Monday 26 March 2012

The beginning of The Kingdom of the Wicked

"I take my title from the name the Jews have traditionally given to the Roman Empire. You may expect to meet all manners of wickedness in what follows-pork-eating, lechery, adultery, bigamy, sodomy, bestiality, the most ingenious varieties of cruelty, assassination, the worship of false gods and the sin of being uncircumcised. So you may lick your lips in anticipation of being, as it were, vicariously corrupted at the hand of your author. It is all too possible that the practice of literature is a mode of depravity rightly to be condemned. But, as is well known, literature ceases to be literature when it commits itself to moral uplift: it becomes moral philospophy or such dull thing. Let us then, in the interest of allaying the boredom of this our life, agree to our complementary damnations. My damnation is, of course, greater than yours, since I am the initiator and you are merely the receptor of evil recordings. Moreover, you may throw this book into the fire if your disgust becomes too great; I am committed to writing it. Take another cup of wine and accept that we human beings are a bad lot."

The Kingdom of the Wicked, Anthony Burgess

It is a very long quote and I think I could have typed the whole book here. I think I didn't forget anything. It is Lent, Easter is coming soon and this book is about the early years of Christianity, so it is fitting that I quote it. It was also written alongside the script of this movie/miniseries. Which I have not seen anywhere and only read mixed reviews. But it is a great novel, mainly because it is a deconstruction of Christian myths, an account of Christianity's early life written by a sceptical Roman civil servant, who himself shows an uncanny godly omniscience. It is a novel about literature, about the narrative and the narrator. It is also a pessimistic picture of ideals, spiritual or secular. The godless and the faithful both failing to find any kind of peace. Anyway, it is difficult to find, but a great read if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a copy. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am sad to say thatI share Burgess's pessimistic view of human ideals, secular or religious. Sooner or later ideals become corrupted by human hands. What starts out pure doesn't remain so. Good intentions pave the way to hell the saying goes. Democracy, capitalism, socialism communism, religion, the United Nations...ideologies that either flourished, or failed, but that became corrupted, and crooked either way,often for financial gain. Burgess was spot on the money. The quote above could be one of the many news headlines seen on a daily basis in this 'civilized' age. However, progress, and modernization has not been able to tame human nature. It seems a book well worth reading.