By Stephen Henighan
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Additional info for A Report on the Afterlife of Culture
Both The Innocent (1990), a thriller that moves into John le Carré territory, but with a distinctive dose of McEwan gore – the hero and heroine are obliged to chop a human body into pieces in order to smuggle it out of a Berlin apartment – and Black Dogs (1992), were set in Europe. The latter novel, which strings together a series of critical moments in recent European history, asserts the merging of British history with that of the continent, in a direct challenge to Thatcherite declarations of British hostility to Europe based on the primordial importance lent the “special relationship” with the United States.
Mass culture promotes film, now transmitted on DVD, as the dominant narrative form. The widespread installation of DVD drives in laptop computers means that film must be sufficiently intellectually challenging to withstand multiple viewings; since visual language is crude, simplistic and over-obvious by comparison with written language, complexity is achieved through variant endings, collections of bloopers or outtakes, “director’s cuts,” or willful obscurity. The consumer may choose a preferred version of the film from among those offered by the DVD, as he or she would choose favourite products from among the repertoire available at the mall.
Many of these novels are meticulously researched historical tales that depict the past through a marshalling of detail yet twist the cultural and moral codes of past eras to make them acceptable to our present through the insertion of individualist, egalitarian, feminist or anti-racist sensitivities that characters inhabiting the close-knit traditional societies of the past would not have had, or would have expressed in very different ways (or, conversely, by portraying past society as hopelessly restrictive in order to highlight by contrast the moral superiority of the present).