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the Complete Review
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In Transit

Brigid Brophy

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To purchase In Transit

Title: In Transit
Author: Brigid Brophy
Genre: Novel
Written: 1969
Length: 237 pages
Availability: In Transit - US
In Transit - UK
In Transit - Canada
  • An heroi-cyclic novel
  • With an Introduction by Christine Brooke-Rose

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Our Assessment:

B+ : very clever, nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Atlantic Monthly . 2/1970 Phoebe Adams
Christian Science Monitor . 14/2/1970 Neil Millar
National Review . 10/2/1970 Guy Davenport
New Statesman . 26/9/1969 Clive Jordan
Saturday Review . 24/6/1970 A.Alvarez
TLS . 2/10/1969 .

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The complete review's Review:

       In Transit is a novel in four sections, plus a "Codetta". It is set in an airport, where the narrator has decided to remain "in transit", rather than fly off as (presumably) originally planned. It is a comfortable, or at least appropriate limbo to be in. The narrator suggests: "Perhaps our whole century is in transit". And an airport is a good place for reflection too, with it's "kernel of wellbeing: -- You too can be duty-free."
       In the first section the narrator tussles with interlocutors: reader, self, other, the airport PA system, etc. Language is at the centre here; languages, actually, as the multi-lingual airport-environment constantly reminds. The novel even begins with some words in French, but the narrator finds all hold over the language disintegrating, leaving English. There is a great deal of punning and word-play here -- no surprise: "The interlocutor whom child-I used to trail to bed was a punny". There's even some Arno Schmidt-like double-writing of alternate words.
       Section two -- pardon: sexshuntwo (read either section two or sex hunt ...) -- is more focussed on identity. A problem crops up for our narrator:

       It was during the scudding of the back of the spoon across the opaque liquid that realized I could no longer remember which sex I was.
       This turns out to be a more complicated issue to resolve than one might imagine, as less than revealing clothes and an absence of other clear evidence leave our narrator utterly befuddled. Even his/her name -- Evelyn Hilary, called Pat -- turns out to be sexually ambiguous. Brophy has some fun in having her narrator try to figure things out with this situation most readers are unlikely ever to have found themselves in.
       Other complications and excitements also follow, including an airport-revolution. In transit one apparently does find a microcosm of the contemporary world -- and though this contemporary world was in 1969, the novel is still strikingly up-to-date.
       There's biographical detail -- our narrator suffered unfortunate losses which might explain a reluctance to actually board a plane. There's linguistic gamesmanship. There's philosophy (with a strong scholiast influence). There's ambiguity about sex and sexuality.
       A very playful novel, In Transit is one where the author seems to be having a great deal of fun -- and lets the reader in on most of it. Brophy manages to fashion a novel that actually entertains, rather than just offering a heaping of too-clever wordgames.
       Art (and fiction specifically), and what can be done with it, is at issue, but Brophy is careful not to get too ponderous. And she recognizes some of the problems arising from her ambition:
       'My ambition is to explode and shatter the rules.'
       'Splendider and splendider ! You have the true violent spirit of the creative artist. It is by the setting off of bombs inside the existing framework of the arts that new artistic forms come into being.'
       'And yet for all my creative energy I feel impotent,' Och sadly said. 'I can't find anyone who will teach me the rules. So how can I make sure of breaking them ?'
       An enjoyable and often very funny romp.

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In Transit: Brigid Brophy: Other books by Brigid Brophy under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) wrote numerous acclaimed novels and works of non-fiction, and was instrumental in establishing the Public Lending Right.

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