THE BRITISH MUSEUM IS FALLING DOWN
I have just finished reading David Lodge´s novel “The British Museum is falling down”, as a compulsory assignment in my advanced english course.
It is a comic and critical novel and it describes the course of a whole day in Adam Appleby´s life, who is a young student of literature and also the head of a very singular family composed by himself, his wife - Barbara - and their three children - Clare, Edward and Dominic. This particular decision to name their children in alphabetical order is a reflection of Adam´s obsessive behaviour. A kind of inflexibility that seems to come from an ultra – catholic and restrictive education whose rules are respected but very badly-born by the couple, especially regarding contracepcion.
The story takes place in London in the sixties and reports the misadventures of young Appleby, who starts his day with the terrible suspicion that his wife might be pregnant again. For the couple, the idea of having a fourth child is unbearable due to their economic difficulties.
Just for this reason, there are two ideas around Adam´s head during his twenty four hours of adventures and misadventures. One is sex and the moral dilemmas that his religious beliefs imply to him . The other is the need to finish his thesis or – alternatively, writting something – it doesn´t matter what – that catapults him to fame and money, although the mere fact of getting a stable job to leave his small and battered apartment would be fine.
It is just his gossip landlady who gives him a very hopeful letter: The sender, Mrs. Rottingdean, is a famous scholar´s niece and she keeps some unpublished material that could mean a great literary discovery.
Adam is supposed to work on his thesis in the Reading room at the British Museum but more than working he spends his day dreaming about the possibilities of his new fatherhood and the hope of a new job. So, he comes and goes to the phone booth to talk to his wife and, there, some crazy incidents take place, contributing to fill up the novel´s pages with cynicism and irony. False fire alarms, phone calls that are not meant for him and also meetings with his great friend Camel and disagreements with Father Finbar, who seems to be a mobile conscience. And, finally, carnal temptation represented in the body of a young, virgin and libidinous girl when he goes to Mrs. Rottingdean´s home to ask about the manuscripts that, for high, turn out to be useless.
The incidents that close the novel are a shout of laughter on Appleby´s face but they soften the hardness of his horrible day and get all the ridiculous events together.
The whole book is written in a sordid and intelligent way, with a particular joy on Adam´s exacerbated sexual desire.
In my opinion, it is a great novel, relatively bold for its time and sharply critical of the Church. I felt a clear evolution with respect to my feelings for the protagonist. As I was knowing him better, I was surprisingly changing comptemt for tenderness and compassion. I would recommend this reading to have a good time and to think about the relativity of life´s problems.