Heroes and Villains – Angela Carter – Picador paperback, 4Op.
Heroic, legendary, Tolkien-like… these and similar phrases pepper the quotes on the back cover of this book. Well, for me, it wasn’t quite so large in scope. I thought, in fact, that it’s structure clearly indicated its firm roots in the here and now.
On the one hand, a clinical, orderly, comfy, well-protected community, in which the greatest respect is accorded academics and those with ‘experience’; on the other, the violent, brutal, primitive world of the ‘Barbarians’, to whom the professor’s daughter escapes.
We, like Marianne, are asked which is best. The brutal and elemental, or the coldly civilised? The madness induced by societal repression, or the death from wounds or disease? Primitive or civilised?
This is in many ways the conflict everyone shies away from – the fears of the older generation as the young threaten to destroy the constricting, but also supportive structure called society. The book stands as an expression of the falseness of the security kick – the feeling of security which no-one seems to have and everyone wants – and the way in which this debilitates people. The Barbarians are much more alive than the Professors.
But the question ‘Which is best’ is never answered, the conflict never resolved. It all depends on what you want. If you’ve made your mind up that you’re on the side of the revolution, then this book will be too. And vice versa. It doesn’t look like any choice at all to me.
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