Daniel Martin – summary

DanielmartincoverDaniel Martin
by John Fowles
1977 / 629 pages
rating – 9.5 /  fiction

Basically this page is very brief chapter summaries through chapter 40.

Having loved The Magus back in 1968 and again in 1978 (original and revised versions) I tried Daniel Martin shortly after it first came out.  I don’t remember how far I got but my general impression was that it was boring.

In the meantime I read The Collector, which I very much enjoyed,  and The French Lieutenant’s Woman,  which would have been a good book had Fowles not decided to play his little post-modern games with it.  (The movie did just fine – lol.)

So I wouldn’t have bothered with Daniel Martin had a reading group not decided to read it.   Okay fine – I got the book from the library because I doubt I’ll get very far although if I do start really enjoying it I’ll get the Kindle version.

Daniel Martin starts out with a chapter entitled, “The Harvest,”   told in 3rd person,   which takes place probably in the 1940s. (The unnumbered chapter titles are all very good.)   This is a backstory it turns out.   Imo, it’s over-written and hard to follow.  Oh well –  same with some excellent works of fiction – I can wait for comprehension.  These types of first chapters often hold a key but without a lock to open they’re meaningless.  I guess this is called a suspension of comprehension – believing all this will make sense later.

2. Games – frame story intro –  3rd person – good title –  we’re suddenly flung off to LA where one Daniel Martin is trying to write film dialogue/scripts and interacting with Jenny,  his young girlfriend.

3. The Woman in the Reeds – backstory – 3rd person- plus 1 reference to a 1st person narrator, not Daniel.   Chapter  takes us to Oxford in the 1950s (?) where Daniel and Jane, a young woman,  both students at Oxford,  find a body in the river where they are picnicking/swimming.  Possible theme of religion what with Daniel’s talk of living in the shadow of a church and conversion – his father a minister.

4. An Unbiased View –  frame – 1st person Jenny –   back to Jenny of Chapter 2 remembering how she and Daniel met, had sex, etc.  If this is supposed to be stream-of-consciousness from a 1970s woman I’m not sure Fowles is getting there.   This is how Fowles wants the real Jennys of his life to have been thinking.  It’s all about Daniel,  how English he is,  or says he is,  under California skies.

5. The Door – frame –  3rd person – While he’s with Jenny,  Daniel’s ex wife,  Nell,  calls to tell him Anthony, who married Jane of Chapter 2,  is dying and wants to talk to him about Jane’s fling with Daniel lo those decades prior.  Jane talks to Daniel, Nell talks to Daniel. Daniel goes to England.  Lost Catholics the lot of them.  (Daniel’s father was a vicar – not a priest.) Jenny wants to marry, Daniel doesn’t.  Daniel is old with all those old hangups,   Jenny is part of the new age – born after 1939.

6. Aftermath – backstory –  1st person Daniel – horrible –  Dan and Jane in the college rooming house after finding the body in chapter 3.  Who is narrating?   It’s implausibly 1st person because of the private conversation between others.  (See 4th paragraph:  “No family photographs, I seem to remember …” )  Daniel is remembering and then there for discussions,  both?  Probably – to add a theme of the vagaries of memory.   Basically about the angst of sex in the late 1940s and how it’s remembered in the mid 1970s.  And then Jane seduces Daniel.  Mirrors – Specula Speculans

7. Passage –  frame – 1st person Daniel:  Now Daniel leaves to see Anthony in England and considers his relationship with Jenny.  This is a bunch of male menopausal romance circa 1977.  He’s about 50, acting like he was a part of the sexual freedom people and finding women still wanting to be married.  Apparently Jane was more liberated than Jenny – although she was engaged.  (Oh dear – sheesh – lol)  Part 2 – remembering Anthony, Jane and Nell – the botany stuff sounds false but then – this is Fowles autobiography as he wished it had been.  What is English vs American.  Way too many generalizations for my tastes.

8. The Umbrella – backstory – 1st person Daniel,  Daniel remembers his childhood – son of an older vicar, enjoying books and local plants,  walking home from school gets to walk holding an umbrella – his “Rosebud.”  A very nice chapter – he gives his father and aunt the credit he didn’t give them then.  Mirrors again – Specula

9. Gratuitous Act – backstory –  3rd person – here’s the sex between Jane and Daniel.   If this is the freedom Fowles is espousing then it’s obviously pre-AIDS – 1981 (book published in 1977).  “Old” attitudes and guilt – innocence lost – the woman in the reeds and the champagne. Rewriting self.

10. Returns – frame – 3rd person – on the flight to London Daniel runs into Barney, a man he doesn’t like but who happens to be his daughter’s new boss.  Daniel and Barney have a “history.”

