Allan Sealy

19 August 2011
368 pages


Billed as an alphabet, and narrated by the nameless 'N', Red introduces us first to N's friend, Zach. In St Petersburg for a music festival, Zach encounters the red-headed Aline in the Matisse Room at the Hermitage and is immediately bewitched. The two fall in love as quickly as they fall into bed and it seems that nothing can keep them apart. But other characters also appear between the sheets: a gang of five black-shorted, grease-smeared, soot-smudged men, who take what they want, stealing money (and, on one occasion, a piece of art) from homes of the rich; a girl who tends pigs, and wants to keep what is hers; a workman whose wants are few, but with devastating consequences. Even aspects of N's own life are revealed: his awkward relationships with his teenage daughter and her American mother. As these stories overlap and entwine, Red is revealed as a vibrant, violent tale: a love story and a story about the love of art, about life imitating art, about the end of love -- and the end of life.

'A trio of colour-coded stories . . . Red's architecture brings with it an associative, encyclopaedic logic, a familiar way of organizing information whereby these disparate stories, digressions and fragments of theory draw together to inform the narratives; its structure spreads out the histories and movements of its characters through the alphabet' TLS