Saturday, May 06, 2006

The innocence of an earlier time: Fay Sampson, F.67. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1975.

Some books date badly. This is such a niave little book, it has a sweetness I remember from Blue Peter campaigns in the 1970s.

British scientists invent a bacteria (the F.67 of the title) that can eat plastic, the idea being to reduce landfill. The bacteria gets out of hand and the developed world begins to collapse. The story opens as David and his sister Caroline are evacuated to the (mythical) African country of Mutembe.

[They go by 'plane which made me blanch. Clearly the author doesn't know how much of a 'plane is made of plastic.]

In Mutembe they mostly meet graciousness and courtesy. Although we are told the people are very poor, and that some are hostile, that's all kept at a distance.

But David and Caroline's parents end up in the neighbouring country of Katenji where most of the refugees are Danish and where their parents aren't given full refugee status, but only temporary leave to stay. If they leave they can't return, and Mutembe has told them they can only enter if they have a third country to go to. Mutembe is full up.

When Polly, a very friendly African woman who has been welcoming them for weekend visists tells them she has to go away (her husband is being relocated) Caroline and David decide to try to get to Katenji. In a series of very low key adventures they get there, only to be caught when David tries to steal food, and they are sent back.

When they get there they find their parents who have been allowed to settle in Mutembe as long as they accept a plot of land and become farmers... perhaps the most implausible bit of the whole narrative as extraordinary generosity is disguised here as reluctant assistance.

[This post brought to you via Endnote 9, perhaps the coolest academic writing tool ever.]


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