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Pevsner in Birmingham

“To stick it out and not lose heart, not lose my grip ... to keep on the ball, a pleasant, competent man – not to lose patience or one’s edge, not to miss a trick.” To the outside observer, Pevsner successfully projected the image of a charming young man, urbane, suave, keen to make himself agreeable. But underneath the smooth exterior he was edgy, aware of constant compromise and dissembling. “This damned hypocrisy is becoming harder and harder.”

Lola had reproached him for adapting too easily to English ways, a charge he angrily rejected. He only wanted to succeed in England in order that they might live as much like Germans as they wanted. Sitting outside on a July evening, reading the Gospels, he was pierced with anguish when a fellow lodger put on a record of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to accompany her supper. “While I was sitting in the garden, looking at the big trees, there it was again suddenly – memories of Nikisch and the Gewandhaus. Surely this can’t be true – that all of that should be the past and that Birmingham should be the present, and more than just an episode?”

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