Tuesday 17 March 2009

Book Review: Kunal Basu – Racists

I know we are often told that we should not judge a book by its cover, although often we are right to, but this one caught my attention immediately. I thought both the title and the cover were a little lacking in subtlety and my first thought was that this might be the case with the book. I suppose it worked in getting my interest though.

The novel is the story of an experiment by two eminent European scientists of the 1800’s to determine how racial superiority asserts itself. Two infants, one white one black are left with a mute nurse on a deserted island with instructions that no love or affection must be shown towards them and nothing is to be taught to them. The objective is not to prove that the white race is superior as this is assumed by all involved. The aim of the experiment is shown to be whether the white child will show its superiority by more advanced development as one scientist believes or by destroying the other child as the other scientist predicts.

The period that the book is set in witnessed the explosion of scientific thought and of the study of mankind. This is reflected in the book which is heavily laden with the scientific language and beliefs of that time: Phrenology, Craniology, the first inklings of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Running through the whole story is also a love story.

Something that also stood out for me was that not only is the book set in 1855, it feels as if it was written during that time also. The language is very formal and descriptive in a way that puts me in mind of classic literature such as that of Jane Austin or the Bronte’s.

Despite all of this, the word that comes to mind regarding this book is one I rarely use – boring. I struggled to finish and on finishing did not feel particularly moved or enlightened. Considering the subject matter I should have felt passionate about this book, instead I ended up feeling a little indifferent and depressed.

1 comment:

  1. The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos.Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won't feel stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith.
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    Iftikhar Ahmad