What Was Once A Nation: John Derbyshire On Derek Turner’s Sea Changes
John Derbyshire, August 1, 2012
Englishman Derek Turner is the editor of Quarterly Review, a transatlantic paleocon magazine with excellent articles on culture, history, and politics, and some contributor overlap with U.S. outlets like Chronicles, Taki’s Magazine, and, yes, VDARE.com.
Sea Changes is Derek’s first book. It is a work of fiction—a novel, written as a straightforward narrative in the third person. Its claim on the attention of VDARE.com readers is that it is a story about illegal immigration into Britain, and about contemporary attitudes to questions of nation, race, and liberty.
At the center of the story is a young Iraqi man, Ibraham Nassouf, born around 1979. Though drawn sympathetically, and obviously a decent sort, Ibraham is undistinguished and ill-educated, an observant but unreflecting Muslim—an Everyman, a traditional novelist’s lay figure.
At age 12, Ibraham lost his father to one of Saddam’s purges. After two decades of struggling to support his mother and sisters in Iraq, through the 2003 U.S. invasion and the years of turmoil that followed, Ibraham decides to head for England. Having no contacts in that country and no claim on a British visa, he must contrive to get smuggled in, after having first somehow traversed all the intervening countries.
Ibraham’s odyssey across the Middle East and Europe forms a separate narrative thread for the first two-thirds of the novel, alternating with chapters set among English people in England. The two threads meet when Ibraham makes landfall on England’s east coast. The concluding nine chapters of the novel deal with our hero’s reception and settlement.
While Ibraham’s adventures are described with realism and sensitivity, at its heart Sea Changes is a commentary on the ethnomasochism and corroded sense of national identity in today’s England—and, by extension, in the West at large.
Most of the people we meet in the book are metropolitan media types, vain and shallow, their heads filled with the vapid cant of multiculturalism. They are contrasted with the very un-metropolitan Dan Gowt, a countryman of old English stock, farming on the east coast near Ibrahim’s eventual landfall.