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'More or less king' – a novel

Updated: Jun 26, 2021

The painting shows Europe's origin story. The Goddess Europa was carried by a bull (Zeus in disguise) from Libya to Crete where - an African - she became the first European.

'More or less king’ is a novel I've been working on since 2017, on and off. The first draft is nearly ready to be sent out – though, to tell the truth, I've been saying that for the last 6 months. It’s set in a tiny alpine microstate called Orschal-Hagenstein in the first half of the 18th century, and is part-Bildungsroman, part-love story and part-Brexit parable. It records the life of Clementine, an orphan brought up without education in the frosty, inert court of frosty, inert King Remigius. An autodidact, Clementine survives through books, hiding in them and arming herself with their knowledge. But when she grows up, first of all she discovers she's a lesbian and then she gets involved in a political campaign aimed at turning autocratic little Orschal-Hagenstein into a democracy. In dealing with these challenges, Clementine finds that her books are of limited use…

The Brexit parable aspect of the book is found in the political campaign. In the novel, Clementine is put in charge of a plebiscite. The King has decided that the best way to deal with his unruly court is to threaten it with democracy. Representing him, Clementine leads the way. I see her a kind of Jo Cox figure. As Cox struggled to articulate the argument for remaining in the EU to a her constituency, the majority of whom were convinced Brexiters, so Clementine is challenged by the farmers who make up the bulk of Orschal-Hagenstein. They don't want democracy. It sounds foreign for a start. And they like their king. They're used to him. He doesn't interfere too much. Why fix what ain't broken. Frightened of change, they cling to autocracy.

Against all this is the rise of the right in Orschal-Hagenstein. There are forces afoot that threaten anyone who dares stand outside the mainstream of Orshcalian society. Clementine, as a member of a lesbian campaign group finds herself threatened on all sides.


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