Tongues of Flame

“Merging structural simplicity with emotional complexity, Tim Parks has written a novel of extraordinary balance and grace.”


Finchley, North London, 1968. A fifteen-year-old caught up in a flurry of charismatic religious fervour, complete with speaking in tongues, prophesies, “words of wisdom” and ultimately exorcism. This is the most autobiographical of my novels. With six typescripts already rejected, I relaxed I suppose, and in a state of savage hilarity wrote about adolescent times, never imagining the thing would actually get published. That was my first year in Italy, I must have been 25. The thing was written by hand in no more than four weeks in a gloomy, freezing cold room with Madonnas and sacred hearts on the wall and one huge painting of a woman holding a candle by a tomb. Far cry from my protestant background. But I remember this was the first time I had that sensation, no doubt illusory, of not being able to put a foot wrong. Though entirely unplanned, the thing came out without a single false start. Rejected by any number of publishers, it finally made it when an old friend sent a copy to the now defunct Sinclair Prize for unpublished manuscripts. Fay Weldon and Marina Warner picked it out. I take this belated occasion to thank them.


Short takes

Not since Catcher in the Rye has there been such a believable portrayal of male puberty. The quality of story-telling and the cadences of the prose have a piercing authenticity.


Parks is a writer to watch. As a technician he cannot be faulted. His book builds to a terrifying tour de force, made bearable only by the tight prose


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