I love a good social commentary on prostitution. Lol! Good read.
It’s scarcely the sort of review that would be published in the New York Review of Books or the Times Literary Supplement, but I appreciate it nonetheless, even though it’s not the kind of review that I can really learn very much from.
Alif is a satirical novel set in the imaginary Republic of Alif which in many ways is similar to the lesser but no less self-important nations that I’ve visited in my life that aren’t quite third world status but don’t attain first world status either. In this particular republic, prostitution is a state-run institution that has many features in common with the armed forces which, whether they are necessary for the nations that maintain them, are still presented as a way of life that is good for those who adopt it. And if a discipline which is essentially about killing people should be considered a good thing, then why not one which is about providing sex for people?
However, although this is probably the most anti-male novel I’ve written with the sole male character being particularly unsympathetic, I have been accused of writing fiction that simply panders to the male fantasy of wishing to humiliate women. Such a notion couldn’t be further from my mind. I wrote it before the internet was much of a reality and I most certainly hadn’t read any of the fiction that’s easily available on the internet which does serve to reduce the complexity of a woman’s character to wafer-thin stereotypes to be abused and misused as the writer feels inclined. Indeed, I was expecting the novel to be seen as some kind of feminist critique (if from a man rather than a woman).
However, now the book has been out there on the internet for about 14 years, I am now in a better position to appreciate its faults and virtues. I don’t think it’s my best novel. It’s a bit talky and the plot is rather leisurely. And just because there are virtually no sex scenes doesn’t mean that the subject matter can’t be viewed as salacious. But on the other hand, I don’t think it’s a bad novel and it holds together relatively well.