McCall Smith

I have a bad habit when I am having dinner on my own - I like to read, especially when the food is not such that it occupies all my senses, as sadly was often the case in Madrid. So I studied the the latest edition of the University of Edinburgh Journal which has notably entered its 80th year of continuous publication. One article by Prof. Alexander McCall Smith caught my attention. McCall Smith is a professor of law at Edinburgh University, and being an alumnus of that proud faculty, I know him. I was not aware however of the fact that he has become a highly successful writer of crime fiction, and I resolved right there to read some of his lighter works.

In German literature, there is a sharp distinction between real, serious literatur (or E-Literatur, where E stands for earnest), which is debated by literary critics in the Literarisches Quartett, and then, there's the stuff people actually read (U-Literatur), if they feel so inclined at all. It's just an aside that the German book trade thinks it's necessary to maintain a price fixing cartel in order to sustain literary diversity - after all, people need to be told what's good by their editors.

McCall Smith's The Sunday Philosophy Club would fall right in between these categories. It's a wonderfully quirky & humane story about a young man falling from the gods in Edinburgh's Usher Hall, involving insider trading, whisky tasting at The Vaults and Isabel Dalhousie, the editor of The Journal of Applied Ethics as the heroïne amateur sleuth perfunctorily going into investigative mode. Her being a philosopher at heart, the reader is constantly treated to philosophical tangents & conundrums at every turn, and it's an entirely enjoyable experience! Have you ever heard of crime fiction going into some detail of Hume, Constant, Schönberg (I know), Kant (frequently!), Wittgenstein and others? The only real comparison I know is Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey stories, which I devoured during my time in Edinburgh. This is the same league, with a subtle sense of humour: In a purely philosophical sense, it must be very demanding to be German. Far better to be French (irresponsible and playful) or Greek (grave, but with a light touch). (...) If x, then y. But y? I highly recommend this!

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