catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Are the Alan Clark Diaries satire?

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I’ve just enjoyed the first instalment of the TV version of the Alan Clark Diaries. It was certainly funny – laugh-out-loud funny, in fact – but was it, as the ABC announcer said, ‘satire’?

It’s easy to see why he might have thought that. If we take the Macquarie Dictionary’s definition of satire, ‘a literary composition … in which vices, abuses, follies, etc are held up to scorn, derision or ridicule’ then this apparent send-up of a Tory toff in politics, a partisan version of Yes, Minister, is ‘satire’. But the difficulty with this is that Alan Clark was a real person and much of the programme was quotations from his own famous diaries (just randomly opening my copy, I find a sentence I just heard on TV: ‘How ruthless women can be – far worse than men.’, 4 August 1983). Was Clark satirising himself?

I’m not sure that he was (though from my vague memory of the Diaries, he doesn’t always take himself seriously), though perhaps they can be read (and the TV version watched) as satire. As my hero Swift said, ‘Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own…’ And there is an element of self-parody, whether this was Clark’s intention or not.

Clark’s closest equivalent today (he died in 1999) is probably former Spectator editor and currently Tory Shadow Minister for Higher Education Boris Johnson. They were both educated at Eton and Oxford, eccentric Establishment types not content with just their wives. I enjoyed the newspaper description of cyclist Johnson’s latest affair as him having been caught ‘parking his bicycle in the wrong rack’. Clark was cited in a divorce case as having had affairs with the wife and her two daughters. It’s hard to imagine either Australian or American conservatives getting away with anything like it.

Written by Admin

April 30, 2006 at 10:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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