Adam Thirlwell


(Reviewed by Kam Aures OCT 5, 2003)

Politics by Adam Thirlwell
Nana first met Moshe when her Papa had taken her "to a one-off revival at the Donmar Warehouse." Moshe played Prince Paul Maraloffsi in an Oscar Wilde play. "The first time Nana saw him was on stage - backlit, melodramatic. Except - she teased him later, when they were in love- She hadn't really seen him. Nana had almost dozed."

The same night that Nana met Moshe she also became acquainted with Anjali. Throughout the novel, as Nana's bond with Moshe strengthens, so does her bond with Anjali. Her strong feelings for both of them cause her to bring all three of them together into a single relationship. The main storyline explores the emotional effects, the difficulties and the social etiquette of this three-way relationship, or menage a trois. Sharing a bed with two other people starts to take its toll on all three as feelings of uncertainty and jealousy are brought to the surface.

Throughout Thirlwell's detailed account of Nana, Moshe, and Anjali's relationship he often interjects to speak to the reader directly. For example, when Nana and Papa are on a cultural holiday in Venice, Thirwell writes, "I do not know what your views of holidays are. Maybe the only place you have ever been to for a holiday is Mykonos. Maybe your definition of a holiday is to rent a small flat furnished with a wicker coffee table and a collection of Mills and Boon novels, and have sex with at least one boy a day. Or maybe the only place you would ever go to is a skiing resort..." With these frequent interjections Thirlwell attempts to get us to think about how we feel about what is going on and he also voices his own opinions on the matter at hand.

Stories of historical figures, such as Chairman Mao, Stain, the late Queen Mother, and Hitler, are also inserted throughout the novel. Thirlwell will use an anecdote about a famous figure and relate the tale directly to the actions of either Nana, Moshe, Anjali, or Papa. For instance, in describing the dynamics of the relationship of the threesome, the author tells a short story about Mikhail Bulgakov, a satirical European novelist and playwright in Stalinist Russia. After all of his works are banned, Bulgakov writes a letter to the USSR government asking them to either demand that he leave the country or else to give him a job. Thirlwell then attempts to read the readers mind by saying, "But, you say, that is entirely different. Bulgakov was living in Stalinist Russia. What is the connection between the pathos and courage of Bulgakov's letter, and the relationship of Nana and Moshe? Surely I am not saying that the relationship of Nana and Moshe and Anjali was equivalent to living under Stalinism? A flirtatious threesome is not Stalinist." The author then goes on to inform us that in 1930 Stalin was rather friendly. In fact, he called Bulgakov personally and said that he will try to do something for him and in the end Bulgakov ended up employed at the Moscow Arts Theatre. Bulgakov was not allowed to publish again and even though he resisted, he was reeled in by Stalin's kindness on the phone and took the position at the theatre. Next, Thirwell explains that the two situations, between Stalin and Bulgakov, and between Nana, Moshe, and Anjali have a similarity. The common ground "is the use of friendliness as a coercive technique. It enforces compromise."

Thirlwell's act of consistently speaking directly to the reader forces the reader to deeply analyze his thoughts on the issue or situation at hand. His use of historical anecdotes further allows the reader to completely understand the group dynamics of the relationship of Nana, Moshe, and Anjali and of the relationship between Nana and Papa. Although sometimes the comparisons made are far fetched they still make for an interesting read.

Another huge part of the book is the sexual relationships among the three. Even though these passages always seem to have a deeper psychological or philosophical meaning, it seems to me that they are a tad bit overdone. However, even with these few flaws, Thirlwell's novel is one of the most original works that I have recently read and I can see the reasons why Thirlwell was placed on Granta's 2003 list of Best Young British Writers under 40. If his writing is this articulate at the age of 24, I can't wait to see what he dreams up in the years to come.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 8 reviews

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About the Author:

Adam ThirlwellAdam Thirlwell was born in 1978, and grew up in North London. He was placed on Granta's 2003 list of Best Young British Writers under forty. He is assistant editor of the literary magazine Areté, and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Politics is his first novel. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014