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Jim Crace: Continent

This book is not really a novel but rather seven interconnected short stories. They are all set on an unnamed seventh continent and are concerned with the conflict between traditional values and what we call progress, recalling, in that respect, the novel Islandia. The novel is not concerned just with the obvious exploitation of the environment and indigenous peoples. In one story, for example, the aptly named Cross-Country, the scourge is jogging, which threatens to destroy the values of a small town. The forces of technology are particularly criticised in the story called Electricity, where electricity is brought to a rural area. Everyone – the villagers who expect magic and the minister whose career is based on bringing electricity to rural areas – expects great things but when the giant fan goes haywire, the minister pays the price with his life and the villagers reject electricity as a solution to their ills. Crace is not too preachy and makes his point with superbly written and haunting tales. So what if isn’t a novel?

Publishing history

First published 1986 by Heinemann