by Robert Aickman in 1975, but never before widely available, Go Back at Once
is a delicious,
delirious comic fantasia about the joys and terrors of a life devoted to
resisting the degradations of conformism. It tells the story of Cressida
Hazeborough and her friend Vivien, two mordantly intelligent young women trying
to find their ways in a misty, pre-Depression Britain. The pair have little
patience for the company of the marriageable men they are meant to endure, yet
neither do they possess the means to live as they might wish: together, and
apart from the demands of modern society. What’s a girl to do?
school and taken the sorts of London job available to women of their age and
station, remarkable news arrives: a great foreign poet, playwright, athlete,
and soldier named Virgilio Vittore has successfully conquered the tiny country
of Trino, on the Adriatic Sea, and is now governing it ‘according to the laws
of music’. Could this new utopia be a refuge for Cressida and Vivien, and
indeed all who seek a life less ordinary? Or should the women, having arrived
in this chaotic land, where love, life, and politics must submit to the rules
of the beautiful, take to heart the advice of the novel’s title?
yet humane, reactionary yet camp, strait-laced yet queer, old-fashioned yet
radical, Go Back at Once
Robert Aickman as a master not only of the ‘strange story’, but a satirist
deserving of a place alongside the mischievous and venomous greats of the
inter-war canon: Firbank, Compton-Burnett, Waugh, Powell.