Small World is in the author's words 'a kind of sequel' to Changing Places, published nine years ago. The place-changers, Zapp and Swallow, are again central characters; the dreadful Ringbaum, whose competitiveness enabled him to win a famous game of Humiliation, though at the cost of his job, now turns up again in even more bizarre predicaments, urging his wife to have sex under blankets in a jumbo jet so that he can apply for membership of 'an exclusive fraternity of men who have achieved sexual congress while airborne', and which he hopes will allow sexual congress with wives to count. There are also some plot reminders of the older book, but nothing essential. You might think Mr Lodge would have lost some of his high spirits over the years, and the novel which came between these two, the excellent How far can you go?, was sad as well as funny. But although the new book does give one an odd sense that the author who is so fertile in farce has a rather sombre double, a Catholic moralist who is patient rather than amused, it can confidently be said that Small World is the most brilliant and also the funniest he has written.
LRB 19 April 1984 | PDF Download