My Enemy’s Enemy by Magister Ludi Kingsley Amis, author of sixteen masterpieces and counting – I still have to read maybe twenty or so – including Stanley And The Women http://realini.blogspot.com/2020/02/stanley-and-women-by-kingsley-amis-10.html
10 out of 10
Reading Kingsley Amis has surely helped me do this http://realini.blogspot.com/2022/02/unique-in-world.html?q=unique+in+the+world and it is a continuous joy, for I have now started reading what is probably magnum opus Short Stories of this divine novelist, who did not see this genre favorably, and the reasons are explained in the introduction, but nevertheless, even if Amis Senior said something to the effect of ‘short stories are chips from the writer’s block’ they offer plenty of substance and entertainment…
Kingsley Amis has used his own experience as signals officer, stationed in Belgium during World War II, and he mentions in his Memoirs http://realini.blogspot.com/2022/10/note-on-memoirs-by-kingsley-amis.html some facts that check out with My Enemy’s Enemy, if I remember well, there is the passage where he mentions the loathsome officer, perhaps a general, just as in our tale, who abused his position, and instead of allowing servicemen and service women (should we include others at this time, perhaps we should, for even if they did not identify then as Two Spirits, or binary, non-gender, surely there were humans with a much more complex sexuality) to do their duty, the goddamn fool has them working for his errands, just as in this short story, we have one of the leaders of the army sending his dirty laundry to Brussels by special delivery, to get from there wines, cigars and more.
This is serious writing, indeed, even when we laugh out loud, such as in Ending Up, where you have some incredible humor, let me tell you one scene, which makes me laugh right now, where something is described as being so awkward as to be compared with the waiter in a fancy restaurant, say the Ritz (though the author probably has not used that name in particular) coming to sit down with the client, just like that, a picture that is described in another novel as the limit of absurdity with some courier coming inside the house (well more of a mansion and then this has to be from I Want It Now http://realini.blogspot.com/2022/10/i-want-it-now-by-kingsley-amis-author.html where we have this preposterous, wealthy, Pompous woman, lady something or other to ask to see the Rembrandts
The humor of the description of the general who is calling the protagonist of the tale, Tom Thurston, to provide a courier because he needs him for military affairs, when in fact he just wants his laundry cleaned and goodies from Brussels, is mixed with the dram of the same abuse, for if Tom has someone available, we learn that this means somebody else will most likely have to drive from dawn all the way to the next night, to do some real, hard duty, just because that damn idiot takes his privileges to abuse.
However, Tom Thurston, in which we can see a version of Kingsley Amis is a complex character, for he does not report this infringement, odious breaking of the rules and the law by the general to someone who could take serious action, such as maybe court martial, or at the very least, hush up the affair, so that it does not go out in the public that you have commanding officers doing such things at war, but put that thug in his place, take command from him and stop him from using the military for his entertainment…
We have another important character here, Dally aka Dalessio, who witnesses the conversation over the courier and is asking Thurston, who is his superior, why he (Tom) does not do something about this abuse, and Dalessio has other things to say about Tom, he uses an educated, posh voice and manner to imitate the man with a degree from Oxford ‘tewwbly geieved heah depwive’ and so on, and this is an interesting dynamic
Tom Thurston defends Dalessio when the adjutant wants to punish him and emphasizes that Dally has technical skills and is good at what he does, while a protégé of the adjutant is not a happy case; nevertheless Dally is going to be punished for his laxity, not listening to superior officers when they give ‘important orders’
Therefore, there will be an inspection, taking advantage of the fact that Dalessio was not listening when boring information was provided – this leads me to think of extracts from a classic of psychology, People Skills, and the emphasis it puts on communication, which has listening at the core, listening would be the Yang, while assertion would be the Ying of communication, if I have it right, and we need to show we are listening, paying attention to the speaker…also, seventy percent of what is ‘communicated’ is lost, research shows, so it is key to take this seriously, which was this situation might prove – catching the man by surprise, in an inadequate state of affairs, with unclean boots perhaps…
Thurston (aka Amis maybe) hates the adjutant, thus My Enemy’s Enemy in this case might be Dally however imperfect that assignment would be (just as the saying that my enemy’s enemy is my friend or the other use the friends of my friends are my friends , heard by the under signed in French for some reason, is just wrong) but Tom is facing a quandary, he is warned by the adjutant to stay away and not interfere in this punishment that will exclude Dalessio and send him to the Eastern front
Tom has leave coming and he has lined up two women, he intends to spend some days with one, then travel to enjoy a week or so with another, but this will be in jeopardy if he tells Dally about what is in store for him, getting him ready to face the music…spoiler alert, the surprise comes from another officer, who enters the frame and helps out, telling the man of Italian descent about the storm coming.
He is anyway surprised and disgusted that tom had not done it and he tells him about this, with contempt, for the My Enemy ‘Enemy must be helped presumably, and now both Thurston and the adjutant are in the same league of Inglorious Bastards