Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Dancing Floor: John Buchan

No, it's not the 39 Steps, or- indeed- very much like it- except insofar as any two books by the same author must resemble one another. I suppose you could call it a thriller, but it's more of an adventure story- Stevensonian- or a romance- in the Shakespearian sense of the word.

Buchan had read T.S. Eliot. He didn't really grok him but he'd tried and was humble about it. "Born too late" was what he said of himself. But like Eliot he had read The Golden Bough and other such books- maybe he'd read Maragaret Murray- and it's hard to shake off the feeling that he's trying to make some sort of response to The Waste Land. The book is heavy with symbolism. Europe is jaded and in need of renewal.  it has just come through the Great War and Buchan's two leading male characters- one of them a sort of Galahad- carry war wounds. They become involved with a young woman who is both a bright young thing and fiercely virginal- a huntress. At the heart of the book is a ritual.

And the thing- the surprising thing considering his reputation as a writer of thrillers- is that Buchan has the sensibility and literary equipment to do this material justice. He can produce shivers. This isn't quite a supernatural story so much as one in which the Gods are honoured. Which Gods? Why, the gods of ancient Greece, of wyrd, of medieval Europe, of Calvinism. The ritual takes place  in Greece over the Easter weekend. Our man Leithen- yes,  him again- is a lawyer, a soldier, a logician- and he struggles to hold things together as the gods slide and mingle kaleidoscopicaly. There is no great surprise about the course of events- no mystery in that sense, though plenty in the other- but then rituals are meant to be predictable, to produce- time and time again- like scientific experiments- the desired results. A God is going to be invoked. Is it Kore or Christ? Actually who cares? It is a God. 
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