The People’s Act of Love

July 22, 2007 at 1:59 pm (amazing things, books) ()

I’ve just added The People’s Act of Love, by James Meek, to our reading list (goodness, it is getting very long). It’s an engaging novel, but I found the real value of the book to be not in the plot itself but in the ponderings woven into it, which explore the nature and meaning of sex, love, cannibalism, suffering, destruction, and injustice. And a lot more. A taste:

Samarin said: ‘Supposing a man, the cannibal, knew that the fate of the world rested on whether he escaped from prison or not. Suppose this. He’s a man so dedicated to the happiness of the future world that he sets himself to destroy all the corrupt and cruel functionaries he can, break the offices they fester in, till he’s destroyed himself. Suppose he’s realised that politics, even revolution, is too gentle, it only shuffles people and offices a little. It isn’t that he sees the whole ugly torturing tribe of bureaucrats and aristocrats and money-grubbers who make the people suffer. It’s that they fall to him and his kind like a town falls to a mudslide. He’s not a destroyer, he is destruction, leaving those good people who remain to build a better world on the ruins. To say he’s the embodiment of the will of the people is feeble, a joke, as if they elected him. He is the will of the people. . . . What looks like an act of evil to a single person is the people’s act of love to its future self. Even to call him a cannibal is mistaken. He’s the storm the people summoned, against which not all good people find shelter in time.’ (Meek, 259)

Read it, read it, read it.

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