Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sunday Salon: Further Dystopias

Back in the eighties, when I was studying for my PhD in chemistry, any chemistry paper that came out of Romania has Elana Ceausescu as chief scientist. The woman must have been the world's most industrious scientist. She wasn't, of course, and reading Patrick McGuinness's The Last Thousand Days gives a fascinating insight into the regime that fostered such dishonesty.

Romania, it seems, was George Orwell's Oceania. In 1980's Romania his dystopian vision had, to some extent, actually come true in parts of Eastern Europe, and also some of the rest of the world. Doublethink is entrenched, and for the good of the collective women who miscarry are deemed to be criminals, as are the celibate. The Last Thousand Days is a gruesome (and because of that, mesmerising) account of what went on by an author who was there. It is also beautifully written, with some stunning phrases that make me nod in admiration at their truthfulness and poetry. Here are a couple of examples (I am reading this in Kindle so saving such highlights and sharing them is especially easy):

'The walls were mirrors, smoky from age and minutely fractured. You felt pieces of your reflection catching in the cracks and staying there, like dirt in the grouting.'

'So I discovered forgiveness, and the secret malice of it: people forgive not out of grandeur of spirit but as a way of freeing themselves. The forgiver always floats free, the forgiven slides a little further down the soft shute to hell.'

So that is what I shall be reading the rest of the day. I have also added a few more other dystopian novels and non-fiction books to my collection:

and in addition I am listening to Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood on audiobook ((as recommended by Mary W) and think it up to her usual brilliant standard so far),

I have also, on order, Children of Men by P.D. James (as recommended by Anne S)

and Mark Lynas's recently published The God Species on order (having been impressed by his Six Degrees).

I like to read fiction then non-fiction because I think it works different parts of my brain - rather like wearing high-heels and then flats to exercise the feet.


Blogger jem said...

The McGuinness was one of the few Booker longlisted titles I avoided this year - somehow I was worried it might be too heavy or political for my liking. But I think your reactions and quotes are swaying me to give it a try.

Glad I'm not the only one partial to the dystopian novel. I'm itching to start on the Jane Rogers which is on my shelf. A couple I read last year were 'Ice' (Anna Kavan) and 'The Ice People' (Maggie Gee) - both were a look.

Sun Sept 04, 02:47:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Hi Jem - very nice to hear from you again! The McGuinness is certainly not a light read, but I don't think it is overly political either. It is interesting, and I find I am learning a lot.

Yes, I'm itching to start on the Jane Rogers too, and thanks for the Maggie Gee and Anna Kavan recommendations! They sound like chilly reads (which is good :-))

Sun Sept 04, 02:54:00 pm  

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