Category Archives: Books

Dalrymple writes fiction!

We just received a nice email from Rebecca Bynum, publisher of New English Review, informing us that on August 1st she will release a book of short stories by Dalrymple. The Proper Procedure and Other Stories is 168 pages of 10 stories. Amazon link here.

This will be Dalrymple’s second work of fiction, after So Little Done, the first-person manifesto of a serial killer. No doubt many of us who admire his work have hoped to see more fiction from him, so this is an exciting development. He has often mentioned his deep admiration of Anton Chekhov, perhaps the master of the short story genre, and it will be interesting to see him follow in the footsteps of one of his great writer-heroes.

Dalrymple is quoted in the announcement thusly: “Some truth can be told only in the form of fiction. That is why I chose to write these stories.”

New English Review publishes “Out Into The Beautiful World”

New English Review has published a new collection of Dalrymple’s columns, Out Into The Beautiful World. The Amazon page here includes glowing praise from some prominent figures. Myron Magnet compares Dalrymple to Montaigne, Conrad Black calls him “one of the most elegant and erudite contemporary writers in the English language”, and John O’Sullivan says, “Theodore Dalrymple has done something that all the severe literary critics had decreed impossible. He has revived the essay.”

Dalrymple’s own introductory words from the Amazon page are:

When I was a young man I thought that metaphysics was the most exciting (and important) thing in the world. I wish now that I had not wasted so much time on the imponderable questions of metaphysics but had used it to more worthwhile effect. Rather than study philosophy, I should have studied insects.

In the little essays that follow, I have no grand theory to prove, no single message to convey. Small things and slight occurrences have caught my attention and caused me to reflect a little. I hope only to please the reader.

Mehdi Nemmouche and “the Real Me”: Admirable Evasions, excerpt

I have been reading and re-reading Dalrymple’s latest book, Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality, since its publication. I think it’s my personal favorite of all of his books.

In the following excerpt he follows a long discussion of what he calls “the doctrine of the Real Me” with the specific example of a man who recently murdered four people in the name of Islam.

The article’s headline was “The Multiple Lives of Mehdi Nemmouche.” It started:

Who knows the real Mehdi Nemmouche? Suspected of being the person responsible for the killing of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on 24 May, he has several lives, without anyone knowing how exactly they are connected.

To help us understand and uncover the real Mehdi Nemmouche, now 29 years old, one of his childhood friends was quoted as saying that he was “a quiet boy, discreet, not at all aggressive, and who never had any problems with anybody.” Another school friend said, “He was a good pupil, he never had any fights, had friends, dressed normally in jeans and sneakers…” But for the criminal justice system he was a young man with a “solid history of delinquency,” with no fewer than seven convictions in ten years, many of them for robbery with violence. He spent five years between 2007 and 2012 in prison, in which he was “radicalized,” that is to say, he was given (and adopted) an ideological justification for his psychopathic behavior.

So who is the real Mehdi Nemmouche, the quiet, well-behaved boy or the delinquent young man who shot four people with callous and prideful indifference? Continue reading

Dalrymple promotes new book on visit to U.S.

Dalrymple has spent the last few days making the rounds in New York and Washington, D.C. promoting his new book, Admirable Evasions: How Modern Psychology Undermines Morality.

He spoke at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. The video is here. The action doesn’t start until the 21:30 mark. (Update: the video has now been edited.)

On Thursday he visited the Wall Street Journal and recorded two short video interviews. In this one he addresses Islamic extremism, and here he discusses his book’s thesis that psychology has been a generally useless attempt to avoid the reality that “the permanent condition of mankind is dissatisfaction”. (H/t Michael G.)

On Thursday evening the New Criterion hosted a launch party in New York City for the book, and your humble correspondents (along with Skeptical Doctor reader Adam) enjoyed seeing the good doctor once again. He spoke for a few minutes, humorously sharing the titles of the psychology-inspired self-help books he noticed in the bookstore of DC’s Union Station.

tony

Other attendees included his old City Journal editor Myron Magnet, Roger Kimball and James Panero.

