Ninety-Nine Novels: The Aerodrome by Rex Warner
In 1984, Anthony Burgess published Ninety-Nine Novels, a selection of his favourite novels in English since 1939. The list is typically idiosyncratic, and shows the breadth of Burgess’s interest in fiction. This podcast, by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, explores the novels on Burgess’s list with the help of writers, critics and other special guests.
In this episode, Graham Foster assesses the dystopian threats of Rex Warner’s 1942 novel The Aerodrome. Writer and academic Joseph Darlington guides us through Warner’s politics, his representations of England and whether or not the novel is truly a dystopia.
The Aerodrome is set in a nameless but idyllic rural village, where the inhabitants live rough but blameless lives attending church, frequenting the pub and enjoying village fetes. But on a hill overlooking the village, a mysterious militaristic aerodrome has been constructed, and threatens to overwhelm the entire countryside. Our hero Roy, disillusioned with village life, attempts to resist the lure of the Air-Vice Marshall, a charismatic leader who promises order and excitement.
Rex Warner was born in Birmingham in 1905, and was a renowned classicist, writer, poet and translator. He attended Wadham College, Oxford, where he became friends with W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis. During the 1930s he developed strong anti-fascist beliefs, something reflected in his first three novels: The Wild Goose Chase, The Professor, and The Aerodrome. He wrote seven further novels, three books of poetry, and many volumes of non-fiction including translations from Ancient Greek and Latin. His translation of Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War for Penguin Classics sold over a million copies, and is still in print today. He died in 1973.
Joseph Darlington is the author of The Experimentalists, published by Bloomsbury, a collective biography of British experimental novelists of the 1960s. He is also the author of the novel The Girl Beneath the Ice, published by Northodox, and the co-editor of the Manchester Review of Books.
Books mentioned in this episode
By Rex Warner:
- The Wild Goose Chase (1937)
- The Professor (1938)
- Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (translation, 1954)
- Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)
- The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (1886)
- The Castle by Franz Kafka (1926)
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
- Quack! Quack! by Leonard Woolf (1935)
- Swastika Night by Katherine Burdekin (1937)
- The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (1937)
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
- 1985 by Anthony Burgess (1978)
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
- The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar Paperback Publishing by Steve Holland (1993)
- The Mortmere Stories by Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward (1994)
- The Wall by John Lanchester (2019)
- The Death of H.L. Hix by H.L. Hix (2021)
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In Series One and Two of Ninety-Nine Novels, we learnt about authors including James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, Iris Murdoch, Ian Fleming and William Golding, among others. These episodes are available at your favourite place to get podcasts.
You can join the conversation and tell us which 100th book you would add to Burgess’s list by using the hashtag #99Novels on Twitter.
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The theme music for the Ninety-Nine Novels podcast is Anthony Burgess’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Piano in D Minor, performed by No Dice Collective.