Old School Wednesdays is a regular Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?
Logo designed by the wonderful KMont
Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Corgi books
Publication date: First published 1997
Paperback: 414 pages
Throughout history, there’s always been a perfectly good reason to start a war. Never more so if it is over a ‘strategic’ piece of old rock in the middle of nowhere. It is after all every citizen’s right to bear arms to defend what they consider to be their own. Even if it isn’t. And in such pressing circumstances, you really shouldn’t let small details like the absence of an army or indeed the money to finance one get in the way of a righteous fight with all the attendant benefits of out-and-out nationalism…
Stand alone or series: Fourth in the Watch series, Twenty-First Discworld
How did I get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Paperback
My first read of 2020 proved to be a scarily prescient novel from 1997. Jingo by Terry Pratchett, is a novel about a ridiculous escalating of hostilities after a long period of peace that leads to a (short-lived) war between Ankh-Morpork and Al Khali (the capital of Klatch), after the attempted assassination of an official dignitary of the latter. I read it literally one day before the Orange Menace put us all in danger in the same way the foolish, warmongering characters in the novel do.
In the fictional world, the two sides are also fighting for little piece of land in between the two countries but tragedy is averted and war avoided by the parallel efforts of Commandant Vimes of the City Watch and Lord Vetinari. The twofold plot involves Vimes being the usual Vimes being led by his own instincts and Vetinari being his own usual pragmatic, often Machiavellian self.
Jingo is the fourth in the Watch series (which I am slowly reading to prepare for the upcoming BBC series) and I was once more reminded of the mixture of charm and disarming intelligence this series – and these characters – have. Take constable Carrot for example: in Jingo, it is again made apparent the ways he has affected the lives of pretty much every citizen in Ankh-Morpork due to his eagerness, his earnestness and simplicity of character. When Carrot asks, people answer. When he leads, people follow. Reminding us always that simplicity does not ever equal stupidity, Jingo also reminds us that just because something can be seem as comical and farcical, it does not mean it is also not thought-provoking and true. The elements that make a war even possible are expertly shown, unveiled to the reader little by little – racism, greed and imperialism often at the core of something like this. Even though it is an obvious correlation with England (in 1997, now and well, ever), current events happening right now show racism, greed and imperialism still going strong all over the world and fuelling the Orange Menace and his cohorts yes but also everybody else who supports them. Ankh-Morpork does not go to war only because The Powers the Be decide so: the insidious presence of racism, of a sense of superiority – “make Ankh-Morpork great again” – and the ugly facets of nationalism in the common people also make it possible.
“It was much better to imagine men in some smokey room somewhere, made mad and cynical by privilege and power, plotting over brandy. You had to cling to this sort of image, because if you didn’t then you might have to face the fact that bad things happened because ordinary people, the kind who brushed the dog and told the children bed time stories, were capable of then going out and doing horrible things to other ordinary people. It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, then what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.”
A great start to my reading year.
Sadly, the real world of 2020 is already a mess and I give it minus 10.