The intrusion of politics into a work of literature, Stendhal once wrote, “is like a pistol shot in the middle of a concert, something loud and vulgar, and yet a thing to which it is not possible to refuse one’s attention”. This piece of wit introduces Ali’s entertaining and informative selection of occasional pieces, documenting his literary, political and cultural interests over the last three decades.
Each essay is a shot in the air, even if most have been aired before. There is some repetition, and some duds, such as the essay which gives the book its title, a spoof on Proust, Zionism and homosexuality that doesn’t quite work. But for the most part Ali is provocative, polemical and often very funny.
Take his view of Tolstoy’s War And Peace. Isn’t it rather like Gone With The Wind, latter is better? And isn’t Natasha silly? So silly in fact, that she’s the Princess Di of R the joy of reading Ali is to come across such heresies. We know it’s a highly partial, deliberately controversial stance. But he’s inviting us to have some fun, because we may learn something by looking sideways. read more