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Home schooling in the 1920s


Our favourite books when we were young
Diana Athill Writer
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Two of our very favourite books when I was very young were because they were so funny. One was a marvellous book called The Log of the Ark, which I believe has been reissued since. But it was a… there were some imaginary animals, as well as the real animals. And it was howlingly funny, but it was also quite sinister, because there was one terribly evil animal who sneaked on called the Loathly Scub, who sort of hid. And no one knew he was there, for a bit. And then he began… he would have, sort of, secret conversations at night with the wolves and the tigers, and he was where evil began, because he suggested to the wolves and the tigers that it was rather nice to munch up one of the little animals and eat it, you see? So the Loathly Scub was quite a dramatic figure, but the little animals were very funny, and there were some wonderful hippopotamuses, and when they had a ship's concert, the hippopotamuses had a sublime song which they sang, which I could almost sing to you now, but I think I may…

Someone found a copy of this book, somewhere about in this flat it is, because he sent it to me. Someone said, 'Do you remember how we enjoyed this when we were young?' And sent it. And there were, 'the hippopotamus, what a lottamus…' we thought it was hugely funny.

And the other one that was very funny was a book about a very nice horse called Hildebrand. And that was funny, because it made jokes… I mean, the grown-ups were sort of made… quite actually, quite grown-up jokes about how awful the grown-ups were. It didn't write down to one.

Born in 1917, Diana Athill is a British literary editor whose publishing career began when she helped André Deutsch establish his company. She has worked with many notable writers, namely Philip Roth, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and VS Naipaul. Following the publication of her memoirs, she is now hailed as an author in her own right.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: The Log of the Ark, Hildebrand

Duration: 1 minute, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008