By Jonathan Meades
The 20th anniversary edition of Meades' postwar masterpiece
About the book
"He has done for Portsmouth (Portsmouth, for heaven's sake) what Baudelaire did for Paris, Joyce for Dublin and Paul Bowles for Tangier... One of the very best and most absurdly underrated novels of the nineties."
STEPHEN FRY, from his preface to the new edition
"Why read Pompey? It is a work of genius. It is one of the outstanding works of English fiction of the last half-century… It is as well that no serious person measures literary merit by Booker prizes and the like, for if it were so then Pompey would have had to win scores of them. It is one of the last truly great novels of the 20th century, and for it not to be better known is perhaps not least because of the way in which it cocks its leg, and then squats, over what passes for literary sensibilities in our culture."
SIMON HEFFER, from his introduction to the new edition
‘It is a stunning performance, and places Meades in the upper echelon of 20th century prose stylists. His use of language is relentlessly inventive, violent, fresh, precise. He shares with the great stylists – Dickens, Joyce, Nabokov, Bellow – the ability to make the world appear alien while rendering it a more intense version of itself.’
MATTHEW ADAMS, Independent
‘A James Joyce-John Osborne mash-up with occasional nods to BS Johnson, Grimms’ fairytales and Thomas Harris, Pompey is a post-war family saga set in Portsmouth… it had me marveling at his mind, so gross in some respects and so exquisite in others.’
RACHEL COOKE, Observer
"Disgusting and brilliant – should earn Meades justifiable comparison to Joyce, Celine, Pynchon."
PAUL SPIKE, Vogue
"There is no doubt that Pompey is the product of a brilliant mind: one would not, however, wish to dine with its author."
NICK HORNBY, TLS
"The English novel needs its senses to be violently deranged, and this piledriver of a book... might just provide a kick-start."
ELIZABETH YOUNG, Independent on Sunday
At first glance, Jonathan Meades’s 1993 masterpiece Pompey is a post-war family saga set in and around the city of Portsmouth. This doesn’t come close to communicating the scabrous magnificence of Meades’s vision. He writes like Martin Amis on acid, creating an obscene, suppurating vision of an England in terminal decline.
The story begins with Guy Vallender, a fireworks manufacturer from Portsmouth (Pompey), who has four children by different four different women. There’s Poor Eddie, a feeble geek with a gift for healing; 'Mad Bantu', the son of a black prostitute, who was hopelessly damaged in the womb by an attempted abortion; Bonnie, who is born beautiful but becomes a junkie and a porn star, and finally Jean-Marie, a leather-wearing gay gerontophiliac conceived on a one-night stand in Belgium. The narrator is 'Jonathan Meades', cousin to Poor Eddie and Bonnie, who tells the story of how their strange and poisonous destinies intersect. And although there is no richer stew of perversity, voyeurism, corruption, religious extremism and curdled celebrity in all of English literature, there is also an underlying compassion and a jet-black humour which makes Pompey an important and strangely satisfying work of art.
Prepare to enter the English novel’s darkest ride...