Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reading is Fundamental

Pulling my children away from the television and video games, I've instituted a daddy book club during which we read science fiction and fantasy novels which interested me when I was a child. (and which naturally, by extension, must interest the children, as well - though 90 minutes of reading with freewheeling discussion-Q/A may be the real attraction) In any event - it beats the hell out of passive viewing and thumb-twitching - and thus far, they both seem to greatly enjoy it.

Since the children will be beginning taiji and their first fledgling sword lessons next week - I thought we might begin with Elric of Melnibone. As any fan of Elric knows, a big part of the attraction to this anti-hero is his sentient, soul-stealing sword Stormbringer. Since I'm short two lent-out and long-ago lost books from the original series, I went by the library and to my surprise discovered there was a more recent Elric related novel called The DreamThief's Daughter - presciently published in 2001 and set in the context of pre-Nazi and Nazi germany;
Nazis... controlled the media. On the radio, in the newspapers and magazines and movies, they began to tell the people whom they should love and whom they should hate... This is by no means a new phenomenon... The American Puritans characterised everyone who disagreed with them as evil and godless and probably witches... The British and the Americans went into China to save the country from the opium they had originally sold it. The Turks had to characterise Armenians as godless monsters before they began their appalling slaughter of the Christians.

Frightened nations will accept too easily the threat of civil war and the promise of the man who says he will avert it. Hitler averted civil war because he had no need of it. His opposition was delivered into his hands by the ballot boxes of a country which, at that time, had one of the best democratic constitutions in the world, superior in many ways to the American.

It is a mark, I think, of the political scoundrel who uses the most sentimental language to blame all others but his own constituents for the problems of the world. Always a "foreign threat", fear of "the stranger". I still hear those voices in modern Germany and France and America and all the countries we once thought too civilised to allow such horror within their own borders.
Moorcock pulls no punches in his treatment of the socioeconomic context giving rise to German fascism. The literary treatment in turn provides us with a fantastical backdrop over which to discuss 20th century history and current events as these unfold with breathtaking speed all around us.