The Remnants by John Hughes

Reviewed by
July–August 2012, no. 343

The Remnants by John Hughes

Reviewed by
July–August 2012, no. 343

The esteemed critic and lecturer Don Anderson once told me that Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past was a book you shouldn’t read until you were over forty. Still in my twenties at the time, hungry for erudition, I was annoyed and set out to read the book, only to put it down even more irritated some time later, thinking, If that boy calls out to his mother one more time, I’ll scream. Reading John Hughes’s début novel, The Remnants, I was reminded of Dr Anderson’s sage remark. There are books that can only be fully appreciated once the first real terror of one’s own mortality has been felt. This is one, and there is much to be savoured in this sharp-minded regeneration of literary tradition and its enquiries into memory, dying, translation, and translocation that I suspect would have sailed straight over my younger head.

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