Edmund Lea perpetually rides a ghost trainexcept every seven years on Christmas Eve, when he is allowed to revisit his home town. Like Wagner's Flying Dutchman, Edmund is condemned to eternity alone until he determines how to lift the curse upon him. Time passes, from 1970 to 2019, but Edmund remains seventeen, unable to age and watching the world grow older. He tries in vain to break the spell by way of true love, repentance, hedonism; he tries to change the world and he tries to die. Characters move in and out of Maxwell's story like Dante's figures in Hell, but Edmund's own Virgil is a careless and unhelpful poet, a portrait of the author as a student. The tale is told in formal terza rima, but its language and tone, its humor and sense of homesickness, are decidedly contemporary. It is a brilliant achievement.
Glyn Maxwell is the author of nine books of poetry, including, most recently, The Sugar Mile. He is also a dramatist whoseplays have been staged in New York, Edinburgh, and London. His latest play,Liberty,had its world premiere in the summer of 2008at Shakespeare's Globe.Among other honors, he has won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the E. M. Forster Prize. He was the poetry editor of the New Republic from 2001 to 2007.He lives in London.
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If I could have avoided what I had to tell I gladly would have, but my day had dawned, my voice had meaning: 'Look. We are in Hell.'
So my reflection said. I saw beyond his shoulder the dark wind and the wild trees waving to the sky, and a grey wound
of sky was where the darkness was least, an opening or a closing where a hole was yellow almost with a feel of west,
while the train groaned beneath us on the rail and didn't go. His smoke had crossed the floor and voyaged through my hands. I'd been in Hell
for fourteen years. I rose to meet his stare and held it, speaking: 'This day, I believe, I shall be briefly freed, because this hour
I've recognized my language, in yourself. I've counted to this day and now it's come. For I was damned to this on Christmas Eve
and don't know why, how long, or in whose name.' Glen turned his stare unchanging to the glass, then turned it down. He sat there for a time,
but suddenly relaxed, and with a voice from somewhere low and sad he asked my name...