L: A Novel History deserves to take its place among the great dystopias - The Trial, 1984, Atlas Shrugged - alas the most salient literary genre of the last hundred years. - Theodore Dalrymple, author of Life at the Bottom; Our Culture, What's Left Of It; contributing editor City Journal; contributor Wall Street Journal.
Penetrating as L is as a study of an artist-dictator's mind, it is also very witty. There are situations reminiscent of the British TV series Yes Prime Minister combined with the cruelty of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. - Dr. Josef Zaruba-Pfefferman, Institute of Art History, Charles University, Prague
Superbly engrossing - Kirkus Reviews
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La novel history
By JILLIAN BECKER
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Jillian Becker
All right reserved.
i. An Outline of the Life and Antecedent History of Louis Zander, Known as L
Louis Philip Zander was born on 1st June, 1946. In all the official biographies published during his lifetime the place of his birth is given as London, but in fact his birth certificate [plate 2] was issued in Cape Town, South Africa. His father, Sir Nicholas Zander, and his mother Amadea (née Montfort) had emigrated to South Africa in 1939 after the outbreak of the Second World War. It was the intention of Sir Nicholas to remain there, and he opened a branch of the Flook Zander Shipping Company in Adderley Street, Cape Town in February 1940. A year later he opened a branch of the Flook Zander Merchant Bank in the same imposing building. But in 1947 the Zanders decided to return to England because, as Amadea wrote to her sister Claudia, "Nicky has come to the conclusion that the right education for the children is not to be had here, and although the importation of tutors might solve the problem, it may be better in the post-war world, for the boys at least, to attend a school and learn to get along with people from other walks of life."
It was certainly very early to be making plans for Louis's education, but he had two older brothers, Abelard, then aged eight, who was to emigrate to the United States before the revolution, transplanting the family business to Boston; and Marius, six, who was sadly to die of a virus disease of the brain before he was old enough to follow his brother to Eton. Lady Zander grieved deeply for her loss. Her fear that her youngest son might catch some infection kept Louis out of school after all, and he was educated in the family house at Hampstead and in the country on the family's beautiful Hampshire estate then called "Wispers" (later turned into "Clinic 5", the prison-hospital of gruesome memory).
As a child, Louis admired his brother Abelard, but had little contact with him after the older boy went off to Eton to start on that education and adaptation to the commonalty which Sir Nicholas considered to be of great importance. He kept a closer but quarrelsome companionship with Marius, who, we learn from the DIARIES, returned often to haunt his mind, and affected his adult views on children and early death. Closest of all to Louis - though it would be wrong to think of his ever having had a very close and durable relationship with anyone even in early childhood - was his sister Sophie. He continued to seek her company more than anyone else's in the family right into adulthood, and tried unsuccessfully to dissuade her from following Abelard to America.
Sir Nicholas Zander was of Jewish descent. He liked to tell his children that the family descended in a direct line from the Maccabees, the royal heroes of Jewish history. Sir Nicholas's father's name had been Zaccharov. The family had been established as merchants in Vilna, capital city of the old state of Lithuania, for some generations, but had come to England via Austria, where Sir Nicholas's grandfather had started the new family business by becoming a shipping agent for a group of Hungarian companies, with considerable backing from a number of well-established banks through family connections. The move to London had been made before the First World War. In 1919 Philip Zaccharov was created a baronet by King George V for "services to His Majesty's Armed Forces during the war". He had been chandler to the fleet from 1915 to the Armistice and beyond, and as his son Nicholas wrote to his fiancée, the Honourable Amadea Montfort, in 1934: "His enemies accuse him of war-profiteering. Yet there is evidence for anyone who looks for it that this accusation is not only unjustified, it is the opposite of the truth. He has written off large sums owed to him by the government. His love of this country, amply attested by all who knew him, made him happy to serve it as best he could, and to my personal knowledge the day he persuaded his partner Flook to write off the debt was a day of celebration. To call such a man, who throws a party for his friends and employees when he loses some millions of pounds, a 'profiteer' is plainly unjust, as I am sure you will agree. So the next time your Aunt the Dowager Countess brings up this slander (ingenuously I am sure for she cannot have any wish to ruin your happiness by making you uneasy about the quality of the family you are to marry into), I hope you will repeat to her what I have now told you." We may conjecture from this that Zaccharov's generosity to the British government was what earned him his title. But we cannot assert that he was motivated by desire for honours. Enough for us to notice that the reward was plainly deserved, and to add that if it was looked for, it was reasonably looked for.
