Sunday, February 27, 2011

Postmodern(ish) Literature and Cricket

I've just finished reading an extremely unusual novel by Graham Greene called Travels With My Aunt. Greene usually writes thrillers. This novel is very different.

Published in 1969, it's a surreal travel novel attempting to come to grips with the realities of a postmodern, post colonial era. The hero is Henry Pulling, a boring British retired bank manager who grows dahlias as a hobby. A less exciting Leopold Bloom I suppose. Less exciting at first, anyway...

Well I won't ruin the plot, but this novel goes off in almost as many unexpected directions as its almost aggressively normal hero.

Ultimately, Henry Pulling loses his confidence in the ideal of British Best and British Empire, despite mistrusting the supposed alternatives. Nonetheless, he clings  to what he sees as typically British conventions of honour and appropriate moral behaviour.

This irony is echoed by today's ICC World Cup Cricket match. India is playing England. Given these two nations' colonial history, the fact that they now meet to compete at "the gentleman's game" in (now independent) India seems to represent the ultimate conflict between Imperial ideals and traditional values.

Which is the true image of the long gone British empire? Probably both, or neither. Our only sources of information are multiple, kaleidoscopic images which leave us no less confused than when we started.

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