While The Rain Before it Falls offered a retrospective of 60 years of a woman’s life and The House of Sleep followed the destiny of a group of young people over two decades, Coe’s most recent novels, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim (2010) and Expo 58 (2013), focus on only one year — 2009 and 1958 respectively — and on the trajectory of ordinary men, on the road and abroad. Published in 2010, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, had its origins twenty years earlier when Coe ‘jotted down some ideas for a novel about a travelling salesman driving the length and breadth of Britain’s motorway network’ (Website, Sim). Coe describes his ninth novel as both a picaresque novel indebted to Fielding’s Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones (Website, Sim) and a ‘British “road movie”, finding narrative interest in a journey along the M40, the A5192 and the A74(M)’ (in Laity), a novel which was influenced by Lindsay Anderson’s 1973 epic film O Lucky Man!. In an essay on Anderson, Coe compares the film to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and describes it as ‘a modern version of Candide or The Pilgrim’s Progress, in which a naïve hero journeys through the cities and along the motorways of 70s Britain, looking for enlightenment and encountering a series of strange adventures’ (2013d). Similarly, like the hero (or anti-hero) of an epic, Maxwell Sim ‘undertakes a journey; faces diverse situations and characters; and, learning from his experiences, comes to some moral revelation by the end of the work’ (Hoskin).
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