Philip Pullman


The ever-delightful Amy Welborn advises us that Philip Pullman has pulled out yet another stop.

Pullman, 55, won this year's Whitbread book award for the final instalment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, in which he created a parallel universe ruled by a senile, viciously sadistic deity who has to be deposed in battle so the inhabitants can join with angels in creating a "republic of heaven". The Catholic Herald called his books "the stuff of nightmares" and "worthy of the bonfire". Another critic cautioned: "Christian parents beware." Pullman, who writes for children but shuns the category, "children's author", is only outsold by JK Rowling's Harry Potter series and has a vast adult readership. Keen to tackle received ideas on religion, he recently called CS Lewis's highly Christian Narnia books "blatantly racist" and "monumentally disparaging of children". Such is his hatred of domineering, organised religion, he has become something of an evangelical atheist. During a debate on morality in fiction at the Edinburgh international books festival at the weekend, Pullman warned that in the climate of threatened attacks on Iraq and the crisis in the Middle East, we live in a Godless and uncertain age, and unless writers wrestled with the larger questions of moral conduct, they would become useless and irrelevant.

It's a real shame that the enormously talented Pullman has not read (or perhaps refuses to internalize) what Dostoyevski observed ages ago and what James Hynes reiterated more recently, "A man who believes in nothing is capable of anything." Atheism has certainly proven a beacon of light to all nations. Think how well we would all be served if every world leader were of the caliber of a Stalin, a Mao, or a Pol Pot!

I know, I'm preaching to the choir here, but Pullman annoys me because he wastes a prodigious talent in work unworthy of him. I think about the parable of the three talents, and if ever a talent were buried. However, always when I consider these things, I am led to cast my mind upward toward God, and I offer a prayer for Philip that his obviously damaged heart might be healed.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 12, 2002 8:11 AM.

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