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Authors: Jim Crace

Arcadia

Arcadia

J
IM
C
RACE
is the author of
Continent
,
The Gift of Stones
,
Arcadia
,
Signals of
Distress
,
Quarantine
(winner of the 1998 Whitbread Novel of the Year and shortlisted for the Booker Prize),
Being Dead
(winner of the 2001 National Book Critics’ Circle
Award),
The Devil’s Larder
,
Six
, and
The Pesthouse
. His novels have been translated into twenty-six languages. In 1999 Jim Crace was elected to the Royal Society of
Literature.

A
LSO BY
J
IM
C
RACE

Continent

The Gift of Stones

Signals of Distress

Quarantine

Being Dead

The Devil’s Larder

Six

The Pesthouse

 
JIM CRACE
ARCADIA

PICADOR

 

First published 1992 by Jonathan Cape

First published in paperback 1993 by Picador

This edition first published 2008 by Picador

This electronic edition published 2008 by Picador
an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd
Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Rd, London N1 9RR
Basingstoke and Oxford
Associated companies throughout the world
www.panmacmillan.com

ISBN 978-0-330-47374-3 PDF
ISBN 978-0-330-47373-6 EPUB

Copyright © Jim Crace 1992

The right of Jim Crace to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic,
digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication
may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

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The tallest buildings throw the longest Shadows

(thus Great Men make their Mark by blocking out the Sun,

and, seeking Warmth themselves, cast Cold upon the rest).

 

E
MILE
DELL
’O
VA
,
Truismes

Editions Baratin, Paris (1774)

 
Contents

Part 1

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Part 2

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Part 3

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 42

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Part 4

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Part One
T
HE
S
OAP
M
ARKET
1

N
O WONDER
Victor never fell in love. A childhood like the one he had would make ice cubes of us all. He lived on mother’s milk till he was six,
and then he thrived on charity and trade.

On the day that he was eighty, Victor dined on fish. He loved fish best. As he had scaled and silvered with old age, so his taste for fish had grown. Ten live perch from his own stock pool
arrived that morning at the station and were driven by cab in a plastic travel-tank to his offices. The kitchen staff were used to Victor and his coddled fish. They planned to cook them steeped in
apple beer, and serve them cold with olives from his farm. There would be champagne too – the boss’s own. And fruit, of course. All this for just five birthday guests. Greengrocers
every one, spud-traders, bean-merchants, middlemen in fruit – and each of them, like Victor, old and slow and hard of hearing. There were – at his request – no gifts, no cards, no
cake. He would not tax himself – or any of his staff – with speeches. What old men want is peace and informality, and the chance to talk amongst themselves like smutty boys.

He said he wanted a simple country meal. The fiction in his mind was this: that he would sit surrounded by his friends beneath a canvas awning. There’d be white cloths on a shaky trestle.
A breeze. The guests would push off their slippers and rub their bare toes in the dust. They’d twist round on their stools and spit olive stones in the air. Some cats and chickens would take
care of crumbs and perch skins. With just a little teasing and some cash, the cook’s fat son would play plump tunes on his accordion. That was Victor’s ideal birthday meal. Simple,
cheap, and attainable for country people living earthbound on a farm, say, thirty years ago; but a dream beyond the reach of cheques and fax machines for a man whose home is twenty-seven storeys
and a hundred metres up, with views all round, through tinted, toughened glass, and tinted, toughened air, of office blocks and penthouses and malls.

Nevertheless, the man we knew as Rook had done his best to cater for old Victor’s dreams. White tablecloths were easy to locate. Rook had the cats. The breeze was air-conditioning. The old
men could shake their slippers off and rub their toes in carpet wool. They could spit their olive pips at waitresses. Why not?

They’d have to go without the chickens, reasoned Rook. Victor could not have free-range hens clucking amongst his halting guests. He was not Dalí, yet. The accordions were booked.
The agency had arranged a band of three, two sisters and a friend. Perhaps, thought Rook, he ought to spray the elevator with aerosols of field dung, or play recorded birdsong on the intercom.
He’d have the boss in tears. He’d have the boss in tears, in any case. He had resolved to indulge Victor for the day. He planned to dress a birthday chair for him in greenery, just like
they used to in the village where Victor was born. Just like the chair in Leyel’s
Calendar of Customs
: Plate XVII, a fogged black-and-white photograph of a small boy from the twenties,
beaming, tearful, overdressed in breeches and a waistcoat, amid the birthday foliage of a high-backed seat. Victor could have the same. Office Security and Caretaking would disapprove – but,
surely, Rook could decorate a chair without the building grinding to a halt. A little greenery would do no harm.

