It was my turn to be ‘up’ this evening. I had submitted the latest draft of the third chapter of what I intend will be a saga about Europe in the 20th century. War is therefore never far away. The first chapters are set in Belgium in the first days and months of the 1914-18 war, a forgotten period before trenches were dug and when troop movements were still fluid. It was nevertheless a beginning (if not the beginning) of modern warfare, with its emphasis on propaganda, media attention on atrocities and the wholescale involvement of civilian populations. Nobody now remembers, of course, but Europe’s first major refugee crisis was the exodus of Belgians in August/September 1914. I’d say my fellow scribes’ comments were roughly evenly balanced between the positive and the negative (though all, of course, were constructive) and so I felt that, notwithstanding the demands of the ‘day job’ at the moment, this was encouraging. I am being hugely ambitious, but what I want/hope to do is something like what great writers, such as Frank Norris (The Octopus, The Pit) and Theodore Dreiser (An American Tragedy, The Financier), did; telling the story of how America came into being and how it evolved, using the so-called naturalist method: ‘portraying characters whose value lies not in their moral code, but in their persistence against all obstacles.’ (Wikipedia) It may turn out that I am being hopelessly over-ambitious and, personally, I may well fall flat on my face, but I do hope that such a European literature comes into being. It certainly should.