Review of new Dalrymple book “Admirable Evasions” on National Review Online

Dalrymple has a new book out, and we missed this review of it from three weeks ago on National Review Online. In Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality he makes his case against psychology for its practice of medicalizing, and thus excusing, destructive behavior. Reviewer Spencer Case, a philosophy student, argues that Dalrymple inaccurately defines the reductionism practised by a minority of psychiatrists who consider only physical causes as an overarching trend.

We’ll continue to share info about and reviews of the book as we find them.

Threats of Pain and Ruin

Once again, we are behind the curve in our efforts to keep up with Dalrymple. New English Review has put together another collection of his essays for that website, and it is now available for purchase (ahem, has been for some time). From their press release:

New English Review Press is pleased to announce the publication of our fourteenth book, Threats of Pain and Ruin by Theodore Dalrymple.

Sparklingly funny, unflinchingly realistic, and profoundly wise, these brilliant meditations on our postmodern predicament by the Montaigne of our age impart urbane pleasure and enlightenment on every page.
Myron Magnet, author of The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735-1817

No one else writes so engagingly and so candidly about the world as it is, not as the politically correct would have it be.
Dr. Charles Murray author of Coming Apart and The Bell Curve

Dr. Dalrymple’s eye alights on a topic; his mind dissects it; his imagination embroiders it; his judgment delivers an appropriate verdict, usually condemnation; and his sensibility ensures that all these activities are conceived, argued, and expressed wittily or sadly but always beautifully.
John O’Sullivan author of The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister

Another brilliant collection from our age’s answer to Dr. Johnson and George Orwell. A feast of wit, insight, admonition, and plain old common sense.
Roger Kimball, author of The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art

The summary from TD:

What is written without pain, said Doctor Johnson, is rarely read with pleasure. Rarely perhaps, but not, I hope, never: for the little essays in this book were written, I must confess, without much angst. In part this was because, in writing them, I had no thesis to prove, no axe to grind, except that the world is both infinitely interesting and amusing, and provides us with an inexhaustible source of material for philosophical reflection.

Many of the subjects treated of in this book were found by serendipity or came to me in flashes – it would be immodest to call them of inspiration – of previously unsuspected connection and interest. I can only hope that they entertain the reader as they have entertained me. At least they will do no harm, in compliance with the first principle of medical ethics.

— Theodore Dalrymple

Available here

Farewell Fear now available

New English Review Press has just published their second collection of Dalrymple essays. Farewell Fear covers the essays Dalrymple wrote for the website from 2009 to mid-2012. The book is available for sale now in paperback and in Kindle format at Amazon.com’s US website. The cover features Goya’s disturbing Saturn Devouring His Son (which I have seen in the Prado and can hardly believe was painted almost 200 years ago). For many of us, Dalrymple’s monthly New English Review essays have become some of his most profound and enjoyable works, and any collection of them immediately becomes a real treasure.
NER also released Anything Goes last year, which collected Dalrymple’s pieces from 2005 to 2009 and which I am embarrassed to say we still haven’t placed on the website. We have much catching up to do.

The Policeman and the Brothel now available

Monday Books has published the new Dalrymple book The Policeman and the Brothel: A Victorian Murder, the good doctor’s account of the only killing of a police officer ever on the island of Jersey:

Deep in the bleak winter of 1846, Jersey is a very different place from today. It is home to tens of thousands of rough-and-ready sailors, who spend their time drinking, chasing loose women and gambling through the teeming and chaotic streets. The job of keeping order still falls to elected ‘centeniers’ – such as the respected and feared George Le Cronier. There have already been two brutal murders on the island over the last few weeks. Now Le Cronier is on his way to arrest the madame of a notorious brothel. This is the true story of what happened next…

The really interesting point here is that the book appears to be written as a narrative, which would be Dalrymple’s first such work (or second, depending on how one categorizes So Little Done), and it will be fun to read him telling a story.
Buy the book at the bargain price of £8.99 here. Note the request for non-UK readers to contact them at info@mondaybooks.com before ordering.

