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NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE.

Findley, Timothy.

Markham (Ont.), Penguin Books, c1984. 352pp, cloth, $18.95, ISBN 0-670-80305-7. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by James Kingstone

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July


Timothy Findley's most recent novel, Not Wanted On The Voyage, is delightful. Its characterization is many-sided and subtly drawn, the prose style is supple and flexuous, and the plot is alternately simple and intricate. Indeed, the author has made reading this work effortless, and one marvels at what Findley has managed to do. There is an underlying seriousness on every page, and yet, one turns each page with a delicate smile, occasionally chuckling, and sometimes laughing unembarrassedly aloud.

Not Wanted Cm The Voyage is the story of Noah and the Ark retold; but there is so much in this novel, so much detail, and careful plotting, and embellishment, that once one has read the work through quickly, the compulsion is to reread it slowly and absorbedly to take in everything that gives this work its charm and amplitude. After all is said, there is much in the novel that will remain with the reader long after it has been returned to the shelf. One of the most remarkable and memorable passages is the description of the aging, disappointed God, whose unhappiness, indeed profound sadness, at the state of moral turpitude into which man has fallen remains inexpungeably in the mind.

The box (of lozenges) was replaced in its pocket and Yaweh put out first one and then the other of His broken, twisted hands towards the footmen. His robe could now be seen by the light of day and it was black with dark facings and, deep inside, where its linings could be seen in the sleeves, it was red. His beard flowed all the way to his waist and though it was white, there were yellow streaks and bits of food and knotted tats. His eyes were narrowed against the light and their rims were pink and watery sore looking, tender. His lips could not be seen, though where they were was marked by sweeping moustaches growing along the upper lip. His nose was like a bone and strongly hooked and it set Yaweh's eyes very wide apart beneath a broad, high brow that, together with His nose and the general shape of His head, made Him almost unbearably beautiful, despite His age.

In an extraordinary set of exchanges, Yaweh pours out His soul to Noah. We see the texture of his sadness and sense the depth of His grief at having to destroy what He has created. Noah listens quietly to God and realizes that, "He was being chosen" for a special role in the destruction of the world. One is occasionally brought up short by these serious passages, as one expects humour. But the profoundness of Findley's message is disarming, and the serious passages persuade one of the ambitiousness of the author's subject

Space prevents me from giving further examples of Findley's style, but it is clearly one of the features of this novel. It invariably makes the characters interesting and rounded, contributes to an uncanny sense of pacing in the work, and moreover, brings the reader back into touch with one of the most compelling Biblical stories.


James Kingstone, Ridley College, St. Catherines, Ont.
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