“Deafinitely Lodgean…”

An interview with David Lodge


David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence (published in May 2008), is about ageing, deafness and death. It is also deeply touching, more “seriously funny” than ever, even though the author, a well-known novelist and literary critic, has his own usual way of dealing with those very serious themes, mixing up humour with what he has always been interested in: the fate of the human lot, religion and literature.
This novel bears the same characteristics as the novelist’s brilliant Rummidge campus trilogy or Thinks (2001), another academic novel located in Gloucester.Yet, this time, the story is set in an unnamed Northern town where the protagonist, Desmond Bates, a professor of linguistics who retired early, struggles with a predictable life he describes in his journal, his wife, Winifred, who is eight years younger and Mr Bates, his 89-year-old father, who refuses to leave his house until he is overtaken by illness and death – a comic and moving portrait of the father figure recalling that of Mr Wilcox in Nice Work (1988) or Mr Walsh in Paradise News (1991). The reader cannot therefore help smiling at the dramatic irony implied by Desmond’s remark while talking to his former colleague, Colin Butterworth: “It wouldn’t surprise me if we both turn up lightly disguised in a campus novel one of these days” (Lodge 2008a, 286). “Post-campus” might even be a better definition according to some critics (Lichtig 2008, 22), though this is a term that does not entirely satisfy the writer.

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