The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis
(New York Review Books Classics)

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Synopsis

Age has done everything except mellow the characters in Kingsley Amis’s The Old Devils, which turns its humane and ironic gaze on a group of Welsh married couples who have been spending their golden years—when “all of a sudden the evening starts starting after breakfast”—nattering, complaining, reminiscing, and, above all, drinking. This more or less orderly social world is thrown off-kilter, however, when two old friends unexpectedly return from England: Alun Weaver, now a celebrated man of Welsh letters, and his entrancing wife, Rhiannon. Long-dormant rivalries and romances are rudely awakened, as life at the Bible and Crown, the local pub, is changed irrevocably.

Considered by Martin Amis to be Kingsley Amis’s greatest achievement—a book that “stands comparison with any English novel of the [twentieth] century”—The Old Devils confronts the attrition of ageing with rare candor, sympathy, and moral intelligence.
 

About Kingsley Amis

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Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) was a popular and prolific British novelist, poet, and critic, widely regarded as one of the greatest satirical writers of the twentieth century. Born in suburban South London, the only child of a clerk in the office of the mustard-maker Colman's, he went to the City of London School on the Thames before winning an English scholarship to St. John's College, Oxford, where he began a lifelong friendship with fellow student Philip Larkin. Following service in the British Army's Royal Corps of Signals during World War II , he completed his degree and joined the faculty at the University College of Swansea in Wales. Lucky Jim, his first novel, appeared in 1954 to great acclaim and won a Somerset Maugham Award. Amis spent a year as a visiting fellow in the creative writing department of Princeton University and in 1961 became a fellow at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, but resigned the position two years later, lamenting the incompatibility of writing and teaching ("I found myself fit for nothing much more exacting than playing the gramophone after three supervisions a day"). Ultimately he published twenty-four novels, including science fiction and a James Bond sequel; more than a dozen collections of poetry, short stories, and literary criticism; restaurant reviews and three books about drinking; political pamphlets and a memoir; and more. Amis received the Booker Prize for his novel The Old Devils in 1986 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990. He had three children, among them the novelist Martin Amis, with his first wife, Hilary Anne Bardwell, from whom he was divorced in 1965. After his second, eighteen-year marriage to the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard ended in 1983, he lived in a London house with his first wife and her third husband. Keith Gessen is a founding editor of N+1 and the author of All the Sad Young Literary Men. Among his translations from the Russian are Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich and, with Anna Summers, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.
 
Published October 2, 2012 by NYRB Classics. 320 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Unrated Critic Reviews for The Old Devils

The New York Review of Books

Age has done everything except mellow the characters in Kingsley Amis’s The Old Devils, which turns its humane and ironic gaze on a group of Welsh married couples who have been spending their golden years—when “all of a sudden the evening starts starting after breakfast”—nattering, complaining, r...

Oct 02 2012 | Read Full Review of The Old Devils (New York Revi...

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JENNA AUBREY

JENNA AUBREY 5 Sep 2013

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