David's Reviews > The Fixed Period

The Fixed Period by Anthony Trollope
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May 22, 2007

did not like it
bookshelves: trollope
Read in January, 1989

This is Trollope's worst novel. No doubt about it.

It's a futuristic novel set in an imaginary island nation somewhere near New Zealand, an island originally colonized by the English. As so often happens in futuristic novels, the future technologies imagined are, in hindsight, absurd -- steam bicycles, cricket gear (including steam bowlers) that let the sides score unimaginably large number of runs (at least I assume they're unimaginable; I'm not really the person to ask).

But the focus of the novel -- and I suppose this must be true generally of futuristic novels -- is not on the technology so much as it is on society. Trollope imagines a society in which it has become the law that everyone is to be euthanized upon reaching age 68. That is "the fixed period" of the title.

Sounds bad, right? But what makes it even worse for Trollope lovers is that Trollope writes it as a first-person narrative. What makes Trollope great is his narrator's voice, and here he can't use it.

In addition to euthanasia, Trollope's imagined society also cremated its dead, which, although hardly shocking to us now, was illegal in Trollope's England. Trollope was a member of the Cremation Society, which argued for, and eventually won, legalization of cremation. (But not in time for Trollope; he is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, with a plaque in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey.)

But I don't think Trollope was in favor of compulsory euthanasia. By the way, Trollope was 67 when he wrote The Fixed Period.
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Jonathan It was written in early 1881. Trollope was 65.


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