The Twinkling of an Eye

The Twinkling of an Eye
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Writer, soldier, bookseller, father: Brian Aldiss has earned many titles in his life. In the Twinkling of an Eye is a candid, vivid and charming look at the stories behind this distinctive writer of fiction.His life as a struggling novelist is unflinchingly laid bare. There are recollections of the beauty and freedoms of Sumatra, the camaraderie of the army and the sobriety of post-war England, bookselling in Oxford, marital breakdown and financial impoverishment. With insight and honesty, Aldiss delves into his role in the new wave of science fiction writing in the 1960s, and his friendships with his contemporaries: Anthony Storr, J. G. Ballard, Kingsley Amis, Doris Lessing, Michael Moorcock and William Boyd.This is Aldiss at his most-versatile, outspoken best.


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The Twinkling of an Eye


My Life as an Englishman


An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

This ebook first published in Great Britain by HarperVoyager in 2015

Copyright © Brian Aldiss 2015

Cover layout design © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2015

Cover photographs © (glasses on books); Mayang Murni Adnin (wood texture)

Brian Aldiss asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 978-0-00-748258-0

Ebook Edition © July 2015 ISBN: 978-0-00-748259-7

Version: 2015-07-01

If we apply to authors themselves for an account of their state, it will appear very little to deserve envy; for they have in all ages been addicted to complaint…Few have left their names to posterity, without some appeal to future candour from the perverseness and malice of their own times. I have, nevertheless, been often inclined to doubt, whether the authors, however querulous, are in reality more miserable than their fellow mortals.

Samuel Johnson:

TheAdventurer, No. 138

It was on 15 November, 1990, in the gloom of winter, as I sat in the car with my wife, a tape of old Jugoslav folk music playing, that I beheld the town where I was born, much changed, and decided to begin the toils that would result in my creature, my book.

The story of my life – to me so individual, yet objectively so commonplace! Myself now subject to decay, I have witnessed the decay of countries, empires, and ideologies; to counter-balance which, I have enjoyed the growth of my own family and survived to see the continuation of my line…

Our anchor has been plucked out of the sand and gravel of Old England. I shall have no connection with my native soil for three, or it may be four or five years. I own that even with the prospect of interesting and advantageous employment before me it is a solemn thought.

William Golding

Rites of Passage

‘Where the hell are they taking us?’ It was a good question.

No one could answer. The troop train wound its slow way northwards through England. The troops, crowded close in every compartment, set up a clatter as they divested themselves of their FSMOs (Field Service Marching Orders), their rifles, their steel helmets, their kitbags. Then silence fell. Some men read whatever was to hand. Some stared moodily out of the window. In the manner of troops everywhere, most men, when not being ordered about, slept. They had been up before the July dawn and parading by sunrise.

Nobody knew where they were going – ‘not even the driver,’ said one cynic. ‘The driver has sealed orders, regarding his destination, labelled NOT TO BE OPENED TILL ARRIVAL.’

The young soldiers, Scottish, Irish, English and Welsh, were dressed in drab khaki uniform. Although they had been trained not to feel – in the manner of soldiers through the ages – the high spirits of youth showed through: the wakeful ones smoked and joked. Nevertheless, knowledge that they were going abroad to fight induced a certain seriousness. When the round of jokes had died and the stubs of their Players and Woodbines had been stamped out, they seized on the opportunity to put their booted feet up. It would be a long journey.

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