Monday, May 23, 2011

The curator at Windsor ii: a most discriminating friend

Banville's spy is a fully evolved dévoté of concealment and yet of risk at the same time. It has never been pretty, being so pretty as Anthony Blunt. But never mind a nation, one thinks of the friend who needs to know. His existence is the flaw in Forster's deceptive formula, of thinking first of one's friend before one's country. But which friend, dear Fellow of King's? What, ultimately, is the trust worthiness of a confidence one friend may know, and not an-other? It's so widely understood that the affections of such a men-tality are inherently treacherous, that it is no strain to greet Blunt as a spy. What's untenable is his impostorship as a friend.

Waxing nostalgic to the stenographer of his espionage confession, Blunt misses "the aphrodisiac properties of secrecy and fear." The literature on those oft-remarked properties is not limited to the rebel and the felon, of course, and extends to the plea-bargains of Right-wing Senators in ever-expanding ripples of their proclivities, from public indecency to racketeering. Yet what a sweet edge these terrors gave to my adven-tures in the night, what throat-thickening excitement they provoked. But Blunt goes on to propound that eternal complaint of Tories, if ever someone else's ostentation should capture the public gaze: 

All the talk now is of freedom and pride (pride!), but these young hotheads, clamouring for the right to do it in the streets if they feel like it, do not seem to appreciate, or at least seem to wish to deny .. the higher one had climbed in society, the further one would fall. I had recur-ring, sweat-inducing images of the Palace gates clanging shut against me ..

Everyone appreciates how easy it was, to be as uneasy as Anthony Blunt. His sexuality had nothing to do with it. What angered, what animated him was not oppression or injustice. It was trust.


E.M. Forster
Two Cheers for Democracy
Harcourt, 1951©

John Banville 
The Untouchable
op. cit.

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