Dalrymple (and Vaclav Havel) on North Korea: The Wilder Shores of Marx, excerpt (1991)

After the recent death of Kim Jong Il, many eyes turned again to North Korea and many heads were scratched as people struggled again to comprehend this strange nation.
Some have noted the irony of Kim Jong Il and Vaclav Havel passing away within 24 hours of each other. Havel, of course, did just as much to end totalitarianism and the cult of personality (or at least one implementation of them) as Kim did to preserve them.
So we found the following excerpt from The Wilder Shores of Marx relevant. Dalrymple’s description of a mass rally addressed by Kim Il Sung offers a glimpse into the nature of the regime, and it seems particularly ironic that he quoted Havel in the process.
The festival was opened a few days after our arrival, at a ceremony in the huge stadium that had been built for the Olympics but had never witnessed an Olympic event. Attendance at the opening ceremony, we were several times reminded, was compulsory. We had each received official invitation cards, but RSVP was not written on them. Moreover, each delegation was to wear its ‘uniform’. In our case, a special shirt had been designed, and by happy coincidence it was coloured storm-trooper brown. About half of us were to take part in the march past Kim Il Sung, and the idea of doing so appealed to me immensely: I should relish relating how I marched past Kim in twenty years’ time. Alas, I was not selected as a marcher. 
The ceremony was prepared with military precision. The buses taking the delegations to the stadium left at thirty second intervals, an impressive organisational feat. We arrived in the stadium two hours before the Great Leader was due to make his entry, leaving plenty of time for tension to mount: a technique well developed by another great leader, Adolf Hitler. 
On the far side of the stadium were 20,000 children, each with a series of coloured cards which, by means of instantaneous and co-ordinated changes, produced patterns, portraits, landscapes, and slogans (the latter in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Korean). At the very moment the children changed the colours of the cards they exposed to view, they let out a high pitched yell which pierced the sky. The effect was undoubtedly impressive because of its scale and the perfection of its timing; but it made one’s blood run cold.
Even had I not heard from a diplomat that these children were rehearsing for the opening ceremony for five or six months beforehand; that during that time they did not go to school; that often during that period they were to be seen being driven home in army trucks after rehearsals at two and three o’clock in the morning; that such parades and ceremonies were a constant feature of North Korean life; even had I heard none of these things, I should have still concluded from the spectacle itself that its production involved terrible sacrifices. Here was a perfect demonstration of Man as a means and not an end; of people as tiny cogs in an all-embracing machine. I think it true to say that even if there had been a machine available to do the work of those 20,000 children, the regime would still have chosen the children to do it: for what better training could there be for a life of personal insignificance and subordination to orders than participation in such a spectacle? 
The stadium held 150,000 people, of whom only 15,000 were foreigners attending the festival. The rest were North Koreans. As we awaited the arrival of the GL, storms of applause, obviously co-ordinated, would start in the Korean sections of the crowd, and waves of people would stand up and throw their arms in the air, with an effect like wind rushing through wheat. To my horror, the people around me joined in this mindless activity (mindless, but not purposeless). What were they cheering, what were they celebrating, what emotion, or rather pseudo-emotion, were they feeling? I recalled a passage from Vaclav Havel:

Each person somehow succumbs to a profane trivialisation of his or her inherent humanity. . . In everyone there is some willingness to merge with the anonymous crowd and to flow comfortably along with it down the river of pseudo-life. This is much more than a simple conflict between two identities. It is something far worse: it is a challenge to the very notion of identity itself. 

