"Go on, kill money! Yes, kill the damn thing..."
SLOW TO START and rambling throughout, this wonderful book – packed with heart-stopping insights – shows how money elbowed its way from a mere tool to ruling the world.
In Frozen Desire, James Buchan (also a prize-winning novelist) tracks the progress of money through art, literature, war, religion, sex and democracy. The Christian Gospels, for instance, "glitter with money" he notes, even as Jesus himself stands there penniless.
Twelve hundred years later, the medieval Venetians proved that Christ's crown was made of gold, rather than thorns, by hocking it to raise a mortgage of cash; and so "a whole doctrine begins to turn to powder."
Across the Atlantic in what would become Latin America, gold and silver were just decoration until Columbus arrived. Don Quixote – that hopeless, laughable hero of Cervantes' 16th century novel – rides into combat for romance against money. The mother of Karl Marx, that hopeless Victorian romantic, sighed how "It's a pity Karl didn't make some capital, instead of just writing about it."
More philosophy than economics, less education than poetry, Frozen Desire has been called "one man's obsession with everybody else's obsession with money" – and the ticks and twitches of too much research, too many lost hours amongst the library stacks, show on almost every page.
Unsure why it started, the book upends itself by closing with precisely that hopeless, romantic idealism that, for better or worse, has been repeatedly beaten (as Buchan himself proves), calling for "values that cannot fit on the money scale". In between, however, this meditation on money stands out as fantastic reading whether you've got "enough" cash or not.