Monday, 18 August 2008

A novel about EFL?!

Had I thought about it - which I didn't - I wouldn't have believed it possible for there to be a moving novel set in the world of EFL, but there is. In a charity shop in a small town in England I had the good fortune to come across a well-preserved copy of "Europa" by Tim Parks. I bought it thinking it would have some profound reflections on the state of Europe and only discovered once I got into it that the protagonist was an English teacher (in Italy, as it happens). To be honest my expectations plummeted at that point - a point at which I also learned that a large part of the novel was taken up with a trip on a coach filled with language teachers (in the minority) and young students (in the majority and mostly female)referred to by some of the predominantly male teachers as the "shag wagon" full of what is also referred to as "tottie", which ties in with the worst kind of easy hedonism that can occasionally be found among ex-pat EFLers. But it immediately became apparent that the text goes way beyond that while still accepting that it is enmeshed in it.

There is not much point summing up the plot of the book since it's power lies elsewhere - in the long tortured sentences of a stream of consciousness first-person narrative that would put off anyone looking for an easy read but that grab the reader who wants depth rather than pace - long tortured sentences that are devoured by those who also feel they are burdened by an excess of self-awareness and equally enmeshed in something that they also have doubts about.

Not a new book, so one that could well be found in other charity shops, and also, it seems, at amazon.

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