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Authors: C. P. Snow

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The Sleep of Reason

BOOK: The Sleep of Reason
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Copyright & Information

The Sleep of Reason


First published in 1968

© Philip Snow; House of Stratus 1968-2011


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.


The right of C.P. Snow to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.


This edition published in 2011 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.


Typeset by House of Stratus.


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.


ISBN: 0755120191   EAN 9780755120192



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This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.





About the Author


Charles Percy Snow was born in Leicester,on 15 October 1905. He was educated from age eleven at Alderman Newton’s School forboys where he excelled in most subjects, enjoying a reputation for anastounding memory and also developed a lifelong love of cricket. In 1923 he becamean external student in science of LondonUniversity, as the local college heattended in Leicester had no sciencedepartment. At the same time he read widely and gained practical experience byworking as a laboratory assistant at Newton’sto gain the necessary practical experience needed.

Having achieved a first class degree, followed by a Masterof Science he won a studentship in 1928 which he used to research atthe famous Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge.There, he went on to become a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1930 where he also served as atutor, but his position became increasingly titular as he branched intoother areas of activity.In 1934, he began to publish scientificarticles in
, and then
The Spectator
beforebecoming editor of the journal
in 1937. However, he wasalso writing fiction during this period, with his first novel
Death Under Sail
published in 1932, and in 1940
‘Strangers and Brothers’
was published. This was the first of eleven novels in theseries and was later renamed
‘George Passant’
‘Strangersand Brothers’
was used to denote the series itself.

became a casualty of the war, closingin 1940. However, by this time Snow was already involved with theRoyal Society, who had organised a group to specifically use British scientifictalent operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour. He servedas the Ministry’s technical director from 1940 to 1944. After the war, hebecame a civil service commissioner responsible for recruiting scientists towork for the government.He also returned to writing,continuing the
Strangers and Brothers
series of novels.
‘TheLight and the Dark’
was published in 1947, followed by
‘Time of Hope’
in 1949, and perhaps the most famous and popular of them all, ‘
The Masters’
,in 1951. He planned to finish the cycle within five years, but thefinal novel
‘Last Things’
wasn’t published until 1970.

He married the novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson in 1950and they had one son, Philip, in 1952.Snow was knighted in 1957 andbecame a life peer in 1964, taking the title Baron Snow of the CityLeicester.He also joined Harold Wilson’s first government asParliamentary Secretary to the new Minister ofTechnology.When the department ceased to exist in 1966 hebecame a vociferous back-bencher in the House of Lords.

After finishing the
Strangers and Brothers
series,Snow continued writing both fiction and non-fiction. His last work of fictionwas ’
A Coat of Vanish’,
published in 1978. His non-fictionincluded a short life of
published in 1974 and another, published posthumously in 1981, ‘
The Physicists
a Generation that Changed the World’
. He was also inundated withlecturing requests and offers of honorary doctorates. In 1961, hebecame Rector of St. Andrews University and for ten years also wroteinfluential weekly reviews for the
Financial Times.

In these later years, Snow suffered from poor healthalthough he continued to travel and lecture. He also remained active asa writer and critic until hospitalized on 1 July 1980. He died laterthat day of a perforated ulcer.





‘Mr Snow has established himself, on his own chosen ground, in an eminent and conspicuous position among contemporary English novelists’ - New Statesman




El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.


This is Goya’s title for one of his Caprichos, inscribed on the etching itself.



Part One

Tricks of time




1:  Visit to a Grandfather


THAT afternoon I had been walking with my son in what for me were familiar streets, streets of the town where I was born. I had taken him there only once before, when he was an infant. Now he was nearly fifteen, and we spoke the same language. I was taunting him because he had seen the “pretty England” and nothing of the rest; until that afternoon he had never seen a provincial town like this. He grinned. Whose fault was that? he said.

And yet the town was not so unpretty: shops glittered and shone, well-dressed women walked the pavements, fresh-skinned girls in their spring frocks: cars jarred and halted, bumper to stern, hoods dazzling in a burst of sunshine. Once I had heard a fellow citizen called Sawbridge saying, with equal disapproval of the United States and his native town, that you could put the place down in the middle of America and no one would know the difference. It was nearly accurate, not quite. You could still, if you knew your way about, trace some of the streets of the old market town: narrow harsh streets with homely names, like Pocklington’s Walk, along which I had gone to work forty years before, craving not to be unknown, craving to get out of here. That I did not explain to my son Charles, who was discreetly puzzled as to why we were wandering through a quarter which, to any unbeglamoured eye, was sombre and quite unusually lacking in romance.

However, when we returned to one of the bright shopping streets, and someone greeted me by name, he did ask, after we had passed on: “What does that feel like?”

Probably it had not been an acquaintance from the past: this was 1963, and I had left the town for good in the late twenties: probably it was what Charles was used to, a result of photographs or the mass media. But he was perceptive, he guessed that being picked out in this place might pluck a nerve. Nevertheless, he was surprised by my reply.

“To tell you the honest truth,” I said, “it makes me want to hide.”

He glanced at me sidelong with dark searching eyes. He knew that, as a rule, I was not self-conscious and was used to the public life. He did not understand it. But if he didn’t understand it, neither did I. I couldn’t have explained what I had just said. It seemed perverse and out of character. Yet it was quite true.

Charles thought of pressing me, then decided against. The clock on the town hall said a quarter to four; it was time for us to make our way to my father’s house, or to be more exact, my father’s room. Charles had seen his grandfather only once, on his one other visit to the town, when he was three years old. To anyone outside, that must have sounded as though we had been heartless, not only without instinctive ties but without responsibility. After all, I had been lucky, my wife and family lived a privileged life. How could I bear neglecting the old man? In fact, my father had his own views. He seemed, and was, the most affable and gentle of human beings. But he just wanted to be left alone, to get on with his own mysterious concerns, whatever they were and if they existed. My brother Martin had tried to persuade him to live with them in Cambridge: I had wanted to have him in London. Not a bit of it. With simple passive resistance, he refused to move. He would not even take money. I had made more than enough, but he would not accept a penny, except for a bottle of port at Christmas. With his old age pension and the rent from his lodger, he had, he said, quite enough for his needs.

He was, I thought, the most self-sufficient man I had come across. He was amiably and genuinely uninterested in his grandchildren. Even that afternoon, I had had to force him to let Charles and me come to tea. I was having to pay visits to the town every three months or so, on a piece of minor duty. This particular visit coincided with Charles being at home on holiday. So I had brought him up for the day, and had insisted that my father invite us. After all, he was in his late eighties: I had my share of piety (from which my father seemed singularly free), and it might be Charles’ last chance to talk to him.

We took the bus out to the suburbs, on what in my childhood would have been the old tram route: red brick, the jail, the gasworks, less change here than in the middle of the town. And when we got off and walked into the back streets, there was less change still: the doctor’s house, the cluster of shops, the chapel, the terraced houses up the rise. Not that I was stirred by memory: I had seen it too recently for that. Instead, I looked up at the clouds, low on the south-west wind, breathed in the soft spring air, and said: “I like this Atlantic weather.”

“Meteorological fiend,” said my son, with a friendly gibing smile. He had developed the theory that I, the child of cities, could not resist an obsessive interest in climatic phenomena: and that this was not shared by all who heard the results, including himself. It was the kind of sarcastic banter that came easily to him. I answered in kind, pointing out that at least one person had shared my meteorological enthusiasm, and that was one of the few men whom I actively detested.

BOOK: The Sleep of Reason
8.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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