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Life support

Passionate arguments for purification
by
June 2024, no. 465

Caledonian Road by Andrew O'Hagan

Faber, $34.99 pb, 656 pp

Life support

Passionate arguments for purification
by
June 2024, no. 465

One of Caledonian Road’s primary characters, Milo Mangasha, tends to speak in political slogans, which his childhood friend identifies as ‘college talk’. Readers may recognise in Milo the rhetoric of characters in Andrew O’Hagan’s previous novel, Mayflies (2020), a popular and critical success that was subsequently adapted for television. Like Mayflies, Caledonian Road is stridently certain about its political and moral positions. It reads like a passionate argument for purification. In this fictional world, set in contemporary Britain, a person who maintains ties with corrupt and wealthy conservatives, while voicing left-wing principles and ideals, risks a ‘crack-up’. Failing the test of moral consistency turns you into a cipher, a hollow man, a danger to yourself and others.

This is the position that Campbell Flynn – an art historian and public intellectual with a working-class background – finds himself in. Campbell enjoys modest fame among young people due to ‘a BBC podcast that often went viral’ but is constantly worried ‘about money and his failure to be as well-off as he should be’.

Caledonian Road

Caledonian Road

by Andrew O'Hagan

Faber, $34.99 pb, 656 pp

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