Philip Whiteley's Blog

April 24, 2015

If Sartre had played cricket…

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 9:04 am

My first book launch as a novelist took place on Tuesday, in Ampthill cricket pavilion, Bedfordshire. Star guests were the top actors, husband-and-wife team Robert Daws and Amy Robbins (pictured), who read Chapter 11 of Close of Play, entitled Clumsy Angel. Host for the evening was my old friend Emmanuelle Chambon.

Manou (as we know her) opened by declaring her long-running challenge as a French woman of understanding cricket, also an obsession of her partner Anil. Cricket, Christianity and love, the three dominant themes in Close of Play, have a shared irrationality, she suggested.

But, I countered, in the Q&A session, isn’t it odd that the French don’t like cricket? Albert Camus wrote about the randomness of Fate, and Robert Daws & Amy Robbins 21 April 2015 IIrebellion against Death. Jean-Paul Sartre’s maxim about the human condition was ‘We are condemned to choose.’ In cricket, as a batsman, you cannot decide which delivery is bowled to you (Fate). You have less than one second to decide how to respond. You cannot not make a choice. If you get it badly wrong, your role in the game is terminated (Death). What would the authors of The Iron in the Soul trilogy and La Peste have made of that?

Suppose, I reflected afterwards, they had been raised on Jennings books – which also received a mention at the event – absorbing the tragicomic scene where Jennings scored a 50 (51 actually; he had totted up the runs in his head) but it didn’t count because his friend Darbyshire, who was supposed to have been keeping score, was AWOL? A life unrecorded! Did it still take place?

I could not pursue the matter further because a) I haven’t studied Sartre or Camus formally, just read their astonishing novels; and b) I’d had a couple of beers by this time. The conundrum persists.

Listening to Bob and Amy read my work was spine-tingling. My words, just existing in my head for so many years, gained a public audience and a new life. Inevitably, an actor brings his or her own interpretation. By just emphasizing a word within a sentence in an unexpected way, Bob and Amy brought a hidden yearning, or anxiety to the surface; a section that may have been deadpan was heartfelt, or vice versa. It must be how a songwriter feels when a gifted singer brings their own voice and understanding.

I think I can claim a world first: a book launch where the principal literary influences discussed were Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre and Anthony Buckeridge, starring the lead actor of Outside Edge, held in a cricket pavilion.

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