‘Curtain’ Revisited

Curtain: Poirots Last Case

I don’t generally review books I’ve already reviewed. But I’ve just finished re-reading Curtain and it shocked me all over again.

This was a heckuva book to be writing while World War II was going on and German V-2 rockets were killing people on the streets of London. But that’s when Agatha Christie wrote it–the story of Hercule Poirot’s last case, written when she still had two more decades’ worth of Poirot mysteries to write–and then she locked it in a safe for 30 years.

In Curtain the world war is never mentioned. One senses that the action in the story could have taken place either just before the war or just after–although in terms of the Poirot timeline, that would be impossible. But that’s not why I’m writing this review.

Have you ever been involved in a group conversation in which one or two persons comes out with something totally outrageous, wicked, beyond the pale–and gets away with it? Worse–everybody else sort of tepidly, timorously agrees with it, even though you can tell by their body language that they don’t really agree and would just like this part of the evening to be over. So somebody drops a bomb–“I don’t care what they say, people who say they don’t believe in Climate Change ought to be jailed!”–and everybody else nods their heads, maybe mutters “Yeah, uh-huh,” and totally fails to call them out on it. Because, I guess, who wants to get into another one of those interminable arguments?

A lot of that goes on in Curtain. Characters natter on about useless lives, lives not worth living, people who are a burden to others, and how they all need to be humanely put out of the way, cull the crowd for the good of the species etc. And no one else ever says, “What are you, some kind of Nazi? You sound like Heinrich Himmler talkin’–if he were here, he’d fit right in!” I mean, we don’t even get an “Oh, come now!”

Now… why would Agatha Christie include such conversations in her novel unless she had heard them, probably pretty often, before World War II broke out? Heard them at dinner parties or casual get-togethers. Heard them from well-educated, highly thought-of people. After all, it was eugenics–which was Settled Science in the 1930s. You had to agree or you were anti-science.

Gee, I wonder why so many people in Britain became convinced that their ruling class wanted to sell them out to Hitler. Well, has our ruling class sold us out to China? Honk if you don’t think it looks that way.

This is a shocking book. Agatha Christie wrote it while her nation was fighting for its very life against an enemy that believed in eugenics and had no compunction at all about putting it into grim practice–an enemy with which her nation’s ruling class had much in common.

One wonders to what extent God had to intervene to keep Britain from entering into an alliance with Nazi Germany.

 

Here’s That ‘Curtain’ Article

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Hooray! The Chalcedon website (www.chalcedon.edu/) has a brand-new front page to display new articles and video. From now on, that’s where all the new stuff will be; and that’ll make it easy to find.

And published there today is my article on Agatha Christie’s Curtain, written months ago and now available here.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/can-a-mystery-novel-tell-us-whats-gone-wrong-with-british-christianity

Can a mystery novel tell us what’s gone wrong with British Christianity–and probably our own, too?

Read it and see!

Working Now…

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I’m finally ready to type up my review of Curtain by Agatha Christie, the story of Hercule Poirot’s last case. It might seem kind of an odd thing to publish in a magazine devoted to Christianity, but I think it’s pertinent.

Here’s what I find so interesting. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was written almost exactly 100 years before Curtain; and in the interval between the two, the Christian culture of Britain and the other Western countries changed so much as to be almost unrecognizable. In what way did it change, and how did it happen?

Sort of a challenge.

Well, here goes–

Thank You for Your Prayers

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Tiger swallowtail: nothing to do with the post, really, but well worth seeing. We do love God’s handiwork.

The hospital just called to get my consent for another medical procedure for Aunt Joan. Her blood pressure, which was so dangerously low, is coming back up toward normal–a very good sign. I am sure God has heard our prayers for her.

The pain in my neck has subsided. It’ll just be stiff for a while.

I’ve been working on that assignment I told you about last week, reviewing Agatha Christie’s Curtain. Absorbed in my work, I hardly noticed that an hour and a half had passed.

I had a bad moment when I discovered that the infamous dinner scene I planned to focus on is not, in fact, in the book! It’s only in the movie. But reading the novel carefully, it seems I’m all right, after all: what the screenwriters did, very cleverly, was to gather up certain bits of conversation scattered throughout the text and put them all together to make the dinner scene. This allows me to proceed as planned. You may remember that I’m interested in the fact that a novel written in London in the midst of World War II features characters, all of them English, talking like Heinrich Himmler–sort of a mystery within a mystery novel, and maybe indicative of some spiritual toxins that have seeped into Western Christianity.

Anyway, that’s it for now. See you again at cat video time.

 

An Unusual Assignment for Me–and Maybe You Can Help

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Some of you know me as the contributing editor for The Chalcedon Foundation’s print magazine, Faith for All of Life. For a coming issue of the magazine, I have taken on the task of reviewing, of all things, an Agatha Christie mystery novel–Curtain, Hercule Poirot’s last case.

Christie wrote the novel during World War II and then locked it away in a bank vault, waiting until 1975 to have it published–an unusual procedure which, to my mind, has not been fully explained. Why wait 30 years to publish it?

My review will focus on a single scene in the novel: a dinner. All the characters are seated around the table, and the conversation turns to the topic of what ought to be done with–or to–people who are no longer “valuable to society”–the old, the sick, the retarded, etc. Remember that this was being written during World War II, with Britain fighting for its very life against the Third Reich.

At the table, the more forceful characters declare that people who “don’t matter anymore” ought to be disposed of, somehow. And everyone else just sort of meekly nods and mumbles “of course you’re right,” etc.

When I read that, my hair stood on end. “Whoa! Uh, folks, you’re, like, fighting for survival against the Nazis, and the Nazis, well–they stand for the very ideas that you’re bandying about and tepidly agreeing with! Why are you fighting Hitler and Himmler, and at the same time talking like them?” I was astonished.

Although the novel was written during the war–and we are told that Christie feared she might be killed in a German bombing raid or V-2 strike, which is why she stowed the book in a bank vault, just in case–its setting in time is left quite vague. There’s nothing in it to show in what year, or era, the fictional events occurred.

Why this conversation at the dinner table? Christie often drew her fictional characters from life. It seems more than likely that she had heard such conversations among people she knew, either during the war or just before it. She was writing about certain ideas that certain people, who were not Nazis, actually had. One is left wondering: can it be said that Britain really won the war, if key elements of Nazi ideology were left festering in British culture? What was happening to Britain’s Christianity?

I also wonder what other Curtain readers think of this. Tell me if you like. I’d love to know.

 

‘Getting Rid of the Human Race’ (2014)

After all these years and all their disappointments, The Smartest People in the World still haven’t given up on euthanasia and eugenics. I doubt they ever will. Here’s a snapshot of where they were in 1940, 1975, and 2014.

https://leeduigon.com/2014/01/11/getting-rid-of-the-human-race/