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I have been a fan of John Lanchester for a number of years and The Wall is every bit as good as his previous works. 

Ostensibly set in a future world where sea levels have risen to catastrophic levels, the Wall is in fact a wry commentary on present days right wing politics around the world and fear of immigration. 

Kavanagh is a young man embarking on his two years of national service patrolling the Wall - a high concrete structure built around the British coastline to keep the sea - and The Others - away. Kavanagh is a typical late teen in dreaming of completing his service and working his way up into the elite. Just so long as he can complete his national service without mishap, either being killed in action against invading parties of Others or, even worse, being put to sea to balance out an Other who might have made it across the Wall. 

We see, through Kavanagh’s uncritical eyes, that not only does there seem to be plenty of space and resource in Britain, but there is even a problem with low birth rates. Despite this, the drawbridge has well and truly been pulled up because “Britain is Full”. Those Others who do make it in are only allowed to work as Help (essentially servants) in a Gastarbeiter role. Despite their apparently necessary work, they will never become full citizens.

As the novel develops, Kavanagh has an opportunity to travel and see different perspectives; he is able to see the adulation given to the Defenders by ordinary citizens who imagine some kind of noble selflessness among the conscripted men and women; he sees the life of comfort of the older generation who created the system; and ultimately he sees the other side of the Wall. 

As a novel, the Wall is pacy and readable - if perhaps the non-Kavanagh characters are a little under-developed. But as a satire, it is powerful. It exposes the economic and moral lack of justification for the current fashion for isolationism. Yes, that means Brexit, it means Stop The Boats, it means Love it or Leave, it means the current predilection with finding the enemies within and stripping them of their citizenship. 

The Wall is a very necessary novel for our times that will pose (and leave unanswered) many questions about loyalty, identity, patriotism and xenophobia.
 
And it is absolutely not about climate change.
 
*****
 

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Sounds very good, but they would be preaching to the choir with me.  This whole wall on the border with Mexico is absurd and, unlike other border States, Texas has never been very excited about stopping the flow of immigrants.  They do all the construction work, maintenance work, etc. and we know it.  Apparently people it other states don't know it, but they can only be willfully blind.  Several years ago, Arizona passed legislation that the police could stop and ask you to prove you were a citizen, which has never been done. Someone asked the then-governor of Texas, Rick Perry, if Texas were going to do that.  And he said, "No, those kinds of laws aren't good for Texas."  He's a right-wing Republican.  

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Agreed.

 

I remember several years ago seeing a proposal within the UK Government to make it harder to employ people without checking their immigration status and to introduce draconian penalties for those who did. The strongest argument against was from those with an economic perspective who argued that the hotel, hospitality and cleaning industries in London would have to shut down. 

 

At that time (15 or more years ago), I lived next door to a house full of Russians who I presumed didn’t have work permits. They were fabulous neighbours - polite, friendly and quiet. 

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