devil’s Own Work is the story of a famous writer told from the perspective of a lifelong friend, a spooky and unexpected tale of literary possession and at the same time a well-judged critique against vacuous artistic pretension, a ‘dance around nothing’. Inspired by Judd’s own encounter with Graham Greene, one gets the feeling it was an idea that was given a long time to mature but Judd did well to keep it short, saying everything the story needs to say with unforced patience, no extra padding and a complete avoidance of the kind of over-indulgent penmanship he challenges. Above all it’s a reminder not to blindly accept literary fashions that hold little water, and this brief book demands attentive reading. Impressive, and highly commendable to any number of people who have ever felt lost amongst the often meaningless seas of words we inveterate readers choose to swim in.  PY

  The Devil’s Own Work won the 1991 Guardian Fiction Award.


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