After the Fireworks, By Aldous Huxley

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The Independent Culture

Aldous Huxley's 1930 tale of louche, clever novelist Miles Fanning and his orphaned young fan, Pamela Tarn, is, given the differences in age and status between the two central players, about the nature of power, rather than the nature of love.

Fanning is ensconced in Rome, a little bored with being adored by women. A letter from Tarn betrays a youthful enthusiasm which charms him, though, and one day, he bumps into her. It isn't random: Tarn is more scheming than her winsome appearance suggests, and she makes it clear what she wants from him. Fanning resists, disturbed by her youth, but her persistence wins out.

Their conversations are unashamedly intellectual and also recall Huxley's work as a screenwriter during the Golden Age of Hollywood, when certain things were not permitted to be spoken but had to be intimated. This novel is full of such suggestion, but also power-play and deception. Tarn's childish, gushing diary voice contrasts with the sophisticated one she uses to speak to Fanning: or is it simply that Fanning wants to see her as more sophisticated than she is? Not as morally dubious as Lolita, but subtler.