The Right Coast

May 13, 2005
Famous All Over Town
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Fascinating review in the New Criterion by "Theodore Dalrymple" of a novel by Rahila Khan, or rather "Rahila Khan". The novel is called "Down The Road, Worlds Away".

The novel is about Muslim immigrant girls growing up in Britain, "down the road, but worlds away" from their often-loutish white underclass neighbours and schoolmates. Says Dalrymple:
The girls are vastly superior, morally and intellectually, to their white counterparts. Their problem is precisely the opposite of that of the white youths: far from nihilism, it is [their parents'] belief in a code of ethics and conduct so rigid that it makes no allowances for the fact that the girls have grown up and must live in a country with a very different culture from that of the country in which their parents grew up. In the eyes of their parents, the girls are easily infected with, or corrupted by, the dream of personal freedom, and since the only result of such personal freedom that the parents see around them is the utter disintegration of the white working class into fecklessness and slovenly criminality, where every child is a bastard and families are kaleidoscopic in their swiftly changing composition, [the parents] become even more rigidly conservative than they might otherwise have been.
Rahila Khan's novel was published by Virago Press, a feminist publishing house in England. But it soon emerged that "Rahila Khan" is actually a Church of England vicar, the Reverend Toby Forward. Male. White.

("Toby Forward" sounds invented too, but it's apparently not.) (When Eric Blair in the 1930s suggested possible pen-names to his publisher, he offered "the Reverend Blewberry Jones" as well as "George Orwell". Would the Berlin Wall still be standing if Orwell's publisher had made the wrong choice...?)

As for "Down the Road, Worlds Away", Virago Press -- true to its name -- was outraged when the Rev Forward came forward, and promptly pulped the book. You will not be able to find it.

Theodore Dalrymple thinks very highly of the book. Read the review. Dalrymple, a prison psychiatrist in England, reveals much -- as he always does -- about life, especially underclass life, in Britain.

The "Rahila Khan" story is reminiscent of the great Chicano novel "Famous All Over Town", by an unknown young Danny Santiago: in fact a very good novel. "Famous" turned out to have been written by an elderly WASP named Dan James. A Hollywood scriptwriter in the 1930s, later blacklisted for his Communist connections, Dan James was luckier than "Rahila Khan". His novel was not pulped, despite James' having been a Yalie and no Chicano. The book is still very much in print.

"Theodore Dalrymple", meanwhile, is really Anthony Daniels, who sometimes also publishes under his own name.

I, by the way, am really Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I am hoping my books won't be pulped if my true, not very Russian, identity is ever discovered.