How right Havel was! There was no external compulsion for these people to behave as they did, to abandon their critical faculties, to lose their identity, to be united in a pseudo-mystical communion with a hundred thousand people of whom they knew nothing, absolutely nothing. Yet they could not wait to do so; in fact they rejoiced in doing it, and they felt fulfilled afterwards. Here was a profound rejection of individual freedom by people who were free, and who gratefully rejected freedom’s corollary: individual responsibility, with all its uncertainties and torments. 
….
The playing field area began to fill with what our programme called ‘performers’….Some of the performers were dressed in blue and white gymnasts’ kit; they goose-stepped and gave the special fascist-style Kim Il Sung salute. They kept up the goose-stepping until my legs grew weary: they were the embodiment of Strength Through Joy, or Strength Through Fear, which of course amounts to the same thing. But they were only a small contingent compared with the dancers. I use the words ‘dancers’ because the English language, fortunately, has no word that more accurately conveys the nature of these untold thousands of people. Can robots dance? For this was no mere corps de ballet. The ‘dances’ were military manoeuvres performed to music (3000 musicians, naturally), by male and female soldiers in a variety of garish nylon costumes.
The ‘dances’ they performed bore titles such as Let’s check and frustrate the imperialist moves towards aggression and nuclear war! and Fly, doves of peace! – the latter with the following programme note: 

Doves of peace, fly high up into the blue sky that is clear of the nuclear clouds. Thousands of doves dance as if to cover the sky of the whole world. 

