FACIAL JUSTICE (1960) by L.P. Hartley




A book about the woman Jael, a remarkable book I’ve completed reading today. A rarely read SF novel by the great fictioneer L.P. Hartley (who wrote ‘The Go Between’ and some wonderful short stories and much else of value). It tells of a lowest common denominator civilisation escaping from the post holocaust-underworld to live on the surface. Yes, on the surface. The quotes below on this page will give you some idea of the ground-breaking spiritual fiction that is perhaps more real than most fictions if least believable. Not necessarily politically correct. Bear with it. With birthmark-baiting, kiddy-kuddlers, the need to assuage differences, alphas becoming betas to avoid the Bad Egg (Envy?) involving betafication, being betafied, betting on themselves, with, inter alia, marvellous images involved with hospital-visiting, being outside the remains of Ely Cathedral (that I visited just before buying this book), flayed sex, self sucked out like excrement: a fabricated Big Brother game or mock theatrical play conducted – by whom-dunnit as or by the Dictator? I can’t possibly do justice (facial or othewise) to it here or give you all the answers. And the Cineraria, of course. And Jael. I once knew someone by that name in the late 80s – early 90s. Jael Nuit. Jael from the book goes back to her night? I wonder where he went back to?

from FACIAL JUSTICE (1960) by L.P. Hartley:-
The postwar [i.e. post Third World War] landscape, then, was all over the country, featureless and dull. But in the neighborhood of Cambridge there was an exception to this. Owing to one of those freaks in the process of destruction, of which the Second World War had given many examples, the western tower of Ely Cathedral still survived. The rest of the church was flat, its ruins scarcely distinguishable in the mud that heaved around it, but the tower still stood, a gigantic and awe-inspiring landmark. Indeed its effect was so overwhelming that beholders had been known to faint at the sight of it, and even the least sensitive were moved with tumultuous feelings for which they couldn’t account. Those few who remembered the great building in its glory would sometimes try to describe it but they got no encouragement to do this, for nostalgia of any kind was looked on askance. Not that the Dictator frowned upon religion; he even encouraged it as a necessary outlet of the human spirit; but it had to be the contemporary religion of his own brand, and the Litany was the only form of it that he permitted to delinquents. The Litany in which everyone was equal, equal in sinnerdom. The tower of Ely Cathedral, piercing the heavens, spoke another language.”
“People were allowed five minutes a day in which to laugh and get it over, like the interval for coughing which, in earlier days, was sometimes conceded to bronchial subjects at a concert.”
“Betafy means beautify.”
“Motorists (as they used to be called) were utterly irresponsible in their dealings with the pedestrian public; for their benefit homicide was legalised.”


“Little spirals of femininity had welled up in her, like bubbles in a soda-water siphon.”

“Didn’t you read that correspondence in the DAILY LEVELER — all about ‘who’ and ‘whom,’ and the tyranny of the Objective Case? Lots of people thought that the cases should be standardised — it wasn’t fair for a word to be governed by a verb, or even a preposition. Words can only be free if they’re equal, and how can they be equal if they’re governed by other words? […]…no one shall be better at writing than anybody else. Only quite simple words will be allowed, because it’s so embarrassing for other people not to know them. But it won’t be altogether easy, because the simplified language will have to be learned.”

“To be empty, but empty of what? Of life? She didn’t think she minded. Of self? Perhaps they would drag the self out of her by some kind of spiritual suction. In her mind’s eye she saw the open nozzle of a tube writhing toward her; it would fasten on some part of her where the self was nearest to the surface, a powerful vacuum would form inside it, and then her sentient self would be sucked in and pass like excrement along the tube…”


There are also a few references to this book in my recent real-time reviews of other books.

BTW from ages ago in my blogging life, The Power or Tower of Interzone and Ely Cathedral (and ‘Facial Justice’ by LP Hartley): http://ttapress.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=3797&sid=c954060bec4229d87b38924d75854966

Photo above of me taken by my wife in Ely Cathedral when on holiday in May 2012 just before I bought the FACIAL JUSTICE book.

A fulfilling coincidence this very afternoon (21 August 2012) just before issuing this whole blog post: — “I am finishing my reading of FACIAL JUSTICE (1960) by L.P. Hartley …. A rarely read SF novel where, intermittently, the CINERARIA flower features. Simultaneously listening to a repeat of the recent London Prom concert being broadcast at the moment this afternoon on BBC Radio 3: which features a rare work by Delius: CYNARA, which according to Google is a variant of CINERARIA…..” (a quote from Facebook an hour ago)

NB: The Head Office of TTA Press that publishes Interzone and Black Static is within the power radius of Ely Cathedral…


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5 responses to “FACIAL JUSTICE (1960) by L.P. Hartley

  1. Pingback: The Travelling Grave and Other Stories by L.P. Hartley | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

  2. Pingback: THE THOUGHT by L.P. Hartley | Träumtrawler

  3. Pingback: W.S. by L.P. Hartley | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

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