Slavoj Žižek on the Alternative History Genre

Thank you LRB archives.

The conservative sympathies of the ‘what if?’ volumes become clear as soon as you look at their contents pages. The topics tend to concern how much better history would have been if some revolutionary or ‘radical’ event had been avoided (if Charles I had won the Civil War; if the English had won the war against the American colonies; if the Confederacy had won the American Civil War; if Germany had won the Great War) or, less often, how much worse history would have been if it had taken a more progressive turn. There are two examples of the latter in Roberts’s volume: had Thatcher been killed in the Brighton bombing of 1984; had Gore been president on 9/11 (in this last essay, written by the neo-con David Frum, any pretence to serious history is abandoned in favour of political propaganda masked as satire). No wonder Roberts refers approvingly to Kingsley Amis’s novel Russian Hide-and-Seek, which is set in a Soviet-occupied Britain.

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Great article, thanks Scott. Currently reading Mikhail Bakhtin on Rabelais, such a great book I can’t believe I didn’t read it earlier, particularly as I remember loving his study of Dostoevsky so much.

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