Go Back at Once by Robert Aickman
Hardcover – Tartarus Press – Nov 2020 – 362 pages
Go Back at Once, completed by Robert Aickman in August 1975, is a previously unpublished novel set in the 1920s telling the story of two young English women, Cressida Hazeborough and her friend Vivien. The story really begins when Cressida asks, ‘ “Vivien, who is Virgilio Vittore?” ’
The girls learn that Vittore has personally annexed the state of Trino and is now governing it ‘according to the laws of music’. Vittore is based on the Italian poet and author Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938), who similarly annexed Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) in 1920.
Go Back at Once is, in many ways, a very personal fantasy for Aickman. It reflects his agreement with Shelley that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind, and Nietzsche’s belief that ‘art alone could hold the key to human life in the future’. In Virgilio Vittore Aickman offers us an example of how he thought an enlightened country should be run. Trino is chaotic, but it is always colourful, surprising and artistic.
Go Back at Once is a fascinating and very readable glimpse into the mind of an always intriguing writer.
Cover artwork by Stephen J Clark.