A 1953 Novel about ‘Inverts’ and Social Class
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Published in: September-October 2023 issue.

AS A SUPERFAN of Neil Bartlett—I’ve raved about four of his works in these pages—I recently went back to his first novel, Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall (1992), reissued in 2017. In the new introduction, Bartlett acknowledges his debt to “two of my favourite collector’s items in the pre-history of British gay fiction, Rodney Garland’s The Heart in Exile (1953) and the screenplay for the film Victim (1961).” I’d seen the film (Dirk Bogarde suffers, fabulously), but didn’t know the novel, and wondered what a seventy-year-old novel might have to say to me. Fortunately, the always valiant Valancourt Books reissued it in 2014, with a splendid introduction by none other than Bartlett himself.

            Rodney Garland was the pseudonym for Adam Martin de Hegedus, born in Hungary in 1906. He moved to London in 1939, where he wrote several books. The Heart in Exile was his only success, going through multiple printings in Britain and the U.S. It received respectable if predictably condescending reviews. According to The Observer: “Its detached picture of barren tragic love and desire … can arouse no disgust but only a deep pity coupled with a new understanding.” It is assumed that his death in 1958 was a suicide.

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Michael Schwartz is an associate editor for this magazine.