Six Degrees of Separation: From The End of the Affair to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Here we are at the first Saturday in March, meaning it’s time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

The starting book for this month’s chain is Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, about extramarital love in a time of war. Although I haven’t read this one, I like Graham Greene’s writing and am interested in reading this novel at some point.

In this tale, Maurice Bendrix is having an extramarital affair with Sarah, the wife of his friend Henry Miles. When Sarah breaks things off, Maurice is so non-plussed that he employs a private detective to find out why. Henry is amiable but boring, and Maurice can’t understand why Sarah won’t leave him. There’s another amiable but boring husband in my first link in the chain.

In Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, Tony Last is cuckolded by his wife Brenda. Brenda does leave, however, and attempts to extort money out of Tony, at the behest of her lover. Tony joins an expedition to South America and ends up the captive of Mr Todd who effectively enslaves Tony to read Dickens to him. In my next choice, the cuckolded husband runs away to war, rather than an Amazonian adventure.

Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End is a tetralogy of novels following Christopher Titjens through the First World War. Christopher’s wife Sylvia has numerous affairs that threaten Christopher’s social standing. He ends up having a sexually unconsummated but intellectually passionate affair with a suffragette, Valentine Wannop. My third link is another tetralogy.

Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility series follows Shigekuni Honda from law student to judge. Shigekuni believes his friend Kiyoaki Matsugae, who dies young, is serially reincarnated and it is his responsibility to save each reincarnation from early death. In the first book of the series, Kiyoaki has an affair with a young noblewoman betrothed to someone else and causes her social ruin. My fourth book in the chain also concerns friendship and the tragedy of love.

Natsume Sōseki’s Kokoro has an unnamed narrator tell the story of Sensei, an older man he befriends on holiday. In the final part of the novel, Sensei writes a letter that recounts an episode in his youth when he and his best friend K were rivals for the affections of the same girl. Sensei, through underhand means, wins her hand with tragic consequences. Before he knows that K is interested in her, Sensei spends a lot of time debating whether the young woman is a suitable wife for him, whereas in my next choice the state chooses its citizens’ partners.

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We is set in the future One State, where as well as everyone having state assigned lovers, they can also have state approved impersonal sex visits with any other citizen. D-503, an engineer working on One State’s space battleship that will help conquer other planets, has an approved lover O-90 but also starts an unofficial flirtation with I-330. O-90 has been classified as too short to bear children, and asks D-503 to impregnate her illegally in return for keeping quiet about his unofficial relationship with I-330. It all goes badly, of course. But at least they are human, unlike some of the characters in my final link.

In Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, police bounty hunter Rick Deckard kills rogue Androids, who have gone native in human society, in order to afford the live Nubian goat he feels his depressed wife Iran deserves, to replace the electric sheep they already have. Along the way, he falls in love with the Android Rachael and they have sex, because this is what Rachael is programmed to do, and has done with many other bounty hunters, to dissuade them from killing Androids. It doesn’t work, Deckard kills more Androids, and Rachael takes her revenge.

All of my choices this month are books from Boxall’s list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, all are written by men, and all have love affairs and betrayal within their plots. Most of the women who have agency in these books are held to be ruiners of men’s reputations or are seen as difficult to understand. The passive women are merely toys in the games fed by male ego. Their reputations don’t matter.

And now for my usual question: where might your chain take you? Head over to Kate’s blog to discover the chains shared by other readers.


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