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Mosley, Nicholas, 1923-2017.
Publication Information:
Elmwood Park, Ill. : Dalkey Archive Press, [1990]

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Jason is a scriptwriter working on a film about Masada--the fortress where a thousand Jews killed themselves rather than be taken prisoner by the Romans in A. D. 73. He doubts that a film both honest and popular on such a subject can be made, and, while en route to the production site (Jason, producers and stars in first class--his wife and child in tourist), a dispute about the film and a crisis aboard the plane forces Jason to look at his life, his art, and the world around him in several different ways at once.

Author Notes

Nicholas Mosley was born on June 25, 1923. During World War II, he joined the Rifle Brigade and won the Military Cross. He read philosophy for one year at Oxford University. His first novel, Spaces in the Dark, was published in 1951. His other novels included Accident, Impossible Object, and Hopeful Monsters, which won the Whitbread book of the year in 1990. He wrote biographies of poet Julian Grenfell, Russian leader Leon Trotsky, and Father Raymond Raynes. He was best known for his two-part biography on his father Sir Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists, entitled The Rules of the Game and Beyond the Pale. He died on February 28, 2017 at the age of 93.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Serpent begins with an embarking airline passenger comparing the interior of a jet with Plato's cave and the stewardesses to vestal virgins--surely the first time such a comparison has been envisioned. Jason, the protagonist, continues a muddled internal monologue about God and philosophy, while also discussing with a film producer the script he has written about Masada, where in 73 A.D. a thousand Jews killed themselves to avoid capture by besieging Romans. Events in the air, including the possibility of a hijacking, are interwoven with references to Israeli politics, events in the film script, and Jason's personal life. This third volume in Mosley's Catastrophe Practice series is recommended for larger collections or wherever more experimental styles of fiction are appreciated. Mosley is the author of the well-received Imago Bird (Dalkey Archive, 1989). --Penelope Mesic

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jason, the protagonist of this muddled novel of ideas, is a scriptwriter doing a movie about Masada, the desert fortress where, according to the account of the Jewish historian Josephus, Jewish rebels in 73 A.D. committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. The action takes place on a plane taking a group of film people to Israel. En route we learn that the point of Jason's filmscript is that the concept of heroic resistance symbolized by Masada is misguided; Josephus, who decided not to join his brethren and instead capitulated to the Romans, earns Jason's approval as one who chose life over death. Counterpointing Jason's ruminations about the script is the behavior of his wife, who becomes intimately involved with a passenger who may be a hijacker. The story is meant to dramatize the clash between public and private selves, an overarching theme of Mosley's five-novel series, Catastrophe Practice (of which this is the third volume). Events on the plane are supposed to parallel the episode at Masada, but the analogies are strained. This is a revision of a novel originally published in England in 1981. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved