Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

Back to main blog

RSS thingy

Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Monday, May 23, 2005
Down the road, worlds away, but one can go there in imagination. Via R C Dean at Samizdata I found this marvellous Criterion article by Theodore Dalrymple. If I say that it is about the Church of England vicar who collected rejection slips for his short stories until he submitted them under the name Rahila Khan, then I will tempt a few anti-PC readers to go there for a laugh. But it is far, far more than that. Dalrymple says explicitly and the Rev. Forward (the author's real name) says in his work something important about literature.
Academics and intellectuals found the affair painful to elucidate. If it were true that the balkanization of literature was justified by the supposition that only people who belonged to a certain category of people could truly understand, write about, interpret, and sympathize with the experiences of people in that same category, so that, for example, only women could write about women for women, and only blacks about blacks for blacks (the very careers of many academics now depending upon such a supposition), how was it possible that a Church of England vicar had been able, actually without much difficulty, to persuade a feminist publishing house that he wrote as a woman, and as a Muslim woman of Indian subcontinental origin at that? Was he not in fact telling us, as presumably a good Christian should, that mankind is essentially one, and that if we make a sufficient effort we too can enter into the worlds of others who are in many ways different from ourselves? Was he not implying that the traditional view of literature, that it expresses the universal in the particular, was not only morally and religiously superior, but empirically a more accurate description of it as an enterprise than the view of literature as a series of stockades, from which groups of the embittered and enraged endlessly fired arrows at one another without ever quite achieving victory?
There is also a compassionate account of the two differently blighted but mutually contemptuous cultures that "Rahila Khan" described. Many of the stories describe ultimately tragic liaisons between Muslim girls and white boys living in depressed Midlands towns. "Khan" had claimed to have been one and know the other well. The only thing that was untrue in that claim was which half was which:
But from the moment I started to read the stories in Down the Road, Worlds Away (and the title itself should have given a clue to the book’s serious intent, capturing in five words a very important element of modern social reality), I understood that the author was not in any sense perpetrating a hoax, much less a fraud. He was writing in earnest, and not satirizing anyone. For what he described in his stories was only too familiar to me from my work as a doctor, and no one could write so clearly of such matters without a deep sense of purpose.

The Reverend Toby Forward, as it happens, is not the scion of privilege, even of privilege in decline; his biography in outline followed that of Rahila Khan’s very closely. He was born in Coventry in 1950, and did live for many years in the cities of the English Midlands. He did marry in 1971, did have two daughters, did start to write in 1986, and did live in Brighton at the time the book was published.

The Reverend Forward’s knowledge of the kind of people I have been treating as a doctor for many years came to him by a different route from my knowledge of them. It so happens that I have worked in the very same area that the Reverend Forward writes about, where his father was a publican. Both his parents, who were working class, left school when they were fourteen years old. They lived in slum areas of the unlovely cities of the Midlands, and he himself went to schools in which half the pupils were of Indian or Pakistani descent. His early life was lived in precisely the social environment depicted in Down the Road, Worlds Away ...

I hope to read it one day. Sadly, it is difficult to get hold of as the copies not yet sold were pulped by the publishers when the "fraud" was discovered.