Beneath the skin of our obsession with whiteness

Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:

It is Viktor Orbán’s worst nightmare: “One morning Anders, a white man, woke up to find he had turned a deep and undeniable brown.” It is the opening line to Mohsin Hamid’s new novel The Last White Man, a line that deliberately echoes the opening to Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Ever since he first bedazzled with his 2000 novel Moth Smoke, Hamid has shown himself willing and capable of tackling big, divisive subjects: the war on terror, immigration, identity, corruption, poverty. With his latest novel, he attempts to engage with another biggie: “whiteness”.

Whiteness is a condition that pleads to be given novelistic treatment and to be rendered through a Kafkaesque lens. It has become a kind of metaphor, a myth even, through which we project all manner of anxieties and fears about the world and our place in it. And this is true of all sides in the race debate. For racists, whiteness is an expression both of pride and of loss. An embodiment of a sense of superiority and specialness but also a rendering of a world that seems to be slipping away.

More here.