I've been talking to Sean about his novel The Englishwoman quite a lot lately.
But why has this white, middle-class Londoner with no political or religious affiliations made this perilous journey in the first place? And why does she turn down the opportunity to escape when death becomes the likely outcome?
Why indeed? It has led me, I think, to uncover - or possibly posit - a longstanding female moral tradition that we may trace from The Three Marys at the Crucifixion, via the Medieval anchorites (in Britain from the 12th to the 16th centuries, anchoresses consistently outnumbered their male counterparts by as many as four to one) to, say, Edith Stein, Simone Weil, and even Elizabeth Anscombe in the 20th century. An heroic, under-celebrated form of resistance that manifests itself, superficially passively, in the bearing of witness. A necessary corrective to the male tendency to "pick sides" as if every dispute was a football, rugby or cricket match.
The trouble with this though, it has struck me lately, is that there is absolutely no way to square Simone de Beauvoir with it. Specifically the way that Le Deuxième Sexe turns the existentialist mantra that existence precedes essence into equally dreary tone-deaf proto-feminist gobbledygookery. On reflection, I will go further, its publication in 1949 represents the moment when the worm turned, when abdication of responsibility was equated with moral superiority. Today's cankers like the sex-gender distinction and granular internally contradicted identity politics followed, it seems in retrospect, slowly but inevitably.
I diskard her uterly.
Prodnose: Eh? Who are you today? Roger Scruton?
Myself: You try writing when you are listening to "Digging Your Scene" by the Blow Monkeys or "Love Changes (Everything)" by Climie Fisher and see how much sense you make.
Prodnose: Show me the 80s white label 12" singles and I will show you the man.
Myself: Tru dat.