It was not as Philip Zaccharov that the Royal Navy's chandler attended the investiture. Shortly before the publication of his honour, he effected two changes in his personal state. He converted to Anglicanism, along with his wife Miriam and only child Nicholas, and he changed his name. He told his wife that Zander was the name of an old friend of his, a writer on politics, whom he admired. Articles by writers of that name are to be found in political journals of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, but there is no record yet found of Philip Zaccharov having been acquainted with any of them either in Vienna or London. It has been suggested that Philip Zaccharov himself might have been one of the Zanders, perhaps using the name when he wished to express views in the Vienna journals which he thought it inadvisable to publish under his own name as head of a government-patronized business.
So it was as Sir Philip Zander that the senior partner of The East West Shipping Company launched the ill-fated luxury liner, the Rose of Lancaster, in 1920. It sank off the coast of Newfoundland in the spring of 1921. Passengers and crew were all saved, but it is said that the event turned Sir Philip grey "overnight".
It was in 1922 that the name of his company was changed to Flook Zander. In 1925 the Flook Zander Merchant Bank opened its doors for business in the City of London. Sir Nicholas succeeded to his father's title, fortune, estates and responsibilities in 1934, the year in which he became engaged to the Honourable Amadea Montfort. The shipping firm, and to a lesser degree the bank, had gone down, understandably, during the depression; but, more perhaps because general economic conditions improved than because of any special gifts Sir Nicholas himself possessed, they began to pick up again after 1936, and by 1939 were flourishing as never before.
Even the enormously high taxation introduced by Attlee's Labour government after the Second World War, and later in the 1960s the galloping inflation, did not significantly reduce the magnificent style of living the Zanders enjoyed and could afford. Once the years of austerity (1940-1951) were over - austerity which to some extent affected even such families as theirs - Louis lived a life of luxury, and, whatever levelling there may have been for most of the population, of privilege too. Under the guidance of the best tutors his father could find and induce away from less lucrative posts, he attained high marks in the public examinations.
In 1965 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. He emerged with a double first in Philosophy, and proceeded to Vienna, where he was awarded his doctorate in 1972. He returned to London and took up an appointment at the Slade School of Art, London University, as Lecturer in Aesthetics, in 1973.
Within four years, and after publication of only two books, WORLDNESS AND HUMANDOM (which appeared in Vienna as WELTHEIT UND MENSCHTUM), and what was to prove his most important and enduring work, -NESS, he had acquired a reputation as a Marxist theoretician of a stature little below that of Herbert Marcuse. And his literary reputation grew with each book. One highly esteemed contemporary critic, writing admiringly of L's "plastic prose", declared him to be "as fine a writer as can be found in the glittering history of English literary genius".
From 1975 onwards he did not use his full name except on legal documents. Even at the university he was known as L - Professor L when he was appointed to the chair of Theoretical Aesthetics in 1978, at the early age of thirty-one. His colleagues and all associates called him L. A reporter on a Sunday newspaper, interviewing him when he became consultant editor of the NEW WORKER in 1978, asked him why he preferred to be known by the initial only, even in private life, and he replied: "A thinker is always a cipher to others" - on which cryptic reply, the interviewer reported, he "refused to elaborate".
In the political events of 1979-1987, leading up to and including the Declaration of the People's Republic, L took an increasingly important part, though remaining behind the scenes. His teaching and writing had so strong an effect that he had become an influence on real politics before he intended to, or "even imagined it possible", as he said. "My words became deeds, and then I became a doer." Once he had become a doer, he shaped rather than merely affected the course of history. Kenneth Hamstead, the Prime Minister in the cabinet which "suspended" constitutional government on the 12th November, 1987, invited L to join the Council of Ministers which took total power into their own hands. L was one of only three members of the junta who had not been elected to Parliament in the first instance by constitutional democratic procedure. Then began that final part of L's life as the thirteenth member of "The Terrible Twelve". Of this period little need be said in this introduction, except to record that within the first month of L's accession to power, the bookshops, newsstands, public libraries, private bookshelves, schools, academies and government offices were well stocked with the works of L in editions of all kinds, from leather-bound to paperback. All his published works were reissued, and several volumes of hitherto unpublished essays, criticism, lectures and fragments appeared. Only the two plays and the poetry he had written before going to Trinity remained unpublished. There was also in 1987 a spate of books on his works: academic theses, political exegeses, philosophical examinations, students' handbooks, unabashed eulogies, collected essays and lectures, volumes of correspondence about and with "the Master" - as he was already called - and several biographies which, though acknowledging his birth "in London" in 1946, seemed anxious to promote the view that his significant life began at the Slade in 1973.
His life ended violently and dramatically on the 1st January, 1989. Then for a while his public reputation was at its nadir, despite his own expectation that his death would "plant him at once and forever in the agonized hearts of the people". But within six years he had begun posthumously to engage the fascinated interest of scholarly and popular historians and biographers, as well as film-makers and fiction-writers.
