Sunday, December 24, 2006

Love and war

Yesterday (or, strictly speaking, early this morning), I wrote about the corruption of Yasmina Khadra's Algiers in his novel Morituri. So pervasive and all-penetrating is the rot that it poisons and saps the protagonist's desire for his wife.

Today, in Philadelphia's excellent Big Jar Books, I chanced upon the following on the back cover of a Vintage paperback edition of Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida:

"In medieval literature, Troy represents the perfection of normal human life on the brink of its destruction by a more corrupted force. By writing about this norm, Chaucer was creating a work that could help bring a declining society back to a state of health. The whole perpetual love theme in Chaucer relates to this, because love is one of the first relations to go awry in an unhealthy society."

As in fourteenth-century England, so in 1990s Algeria. Khadra knew what he was doing when he opened Morituri with a scene of poisoned love.

© Peter Rozovsky 2006

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Blogger Sambian said...

love lost the prelude to disaster ;)

December 25, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Or a consequence thereof. The discussion of what "elevates" a work of crime fiction beyond its genre is a tired one. But one can't help thinking that dealing with great themes is one such criterion. Khadra has stumbled across one great theme here.

December 25, 2006  
Anonymous Robert W. Franson said...

A nice point, Peter! And may I suggest that Troynovant -- a Troy renewed in our historical perspective -- is one way to help restore the love of history itself, which is so important to a healthy civil society.

December 26, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Hmm, I wonder when later cultures started holding Troy up as a paragon. Presumably this happened at a time when Troy was dead and buried and thus a safely blank screen on which to project historical and moral fantasies. I suspect Troy stopped being such an object of desire sometime after Schliemann dug up its remains.

History is the mother and the father of all arts and of all civil society.

December 26, 2006  
Anonymous andrea said...

I'll read "Morituri" surely. Happy new year!

December 30, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks, and you, too. I want to read the third and fourth books in the Brahim Llob series and also Khadra's memoirs, L'ecrivain.

December 30, 2006  

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