Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Alexander Cockburn visits the projects

Alexander Cockburn's post-mortem attack on Christopher Hitchens appears in a column that includes a reference to "The EU `project,' a very irritating word that should be tossed in the dumpster along with `iconic,' `meme,' `parse' and `narrative' ..."

Maj Sjöwall might disagree, because the Project is what she called the crime novels (The Laughing Policeman, Roseanna, et al.) she wrote with her husband, Per Wahlöö. The Project, she says in a BBC documentary about Nordic crime fiction (go to the 25:30 mark), "was our way of creating a realistic crime novel that would look at society from a left-wing perspective."

The Project sought to expose the lies and hypocrisies of Sweden's post-war utopia: "The fact of the matter is that the so-called `welfare state' abounds with sick, poor and lonely people living at best on dog food who are left uncared for until they waste away and die in their rat-hole tenements."

I'd have thought Cockburn would like that sort of thing. I guess one's feeling about project depends on who's doing the projecting.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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8 Comments:

Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

As a rule, I don't like mysteries with agendas. Some of the S&W books do get a bit strong in that respect. But on the whole, the characters and the plots are so good that I can convince myself that these opinions are merely idiosyncrasies of the characters.

January 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One reader's idiosyncrasies are another's essential features. No doubt S&W would say their writing only reflected reality. It's a tribute to S&W that they could write so well even with an explicit agenda.

I did a quick search for any discussion by Cockburn of Sjowall and Wahloo, but I could find none. I wonder if such a strident, doctrinaire leftist as Cockburn would find S&W's use of the word "project" somehow less objectionable than the EU's.

I also enjoyed Cockburn's snippy assumption of the language-guardian role, not what I'd have expected from a man of the left.

January 04, 2012  
Anonymous Tim Mayer said...

I almost picked up a paperback of THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN some years ago. Movie version was good, even if transferred to California.

January 04, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's odd to think there was a time when moviemakers thought they had to transfer a book's location from Sweden in order to sell a movie. I'd say the book is worth picking up. S&W's work is surprisingly unclogged by polemics, in part because they do such a good job with plot and character.

January 05, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Cockburn's a first class asshole but did you know that his niece is the fetching Olivia Wilde?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Wilde

January 06, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: My brief encounters with Cockburn's writing over the years have left me with the impression that he's a cold, venomous little reptile. He once said that his father, Claud, could not possibly have made some remark that Henry Fairlie attributed to him, to which Fairlie replied, in essence, "How the hell would you know, you little pisher possant know-it-all? He said it before you were born."

I knew that A. Cockburn was related to some well-known person. I didn't realize it was young Olivia Wilde. I suppose I can imagine some people respecting hm, but I can't imagine anyone liking him.

January 06, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

As far as I can see his only real cheerleaders these days are the aged dyspeptic old buzzards of the left: Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky.

January 07, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I quite like that characterization. Cockburn, though, was a dyspeptic young buzzard as well. So much was wrong with his Hitchens piece. He accuses Hitchens of having been a celebrity seeker. Well, Edward Said used to be accused of the same sin, but not by Cockburn, I'd wager.

I can't be sure (because I haven't yet read Hitchens' God book) that he misses the point when he chides Hitchens for waging a battle that has long since been won. Did Hitchens really emphasize phiosophical arguments against the existence of God, or was his target more the role of God in public life?

January 07, 2012  

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