EDMUND MARLOWE'S ALEXANDER’S CHOICE REVIEWED BY SON OF NIETZSCHE
Alexander’s Choice, a love story set at England’s most famous boarding-school, Eton College and written by old boy Edmund Marlowe, was published on 12 December 2012. The following review of it was published on Amazon.co.uk on 29 January 2013.
Contemporary tragedy *****
A stunning beauty, thirteen year old Alexander arrives at Eton naive and optimistic. He soon develops two special friendships: one with Julian - insecure, withdrawn, and three years his senior; the other with Damian, a young, newly-arrived English teacher. A personal tragedy, combined with his love of Ancient Greek history, propels Alexander to reconsider his relations with Julian and Damian against the framework of the ancient, ethical practice of 'Greek Love' - and the physical consummation that was considered a quintessential aspect of pedagogical mentorship (at least, prior to the subversion of that practice by Plato and other 4th century BCE intellectuals).
Transported to the 1980s, however, age-stratified relationships are not merely frowned-upon, but pose a threat to hierarchy, and more specifically to the carefully-cultivated image of The Child which serves as the rhetoric of every acknowledged politics; the phantasmal beneficiary of every political intervention. The image of 'The Child' is not simply the last taboo, but also the last possibility of taboo, the last universal mechanism for imposing order upon a decaying world. To contemporary culture, then, Alexander is not a living swarm of affections and passions, but rather an inert categorization, a strategic image - one which must be protected at any cost. Consequently, the irony of the novel's title is that the 'Alexander' visible to society is not entitled to 'choose' anything: as a fixed image that operates in the service of culture, he is always-already stripped of voice and life.
In his début novel, author Edmund Marlowe offers a voice to the movements and sensations, affects and percepts, that are concealed by this image. He quite literally creates a life: Alexander. Thoughtfully-crafted, insightful and compelling, ALEXANDER'S CHOICE is thus a courageous work of creation. Perhaps it is telling, however, that the work becomes (and can only become) an exemplification of how those satellite figures who invest heavily in constituting and maintaining the illusory image of The Child - parents, teachers, politicians, social workers, law enforcers - do so irrespective and heedless of that which always escapes their grasp. As Zarathustra predicted, "the earth has become small, and upon it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His race is as inexterminable as the flea...". Thus, the lingering sadness acknowledged in, and encapsulated by, the novel, is perhaps the suspicion that we no longer have ears for ALEXANDER'S CHOICE.