Will Canada's Next Prime Minister Be a Muckraking Russian Novelist?
Currently, Canada's liberal party leader is Michael Ignatieff, the descendent of a Russian Count, who has typed his way to the top of the Canadian political machine by writing novels, screenplays, articles about human rights, and by delivering podcasts about philosophy and history.

Michael Ignatieff, using his imagination

Michael Ignatieff, answering a question about domestic policy

Canada may hold an election later this spring, and if the liberal party steamrolls into power, it is almost certain that they will propel Ignatieff (like President Obama, a person who only became famous through the strength and originality of his prose) to the highest office in the Canadian government.

Ignatieff published his first novel less than 20 years ago in 1991. The book was called "Asya," and is the story of a Russian noblewoman born in 1900 who flees the Revolution to Paris after an affair with a dashing Russian army officer.

In 1993, Ignatieff was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for his second novel, "Scar Tissue." The novel went on to win the Whitbread Novel Prize, which some consider to be the Booker's populist twin.

From "Publisher's Weekly":

"The title [Scar Tissue] refers to "the dark starbursts of scar tissue" that indicate a brain being destroyed. Haunted by the genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's in his mother's family, the narrator describes each harrowing stage of her illness, meanwhile speculating about the loss of selfhood when language and memory are obliterated. There is irony in his insight that "we have just enough knowledge to know our fate but not enough to do anything to avert it." The ramifications of the mother's decline destroy the family: the narrator ascribes his father's fatal heart attack, the demise of his own marriage, a break with his brother and his months of crippling depression as inescapable consequences."

Ignatieff's latest novel, published in 2005, was called "Charlie Johnson in the Flames," and is the story of a war correspondent in the Balkans during the turn of the millennium. The novel was a bit of a flop, so evidently Ignatieff decided to take a break from fiction and to instead seek the highest executive office in Canada.

What does this mean for the shape of politics in the coming years?

Imagine it, the person who wrote this article for the New York Times movie section called "The Terrorist as Auteur" in charge of a nuclear power, using complex sentences and tricky punctuation to construct a bold, new literate future and foreign policy:

"In Iraq, imagery has replaced argument; indeed, atrocity footage has become its own argument. One horrendous picture seems not just to follow the other but also to justify it. From Abu Ghraib to decapitation footage and back again, we the audience are caught in a loop: one atrocity begetting another in a darkening vortex, without end."

The world has a long, sad history of failed artists rising to power. But successful ones? What does this mean?



As leaders?

Obama and Ignatieff: kicking back, talking about Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, and the future of literary realism?

Drinking just enough liquor to become moody and unstable, but not enough to fall down or start hitting on flight attendants?

Starting fights in restaurants about who will pay the bill, and then remembering that their bill will be paid for by taxes, and laughing so hard that they begin to cry?

"We have just enough knowledge to know our fate but not enough to do anything to avert it."

Posted by miracle on Sun, 15 Feb 2009 04:41:40 -0500 -- permanent link

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