Globalia

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The United States has inspired a weird French dystopia. Jean-Christophe Rufin's Globalia, which spent 15 weeks on L'Express' best-seller list, is about what Rufin calls "totalitarian democracy."

The NYT's Alan Riding writes that "In the novel Globalia, which embraces much of North America and Europe and parts of Asia, is the political unit that dominates the globe, aspiring to be a perfect world in which organ replacement ensures extraordinary longevity, private companies flourish and social welfare is guaranteed, political and ethnic conflicts have disappeared thanks to the abolition of history. Its motto is "Liberty, Security, Prosperity."

Riding quotes a passage spoken by a Globalian psychologist: "The greatest threat to liberty is liberty itself. How do we defend liberty against itself? By increasing security. Security is liberty. Security is protection. Protection is surveillance. Surveillance is liberty."

"I didn't want to write an anti-American book," Rufin told the NYT. "That's not the idea. Rather, it is to describe the United States as a laboratory, not a country, a democracy with all the trappings of democracy which, through its internal workings, can become extremely dangerous, if not actually totalitarian."

Such a novel seems at least a half-century late, no? Philip K. Dick (among others) mined this issue rather more imaginatively decades ago.

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  1. Philip K. Dick (among others) mined this issue rather more imaginatively decades ago.

    Not to mention the Grand Inquisitor dream in Dostoevski’s Brothers Karamazov (1880).

  2. Philip K. Dick (among others) mined this issue rather more imaginatively decades ago.

    Not to mention the dream of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevski’s Brothers Karamazov (1880).

  3. “Such a novel seems at least a half-century late, no? Philip K. Dick (among others) mined this issue rather more imaginatively decades ago.”

    This seems to be a rather odd criticism. A state such as this has been described as long ago as the ancient Greeks; indeed, I can find flavorings of such in Plato’s Republic. There is nothing particularly wrong with mining old themes; especially given the pedigree of most themes.

  4. It probably should be noted that Rafin is a founder of Doctors Without Borders, and is the author of a number of wonderful novels – Brazil Red, The Abyssinian, and The Siege of Isfahan. He’s my favorite author after Umberto Eco and he’s probably displaced Mark Helprin in my pantheon of contemporary writers.

  5. Doctor, heal thyself …

  6. Jason Ligon,

    Well, the novel appears to be as much a criticism of a future Europe as it is of a future US. Anyway, I’ve already got a copy headed my way (like John Kerry, I can read French – *gasp* I know, I am a traitor), so maybe I’ll write a review of it and send it around here after I’ve read it.

  7. Sounds more like Orwell than PKD. Especially the quotes from the psychologist.

  8. Allan,

    Well, there are elements of Orwell, Huxley and the “Brazil” in the novel from what I can tell. All of his novels (those I have read at least) spun out interesting tales from kernals of French history. Brazil Red concerns a French colony around where Rio is today; the colony was populated Calvinists and Catholics, and it foreshadows the Wars of Religion that engulf France in the ensuing decades.

  9. Surely if western democracy is destined to evolve into a sterile, bureaucratic tyranny, Europe will arrive there first.

  10. “will arrive?” check your tense, Umbriel.

    (relax, I’m only kidding!)

  11. Charles, have you read the book? Or are you guessing how imaginative it is from other people’s comments?

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