Nicholas During's Reviews > The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe
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's review
Aug 22, 2011

really liked it
Read from August 22 to 25, 2011

Here are real stories of 'class conflict'. The protagonist of the title story has to be one of the great rebels of literature, and an interesting opposite to the Marxist concept of an individual's political (class) consciousness. In fact, he completely rejects the Marxist tradition by emphasizing his individuality--even though the characters in this book are all strongly, proudly, and defiantly English working class, they reject a too-strong group identity, and even perhaps have a certain spirituality (the runner feeling freedom as "the first man" when he goes out for his training in the morning) that helps them accept their role in a cruel world.

These stories are depressing. Mostly we are meant to learn from the mistakes of these people, to help ourselves overcome the crushing misery of conventional industrial England life. The young married couple believing that they won't fall into the hatred of the elder married neighbor couple. But there is also a strong and angry rejection of system of class division. The 'posh wife' who marries a lower class man because she thinks working class men are 'good and honest' but then rejects him for being a 'noble savage'.

There is an interesting mix in the telling of the stories as well. At some points the protagonists are very honest and up-front with the readers, telling them all the intimate details. At others, we hardly know what they are thinking. In particular as there is often a storyteller talking about their own protagonist. They are commenting on their a third person, while the reader judges the merits of evaluations, the teller on his protagonist, and ours on the teller.

I'm loving reading post-war English books at the moment, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. I'm not sure if I buy the 'Angry Young Men' moniker, but there is definitely passion in this book. And a purpose to the audience, which I admire.
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