British author and professor David Lodge’s stint as a
visiting professor at Berkeley in 1969 allowed him to compare the
academic systems of his own country and the United States. In Trading Places, the first novel in
his “Campus Trilogy,” a US professor, Morris Zapp, and a British
scholar, Philip Swallow, exchange jobs for six months. Their
universities are fictional stand-ins for UC Berkeley and the University
The comic novel is about more than the difference between British and American higher education, however. It’s about two different personalities — Zapp is egotistical and brash, Swallow is timid and conventional — and how they alter in one another’s environment. Philip experiments with sex and political protest. Morris finds himself infected with “some creeping English disease of being nice.” The men end up trading more than their jobs — their cars, their houses, and their wives. By novel’s end, they and the women meet to decide what to do about their unusual situation.
Although the 1960s backdrop of Changing Place dates it, fans of academic settings and of David Lodge’s offbeat humor should still enjoy the book.
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