How can I put this tactfully? If you are a Christian what is the nature of evil for you? Why does a powerful God permit the Holocaust? Well I hear the defence that it’s a consequence of us being given the freedom of choice. Hence the Devil and his hordes serve to tempt us away from the path of righteousness. But think on, in a world in which Good struggles with Evil we turn the terrorist and criminal into something less then human and that’s the path to genocide. Another defence is that God is not all powerful and needs us to make the world and so that love requires that we see the humanity in the paedophile and the holocaust stoker- condemn the sin not the sinner.
If at this stage you are reaching for your copy of 101 ways of dealing with Heretics i, Lucifer by Glen Duncan is not for you.(And if you thought you were getting a 60’s action thriller with Modesty Blaise kicking ass, are you in for a shock.) This book deals with the trials and tribulations of Lucifer as he gains the opportunity to experience human existence by living the life of a suicidal writer (whose soul is on hold in Purgatory) for a month. It’s told in a first person monologue with lots of flashbacks as he writes about the events in the Bible from his perspective for a screenplay.
The writing is funny, cheeky wicked and dark. Here Duncan manages to take a swipe at both the Christian Right and the PC brigade.
…Oh yes we got Mike downstairs. In fact now’s as a good time as any to tell you: if you are gay you go to Hell, Doesn’t matter what else you spend your time doing-painting the Sistine Chapel, for instant-knob jockey? Down you go( Lezzers are borderline; room for manoeuvres if they’ve done social work.) The entire masterpiece fuelled by the stiffened brush softened in the wrong pot. Another superb irony lost on His Lordship. Not a titter. Just consigned Michelangelo to my torturous care. Awful shame, really. (Had you going, didn’t I? Don’t for Heaven’s sake, take everything so seriously all the time. Heaven’s bulging with queer souls. Honestly.)
This is the Lucifer of Milton’s Paradise Lost (ok, yes I was an A’ Level nerd) consumed by Pride, charming, witty and the gift of the gab and yet in constant pain as doing evil hurts. So why does he do it? Well, if an Angel the deal is to sing and praise ** the Lord. If you want freedom of thought and action then you have to step into Evil as being outside of God’s Will as the only way to be “free”. The writing and story seduces to sup with the Devil (ok hands up those who know how Satin, Lucifer and the Devil differ myth-wise...and yes they do) even when we see him abusing his human body with sex and drugs and attempted rape. During the story is becomes clear that his version is not entirely true (yes I was shocked too) and that he is getting sucked into shaping, and being shaped by his Human host’s life. Nor is the offer by God as upfront as first suggested-what I hear God not playing a straight bat, I say it’s not cricket what.
Strangely, a soundtrack album with the same name as the novel was released as Glen Duncan lived in Clerkenwell with Stephen Coates of The Real Tuesday Weld (yes never heard of them either) while writing the novel so the two projects developed together. Even more off the wall is the proposed film version of the book, adapted by David Logan, starring Daniel Craig in the title role and Ewan McGregor as Declan Gunn. Given that the book is an interior monologue by Lucifer on flashback speed dial where we don’t meet the writer host except through the eyes of others, it’s going to be a case of enjoy the film but it ain’t the book!
So do I recommend it as a Book? Yes I do as an entertainingly wicked tongue in cheek comedy with some serious theological/philosophical overtones but only in the way that you can make serious theology out Charlie Brown (and they have!) Oh well, off to get the fire-proof clothing checked for the heretic lynch-mobs and do a bit niceness and love...just in case.
**Is it only me that see’s this account of Lucifer’s fall echoing Tolkien’s The Silmarillion?