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Angela Carter’s Critique of Her Contemporary World

Politics, History, and Mortality

Yutaka Okuhata

This research sheds new light on Angela Carter’s critique of her contemporary world, not only as a feminist and socialist but also as a political writer who lived through the twentieth century, an unprecedented period when even the meanings of life, death, and survivability changed drastically. The book examines Carter’s portrayals of mortality in her nine novels through the lens of the Cold War and subsequent fears of nuclear catastrophe and sudden death, alongside the comfort blanket of the post-war welfare state. Focusing on the mutual dialogues between Carter and actual historical events, from Hiroshima and the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Thatcherism, the book aims to reconsider her oeuvre from a twenty-first century perspective.

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One of the last things that Angela Carter ever wrote before her death from lung cancer in February 1992 was an introduction for Expletives Deleted (1992), her first collection of essays and journalistic writings since Nothing Sacred: Selected Writings (1982). Here, Carter wrote about her close friend, Salman Rushdie, who had “suffered the archaic and cruel penalty of a death sentence” issued by Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for blaspheming Muhammad in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses (ED, p. 6).1 Remarking that “all those who work in the same profession are affected by his dreadful predicament”, at the end of this introduction Carter sympathetically comments that “perhaps writing is a matter of life and death” (italics is in original; p. 6). This statement can be regarded not only as her last message of support for Rushdie but also as a phrase reflecting Carter’s own reminiscent view of her literary life, even though she intentionally emphasises the word “is” in the present tense.

“To me”, Carter once noted in one of her earliest journals written in Bristol, “my art is my life, my craft is my blood, bone & sinew, so internal a part of me that I can afford to disregard it, as one disregards breathing”.2 But on the other hand, for this author who sees writing fiction as “a matter of life and death”, it is also true that fiction itself is the very place where she can problematise...

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