Fellow Travellers by T C Worsley explores the impact of the political upheavals of the 1930s on five characters: Harry, a working-class ex-guardsman; Gavin, a feckless undergraduate; Pugh, a young and exuberant ex-public schoolboy; Martin, a priggish poet; and Lady Nellie, a somewhat naive left-wing aristocrat. The first three are gay; Martin, as they say, swings both ways; while Lady Nellie doesn’t. Against the intrusive backdrop of world Stalinism and fascism, and in particular the great moral drama of the Spanish Civil War, these individuals have a complex series of sexual, emotional, and political inter-relationships.
Worsley uses a clever formal device to present his material. An anonymous narrator, who acts as the guiding thread throughout the book, reveals documents he has accumulated for an unwritten novel. These documents are eyewitness accounts by our five characters – accounts of their dealings with the world and with each other. This enables Worsley to portray effectively the complicated personalities of his subjects and to show how they differ in their perceptions of the same political; and personal events.
The price to be paid for this formal novelty is that the characters remain as fragments, disembodied subjects, and objects, never really coming alive, and consequently one feels rather uninterested in their fate. Only at the end, in war-torn Spain does the book’s method really pay off, as the immense tragedy, impossible to capture ‘objectively’, is graphically revealed through the very different eyes of the five.
The book is a novel with gay characters, rather than a gay novel. Gayness is neither the theme nor an agnosied issue, but provides rather the texture of the work. It is, in this respect, a welcome addition to the literature.
- Publisher : London Magazine Editions; First Edition (1 Jun. 1971)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 249 pages
Originally published in Gay Star No 16 held in the Linenhall Library, Belfast