353 - Recommended reading: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Rob Anderson (Standard British accent)

Smith is the character. You never learn his first name, which… which is indicative because he’s an outcast. Society doesn’t like him, he doesn’t like society, and he gets arrested in a rather comical way, really, for… for having burgled a shop, and while he’s in borstal he is recognized as slim and athletic and so they ask him to… if he can run, and he says yes and so eventually he becomes a runner, and he becomes a long-distance runner, which means they have to open the borstal gates and allow him his freedom to run outside and this… they give him this trust, and there is an… an all-England inter-borstal race, and the governor of the borstal is very, very, very keen to win this race and Smith of course is their… they pin their hopes on Smith to win the race. And while… during the book while Smith is running, he’s thinking about life, he’s thinking about society, it’s very much “them and us,” and then the race arrives and he is winning by a clear margin and he can see the finishing line and the governor of the borstal is there and everybody’s cheering and the… the… the… the… the nearest runner is… is… must be 200, 300 yards behind him, and he gets right to the… the finishing line and stops and lets the other runners run past him, and so he deliberately doesn’t win the race. And that is because during his running, during his thinking about society, and feeling his… the fact that he doesn’t fit in, he’s decided that’s actually where he wants to be; he wants to be an outcast, he wants to remain an “outlaw,” as he calls himself, and in fact at the end of the book that’s how he has remained, so another young person who for… doesn’t fit into society and his way of dealing with not fitting in with society is not to create a fantasy world, but to live in… very much in the real world, but to reject it and to be “one of us,” not “one of them,” and it’s a fantastic book. I love it.

(Rob Anderson was talking to Mark Worden)