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Alan Sillitoe is one of the original "Angry Young Men" of British letters who burst onto the literary scene in the late 50s & early 60s with tough slangy stories set amongst the working class poor and dole recipients of a Britain in obvious decline. The best known of these stories is The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, narrated by a juvenile delinquent who has been sent to Borstal (Reform School). There the governor of the institution hopes to make an honest lad of him and to have him win the Borstal cross country race. But the boy has a different understanding of honesty than the governor and has no intention of letting the governor bask in his own reflected glory.
Another honest thought that comes is that I could
swing left at the next hedge of the field, and
Now, at first glance, this seems much like the rebellion against authority that we've traced through stories like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)(Mark Twain 1835-1910) (Grade: A-), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)(Ken Kesey 1935-) (Grade: A+), etc., but the differences are more instructive than the similarities. First of all, the authority here is legitimate and the youngster is a genuine evil doer. The authority is easily avoidable if he merely obeys the minimal rules that every society requires, but he makes no bones about having been a criminal nor of his intention to continue a life of crime when he gets out. Since we're the honest citizens that hoodlums of his ilk prey upon, we don't really ever want him to get out.
Second, he defines himself wholly in terms of the rebellion. He has no personal end that he's pursuing--witness his decision not to escape, though it would be easy. Unlike Huck or RP McMurphy, freedom is not his goal; instead, he merely wants to lash out at his perceived oppressor. In this sense the story resembles The Confessions of Nat Turner (read Orrin's review), wherein a group of slaves breaks free, but instead of fleeing to freedom, settles instead for wreaking retribution on their owners. The novel, based on actual events, ends with the slaves dead. Similarly, the Long Distance Runner may still be alive at the end of his tale, but we are pretty certain that he will be back in jail posthaste, so what has he really won? More importantly, why should we care? Good riddance...
This one is recommended almost solely for the strength of the narrative and the fairly unique voice in which it is delivered.
See also:Short Stories
-Allan Sillitoe (1928-)(kirjasto)
-REMEMBRANCE: Poet of the spirits of the land Ted Hughes (John Redmond and Alan Sillitoe, Friday October 30, 1998, Guardian and Observer)
-EducETH - English - Sillitoe, Alan
-Alan Sillitoe: Author (Sherwood Spirit)
-INTERVIEW: Making the ordinary extraordinary: Alan Sillitoe talked to Brendan O'Neill about the degradation of the working-class hero
-Literary Landscape: Alan Sillitoe
-ESSAY: The Representation of the Working Class and Masculinity and Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Aytül Özüm, JELL: Hacettepe University Journal of English Language and Literature (December 1995)
-ESSAY: Working-Class English in Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Kalle Virnes, Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere)
-ESSAY: "A Voice of One's Own: The First British Working-Class Novel" ( Carol L. Hale, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
-REVIEW: of Collected Stories by Alan Sillitoe (FFWD Weekly)