Fifth Business, novel by Robertson Davies (New York and Toronto, 1970; London, 1971).
Fifth Business, novel by Robertson Davies (New York and Toronto, 1970; London, 1971). The first of 3 novels called the Deptford Trilogy opens with Percy Staunton throwing a snowball at Dunstable Ramsay but hitting the pregnant Mary Dempster, causing the premature birth of Paul. These characters' fates intertwine for the rest of their lives. When Dunstable is gravely injured in WWI, he associates an apparition of a saintly figure with Mary Dempster. Ramsay returns to Canada, becomes a historian and hagiographer (a writer of the lives of saints) and tells the story of his self-discovery, which occurs through encounters with an unusual cast of characters. As he discovers he is "fifth business" (ie, an actor in a secondary role, but who is nevertheless essential to the development of a drama), Ramsay gains deep insight into the mysterious relations between myth and history, spirit and flesh, fiction, fact and faith. Fifth Business has been translated into French as Cinquième emploi (Montréal, 1975), and Polish.