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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A Question of Loyalties

I take great delight in discovering excellent novelists that I have never heard of. Allan Massie is one such and over Easter I read his A Question of Loyalties. Although it is completely different in style and feeling, I'd put it right up there with Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men as one of the best political novels I've read.

Massie's book is about moral and political ambiguity and about the consequences of being fated to live in times of  chaos and confusion. The central character is trying to  discover what motivated the actions of his father, a relatively minor political figure in Vichy France. When the State collapses even doing nothing is a choice that may be held against you in the future. Do you remain and try to salvage something from the ruins even though you know you will become politically and morally compromised?  Do you say, better I take on this burden than some of the bastards that might be itching to do it? Do you flee the country and join what look at the time to be either hopeless dreamers or even worse political opportunists? What, in these circumstances, do patriotism and loyalty mean? Loyalties to what or to whom: friends, family an idea of the nation? What are the best interests of France and the people who have no choice but to go on living there?

All these questions are considered as they presented themselves in 1940 to someone who chose to carry on living in a defeated France. We know it is all going to end badly, but they didn't or if they did all endings looked pretty unpalatable. 

And if you are wondering just how morally and politically confused people were at the the time, not just in France but also in England you should try reading the first volume of the collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. You will, I think, be quite surprised by what you'll find.

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