11 Days to Go. Although today is not as hot here in the east of England as it has been, it is still very comfortable to sit out and rest my leg on a lounger. Without parasols, as there is no sun to speak of. The rest of the country apparently basks in wall-to-wall sunshine. I’m actually quite happy to be sitting under a cloudy sky and to have cool toes and a cool plastered leg, rather than a sticky, prickly one.
I have started reading John Banville’s ‘The Untouchable’ which purportedly is a novel with Victor Maskell as the main protagonist. Victor is writing in his notebook, a kind of autobiography, now that he has been outed as a spy. In reality this is a thinly disguised account of Anthony Blunt, the curator who publicly admitted as far back as 1975 that he was a spy for Russia. This makes the novel a roman a clef , a novel which is about real persons, thinly disguised, and John Mullan wrote an excellent review of the book in the Guardian when it came out in 2006.
In this review Mullan wonders whether Alastair Sykes in Banville’s novel is a thinly disguised John Cairncross. John Cairncross, you may remember, was thought to be the so-called fifth man in the spy ring that included Blunt.
In The Untouchable, Maskell (the disguise for Anthony Blunt) writes in his notebook that ‘Sykes had the purest, most elegant intellect I ever encountered.’ And ‘at Bletchley Park during the second world war Sykes had found his true and perfect place. However, after the war in the fifties Sykes had been ensnared in an enticement trap (he was a homosexual) in the gents in Piccadilly Circus and subsequently killed himself. So, even though he had broken some of the most difficult of the German Army’s codes, thus saving God knows how many Allied lives, yet they hounded him to death.
As I was reading this, curiously enough, yesterday’s Guardian, 20th July 2013, prints an article on he enigma code breaker Alan Turing who is to be given a posthumous pardon. Turing had taken his own life after being convicted of gross indecency under the anti-homosexuality legislation and at long last this is now being rectified.
It seems incredible that people used to be hounded to death in England for being homosexual and that only now the British government is coming round to a form of apology.
- Alan Turing to be Pardoned – bill introduced in the House of Lords (bbc.co.uk)
- Parliament ‘must pardon Turing’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Alan Turing to get posthumous pardon (thehindu.com)
- World War Two code breaker Alan Turing set to be pardoned for his gay conviction (telegraph.co.uk)
- A pardon for wartime codebreaker Alan Turing, the genius of Bletchley Park convicted of homosexuality in 1952 (dailymail.co.uk)