1948, A Novel in Verse by Andy Croft (Five Leaves, 2012)
Reviewed by Timothy Adès
A book called 1948,
made of some eighty Pushkin stanzas,
by Martin Rowson illustrate,
riots of rhyme, extravaganzas.
The cover’s ruddy bloody garish
and Rowson’s drawings quite nightmarish,
obsessive as the text, but still, full
of telling detail, very skilful.
London Olympics, shocks galore:
spies and political skulduggery,
trade unions, left-wing mags and thuggery
and Orwell’s 1984.
‘A, b, a, b, cc, dd,’
it rhymes; ‘e, f, f, e, gg.’
Alberti, Attlee, Blandish, Blunden,
Brecht, Bulldog Drummond, Helen Gahagan,
Greene, Harlow, Marlowe, Lorre, London,
Sartre, Frank Waxman, Ronald Reagan,
Thirkell, not Churchill, Harry Truman,
all rhymed! – it’s almost superhuman.
I’m bound to ask: what rhymes with Pushkin?
Stravinsky’s violinist Dushkin.
(No triple rhymes, no terza rima:
I could have added Ariane
Mnouchkine, but that must be foregone:
no flagpole on this Iwo Jima.)
Pro-Russian Proms ‘have picked The Nose
to bring the season to a close.’
So here’s my chance to rhyme Onegin,
since these are called ‘Onegin sonnets’,
with Fagin, or Menachem Begin –
a donnish jest – quiet flows the Donets! –
He won’t be pleased, so please don’t tell ‘im:
he’s miles less mild than Bassa Selim,
the liberal enlightened Turk
in Mozart’s oriental work.
Anyway, as I said before, well-
constructed pacey period thriller –
Winston and Spiller thwart the killer! –
all based on Eric Blair (George Orwell).
Drain down that draught! Hurl hats aloft!
Hail, handicraft of Andy Croft!