11. Tarquinia – backstory – 3rd person – Daniel’s memories of early marriage, his wife, selling a play,  and a midnight swim in Italy.  This book is entirely about writing and sex – that’s all Fowles knows.

12. Petard – frame –  1st person Daniel – Caro tells Daniel she’s having an affair with Barney.  oh shock – I knew this would be the case from the time we were told she was his secretary.  poor dad.

13. Forward Backward –  back-story –  1st person Daniel – with Caro as young girl,  buying a little farm house

14. Breaking Silence – –  back-story – unnamed 1st person narrator (like Chap 3) – married life and some success in writing but on and on about process,   adulteries, shaky marriage,  same old-same old – boring.  Does all the padding make it more realistic?  Why does Fowles play with the narrator/1st person bit –  like the first person narrator is talking about himself in 3rd person.  I suspect it’s to psychologically distance himself from what he’s done.

15. Rencontre-  frame – 1st person Daniel –  Daniel and Jane chit-chat – Daniel is blaming Jane.

16. Crimes and Punishments –  backstory – unnamed 1st person narrator, then 1st person Dan – history and being English, WWII and changes, relationship to America and film and adultery.  Dan lives with Andrea,  Nell wants a divorce.  Dan does a drama blaming Nell, Jane and Anthony for his infidelity.  Anthony essentially breaks off relations with him.

Mantegna's St. Sebastian

Mantegna’s St. Sebastian

17.  Catastasis – frame – 1st person Daniel – title means “catastrophe” – Anthony and Daniel meet in Anthony’s hospital room.  Anthony admits to knowing about Jane and Daniel prior to marriage and that he and Jane have had a “bloodless” marriage thanks to his religion.   He wants Daniel to comfort Jane when he’s gone.

*** I got the book in Kindle format – it’s turning out to be better than I expected – not too much post-modern winky-wink,  very detailed examination of feelings.  It must be remembered that this is taking place in 1975 or so,  published 1977.   Fowles is examining, in part, the differences between the current era and the pre-WWII era especially in relation to sex and guilt.  Still,  I’m really not interested in the confessions or bragging or nostalgia or wishful thinking of middle-age men who were too old for hippie-dom and the  sexual revolution.  There have been a spate of them recently by 70-year old authors – yuk.

18. Jane – frame- 1st person Daniel – with Jane at dinner,  moving,  Oxford,  politics,  acting,  she’s not crazy about him being around,  he’s made a promise,  secrets from Nell and others,  “She’s not to know.”

I think it will be the frame story from now on to the end,  the back-story seems to have caught up.

19. Beyond the Door – 1st pers. Daniel – to her house, phone call. Passages from a  book by Antonio Gramsci,  underlined by Jane:

“For each individual is the synthesis not only of existing relations, but of the history of these relations.”

Structure ceases to be an external force which crushes man, assimilates him to itself and makes him passive,  and is transformed into a means of freedom, an instrument to create a new ethical political form and a source of new initiatives.”

Anthony has committed suicide – reference to Captain Oates,  a suicide to save others. Who is to blame?  Now Daniel is stuck with his promise to help Jane (although she doesn’t want or need it) – can’t get Anthony to reconsider.  Jane and Daniel talk,  better. She’s had a lover for a couple years – secrets.

20. Webs – Caroline calls,  secret re Barnaby kept? Yes to Nell, no to Jane.  More secrets from Paul, Jane’s son.  Catholic burial?  Suicide is verboten but Jane says Anthony had a cross in his hands – really?  The priest comes – he’s nice.  Daniel likes women much more than men.

21. A Second Contribution – Jenny’s 1st person pov – got to be boring,  this has really become a modernist theme using some post-modernist techniques. She loves him but is very aware of the distance between the generations – different jokes, different ideas, the treatment of women is different.  She feels she is a “loss” for Daniel and he likes “loss,” gives him something to write about.

22. Interlude -(backstory? England movie writer)  1st paragraphs 3rd person Dan,  the rest of it 1st person.   Why does the 1st person start out:   “My other two sisters:  A fable.”  ?  Daniel takes up with Miriam,  a lower class starlet and her sister Marjory moves in. She gives him a “normal” perspective on movies.   He remembers them as being honest and fun but the breakup was obvious and he went to New Mexico.  Then  he tells Jenny about them whereupon Jenny says to Daniel:

“Pig… I keep having to revise what I hate about you most. I’ve now decided it’s the loathsome way you use other people’s games to play your own.”   (p. 252)

23.  Hollow Men – frame – 1st and 3rd persons very mixed   – And this is where my suspension of disbelief snaps right in two.  What kind of needy creature is this Caro to need parental approval for her adulterous affairs?  (She’s not there but she encouraged the meeting.)  What kind of a pervert is , Daniel agreeing to meet his daughter’s adulterous lover,  his old “friend?”  What kind of weirdo is Barney to want to meet Daniel?   This is so unlikely that I want to just toss the book.   Yes, they are certainly true to the title of the chapter and I’d like to change that and use the word from Jenny’s spiel, “Hollow Pigs.”  It’s another game of hide and seek to Daniel.

