13 thoughts on “Paupers’ Graves – James Everington

  1. Read this novella so far up to… “….as if repeating her name could help him find the spot she was buried in.”

    A highly provocative strangeness of an otherwise atmospheric opening, as we meet four characters (including Murphy the groundsman), and one mysterious figure nearby whom we don’t meet but is seen by one or more of the others, in a city cemetery, where Katherine is in charge of rich people’s as well as paupers’ plots, including a new civic campaign to erect a monument for paupers, and Katya and Alex (a young item as couple) have been employed by her for unpaid ‘experience’ in this task, while Murphy is paid. Has the promise of a Pinteresque situation, or Beckettian, but not sure. What I am sure of is some unsure business with paupers’ names, with Alex and Katya swapping between them pieces of pauper paper as props with names on them whom they individually need to deal with, while the author himself breaks some unwritten anti-confusion rule of fiction in not having two separate characters with very similar names. Katya and Katherine. Coupled with a seeming incantatory repetition (so far sparse) of names and of what people have already said….? All that may or may not turn out to be significant.
    Already captivated by this scenario. No plot spoiler policy promised, subject to the unknowns of gestalt real-time reviewing. Paupers’ plots as spoilers included. The city outside the cemetery has, meanwhile, the normal deprivation impinging on the cemetery itself, prostitutes et al.

    “: a cracked super-strength lager can, a discarded and apparently unfulfilled condom, a tattered blanket so filthy it looked like it had pulled itself from the earth below.”

  2. Up to “, as she brushed the dry earth away.”

    We follow Katherine’s backstory, her father, her yearning not to cover over the past but exhume it as today’s lesson, just as the word past is short for palimpsest. One layer, the 19th century goose fair, and another layer, Nottingham itself as a modern city where people wield tablets….An earthy layering of time, as we follow one of the names written on those swapped pauper papers and we follow him for real, too, at the 19th century fair, as she researches him. As we sense time as a prostitute, a symbol of the women who needed thus to wield their bodies (and still do) in order to survive in that earthy layer of the past. As we follow modern people and their modern leanings. Like Katya and Alex. Voting tomorrow in our own more immediate real-time….? Voting to suture the cuts?

    “She’d felt the throb of a boil on her neck every time her angry blood pulsed,…”

  3. Up to “A different graveyard, but she wondered if that one was aslant and sinking, too.”

    Separately for Katya, Katherine and Alex and then at an official meeting (along with Murphy), we learn more about these three protagonists – in interface with history as “The mud and the earth constantly being reshaped.” Impinging from layer to layer of the palimpsest. Human windscreen wiper, too, mud mixed in. And their visions of a war a hundred years before, the condition of prostitutes, and the Alex-Katya couple’s earlier swapping of names being synchronous, coincidental? Certainly meaningful.
    That couple still not a public item, but more a perceived echo of past chauvinist harassment. The present and the past depending on perception not reality? Perhaps fiction IS the only reality, where there is a real God, the author, controlling it, not an imaginary (fictional) God, ironically outside of fiction itself, that some of us seem to believe in? But whose GrOunD is subsiding faster? The privileged or the poor of whichever layer? My questions, not necessarily the book’s.

  4. Up to “A few diligently researched details to make it plausible, a few venial sins –- but someone a lot more, well, presentable than the real thing.
    After all who would ever know or even care?”

    Seems Katherine is one of those modern people who want to smooth out history’s or reality’s roughnesses, making the people in the past sanitised, part of her civic project. A bit like those who round numbers up or down to skim the real details of what one votes for today,,,
    Is history grubbing up at you to drag you back down? Can we never soar clear? Or migrate to better worlds, like Katya tried to do by coming here, I infer? Murphy unionised and demarcated, grubbing around like the crow in the cemetery. Wings caught like the angel’s…

    “The plinth of marble on which the angel stood was the colour of the earth it was trying to rise from, covered in mud and filth. Like it had been sunk beneath the ground and had only recently risen.”

