Small World

David Lodge

Penguin 1985
A book review by Danny Yee © 1992
Small World is a post-structuralist parodying academic comedy. The characters are a whole collection of high-flying (and not so high-flying) academics — among them Fulvia Morgana the millionaire marxist and Siegfried von Turpitz the Nazi — who move around the world from one conference on literary criticism to the next. A $100000 UNESCO chair of literary criticism is up for grabs, and the competition is intense...

The main subplot is a romance, with Persse McGarrigle chasing Angelica Pabst, a PhD student who is herself studying Romance. When propositioned she replies by quoting Keat's The Eve of St Agnes, and poor Persse is left wondering what her reading of the poem is. All sorts of interesting literary tidbits are provided — among other things we discover that the Japanese translation of The Merchant of Venice is titled "The Strange Affair of the Flesh and the Bosom".

Small World is great entertainment. You probably need some understanding of trends in modern literary criticism and a reasonably extensive knowledge of the canon of English literature to appreciate it fully, but the reader lacking that will still enjoy it as pure comedy.

September 1992

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%T Small World
%A Lodge, David
%I Penguin
%D 1985
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0140072659
%P 339pp