The Distance Measured in Days – a novel by Anthony Howell

Photo by Martin Burton

Single copies may be purchased on ebay – just click the word.

Comments:

“I have finished the novel and found it challenging, emotionally, because it defies the reader’s expectations, as its main characters are frustrating .The raw contradictions of the man’s response to his daughter’s death are complex, shocking and convincing ,but his solutions made me want to shake him . The leveret memories, which had nothing immediate, difficult or ambivalent attached, were too heartrending to read I ended up avoiding them. The distinction between the artistic and important non-fuckable friends and others made me laugh. I think like that sometimes. I can’t help thinking that Inge was within reach so many times, not just on the desert trip, but in London, that the man had resolved to pay lip service to the relationship, but knew it was neither the answer nor a source of solace, and turned away.

Random thoughts, Anthony. But it is significant perhaps that Inge’s response to adventures was a sharp “grow up” and stop smoking weed .Neither statement means much when two people are looking for different paths/forms of salvation. I spent eight days, with a Libyan man who spoke no English riding through the Sahara, accompanied by a boy .No saddle, no tent, just holding on to the camels neck with my feet and digging a hole to sleep at night.I picked up tics .I don’t think the desert is ideal for reflection. Too many corpses being eaten by crows, physical stress, numbing landscape. The spirit is an indulgence when you are struggling with the exhaustion of the body.

A final thought, when you become aware that cot death is central to the story, the reader is programmed to prepare a dose of empathy and wait for the right moment to spill it. You don’t provide the opportunity for that kind of mawkish sentimentality because the tensions of the parents’ relationship takes centre stage . I enjoyed it, Anthony, thank you for the copy, which I will read again.”                   Sylvia Mejri 

 

“We hire camels and a guide, and later in the day we ride out of the village. Our camels dip and lurch along on their flat, cloven pads. Slowly we approach a sign – ‘Timbuctoo, 40 jours’. We come abreast of it, and then we plod past it…”
          Harry Harker and his Norwegian wife Inge have come to Morocco in what we might call a grief holiday: a doomed attempt to escape the pain and guilt resulting from the unexpected death of their infant daughter. And soon we discover that a distance measured in days may also refer to the distance between people, even when they are sharing a bed and entwined in each other’s arms.
          Anthony Howell: poet, essayist, dancer, choreographer, uncompromising political commentator. And if this CV weren’t intimidating enough already, we should add novelist to the list.
          In his latest book, his text shifts so effortlessly between timelines, tenses and first and third-person narrative that, at least until one becomes accustomed to it, a sensation akin to faint giddiness is engendered.
          We journey with Harry into his distant past, where he adopts an abandoned leveret, more recently as we follow his sexual gymnastics, then into the present in the ‘desert Sud’, and his sojourn in the Philippines as a guest of the Marcos family. But not in that order. Or anything like it.
There is no happy ending here, no meaningful conclusion. Just intelligent people struggling to lead their lives in a world without convenient meanings or conclusions.”            Steve Glascoe, author of Operation Violet Oak, Seren 2022                                                                                          

 

                                         

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