RARA-AVIS: Political Thrillers

From: Tim Wohlforth (timwohlforth@opendoor.com)
Date: 23 Aug 2008

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Political Thrillers"

    There was a question about the book Delightful Murder by Ernest Mandel. I own a copy. It was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 1988. A thin volume, it is interesting that a man, who as a young man was in the resistance in Belgium and France, and devoted his life to his version of revolutionary politics, had been reading crime novels for decades. There are references in the book to hundreds of novels and writers. Much of the analysis is tendentious and labored, yet his effort to see the evolution of the crime novel within the context of the changes in society as a whole, is a worthy one.

    For example, he sees the classic detective story of Agatha Christie, Sayers, etc., as reflecting "the triumphant rentier ruling class of the pre- and post-1914 period in the Anglo-Saxon countries" resulting in treating crime as "schematic, conventional and artificial." A retreat "from the streets into the drawing room." He did not like
    "serie noire" which he identifies with Spillane. He saw the
    "violence, brutality, cruelty, sadism" in such novels as a reflection of a sick society: they were phenomena of social decomposition."

    He concludes "The history of the crime story is a social history, for it appears intertwined with the history of bourgeois society itself. And finally "perhaps...bourgeois society is, when all its said and done a criminal society." Mandel, whose book Late Capitalism created quite a sensation in the days of the New Left, passed away in 1995.

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