A Lot To Ask

Poumphrey once, from a distance, saw himself walking upstairs with his arm round the wife of a political rival. From the eyes of such dissimilar people as a business colleague, a Labour M.P., and a Syrian colonel he has, on other occasions, detected an unknown individual looking out at him. The same individual. Even the confident and aggressive Poumphrey has been disturbed by these paranormal experiences. He has wondered whether finding his mother would help. But is she his mother? When he tracks down an elderly lady with a limp neither of them is quite sure.

Poumphrey has no doubt who he is. He has been under a bit of stress, what with boardroom rows, bedroom rows and even an assassination attempt. But he is Arthur Poumphrey all right—company director, prospective parliamentary candidate and philanderer. Was he, though, seeing the world as it really was? He had been struck by something he had read to the effect that overcoming illusion and fantasy was the beginning and end of all moral endeavour.

His funeral-loving wife, his giggling girl friend, the formidable Mrs. Abel and the promiscuous Mrs. Grice all have parts to play in his crack-up. A turning point is the shock administered by the Party Constituency Committee. Out of the collapse comes illumination—a modest illumination, no doubt, but enough to allow a comparison, which Poumphrey does not hesitate to make, between the flash made by a journalist's camera and the light that struck on the road to Damascus.

P. H. Newby Book Cover