Sunday, 3 September 2017

Let the People Sing - J B Priestly

I was puzzled and intrigued by a passage I read some ten years ago in a novel, so much so that I copied it out and saved it.   

Priestly dropped the following exchange into the middle of his novel 'Let the People Sing', a story about the adventures of an out of work entertainer. 

There's a lot of synchronicity in the plot incidentally. In fact the whole story is, you could say, based on chance and coincidence. 

In the middle pages of my borrowed copy of the book (p108) I found a passage that was unrelated to anything that had gone before or anything that was to come afterwards, it was completely out of context. It seemed to be there in error. There were several strange characters in conversation and they were identified only by their initials. 

Here is the relevant text:

   "My friend you dream too much," said P, "What did you dream last night?"

   "There were thousands of small brown men with hairy caps," C said, "and there was a city in the desert with towers and domes . . . "

   "I think," said P, "that what he saw . . . was the sack of Bagdad by the Mongols under Hulagu, brother of Kublai Khan.

   "What would he know about that?" said T, "He's just barmy."

   "My theory is," said P, ". . . the unconscious dreaming mind of this man reflects the universal mind or world memory. Thus he witnesses great events separated by thousands of miles, and what is more strange, thousands of years from his waking self . . ."

   "He frightens me . . . ," said H

   "That I can understand," said P, "For then you are not really seeing a man but all men, or a kind of reflection in one man, or something greater than humanity, that is, a consciousness."


  1. A great writer Gwil, rather out of fashion at the moment I feel. I met him once and had a chat - in Hubberholme Church.

  2. Incidentally he loved that church and his ashes are scattered in the churchyard there.

    1. Thanks Pat, a great comment. It's lovely that you met him and that his ashes were scattered in the Hubberholme churchyard, the place where you met him. He's not out of fashion for me anyway! The book I mentioned is well worth a read for insights into the hard life of a 'resting' entertainer - as it was commonly called when they were unemployed.

  3. I like the idea of a totally out of context exchange in a book just so long as it isn't too frivolous. This seems to have sufficient substance to earn its place.

    1. Thanks Rachel. I seem to remember thinking the book was a proof copy and somehow this had been missed, but obviously I must have looked in the front and found it wasn't so. I think you'd enjoy it if you could get hold of a copy. You can imagine down at heel theaters, spit and sawdust, and grumpy landladies and that sort of thing. It's very amusing in many parts too.