Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Early Frayn.

Michael Frayn, A Landing On The Sun (Picador, 2003).

Brian Jessel, an English civil servant, is asked to look into the untimely death of another civil servant years ago. Summerchild was found one morning, evidently having fallen to his death from a top floor of a ministry building, under puzzling circumstances. Jessel once knew Summerchild, and his life has come to parallel Summerchild’s in certain respects. Both became absorbed in their work, however humdrum and mundane, and both come to find their home lives to be unfulfilled and unfulfilling.

Jessel soon learns that Summerchild had been seconded to an odd, ad hoc project in the months before his demise, and and as the novel progresses he pieces together what Summerchild was doing and how it led to his death. Suffice it for these purposes to say that Summerchild carved out his own domain in an unexamined corner of the bureaucracy, but that he was unable to negotiate a separate peace.

A Landing On The Sun came recommended by a trusted source, and I have enjoyed Frayn’s later works quite a bit, but I never quite got the point. The story-within-a-story never paid off, in that Jessel’s own circumstances remained unresolved at the novel’s end. As an entertainment, it has its moments but is nowhere near as fun as Headlong. From an intellectual perspective, there was much less to chew on than there is in Copenhagen. All in all, a disappointment.

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