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Aubyn is seen to have done something remarkable with his balance of wretchedness and wit.

For someone who used to think that he had met every reader of his work, the literary recognition has been gratifying.

“My sense of home was lodged there, however disturbed a sense of home that was,” he told me.

He expected to inherit that land, but this didn’t happen.

Aubyn was about to publish “Never Mind”—the first of five highly autobiographical novels, in which extremes of familial cruelty and social snobbery are described with a tart precision that is not quite free of cruelty and snobbery—he went for a walk with his mother in the English countryside and told her that his father had repeatedly raped him as a young boy. “She was very, very keen to jump the queue and say how awful it was for her.”St. He is fifty-four and the father of two, and has the air of someone who is puzzled, and rather impressed, to find that he is not dead. Aubyn family disaster—the fiction and the life both involve a perfect house in the South of France, a brutal English snob, an American heiress with good intentions, and a son who becomes a suicidal junkie—were initially resisted, by some, for their upper-class milieu.

“She said, ‘Me, too’ ”—meaning that his father had raped her as well. He’ll brush the tips of two or three fingers against his lower lip for half a minute, or he’ll tilt his head slightly backward, as if in response to a tiny surprise.

Secondary characters can be knocked flat by satire and scorn. Aubyn approached our conversations with good humor, but they were probably not helping his peace of mind.

“I couldn’t give a master class on relaxation,” he said, as we left the restaurant.

I’d asked about his skiing vacation, in the shadow of the Eiger, with his thirteen-year-old son.

We walked back to his house, on a route that gave us a view of the gate over which Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, in “Notting Hill,” climb into a private communal garden. Aubyn’s back garden has a door that leads into the same kind of treasured space.

If not at five, then at fifty.” [cartoon id="a18287"]The irony in the title of St.

Aubyn’s third Melrose novel, “Some Hope,” published in 1994, points both to a career-long interest in the idea of psychological deliverance and to a desire not to be mistaken for an artless writer. Years of psychoanalysis, and the controlled fiction that followed, deferred the threat of suicide. Aubyn describes Patrick as an alter ego, though there are some differences.

Aubyn’s wary charm: his equilibrium requires constant monitoring of experience and thought.