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All the King's Men (Penguin Modern Classics)

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January 1st arrives amid lingering holiday indulgence, often leaving us with hangovers and half-hearted promises of change. Parallel to Willie's story, Warren introduces us to Jack Burden, a jaded newspaper reporter who becomes Willie’s right-hand man.

Along the way, Warren offers many observations about the contrast between past and future, the man of mind and the man of action, God and humanity. Jack Burden is the novel's narrator, a former student of history, newspaper columnist, and personal aide to Governor Willie Stark. Jack tells us what happened from the moment the king’s men arrive at Burden’s Landing to threaten Judge Irwin.The painfully awkward silence, and Jack’s mother’s subsequent response that she did not know he ‘…felt that – that way! All the King's Men is really a double story, that of Willie, the hick from the red-neck country who rose to power through eloquence, leadership, and ruthless mastery of dirty politics, and that of three 'aristocrats' drawn into Willie's orbit. And we see played out in detail the corruption at the heart of politics – how a man who starts out full of good intention and moral purpose cuts a little corner here, exerts a little pressure there, sucks up to the rich, all initially to achieve his pet projects for the benefit of his constituents; until suddenly he finds he has become the kind of crooked, manipulative, self-justifying politician he once despised and intended to destroy. Warren universalises his narrative through his narrator, suggesting that all conscious citizens in unstable liberal democracies are Jack Burden.

Le moteur de l'histoire n'étant jamais qu'une impulsion électrique, faut-il que nous soyons tenus pour responsables de nos actes? Along his rise, Willie discards his moral compass, believing that the ends always justify the means. One of the characters in Proud Flesh was named Willie Talos, referring to the brutal character Talus in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren is a political novel that delves into the story of Willie Stark, a charismatic politician who rises to power in the face of corruption and moral dilemmas. Hahaha, what with Trump, Brexit and the ongoing threat of another Scottish independence referendum, mu opinion of politicians and people in power generally is at rock bottom!If his supporters refuse to, The Boss concludes they can ‘…hand me the hammer and I’ll do it with my own hand’. He sees his mother as a serial monogamist who married for the third time, and to a much younger man. Against a background of unprecedented deception and betrayal, Dansey’s secret MI6 operation eventually led to the arrest of nearly one thousand men and women, hundreds of whom died in concentration camps.

For better or worse, Willie Stark was not Huey Long… The difference between the person Huey P Long and the fictional Willie Stark may be indicated by the fact that in the verse play [ Proud Flesh] the name of the politician was Talos — the name of the brutal, blank-eyed ‘iron groom’ of Spenser’s Fairie Queene, the pitiless servant of the knight of justice. His approach to politics earns him many enemies in the state legislature, but does not detract from his popular appeal among many of his constituents, who respond with enthusiasm to his fiery populist manner.Subsequent events (including the tragic deaths of Governor Stark, Jack's lifelong friend Adam Stanton, and Judge Irwin, Jack's father) convince Jack that the revelation of the "Great Twitch" is an insufficient paradigm to explain what he has seen of history. It traces the rise and fall of Willie Stark, who resembles the real-life Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana.

It’s about how we are made and re-made throughout our lives, changed by our own choices and by the events that happen around us.Even beyond that, the novel’s frequent biting humour and Warren’s beautiful writing style is captivating. After a great blow, or crisis, after the first shock and then after the nerves have stopped screaming and twitching, you settle down to the new condition of things and feel that all possibility of change has been used up. I’m not overly drawn to books with a political theme but I can’t resist adding this one to my list after your recommendation on the quality of its writing – I hate missing out on the best!

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