Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 03/29/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/29/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

>P.D. James


P.D. JAMES HATCHED THE IDEA FOR The Children of Men after reading two London newspaper articles. The first dealt with falling sperm counts in men in the Western hemisphere. "The fall is dramatic," she says, "and totally unexplained, though some scientists think it may be due to radiation." The second article pointed out, says James, "that of the millions of life forms that have inhabited our planet, virtually all have died out. So it may be in the natural order of things that we could expect the demise of mankind."

So intrigued was James by the idea ("it does seem a strange concept in a world that's overpopulated") that she "temporarily" departed from her customary format. Or semideparted. "There is a particularly horrible murder in The Children of Men, and there is a chase. I did intend to write a crime novel but not a detective story. One can see the influence of my other crime novels on it, I think—the building up of suspense and so forth. So I would categorize it as a crime novel, though very few others have.

"What is interesting is how people have interpreted its themes in so many different ways. It's been seen as a comment on modern society, as an anti-utopian novel; some have seen hope in it, some nothing but despair. I think it deals with the corruption and temptations of power. There is also an element of the morality tale. I'm not a didactic writer, so I don't ever provide a moral as such. But if it's got a message, it's that only in learning to love can we find fulfillment. And it's possibly in love that the human race shall find its salvation."

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