Go Back at Once
Completed by Robert Aickman in 1975, but never before widely available, Go Back at Once is a delicious, delirious comic fantasia about the joys and terrors of a life devoted to resisting the degradations of conformism. It tells the story of Cressida Hazeborough and her friend Vivien, two mordantly intelligent young women trying to find their ways in a misty, pre-Depression Britain. The pair have little patience for the company of the marriageable men they are meant to endure, yet neither do they possess the means to live as they might wish: together, and apart from the demands of modern society. What’s a girl to do?
Having left school and taken the sorts of London job available to women of their age and station, remarkable arrives: a great foreign poet, playwright, athlete, and soldier named Virgilio Vittore has successfully conquered the tiny country of Trino, on the Adriatic Sea, and is now governing it ‘according to the laws of music’. Could this new utopia be a refuge for Cressida and Vivien, and indeed all who seek a life less ordinary? Or should the women, having arrived in this chaotic land, where love, life, and politics must submit to the rules of the beautiful, take to heart the advice of the novel’s title?
Snobbish yet humane, reactionary yet camp, strait-laced yet queer, old-fashioned yet radical, Go Back at Once reveals Robert Aickman as a master not only of the ‘strange story’, but a satirist deserving of a place alongside the mischievous and venomous greats of the inter-war canon: Firbank, Compton-Burnett, Waugh, Powell.