Rebirth of Reason

The Free Radical

Novels for the Libertarian Soul
by David Bertelsen

Reviews of Chocolat by Joanne Harris and Full Circle by Bob Jones.

A novel is an invitation into an alternative world. And for libertarians jaundiced by the imperfections of our state-run lives, literature can be an enormously important source of inspiration and strength.

First on the reading list is usually Ayn Rand, but her entire fiction collection will only keep you busy for a few weeks. If you manage to survive the convoluted descriptions of Parisian sewers then Victor Hugo will keep you entertained for a few more. I’ve enjoyed the novels of Dean Koontz for his gripping plots and sceptical stance towards government, and Dave Barry has been good for a laugh. But then what?

Well, the pickings are thin, so it was with great pleasure that I recently discovered two enormously entertaining "pseudo-libertarian" novels.

Firstly, the stylish and evocative Chocolat. If you want sense of life, then take this book and devour it. Savour every page, as you are enticed into a world in which every sense is treated with flavoursome, life-affirming morsels.

New to the small French village of Lansquenet, the delightfully hedonistic Vianne Rocher opens a small chocolaterie. With its chocolate éclairs, truffles, pralines and candied fruits, the boutique is the physical manifestation of her spirit of life, as Vianne takes on the dour spirit of self-denial that is the church across the square- the traditional and uncontested focal point of the village. What evolves is a titanic struggle between Vianne’s optimism, positivism and reason and Father Renaud’s mysticism and conservative morality. Taking in her stride issues of racism, self-esteem, wife-battering and family conflicts, the writer continuously entertains and challenges us. There are imperfections, from an objectivist viewpoint, such as the tentativeness with which Vianne sheds the mystic beliefs of her gypsy mother. But apart from Rand and Hugo, I know of few writers that have been able to so seamlessly and successfully blend plot and style.

Full Circle
, on the other hand is a rollicking and hilarious romp that delights in poking fun at every sacred cow in our modern society. Women, homosexuals, intellectuals, Russians, Americans, journalists, businessmen, environmentalists- all fall victim to Jones’ sharp wit as he hurtles through a sustained plot at breakneck speed.

The quality of the writing is such that to speak of the plot, without the humour and style with which it is delivered would be to risk making the script appear ridiculous. Suffice to say that a cruise ship carrying 100 prostitutes, crewed by gay Russians is the vehicle chosen by Len Edwards, the lead character, to fulfil his desire to return to his homeland, England a wealthy man.

Recurring themes include the gullibility of the unthinking masses, the degree to which society flourishes when freed of interfering busybodies, and the shallow, purposeless nature of much of what passes today as scientific research. Throughout, his commentary is frighteningly perceptive as we identify with his characters and uncomfortably funny truths come flying at us as quickly as we can turn the pages. Once again, a strict objectivist/libertarian interpretation would point out certain inconsistencies but these are immaterial in that this book is ultimately an optimistic celebration of the nature of the human spirit. Life is glorified and the right to live ones own life free of busybody interference is upheld. And just try not to laugh...

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