TENDENCIA THATCHERITIS OR ENGLISHNESS REMADE: The Fictions of Julian Barnes, Hanif Kureishi and Pat Barker
Joyce, Heather A.
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Julian Barnes, Pat Barker, and Hanif Kureishi are all canonical authors whose fictions are widely believed to reflect the cultural and political state of a nation that is post-war, post-imperial and post-modern. While much has been written on how Barker’s and Kureishi’s early works in particular respond to and intervene in the presiding political narrative of the 1980s – Thatcherism – treatment of how revenants of Thatcherism have shaped these writers’ works from 1990 on has remained cursory. Thatcherism is more than an obvious historical reference point for Barker, Barnes, and Kureishi; their works demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of how Thatcher’s reworkings of the repertoires of Englishness – a representational as well as political and cultural endeavour – persist beyond her time in office. Barnes, Barker, and Kureishi seem to have reached the same conclusion as political and cultural critics: Thatcher and Thatcherism have remade not only the contemporary political and cultural landscapes but also the electorate and consequently the English themselves. Tony Blair’s conception of the New Britain proved less than satisfactory because contemporary repertoires of Englishness repeat and rework historical and not incidentally imperial formulations of England and Englishness rather than envision civic and populist formulations of renewal. Barnes’s England, England and Arthur & George confront the discourse of inevitability that has come to be attached to contemporary formulations of both political and cultural Englishness – both in terms of its predictable demise and its belated celebration. Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia and “The Body” speak to an alteration that has taken place in which historical Englishness and Thatcherism have become complementary rather than contrasting discourses. What Barker’s Border Crossing and Double Vision offer against this backdrop is a subtle interrogation of how renewal itself comes to be a presiding mode of cultural reflection that absorbs revolutionary possibility.