Friday, 15 November 2013

a splendid conspiracy [albert cossery]

A small town in Egypt. A group of disaffected young hedonists. All of them male. The suggestion that the police chief might arrest them on the basis that they are involved in a conspiracy to abduct or murder esteemed citizens. These are the ostensible ingredients of Cossery’s patchy novel, which has hints of The Secret Agent in its tone and content.

However, where Conrad pushed the absurdity towards a political/ tragic end, Cossery’s novel ends up dawdling towards nowhere in particular. Perhaps this is exactly what he sought to capture. The listlessness of youth. The self-indulgence of young males. Perpetuating the sleepy aimlessness of the country they inhabit.

Except that history has caught up with Egypt. Even, one suspects, the town of no-great-significance the novel describes. Perhaps, as much as anything religious or political, it is this very torpor which has come under attack. An impatience with a sense of pointlessness. Although one cannot help but suspect that the young men from A Splendid Conspiracy would not have been at the forefront of recent events. It’s a curious novel, which at once feels out of time, stuck in a by-way of the mid twentieth century, unaware that it’s describing a world on the brink of something else. 

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