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Tony Grist

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Fantasy As Prophecy [Jan. 27th, 2007|11:06 am]
Tony Grist
Every era gets the fantasy it needs. The early twentieth century had Peter Pan- rich pickings for Freudians and all that weirdly prescient stuff about lost boys. The second half of the 20th century had Tolkien- with his ethos of cold war paranoia and unwitting prophecy of flower power. And Harry Potter is the fantasy for the Noughties. 
methodius points out that the first Potter book came out in the year Blair was elected. By a deliciously spooky coincidence the last is going to be published in the year that  Blair is pledged to resign.

Fantasy gets to places the realist novel can't reach. At its best it doesn't try to teach us anything (which is why C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman are lesser writers)  it just tips the contents of what Jung  called the collective unconscious at our feet. In hindsight it looks as if Rowling were writing a fantasy commentary on the Blair years- the scurvy politicians, the war on terror, the cynical trampling on civil liberties- but, of course, the whole series was planned in detail in advance. Azkaban isn't a reflection on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, but a prophecy.

It makes one wonder how much further into the future she has seen.

[User Picture]From: momof2girls
2007-01-27 01:25 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting perspective. Being American, I didn't pick up on that!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-28 10:22 am (UTC)
She's written the defining book(s) of the decade. I wonder what she'll find to do next
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From: bodhibird
2007-01-27 10:49 pm (UTC)
Fantasy gets to places the realist novel can't reach.

Yes. And that is why (along with its cousins sf and horror) it is such an important genre.

I read the first four HP books very close together, right around the time book four came out, and with much enjoyment. I confess I haven't been able to enjoy books five and six, but your posts on the series are making me want to try again.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-28 10:19 am (UTC)
5 & 6 are a bit daunting in their bulk, but I'm pledged to go the distance.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2007-01-28 06:51 am (UTC)
Wow, what an interesting take on the Potter series. You're absolutely right!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-28 10:20 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: methodius
2007-01-28 03:55 pm (UTC)
I find your development of this theme very interesting. I tended to see Azkaban in fairly general terms, but yes, it is interestingly prophetic, and I made it a separate entry in my other blog Notes from underground: Fantasy lit as prophecy to explore it a little further (and perhaps get a few more people to see it on your LJ).

And of course it is not general -- Azkaban, like Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay -- are operated, not by dictators, but by ostensibly free and democratic societies. And it is precisely because of that that the fact that the demetors are supposed to be on "our" side becomes most disturbing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-28 06:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link.

Yes, Rowling does have a moral point of view; where she differs from Lewis and Pullman is that they both seem to be writing to programmes. Lewis is pushing for the Christian world view and Pullman is pushing against it. There's an element of propaganda in their work which, for me, undercuts the mythology.
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