Facial Justice

Facial Justice
By. L. P. Hartley

Postwar England was, by most accounts, a grim place. L. P. Hartley, someone who even snobs thought of as a snob, renders it as a bleak land stuck in a “perpetual March” of what may be nuclear winter. The colourless landscape mirrors a social order even more gray, with the keynote being a fetishization of equality that levels every hill and fills up every valley.

The effect of this has been to depoliticize the citizens of the New Nanny State, with the populace (known as delinquents and patients) being like children: mostly asexual and expressing themselves by way of rote alliterative baby-talk.

It’s an odd vision of dystopia, headed by the mysterious figure of the Dear Dictator, a sort of reluctant, even depressed Big Brother. This is less a police state than an adult day care, and one with all sorts of paradoxes that don’t sort out, like the sexism of the signature plastic surgery to alter women’s faces.

A real oddity, more a personal grouse than any kind of coherent vision of either the ’50s or the future. Still, that’s why I think it lasts.

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