and intelligently written, this novella is set in a upper-class home
a particularly stormy and inclement night. The Baron and the Baroness
have withdrawn to the library with their secretary and have impressed
upon the staff that they are not to be disturbed.
the three central characters off-stage in the library, the butler,
Lister, orchestrates the entire evening as though it is a play;
reality and the absurd are expertly woven together; and it is
difficult to know where the one begins and the other ends. The butler and
the other members of the staff prepare for a three-way tragedy,
although why or how this should be happening remains a partial
mystery. With great flair, Lister organizes everything for the
expected onslaught by police, the media and outsiders at daybreak; he
has even given taken care of things like the Baron’s mad brother
cloistered in the attic and the inheritance of the estate. Everyone
practises the lines he or she will later repeat for the police and
others, and, like the director of a play, Lister adds a word here,
removes a sentence there, makes suggestions...
needs to be read several times in order to appreciate the satire and
the very clever twists and turns of language. The ending leaves the
reader with many questions: how much did the staff actually know in
advance? Were they complicit in the tragedy? What happened
afterwards? . . . Perhaps one of the strengths of the novella is that there
are no definite answers to these many questions.
The photo of Muriel Spark in 1960 is from Wikipedia