  5. “the darkness both something pulling at him and something he pulls around himself”

    ….giving connective significance to the lager tab I noticed earlier above in this review, as Death dies above Death, down and out under a down and up, a complex texture of a text, infecting intra-temporally sexual horniness or Spanish Flu through the layers or palimpsest. People, too. Dirt on the skin encroaching. Complex, yes, and not as didactic as I perhaps sometimes interpreted this book earlier above, but always absorbingly and osmotically accessible as a satisfying read. Names are important, anglicised or not, sanitised or not. A bracelet another objective-correlative like the super strength lager tab. Pinned papers, Paupers pinned in concupiscent, corpsescent orgy within their unnamed communal graves, about to be picked out today for named monumentality. Shortened name or not.
    Layers of time, not only in this book, but outside this book as I read it, too, in real-time, real life, 1974 and 2017 as mirrored British political history? The only way fiction can be didactic and undidactic simultaneously is for a preternatural or synchronous gestalt to link between a book and what lies outside the book in real time for any particular reader of it? Who is the figure on the brow of history’s hill?

    Now read up to “Are you here to look at the graves?”

  6. “The paupers’ graves were open, deep raw pits going down into the muddy darkness.”

    Now read up to:
    “She turned automatically down the side-street that her car should have been parked on, part of her expecting to see it, sharp-edged and real against the impossible backdrop…”

    Says it all?

  7. “…if he’s walking he’s not bloody dying is he?”

    There is something positively and negatively, didactically and undidactically, symbiotic, synergistic, synchronous, about these passages, as if, like some of these characters, we can’t get purchase in the mud oozing between the past and the present, fairness, War Graves attempts to fulfil commitments to those on the frontline of any war, one war being life itself, those marches against the cuts, the four protagonists in interface with past’s prostitution or today’s vandalism, depending who they are, who they once were, and the meetings between them on the cusp of now, and a backstory of walk-through terraced lofts, the mistily seen historian Katherine, tasting soil, history sanitised or vandalised, or immortalised, all life a battle, survival of the fittest or the best, the lone white cross, the black cross on the paper, on the paupers’ mulch of nemonymity, rawer and dirtier and poorer, the question of what is bureaucracy, what research, what dream?

    Now read up to:
    “Anger is the only thing he can let himself feel, for underneath he knows there is nothing but terror.”
    That seems a deliberate or instinctive summary for all horror literature?

  8. “Wasn’t it enough that the rich had power over the poor whilst they lived, did they really have to exercise it against the dead as well?”

    Incredibly, even though this book was published a year or so ago, it seems a strong inadvertent metaphor for our recent General Election results in the last few days. Where even the dead are involved, all of the poor and dead as filtered by the NHS and Social Care deprivation. But Murphy suspects the young and the students as vandals of the status quo, of this cemetery, of this graveyard of society and habituality, as in effect they seem to have been, marching as flashmobs, some students from the richer middle class, all fighting to escape some communal grave of austerity and to care for others in their own terms. All transfigured by these Paupers now awakening to PUT THEIR CROSSES ON PAPER. Corbyn’s, crows? Katya and her fellow refugees? All darkly set in motion by the desperation caused by self-serving rich people now and in the past, and today by a Saint. Saint Theresa, as a stony angel. To a Trump of time.
    Read this. Am I wrong? Am I crazy? Whatever, I am only touching the surface here of the text. The surface of some ‘palimpsest’ as a word shortened to ‘past’? Not yet got to the bottom of the communal grave…
    But, meanwhile, they lost in Mansfield.

    Now read up to:
    “But the stories collapse, degrade, erode.”

  9. “What?” the girl said. “They aren’t people.”

    The dark diaspora. The Nemonymous and the Named, alike.
    Seeking their dues.
    At once a zombie vision, but yet far more than that. It’s time’s backstory itself. Wordsworth’s Child as Father of not only the Man but also the Woman. A hindsight that can never be clinched. A gestalt that renews itself in every age, accreting one to the other like terraced lofts. Not ‘only connect’, but the only way to connect.

    “The cemetery was shrouded in the fog that was at once both the battlefield smoke Stanley Burton had survived and the pollution-laden mist of the paupers’ past he had returned to.”

    “Crows cawed behind the hoard as if to incite them further.”

    A horde, too.

    “; when he wheezed into the earth he dribbled out soil as if it were already inside of him.”

    “even looked like Katherine, Kat knew. Katherine, for all her faults,”

    I’ll personally add ‘ya’ to the bracelet. My tribute to this otherwise novella à clef for leaving the GROUND open.

    I have not yet submitted myself to the possibly creeping extraneity of the author’s notes perceived at the back of this book.
    When I have read them, I will not come back here to alter my review.


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