(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/31.)

I'm currently reading Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil, which offers a staggeringly vivid picture of the Victorian gulf between rich and poor. It was one of a number of works in the 1840s dubbed "condition of England" novels, and I was thinking how well the term could be applied to the plays of David Hare. The big difference is that Hare, apart from anatomising England, has also examined Chinese communism (in Fanshen [paywall], 1975), the politics of international aid-giving (in A Map of the World [paywall], 1982) and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1998's Via Dolorosa. Hare, to his credit, is as much concerned with the state of the globe as that of the nation.


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