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Belloc, Hilaire

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1870-1953) French-born author, in UK from an early age (naturalized in 1902); known for his poetry, notably The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (coll 1896 chap) for children, plus his many ballades successfully adopting the medieval French form; for his anti-Semitism (he never abandoned his belief in the guilt of Dreyfus); for his Roman Catholic apologetics; and for his novels. Most of his fiction was written either to argue a political case (he was a disputatious Liberal MP 1906-1910) or to potboil, and his habit of displacing his venues from consensual reality served both motives, for his politics are fantastical and his commercial work tends to commit acts of vengeance against hoi polloi. Mr Clutterbuck's Election (1908), A Change in the Cabinet (1909) and Pongo and the Bull (1910) together make up a Near-Future assault on Edwardian politics; the middle volume, set in 1915, focuses on Evolution and the discovery of "Caryll's Ganglia", whose presence in the human brain conclusively differentiates us from baboons; the final volume extends the Satire of politics and thought into the 1920s.

Of the several novels for which his friend and colleague G K Chesterton provided illustrations, But Soft – We Are Observed! (1928; vt Shadowed! 1929) is genuine sf, a satirical tale of suspense set in America and Europe in 1979, the main target once again being the parliamentary form of government. His friendship and creative collaboration with Chesterton, which continued from 1904 at the latest until Chesterton's death in 1936, was so conspicuous that George Bernard Shaw referred to the two as The Chesterbelloc, a tag they relished; 1920s dustjackets (all unfortunately destroyed by the British Library) would typically proclaim "The new Chester-Belloc", though this tag never appeared within the book. Other novels by Belloc of genre interest and illustrated by Chesterton are Mr Petre (1925), The Emerald of Catherine the Great (1926), The Haunted House (1927), The Man Who Made Gold (1930) and The Postmaster-General (1932); in general they are set some decades in the future, though time changes little in them; unusually for a Mainstream Writer of SF, Belloc often dates these tales very precisely by year, usually several decades hence, and usually set in a more-or-less strongly Satirized version of the London he often referred to as "Babylon-on-Thames". Packed with energy though formally negligent, Belloc's fiction awaits the modest revival due it. [JC]

see also: Alternate History; Politics; Time Travel.

Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc

born La Celle St Cloud (near Paris): 27 July 1870

died Guildford, Surrey: 16 July 1953

works (selected)

about the author


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