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The Fixed Period (English Edition) Format Kindle
|Longueur : 95 pages||Composition améliorée: Activé||Page Flip: Activé|
|Langue : Anglais|
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Le narrateur du roman est le président d'une petite république, Britannula, située à proximité de la Nouvelle-Zélande. Il a fait passer une loi selon laquelle tous les citoyens doivent être mis à mort, puis incinéré, le jour de leurs 68 ans. (Je me suis demandé si, dans de telles circonstances, je mènerais ma vie différemment.) Le nom du narrateur nous en dit long sur son caractère : il s'appelle M. Neverbend (M. Ne-cède-jamais). Dès le premier chapitre, on apprend que sa loi a échoué sans qu'une seule personne ne soit morte. Il nous écrit d'un navire en partance pour la Grande-Bretagne, ayant perdu son poste de président et s'étant fait déporter de son pays.
On sait donc dès le début quel sera le dénouement du récit et par la suite le roman nous réserve très peu de surprises. En outre, je me suis lassé assez vite de M. Ne-cède-jamais et de sa monomanie à l'égard de sa loi.
Trollope est incontestablement talentueux. On le voit même dans ce livre, dont le style est agréable et les personnages bien dessinés. Il n'empêche que je recommanderais ce livre-ci seulement aux passionnés de cet auteur.
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THE FIXED PERIOD stands unique in Trollope's oeuvre in many ways. It's one of the few, perhaps only of his novels told in a strictly first person view - it's set 100 years in the future, so it could marginally be considered sci-fi - and it uses satire and dark irony as it's impetus for communicating its point.
In the vein of the infamous MODEST PROPOSAL of Jonathan Swift, Trollope here facetiously advocates for state-sponsored euthanasia. But, rather than writing this as a tongue-and-cheek essay, Trollope creates a story centered on a fictional future society, an offshoot of Britain called Britannula. The nation is presided over by President John Neverbend, whose memoir comprises the entire text of the novel.
Thirty years prior to the start of the novel, during the formation of the nation, Neverbend created the concept of state-mandated euthanasia as a method to curb the impact that an aging population has on its youth. In the mind of Neverbend, death would now come not after years of senility at the tax-payers or childrens expense, but would rather be effected in a ceremony of dignity and national celebration of a life lived well, and terminated (at the age of 68) prior to the shameful degradation of old age. Of course, this pageantry is all merely a show to distract the public from what is essentially murder on the state-level. Neverbend later tours the tenements the "fixed" will occupy prior to their termination, and muses on how each additional set of apartments becomes less and less luxurious, and more rudimentary, hinting at the days to come when the procedure becomes less about "dignity" and more about the convenience of shuttling the old out of our way - if only Trollope could have seen how our society has essentially done the very same thing with today's nursing homes!
In the initial chapter, Trollope (through Neverbend) explains the details of the procedure in a chillingly cold and efficient manner. From there, the story picks up as the first citizen is about to be submitted for termination, who happens to be his friend and proponent of the original law, Gabriel Crasweller. Neverbend is astonished to find that as the day for his "depositing" into the tenement approaches, the perfectly healthy Crasweller begins stalling and making excuses for why he needs "another year." The early chapter in which Neverbend methodically explains to Crasweller the necessity of his "sacrifice" is indeed one of the most chilling this author ever penned - chilling in it cold logic, and particularly chilling to the modern-day reader who has seen in the intervening years the same logic employed by the Hitlers and Stalins and Milosevics of the world... Even more chilling, as the novel progresses, is Neverbend's increasing belief that, if Crasweller will not go willingly, he will have to be forced.
The bulk of the novel follows the weeks leading up to the "fixed" day of Crasweller's confinement, as Neverbend faces increasing opposition from family, friends, and the very nation that he thought had fully supported his measure. The stage is set for an ideological and physical clash as the day arrives - will Neverbend succeed, or will other forces intervene and common sense be restored? By the novel's end, Trollope not only explores these issues, but also tackles Imperialism and Colonialism as the government of Britain involves itself in the situation.
I noted Trollope set the novel 100 years in the future (1980), but imagining what a future society would look like isn't really the main purpose here. Trollope, of course, could only go by the "technology" of his day, so the few attempts he makes at such imaginings involve steam-powered bicycles and wire-based remote communications. Aside from these "innovations" (and an odd Cricket match played with mechanical bowlers), Trollope seems to think society will mostly run the same way as it does in his day, including fixed marriages ... which of course enable him to include his required "engagement story."
Again, with the time setting, Trollope wasn't really trying to write a novel of the future, so much as the 100 year removed setting allowed him to postulate a nation that had time to rise and declare independence from Britain, and where a mindset could have evolved to conceive such a radical idea. Remember, this was the 1880s, long before issues like euthanasia, abortion, and other controversial and divisive issues became everyday conversation.
While it does have a story to tell, it certainly isn't as fleshed out as most of his other novels. But it is to his credit that even in its sparse 150 pages, these characters take on a believability as they react to the unique situation they find themselves in, particularly Crasweller. Whether or not Trollope intended any of this to be taken seriously, the World's Classic edition essay suggests the novel was written as a parallel to Trollope's efforts to bring about cremation as a standard practice in England, which itself was highly controversial in its day. As such, while it is doubtful Trollope truly wanted to invoke state-sponsored Euthanasia, still one can imagine Trollope poured a lot of his own frustrations into the character of Neverbend, who begins his quest seemingly with society's best interests in mind, but clearly falls into extreme pride as his ideas come under fire. Through the use of first-person perspective, Trollope gives us a unique understanding of and sympathy for a character that really should be considered a villain!
The novel is a fascinating one, and highly recommended! Its various arguments haunt the reader long after the story fades into the background. I could easily write twice as much as I already have about it. It is unlike any other novel in his career, and one that has the potential to spark much debate in an age where issues like abortion and homosexuality have given rise to political factions who enact black-and-white laws, and later find themselves unable to enforce these laws - for, in the end, Trollope's best point in the book is that no issue can be reduced to a "one-size-fits-all" practice. Every situation is unique!
The tale is told through the community's President, an outspoken supporter for the Fixed Period of life from which the book gets its name. To tell more might disclose the ending.
Trollope is a poor prognosticator of the future. His list of inventions for the twentieth century is short and they seem almost frivolous (a steam-powered automatic bowler for cricket? Really!). However, his discussion is right up to the moment. An article in The Atlantic Monthly tells of the author's decision to terminate his life at age 75, even if he is in apparently good health at that time.
I know David Lodge has written appreciately of it, but given that Trollope wrote 47 novels, unless you have more time to read than the average Lit Prof, I suggest you concentrate on the dozen or so novels by AT that are still living literature, not relics from the crypt.
If you must read it, you'll understand the title of my review ...
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