Recently popular fiction has invaded the world of international relations.

The Chinese government protested against the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to a war memorial by saying that the Voldermont of Japanese militarism is being revived by the Horcrux of the war memorial.

As no doubt you recognize, this is a reference to J K Rowling’s viral bestseller Harry Potter series, Voldermont being evil personified as the dark lord who’s dead but can be revived through magic hidden in objects called Horcrux.

What is remarkable is not that you do, but that the representative of the Government of China does, and is confident that the Government of Japan and the world community at large will. Moreover, that it will be considered witty, erudite and effective; as diplomatic missives are meant to be.

Dropping a name and expecting instant international recognition is restricted to names like Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Teresa, Beatles, Elvis, Obama, Osama, Gaddafi, Saddam or Lady Gaga.

Fictional characters who enjoy this fame or notoriety are usually featured in the epics or in the realms of mythology, created by Homer or Virgil or residents of Olympus if it is an Eurocentric civilization, or by Valmiki or Vyas or members of the 33 crore club of our guardian angels if it is an Indocentric one, but few manage to cross over to other cultures even after being around for over 2000 years.

The only heroes of melodrama, who have this global cultural instant recall value in historical times is the creations of Shakespeare, like young Romeo and Juliet. The youngest member of this exclusive club so far was probably Sherlock, who is a centenarian.

Now this exclusive club has been broken by a mere decade old infant, the boy wizard with the geeky look. He is everywhere. In random Korean dramas,  in jokes about AAP replicating his magic with the broom,  and now in the Chinese protest against the Japanese gesture. The fact that a young adult fantasy fiction could in such a small span of time become such a cultural icon transcending cultural barriers is truly a remarkable phenomenon. Whether it is the deep roots in folk idiom from across the globe that Rowling mined for her opus, or the shrinking global village we now inhabit, let us salute the fact that despite all gloomy predictions of reading being an endangered sill, Rowling has recreated the magic that holds us spellbound with the wizardry of words

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  1. Rowling’s books provide a refreshed look at boarding school stories we grew up with. Those by Enid Blyton (Malory Towers, St Clare, Naughtiest Girl) really had no main plots, just a series of episodes with a very loose main plot. Anthony Buckeridge (Jennings, Rex Milligan) did have an overall plot. I don’t even remember the Chalet Schools stories anymore.

    Strangely, this genre is very British. I haven’t seen any American versions. American versions tend to be high school oriented or university oriented, mostly so they can provide an unrestrained view of sexual episodes, drinking and driving badly and other forms of anti-establishment rebellion. And thus you see them in Hollywood…. Revenge of the Nerds, Grease, Animal House (the father of American school movies), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ( a movie I particularly dislike), American Pie to name a few.

    Lest this sound like a rant, there have been some very nice school movies too, Dead Poets Society, for instance. It’s just that they are so few and far between that I can recall only that one (which illustrates my point)


    1. agree .but potter is more than a magical st Claire. its darker for one. good guys die. it also has lots of reference to mythology and folk culture.the question of racism and segregation is also raised. current young adult stuff like Scott Westerfield and Susan Collins are very mature, handling distopian futures,imperialism, colonialism,and cynicism.they are a great read for adults as well. we cant reread Blyton.Williams maybe….


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