25 September 2007

Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed. 1996: New York, W.W. Norton [© 1962].

Tristam Foxe knew that history goes in cycles, and that he was simply unfortunate enough to be caught between the Pelagian and Augustinian phases, between the belief that people are good and will regulate themselves, and the belief that people are bad and must be controlled. Tristam knew this because he used to teach history (fifth form) a the South London (Channel) Unitary School (Boys) Division Four.

Tristam knows that some sort of normalcy will be restored soon. This interphase, though, is a long way from any kind of normal. The crisis has come because an over-populated world, led by human example, has stopped reproducing. In a world where China's 'One Child' law has long been in effect, nothing grows.

All of nature finally rebels, and Tristam ends up in the army working to restore order and a food supply. When his men go into battle, Tristam learns exactly what the government is doing about the crisis—the central horror of this book that, once accepted, allows us to see the humor, and the similarities to our own situation, in this deep dark black comedic gem.



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