The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway Narrator Jake Barnes first becomes intimate with Lady Brett Ashley, the liberated Englishwoman whom he loves but cannot sexually fulfil, in the back of a taxi driving round Paris. Hemingway’s novel ends in the back of another taxi, driving through Madrid, with Jake and Brett discussing what could have been.
The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen Bowen’s novel opens in a cab. Eleven-year-old Henrietta Mountjoy, newly arrived from England, is driven through Paris in a taxi with her companion Miss Fisher. Watching the grey city slide by she finds it melancholy and disappointing. O the ennui of a taxi journey!
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond Paddington Bear’s first social embarrassment occurs in the back of a London taxi. Having been rescued by Mr and Mrs Brown at Paddington station, he is fed sticky buns in the station buffet. On the way home the remains of the buns are conveyed from the bear’s paws to the inside of the cab, and Paddington is confronted by an angry cabbie.
Herzog by Saul Bellow Antonia Fraser’s revelations about Saul Bellow telling her how attractive she was in the back of a taxi reminds us of a passage in his own chef d’oeuvre. The affair between Moses Herzog and Ramona, a “mature” pupil in one of his evening classes, begins in the back of a cab. She invites the prof to feel her pulse and, when he reaches for her wrist, puts his hand instead to her breast. “We are not children.”
Money by Martin Amis The bravura opening to Amis’s novel has John Self narrating his journey from JFK into Manhattan in a New York cab driven by a simian cabbie who seems to keep a baseball bat next to the handbrake. After a foul-mouthed altercation over the route and the fare, our gallant English traveller is deposited on the side of an expressway.
“London Taxi Driver” by David Dabydeen Dabydeen’s poem follows a taxi journey from Tooting, in south London, to Waterloo and echoes with the curses of the cockney cabbie. It also narrates the journey of an Indian labourer from Berbice to London.
The Book of Dave by Will Self One strand of Self’s satirical novel is the story of London cabbie Dave Rudman, an angry man whose taxi journeys and imaginative digressions we follow. He battles to bottle up his scorn for his passengers. “Never argue. Always talk football” (which he hates). Centuries later, his diary is discovered and becomes the source for a cult (believers greet each other with “Ware2Guv”).
Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine Who is Violet Park? All that Lucas Swain, the narrator of Valentine’s children’s story, knows is that an urn containing her ashes was left on the back seat of a minicab. It has spent several years on a shelf in the taxi company office, where he discovers it. He decides to purloin the urn and find out how it got into the back of that cab.
Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo Billionaire Eric Packer is being driven round Manhattan in his stretch limo when he glances out of the window. “It took him a moment to understand that he knew the woman in the rear seat of the taxi that lay adjacent. She was his wife of 22 days . . .” He gets into the cab with her and discourses on the pleasures of taxis and talking to taxi drivers.
The Accident by Ismail Kadare Kadare’s existential mystery tale begins with a taxi overturning on the way to Vienna airport. The cabbie survives, but the two passengers, Albanian émigrés, are killed. What caused the taxi to veer off the road? The driver regains consciousness and half recalls seeing something disturbing in the back of the cab.