So that was Rook’s day arranged. It made a change from simply standing by as the old man inked his mark on cheques and papers or pointed his icy nose at the latest trading journals or
– more warmly – at Alkadier’s
Illustrated Guide to Greenhouse Coleoptera
, which was his bed and desk and lavatory companion. Besides, it released Rook onto the streets for
a while. His greatest joy, to let his tie hang loose, to dodge and stroll amongst the people of the city. But earning wages all the time, bleeding Victor’s purse, bleeding purses
everywhere.

There was a city garden, at the heart of the crop market and not far from Victor’s, where there were roses, laurels, and all sorts of green-grey, stunted shrubs. It used to be the public
washing square, and was known still to all the locals as the Soap Garden. With a logic more poetic than functional, the market which engulfed the garden was known, too, as the Soap Market, though
soap was not on sale. The bludgeoned medieval scrubbing stones and the gargoyle fountains of the washing square were still there, though protected from the people by a fence. Seats and tables
spilled out into the garden from the many adjacent market bars. And there were lawns, a cake-and-coffee stand, and shrubbery that would make a perfect dressing for a birthday chair. I could send a
chauffeur or a clerk, it’s true, thought Rook. But on sunny days like this there were girls spread out across the grass – more and prettier than he’d ever meet in country lanes.
Why waste such prospects on a clerk?

He told Anna, the woman who ran the outer rooms, hired and fired the staff, and controlled the door to Victor’s office suite, that there were ‘arrangements to be made’ and that
he’d be gone two hours at the most. ‘Bring back a cake for me,’ she said. She was no fool. She knew Rook well. She’d known him hurry out before on urgent morning calls, then
caught him sitting idly in his room with nothing on his desk but crumbs. He was not the sort to play the grandee if the staff included him in their gossip or their pleasantries. He did not have a
reputation there for hard work, or pride. He was Victor’s buffer – and his fixer – that was all. Boss said; Rook did. Though what Rook did and fixed was anybody’s guess.

Anna liked the teasing mystery of Rook. Her pleasure showed: her voice amused, her face a little flushed and kindled. She wondered if she would dare to share a cake with him, their mouths and
tongues contesting every crumb. They’d been so close to that a thousand times before – his hand upon the waistband of her skirt or pinching at her flesh, his breath upon her neck, as
they stood in line at the coffee or the copying machine; her hand, just playfully, on his, when side by side each morning, when hip to haunch at Anna’s desk, they checked the agenda of
Victor’s day. If this was love, then it was wise, not youthful love, not timid love, not blind romance. And if this was simply passion and no more, then it was in good hands, for Rook and
Anna were both old – and young – enough to make the most of passion while time was on their side. For Anna there was pouching beneath her chin, some lines and bruising at the eyes, a
softness to her stomach and her thighs, some parchmenting of skin along her inner limbs, the loss of buoyancy, and more, to tell her daily, every time she washed or dressed or ran, that she was
over forty and that she should dare to change her motto from the
Careful Does It
of her youth to
Yes and Now and Here
.

For Rook the signs of ripening were much the same, plus listless hair that was blanching at the temples and an asthmatic’s prow-like chest as evidence that, underneath the lively tie and
shirt, his lungs were shallow and distressed. He saw himself as lean and weightless. His mind was lean. The expression on his face was lean. But – naked in the shower or in bed – his
leanness was exposed as thinness. But still he was a tempting, enigmatic man, not dry or beaten like the other men she knew. Anna dared to look him in the eye and contemplate the cake – and
more – that they could share. ‘We’ll see,’ she said, not quite aloud, her fingers church-and-steepled at her chins, her spirit moistened by the prospects of the day. Yes,
yes. Yes here. Yes now. Rook recognized himself in her. He smiled at Anna and he asked, ‘Just name your cake. What can I tempt you with today?’ She said she wanted a Viennese with fruit
and cream. That would go well with the best champagne which she expected the boss to press upon his personal staff so they could toast him at his birthday lunch. Rook promised to fix it. What
he’d do was this. He’d see to it that all the people working in the outer rooms got cakes and drink. They’d join the aged greengrocers in celebrating Victor’s eighty years.
The staff could eat a cake, he thought, without the building grinding to a halt, though buildings-grinding-to-a-halt appealed to him.

Thus Rook, on that summer Friday in our city, was armed with errands to gather cakes and greenery, as he descended the hundred metres and the twenty-seven floors by Victor’s private lift
and walked towards the open air through the pampered, plastic foliage of the atriums which flared and billowed from the building like quilted valances of glass. He showed his face and his Staff
Pass at the tasselled rope and stepped between the wings of a revolving door. T
HESE
D
OORS ARE
A
UTOMATIC
, announced the sign.
It was a warning and a boast: These Doors are Greater and More Permanent than You. They simply swept him in a rotating triangle of processed air into the sun and breeze beyond. All security ended
there.

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