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Brooke, Jocelyn

military war oxford army

(British, 1908–66)

Born at Sandgate in Kent, Brooke served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during and after the war; army life, implicit homosexuality, and his own idiosyncratic childhood, are prominent in his books. Beautifully written but often with an elegiac air of desperate melancholy, his work should be seen as imaginative memoirs, observations of an upper-middle-class social scene in Oxford and London, intercut with the natural world and the military. His major achievement is The Orchid Trilogy: The Military Orchid (1948), A Nest of Serpents (1949), and The Goose Cathedral (1950), all of which were reprinted in 1992. Private View (1954) collects four character sketches, two of which brilliantly observe the passions and humiliations of a small boy. The central piece, ‘Gerald Brockhurst’, describes a friendship begun at Oxford in the 1920s and continued to a tragic climax during the war; the homosexual undercurrent is treated with unexpected comedy. The Image of a Drawn Sword (1950) is a Kafkaesque fantasy.

J. R. Ackerley, Simon Raven, Christopher Isherwood  JS

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