I Prefer Another, Subtler Scotsman

Those crazed tartan-wearing journalists are at it again. The link between terrorism and fiction certainly deserves to be addressed, but there are better ways to go about it than this:

The one fictional insight into terrorism everyone knows or at least everyone claims as authority is Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. It’s not Conrad’s subtlest book but sadly just one line has been lifted from it and waved about as if it were a profound truth: “The terrorist and the policeman both come from the same basket”. Taken out of context, it’s one of the most dangerous ideas ever to travel from a novelist’s mind and into the collective (semi) consciousness. Even allowing for the oddity of “basket”, which might be Conrad’s Polish-English idiom faltering when he meant “nest” or “cradle”, or might be his shrewd economist’s mind recognising that ideologies can be shopped for, even allowing for all of that, it’s a dangerous idea to take as your text.

Yo, Bagpipes! Conrad learned his English when he was 21 by reading the London Times and Shakespare. And he was 50 when he wrote those words. I’m pretty sure he knew what he was writing when he wrote down “basket.”

(via Moorish Girl)

© 2004, DrMabuse. All rights reserved.

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