Lesley McDowell reviewed Steven Lukes’ The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat: A Novel of Ideas in last Saturday’s Herald:
Lukes, a professor of sociology, first published this Swiftian satire in 1995, but I doubt things are so changed to allow for much updating in this new edition. Perhaps the final chapter, when his hero, the philosophy lecturer Nicholas Caritat, finds himself in a financial dystopia where the world of Libertaria is run by the Commodities Exchange and the ecological system is close to collapse, is a handy addition. But the rest of the novel is a clever elucidation of tenets held by Enlightenment thinkers and what happens when those dearly held values are abused.
Caritat is taken from his study in Militaria in the middle of the night and pressured to give up his belief in optimism, he is rescued by anti-government forces and flees to Utilitaria, which appears less oppresive but does everything by numbers. From there he runs to Communitaria, and so on, questioning and querying as he goes. It’s an absorbing, funny, thought-provoking read that’s easier to follow than first appears.