Robert Aickman

Go Back at Once

Introduction by Brian Evenson

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.

Paperback: £11.99
EBook: £6.99
Print status: Pre-order
Original language: English
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 11 January 2022
ISBN: 9781913505202
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505219
Availability: World English
Number of pages: 400

Reviews

Neil Gaiman

‘Reading Robert Aickman is like watching a magician work, and very often I’m not even sure what the trick was. All I know is that he did it beautifully.’

Anwen Crawford
The New Yorker

‘In Aickman’s fiction, peculiarity is intertwined with a drab twentieth-century realism that is very English and sometimes dryly funny. Think Philip Larkin, or Barbara Pym, gone eldritch.’

John Darnielle, author of Wolf in White Van

‘His name should be placed among the greats—Flannery O’Connor, Irwin Shaw, Raymond Carver . . . You will never forget the first Aickman story you read, nor be satisfied when you’ve read them all.’

Matthew Cheney
Electric Literature

‘Unsettling is a key description for Aickman’s writing, not merely in the sense of creating anxiety, but in the sense of undoing what has been settled: his stories unsettle the ideas you bring to them about how fictional reality and consensus reality should fit together . . . He was drawn to ghost stories because they provided him with conventions for unmaking the conventional world, but he was about as much of a traditional ghost story writer as Salvador Dalí was a typical designer of pocket watches.’