Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Literature, anthropology and socialism

Thanks to Many books and my e-reader, I've just finished reading Grant Allen's The british barbarians.

Stuart may enjoy this one - the conceit (and I am going to spoil the plot) is that a time traveller goes back to the time of writing (the 1890's) on an ethnographic tour of British taboos from the perspective of the 25th century - it anthropologises Victorian Britain, and compares the mores of that society with primitive taboos, and finds that society unenlightened and primitive (having things like private property in land, and marriage).

Now, the central motor of the plot is a free love romance (a married woman flees her husband, no less), but which in classic liberal romantic style pictures this as the woman's emancipation (the protagonist proclaims her to be his, and she naturally subordinates herself to him).

The interesting part is that the author is so sure of the truth of his wares, and yet, so far as I can see from my own scant reading, his examples from 'primitive' tribes are fallacious, and his own points about the natural purity of women are now exploded.

Finally, of interest is the brave exposure of prostitution as a constituent part of marriage relations. Also of intriguing note is the defence of the idea that we are alone in the universe, and that there is no extra-terrestrial life.

Well worth the read.

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Blogger stuart said...

Sounds absolutely fascinating and right up my street. Thanks for the tip Bill! If you like anthropology in your science fiction, I presume you already know all about my hero Ursula Le Guin? See Darren's blog for another tip for you. Cheers

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