…. 
With everyone in place, the moment arrived for which we had all been waiting – the entry of the Great Leader. It was an impossibility that everyone in the huge stadium saw this momentous event; yet a kind of controlled pandemonium broke out instantaneously all around the stadium. The 50,000 performers on the pitch threw up their hands in a gesture of true subservience before their Pharaoh, and the Korean spectators did likewise. They roared and howled in unison, and jumped up and down collectively for minutes on end; the foreigners, caught up in the atmosphere of hysterical self-abasement, stood up and applauded as if to save their lives. 
I am not by nature brave, or even unconventional, yet in the moment of Kim Il Sung’s entry I decided that I would not stand, not if everyone in the stadium should hurl abuse at me, not even if I were to be threatened with torture or death itself. I was so appalled by the sight and sound of 200,000 men and women worshipping a fellow mortal, totally abdicating their humanity, that I do not think I am exaggerating when I say I should rather have died than assent to this monstrous evil by standing (my mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany). There I sat; I could do no other. 
The terrible obedience of the crowd, uncoerced at least in the immediate sense, indicated the power of the regime, a power that seemed absolute and limitless, that had entered the very recesses of minds, that had eradicated any countervailing force. Yet the power that was so strong
was also brittle. It would only have taken 10,000 people not to have stood up for Kim Il Sung when he entered the stadium – the omission of one small act of obedience – and his power and mystique would have snapped like a twig, to remain broken and irrecoverable. My refusal to stand was but a feeble, isolated gesture; but a tiny crystal thrown into a sea of saturated solution can cause an immense precipitate, and one day such a thing will happen in North Korea and everyone, wise after the event, will marvel that it didn’t happen sooner. 
I wondered once again what it must be like to receive such adulation, calmly to watch 200,000 people worshipping oneself. After many years of it, does one become blase? Does one come to believe that the tribute is merited, or worse still, that it is freely offered and expresses some real emotion? It would have been interesting to have a chat with Kim Il Sung. I recalled the only object of a political personality cult whom I had ever met, some two years previously: Jonas Savimbi. In his ‘Free Land of Angola’, that part of Angola where his forces held sway, there was a cult as grotesque as any. His picture and words were everywhere; his was the only poetry permitted; and when his name was mentioned in a private conversation, the speaker had to stand up while saying it. I asked Savimbi about his cult (he was claiming at the time to be a liberal democrat). ‘If the people love me,’ he answered, ‘how can I stop them?’ 
The adulation of the Great Leader ceased as suddenly as it had started, as if on a hidden signal, as if a certain precise length of time had been set aside for it. Then came the march past of the delegations, 140 of them. It was a tedious procession, but the tedium was not pointless. The Koreans, who were not allowed so much as to draw breath without the permission of their government, must have concluded that these delegations were in some way official, and that therefore their country, North Korea, was presently the centre of world attention. Not surprisingly, the delegations from Guatemala and El Salvador were from the URNG and FMLN respectively, that is to say the guerrilla coalitions. At that time the Iraqis still had to be kept away from the Iranians, and the Scandinavians, to my great admiration, unfurled two banners, one asking why Amnesty International was not permitted to investigate conditions in North Korea (not a difficult question to answer), and another expressing solidarity with the Chinese pro­democracy students who had not long before been massacred in Tiananmen Square. Later, when the Scandinavian marchers returned to the body of the stadium, scuffles broke out as security men tried to wrest the banners away. A few of the Scandinavians were punched and kicked…
When these scuffles broke out, I overheard some of my fellow delegates, the hard-faced communists, express a willingness, indeed an anxiety, to join in – on the side of the North Koreans, ‘to beat the shit out of them’. Discussing among themselves the famous scene when the single student (since executed) stood in front of the column of tanks in Peking and held them up by moral force alone, one of them remarked that if he had been the tank driver he would have driven ‘straight over the bastard and squashed him’. And his face showed that he meant what he said. 
….
It was time for the Great Leader’s speech. The whole ceremony up till now had been so Hitlerian, so megalomanic, that I assumed the Great Leader was a fiery orator, a man able to rouse his listeners to a frenzy of indignation and other enjoyable emotions. I could not have been more mistaken. He spoke like a retired bank manager recalling cheques he had been obliged to bounce. His voice was monotonous, without modulation or intonation: a real bureaucrat’s voice. It was impossible to make out the content of his speech, which was translated simultaneously into English and broadcast over an echoing public address system. I am unable, therefore, to comment on its other qualities, except to say that it seemed not to be a model of concision. 
The rapture with which the GL’s speech was received had nothing to do with what was said: only with who had said it. If he had recited the Pyongyang telephone directory – assuming such a subversive volume exists – the crowd would still have applauded with tears in its eyes. The contrast between the banality of his delivery and the ecstasy of the response was terrifying. 
It was now time for the guest of honour, Comrade Robert Mugabe, to speak. Part of his Zimbabwean army, the brigade used to terrify the Matabele, was trained by the North Koreans. The public address system, which relayed his speech almost simultaneously in English and Korean, rendered it virtually incomprehensible, but such snatches as were heard were purest platitude – education was a good thing, the future of the world belonged to the youth etc. Of course, the fact that he had nothing to say did not prevent him from speaking for a long time. The twentieth century belongs to windbags. 
The applause he received at the end of his speech was polite but without enthusiasm. I suspect that the Great Leader thinks that a clap for somebody else is one less clap for him. 
There was more military dancing, then some lighting effects and fireworks. It was tedious – kitsch on an unimaginable scale. The departure of the Great Leader was accompanied by the same pandemonium as his arrival, and it continued for several minutes after his motorcade must have sped away. 
As we left the stadium, one of the naive communists asked me what I had thought of the opening ceremony.
‘To tell you the truth,’ I said, ‘I’ve never been very keen on fascism.’
Copyright 1991 Anthony Daniels. Reprinted with permission.

Monday Books to republish all Anthony Daniels books

Monday Books has made the following announcement on its blog:

Finally, we’ve just agreed with Theodore Dalrymple that we will republish all of his old work, written as Anthony Daniels, in eBook format. This includes classics such as Monrovia Mon Amour, Zanzibar to Timbuktu and The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World.

There follows an excerpt from Monrovia, Mon Amour of his visit to the murderous dictator Brigadier General Field Marshall Prince Y. Johnson.