Reissue to follow up publication of Paul Bailey’s new novel Kitty and Virgil. Two of his previous novels ‘Peter Smart’s Confessions’ and ‘Gabriel’s Lament’, were shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
First published in 1980, Old Soldiers is Bailey’s most elegantly simple and perhaps most moving novel. The eponymous soldiers are two old men who (as his own father had been) are still haunted by First World War memories. Victor Harker – a survivor from the Somme, dazed with grief after his wife’s recent death – gets entangled with another man, who splits himself into an ‘unholy trinity’ of parts; by turns a military man, a tramp and a poet, he performs each part enthusiastically, with a loving attention to verisimilitude. It’s only at the end that we glimpse the sixty-year-old shame and grief which he has wasted a life time denying.