ALEXANDER’S CHOICE BY EDMUND MARLOWE REVIEWED BY JOHN HAMILTON
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 in December 2012. The following review of it was published on Amazon.co.uk on 20 August 2015.
Classical knowledge versus modern ignorance *****
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, a beautifully written novel, deeply moving, sometimes erotic, with characters which the author invests with a real psychological depth. The novel follows the course of a sensitive, intelligent and lively Eton schoolboy, thirteen-year-old Alexander Aylmer, as he forms romantic attachments to two others, firstly, Julian, a more senior pupil, and then Damian, a schoolmaster. There is little doubt that the author will be the subject of much opprobrium for this magnificent novel, because of its classical wisdom, because of its rejection of the popular delusions of our age, and because of its sensitive portrayal of a beautiful and beneficial intergenerational relationship. This is only to be expected, and the novel has already aroused the ire of some other reviewers and commentators. But then, as Bertrand Russell once wrote, “It does seem to me...that a useful criterion of the extent to which one has broken new ground, is the hostility incurred from the established, the intellectually smug, and the moral eunuchs of our day.” (Letter to Ernest Gellner, quoted in A. J. Ayer, “More of my Life”, p. 201). To such people, this novel will be a profoundly unsettling experience.
In the end, there are a vast number of people who sincerely believe that contemporary western societies represent the pinnacle of moral enlightenment and tolerance, when a glance at the popular press ought to be sufficient to reveal our epoch as an age of mass manipulation and moral panic without parallel in human history, its claims to superiority in any but the most superficial matters (such as “technology”) utterly risible and indeed contemptible, a theme which is really present throughout Marlowe's novel. And one way in which this deficiency manifests itself is through the failure of society to accord a positive value to pederasty (a failure only possible through an overwhelming historical ignorance given the highly beneficial role which pederasty served in other societies).
It is, indeed, impossible to review this book properly without touching on the subject of intergenerational eroticism, which is at the heart of this novel. Western societies, dominated by the hegemonic child abuse narrative that emerged from feminist circles during the 1970s, regard all such relationships with hysterical condemnation, and effectively deny the power of juvenile sexual desire, and deny juvenile sexual knowledge. The early gay movement, before it allowed itself to be co-opted by the feminists in its rush toward mainstream respectability, knew better, knew that boys, even very young boys, were anything but asexual beings, that sometimes they sought sexual relationships with adults, and that these relationships were characteristically anything but “abusive”. As Harry Hay, the founder and moving force of the Mattachine Society famously said of his first sexual encounter with a man as a fourteen-year-old boy, “I molested an adult until I found out what I needed to know.” It is notable that Hay was in later years a staunch supporter of Nambla (the North American Man-Boy Love Association), and became disillusioned with the gay movement he did so much to launch for its very narrow construction of gay identity. The construction of a gay sexual “identity” inevitably led to the gay movement championing “gay rights” as those of a distinct minority, along the model of the black civil rights movement and in alliance with numerous leftist causes, including feminism. However, it may be that the whole notion of sexual identity which Hay helped to construct was misconceived, precisely because, by conceptualising homosexual behaviour as though it applied only to an identifiable minority, it denied the complexity of erotic and affective response in the great majority of males.
For an even earlier generation, the generation which formed the basis of Alfred Kinsey's pioneering research in the 1940s, homosexuality was not an “identity” at all, but, as Kinsey discovered, a mode of behaviour to which nearly all juvenile and adolescent males were inclined at some time or other and could be seen as an ordinary and indeed desirable part of their growing up, whether such eroticism was expressed with their peers or with an adult male. Over the decades, however, this knowledge was progressively obscured by an increasingly shrill ideology, leading to the current hysteria, in which, in the name of “protecting” children—presumably from their own sexuality—a third of all those currently on the UK's “Sex Offenders' Register” are themselves children and adolescents under the age of eighteen (a fact which you won't be hearing from the tabloid press), the youngest “offenders” being just ten years of age, all this being accomplished without any visible protest from the official gay movement. Far from representing progress, or the advance of civilisation, the movement of western society since the 1960s has been constituted by the progressive abandonment of reason for madness and cruelty.
Above all, then, “Alexander's Choice” is a call for reason and sanity, qualities that have been quietly euthanized in our epoch, but may perhaps one day, in the distant future, flourish again. In a truly civilised world, “Alexander's Choice” would be regarded as a classic work of literature, and be required reading for all secondary school pupils.