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Bailey, Paul

(British, 1937–)

Paul Bailey is a Londoner who is fascinated by

his city and has edited an anthology about it.

His novel Kitty and Virgil (1998) starts off with a meeting between two of its central characters in Green Park. One of them, though, Virgil Florescu, is actually in exile from his native Romania. What then follows is a cross-cultural romance. On the surface we have a comedy of manners, with witty dialogue and warm, enveloping humour. These qualities remain even as the relationship becomes more intense and potentially tragic. The book explores the dark absurdity of Ceauşescu's Romania, and the degree to which values, in particular literary ones (since Virgil is a poet), can transcend national divisions and be accessible on a European, or more simply a human, level (we have ‘translations’ of Virgil's poetry as an appendix). If Bailey's humanity and sharp intelligence appeal to you, read his earlier novels, like the Booker Prize-shortlisted Peter Smart's Confessions (1977) and Gabriel's Lament (1986).

Graham Greene, Peter Ackroyd  RF

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (A-Bo)