This meeting for lunch in a “boys club” restaurant is apparently at Barney’s request. He’s got the same religion issues – when religion and desire come in conflict well – dump that religious stuff.   Definitely “Women’s Lib”  stuff – the seriously now dated term used although old pigs probably still use it.

24. Solid Daughter – frame – 1st person Dan,  discussing Caro’s problems and Caro is irritated that she doesn’t feel she knows her father but … that’s part of his persona,  hiding.  It usually works but it’s backfiring in this case.

25. The Sacred Combe – frame some backstory from memory – 1st person Dan,  thinking,  introspection, philosophy, art (including books, theater, movies, tv), hiding – like Robin Hood – and how English that is.

.. this withdrawal from outer fact into inner fantasy is anti-social and inherently selfish. (p. 274).

A character who must be seen in flight, like a bird that has forgotten how to stop migrating. Then: What makes him stop?  (p. 276)

If a life is largely made of retreats from reality, its relation must be of retreats from the imagined.  (p. 276).

26. Rituals – frame – 3rd person / NOT Dan? – the inquest, the funeral,  more endless chats (inquisitions on the part of Daniel) with Roz about Jane and Nell – mostly Jane.

** All the busy-ness and philosophical stuff of the last several chapters has totally broken the intimacy of the arc of the plot,  We’re at Anthony’s inquest but it seems like that should have taken place 5 chapters ago.

27. Compton – frame – 1st person Dan –  the families visit at Andrew’s estate.  Daniel hobnobs with everyone – nice intimate psycho-analytical type conversations with Jane and Nell and Caro and Andrew – gads.   The Fenwicks come for dinner – barrister and politico – womanizer.   Political talk and then he psycho-analyzes Fenwick’s beliefs.  Then the four sit around and analyze those not there.  Finally the big “secret,”  Jane’s Marxist leanings.  (Like this is a family decision.)  Daniel shows once again how blind and hypocritical he is where women are concerned – maybe more.

28. Tsankawi – backstory – Dan 1st person and then the author (?)  and then Jenny,  but …  Dan remembering a trip with Jenny to the Tucson area, US.  Blah, blah, blah about writing and then:

The tiny first seed of what this book is trying to be dropped into my mind that day:  a longing for a medium that would tally better with this real structure of my racial being and mind…  something dense, interweaving, treating time as horizontal, like a skyline; not cramped, linear and progressive. It was a longing accented by something I knew of the men who had once lived at Tsankawi;  of their inability to think of time except in the present, of the past and future except in terms of the present-not-here, thereby creating a kind of equivalency of memories and feelings, a totality of consciousness that fragmented modern man has completely lost. (p. 331).

One – “The first tiny seed of what this book is trying to be?”  (p. 330)  Are we listening to the author or the narrator or both?  Is it the author who is acting as first person non-Dan?  This is just cutesy-poo stuff.  Stupid.  Adds nothing to anything except maybe theory.  “Look,  fellow cool writers,  I can get get more meta-fictional than thee.”   (puke)

Two – is it not rather racist to think that the English are superior to Natives because they have memories?  Or is it so sad for the English that they are ensnared in the past and future and have lost their sense of the present.   (More hypocrisy on the part of Daniel, imo.)

Then a small section with Jenny narrating,  knowing she doesn’t understand Dan. But Dan never reveals – just gives tests.  And the business about him loving nature is bs – there just isn’t enough substance to that to make it true.

29. Westward  – frame and backstory – Dan as 1st person – goes to visit his home in Thorncombe,  see the village,  talk to Ben and Phoebe, the caretakers.  Jane is with him.

30. Phillida  – backstory Dan is 1st person –  Nancy is Dan’s 1st love – all this man is really interested in is sex and my guess is that I don’t think he ever outgrows that.

31. Thorncombe – Jane and Dan at Thorncombe  1st and 3rd persons –  Dan is going to write a novel.  (not interesting)   Dan wants Jane to go with him to Egypt where Dan can do some research on his current project,  Kitchener, a British war hero who served in Egypt.  He says Jenny would approve.  Jane’s boyfriend has kind of copped out of their relationship now that she’s free.