When it is recalled that L had the power of life and death over millions of people for a year or more in the last century; and when it is observed that his ideas are once again winning a following although his reign of terror is still within living memory; and if it is noted that scores of erroneous and unsubstantiated accounts of L's activities have been published, there would seem little need for further justification for a detailed study and assessment of the man and his works, especially since new information has come to light with the discovery of the DIARIES and MEMOIRS.
ii. A Note on the MEMOIRS and DIARIES
REFERENCES. The MEMOIRS and the (incomplete) DIARIES have only recently been published in their entirety, in a single volume entitled THE MEMOIRS AND DIARIES OF L, edited by the present author.
THE FINDING OF THE DIARIES. The DIARIES were found in L's Hampstead House. The policeman who found them was one of a company of ten sent by the new government to search it. Apparently he told neither his colleagues nor his superiors of his find, but delivered them personally to the Chief Archivist at the Central Library of Information, now the Central Memory Bank, which had been hurriedly set up in temporary quarters in the basement rooms of the empty National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, with the mission of finding, gathering together, preserving, and - where necessary and possible - restoring, books and records of all sorts which had been condemned during the Red Republic. "I realized their significance almost at once, and assumed the responsibility of delivering them to you," the constable is reported to have said to the librarian; and he added, "My father was an historian, and if things had been different I should have liked to follow in his footsteps." But he would not give his name, and so we do not know who to thank for this wise and civilized act that ensured the saving of an important set of documents for the nation.
He did, however, tell the librarian how he found them, and the librarian made a note of the story soon afterwards, which records the following facts:
Three of the black-covered notebooks "were lying open, one of them face down, as though tossed there carelessly, in the grate of the ground-floor room overlooking the garden which L was known to have used as his study. Under them was a heap of half-burned papers, some of them pages torn from those and other notebooks. Many of the pages were stained, torn, or in other ways defaced, most of them to the extent of being rendered illegible. One book (D8) was found closed and intact on the big oak baize-covered table in the middle of the room. It had been placed between two bound volumes of government documents."
The librarian then catalogued the documents and stored them. But it seems that no one made use of them for many years, probably because no one suspected that they might be there, so no one looked for them. The first reference to them in any publication is in THE PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS OF L by William Severn, 2015.
We know from the MEMOIRS that L started to keep these diaries ten months before the revolution and throughout his dictatorship from November 1987 until his self-accusation and close confinement a year later. Each covered about three months, so there must have been at least eight of them, if the MEMOIRS are to be trusted. A few barely- decipherable pages of what would have been number 5, judging by the legible dates, and a single page of what might have been a missing end part of 7, none of them yielding anything of interest, are all we have apart from the four found as described, which were numbers 1, 2, 4 and 8, of which only 4 is wholly intact. If numbers 3, 5 and 6, or missing parts of the others exist, they are in private, possibly foreign, hands. But it does not seem likely that they will be found. Nobody has come forward with any of the missing books or pages, though they have acquired a considerable commercial value.
Why did L not take the books with him when he left the house to go to Clinic 5 where he was to await his execution? His staff packed many books, personal possessions, works of art; he had his desk removed and many articles of furniture. No restriction was put on what he might take with him. We must assume that he wished to leave the DIARIES behind. He wished them to be found and read. It was certainly not he who half destroyed them as though short of time for finishing the task. No one except his secretary and members of his own household entered that room after his departure from it. They proudly informed anyone who asked that they were keeping it in order and readiness for L's return, which they continued to expect right up to the end. Had one of them, acting on instructions or his own wishes, set out to destroy the DIARIES, he would surely have made a better job of it. William Severn, in the note below, suggests a solution to this mystery.
THE MEMOIRS. These were written in the last few days of L's life. They are brief - sixty pages in all were written, and remained intact but for six pages carefully cut out and presumably destroyed, most probably by L himself. They deal mostly with recollections of, and ruminations on, the days of his youth. He makes few references to his years of influence or his months of power. There is a short passage concerning his impending death, which is quoted in full in chapter 10. They were found by his jailers on his desk. Wherever the MEMOIRS have thrown light on a part of his life or thoughts or character, or provided missing information (such as when he started to keep and finished his diaries) they have been used in the compilation of this study.
Excerpted from L by JILLIAN BECKER Copyright © 2012 by Jillian Becker. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introductory....................1
i. An Outline of the Life and Antecedent History of Louis Zander, Known as L....................1
ii. A Note on the MEMOIRS and DIARIES....................6
iii. A Note on the DIARIES OF L by Professor William Severn....................8
Professor William Severn....................8
Chapter 2 A Fearful Love....................15
Chapter 3 A Beautiful Terror....................43
Chapter 4 The Emperor's New Clothes....................69
Chapter 5 Words into Deeds....................85
Chapter 6 Revolution....................111
Chapter 7 Twelve Plus One – and Another....................165
Chapter 8 The Theatre of Power....................201
Chapter 9 The Floodgates of Chaos....................237
Chapter 10 Resurrection and Death....................279