Lionel Shriver wasn’t thinking Trump when she wrote about Mexico wall

Lionel Shriver didn’t know there would be talk of a ‘President Trump’ and a ‘Great Wall of Mexico’ when she wrote ‘The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047.’

She didn’t know that in May 2016, the world would be talking about Donald Trump’s bizarre notion of a great deal for America, which is to say devaluing the safe-asset status of US Treasury bonds and potentially knocking the financial world order askew.

And yet Ms Shriver has written a novel for our times, for all that it is set in the future and revolves around a family with a strange name.

The Mandibles are American and they, like the country, are in difficult circumstances.

Mexico has built a Great Wall to keep out American migrants desperately seeking better lives over the southern border.

Americans are leaving the country in droves. The US has a national debt so huge it can never be repaid, a new international reserve currency, the bancor, has sent the dollar into meltdown, a bloodless world war is draining what little money Americans have.
America is a police state and everyone has a chip embedded in their neck. Nevada has broken away and is now the United State of Nevada.

It’s interesting that this novel about an imagined dystopia comes at roughly the same time as journalist David Rieff’s ‘In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies’. Everyone’s been heaping praise on his idea — better to forget than to remember, it’s healthier, more therapeutic that way — forgetting that Vedic philosophy has always prescribed letting go after a period of grief.

Anyway, that’s not the point of mentioning Mr Rieff’s book alongside Lionel Shriver’s. I just wonder if we’re getting to the point where a surfeit of archival material — not just in libraries but on our roads, in collective memory banks — is becoming so contentious and difficult to manage, we prefer imagined faux-histories like The Mandibles?

Originally published at on May 14, 2016.

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Sign up for free email updates on email me at

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