“If Jenny was here, and she knew you, she’d be urging you to go. That’s not a problem.”   (p. 398)

What kind of fantasy is this man living in?

32. In the Orchard of the Blessed – 3rd person – Dan thinking about his novel.  This is so stupid but as Dan implies,  he can only be “authentic” about what he knows.  To take this back to Fowles – he only knows about sex and writing sooooo …. ta-da, ta-da …. we have a book about sex and writing.   There may be a tad about being English and born in the wrong time (LOL)  but not that much.

33. Rain –   present –  3rd – Dan tells Jane more about Egypt and then tells Jane who does not take it well.

34. A Third Contribution – Jenny – 1st – sad, sad, sad –  a letter to Dan about her life – sexual freedom is not portrayed as a joyous life here – maybe for the men – Jenny is hurting.

35. The Shadows of Women – frame Dan 1st –  Dan makes up with Jenny on phone.   Jane’s family is happy about Jane going to Egypt.  Nell is seriously stupid –

“Perhaps you can get her off with some lovely oil-sheik.”
(p. 449)

Caro’s affair with Barney is made known.  Family is against her marrying him or him leaving his marriage.  She won’t talk about it.  I think she wanted to go to Egypt with her dad –

36. Pyramids and Prisons –  present – 3rd – In Egypt,  adjoining rooms (gasp).  Jenny can’t let go but Dan continues to be absolutely blind about himself.  He wants to be sure he has a new woman in the bed before breaks with the old one.  Dan works some – .   Finally a little insight either on his part or on the narrator’s:

“… he still strove, even in the shifting nows of his life, always for control, a safe place…  Dan’s solution had been, like some kinds of animal, to find safety in movement; to be Jenny’s suitcase in eternal transit;….  his religion had been non-attachment… what the woman now sleeping on the other side of the door had said to his daughter. Yet somehow this seemed a very superficial paradox between father and son. In both cases there was a same flaw of nature: a need not to question, to ban certain possibilities.”  (p. 474).

37. Barbarians – present – 3rd person – Luxor tours, it’s huge and ugly and old with bad vibes.  Dan is reminded of Andrea,  an old girlfriend.   Jane buys beads,  lots of cons in the jewelry shop.  They meet a fan of Dan’s and later Dan shows his elitism but also understands Jane a bit better with her Marxist sympathies.

38. Nile  present – 3rd person – Nile boat trip for 6 days of sameness and observing others.   Dan constantly sees Jane as being different from the other women,  but equally attractive to the others (meaning himself).  They argue gently about Marxism and Imperialism and art and self-awareness.   Jane and Dan grow closer in very homey ways,  Dan doesn’t call Jenny.

Dan reads the Lukacs book Jane gave him – remembers Anthony.  A passage about the acceptance or rejection of angst intrigues him – is man a helpless victim or can he choose to make a contribution toward reform?

The childless Americans they meet argue about Vietnam (this takes place before 1970?) and Dan psychoanalyzes.  Dan is polite but it’s no out of duty – rather:

he was not just doing his expected duty— but meeting incarnate the darkest, strangest and most omnipotent god of them all. (p. 507)

39. The River Between   present, 3rd person –  continuing on Nile cruise –  Dan watches birds and loves it (this time it’s believable).  Jane is interested in the fellaheen,  the peasants, as they did their work along the shores.  Talk to German professor tour guide about socialism and ancient ways and other matters.  Interesting.

“… two words, without which one could never decipher the fellaheen character.  One was qadim, which meant ancient, holding power from the past, therefore never to be relinquished. It was their key of life, their passport to survival. The other word was kayf, which meant sitting, thinking and doing nothing, existence as a waiting-room for a train that will never come.”  (p. 510)

Dan gets a lecture about freedom, free will and ancient definitions,  modern terms,  his role as a scriptwriter.  He thinks about art –

“… he saw all art as a mere modern variation on superstitious tomb-making, absurdly elaborate and futile insurance against the unknown, the seeing brought a sense of freedom… or perhaps it was more a retreat into Englishness—” (p. 516)

(I think Lukacs sees reality for the individual as consisting of a dialectic between historical/social pressures and an inner willingness to change.)

Mentions Lukacs again and thinks of his novel in terms of 3rd person impassive as being best for the narration.  The German professor has many interesting thoughts about art and time – especially time and our presence in it.   And there are two kinds of people in the world –  ?


Kitchener Island

40. Kitchener’s Island  – frame – a  small, oval-shaped island in the Nile at Aswan.

41. In the Silence of Other Voices
42. Flights
43. North
44. End of the World
45. The Bitch
46. Future Past

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