Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Disappeared

Roger Scruton is a curmudgeonly philosopher; I don’t think anyone would disagree with that description. He’s on the right of the political spectrum. Some of his non-fiction work is brilliant. For example, he penned a Dictionary of Political Thought, which helped me immensely in my university studies. But this is the first novel of his I’ve read and I have to say I won’t be reading another.

The problem is that he uses the novel to gripe. The book is full of weird little observations about the working classes, state education, social services and immigration. For example there’s a family of Shia Muslim’s from Basra and they’re enlightened and the “good” Muslims in the book. The Sunni Muslims from Afghanistan on the other hand are bigoted and bad. A character expresses the view in narration that the difference is like that between “Mediterranean Catholicism” and “forbidding Calvinism”. Don’t get me wrong; characters in books should have views of all different stripes. But when all the observations in the novel are of the sane slant, one can’t help but come to the conclusion that they are Roger Scruton’s views.

Sometimes this leads to blatant exaggerations. For example, repeatedly the police are bashed for cowardice when it comes to crime committed by ethnic minorities. This cowardice it is made clear is in part at least down to the Macpherson Report’s conclusion that the police were institutionally racist. At one point a policeman defends inaction in the case of a woman possibly kidnapped by her family in an honour crime. He cites the case of a head teacher who asked Muslim children to obey the same rules as whites and was vilified. I presume here that he’s referring to the case of Ray Honeyford. But this case occurred in the 1980’s, long before the Macpherson report. Furthermore, while multiculturalism did have a chilling effect, if anything in recent years that has been overturned. The police now take seriously grooming and honour crime, as witnessed by numerous recent cases.

These are just two examples of how a potentially very good novel disappointingly becomes a polemic.

In conclusion, Roger Scruton is a great writer. His nonfiction work is to be admired. I just feel that on the basis of this novel, I don’t think it’s the medium for him to express them. 

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