C.P. Snow: The Dynamics of Hope by Nicolas Tredell (auth.)

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By Nicolas Tredell (auth.)

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The New Men, about the attempt to produce a British atomic bomb and the impact on British scientists of the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, came out in 1954, and, together with The Masters, received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for that year. Homecomings followed in 1956 and The Conscience of the Rich in 1958. By the end of the decade, Snow’s widely-read fiction was becoming a source of critical controversy as it seemed to affront deeply entrenched ideas of what a novel should be.

Ian is on his way to join Roger Mills, whom he has known for ten years, on Roger’s boat, The Siren, on the Norfolk Broads. Snow sometimes calls Roger’s boat a ‘wherry’ and sometimes a ‘yacht’. This may mean that the boat is a ‘wherry yacht’, although Snow does not actually use this term. The ‘wherry yacht’ combined the traditional gaff rig of the Norfolk barge known as a wherry with a streamlined yacht-style white hull. It sounds like the kind of upmarket hybrid craft that a prosperous professional like Roger Mills might have owned in the 1930s.

The work was demanding but enjoyable. In a letter of 11 December 1940 to his brother Philip, he described himself as doing a rather important job which takes me behind the scenes in various ministries and sometimes to the outskirts of the War Ministry: rushing about in trains, interviewing vice-chancellors, reading War and Peace and the lesser Dostoevski [sic] novels in interminable journeys through the blackout: occupied, harassed, overworked and fairly cheerful. (SB, 75) Snow recruited scientists for radar development, mainly from universities; he also selected young men for accelerated, two-year university science degrees.

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