THE CALL GIRLS by Arthur Koestler


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The call girls are academic habituees of vacuous international conferences, one of which takes place here in an Alpine village. Summoned by a wise, shaggy, lovable physicist with cancer -- a sort of Decline of the West, Death of Liberalism figure -- various social theorists a clef debate ""approaches to survival."" The really bad guys represent Konrad Lorenz and B. F. Skinner, and there are earnest, trenchant speeches against all those ""determined to ignore the humanity of man, and to build their theories of human nature on analogies derived from zoology. . . ."" Then there is the Nobel neurosurgeon who implants controlled electrodes in people's brains, and a Roman Catholic priest infatuated with psi-factor psychobiology. The humanist opponents of bestialization are a sad lot, though: a sodden old homosexual poet, a fat bisexual woman zoologist who thinks man's inherent defect is not the aggressive instinct but susceptibility to dogmatic slogans . . . and the physicist, who mournfully ends up agreeing that drastic population control and ""biological tampering"" are necessary. The only representative of a political ""approach to survival"" is a caricature of a Maoist/nihilist poseur. Koestler tries (too) hard (""Perhaps the trouble was that the prophets of doom were also merchants of gloom"") though there are a few funny bits, as when the Skinner figure drunkenly muses to himself that ""Kids grow up. . . it's only natural,"" along with a few sharp exchanges of debate. Hardly the stuff of fiction while the book lacks the proper conceptual stretch to carry it in the genre of literary dialectic.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1973
Publisher: Random House