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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 16, 1992|CHRIS GOODRICH

REBELS AND REACTIONARIES: An Anthology of Great Political Stories edited by Mitchell Cohen (Laurel: $5.99; 528 pp.) Political fiction often is regarded with contempt in literary circles, mostly because it can lean toward the didactic rather than the descriptive. "Rebels and Reactionaries" is a welcome reminder that there is much excellent fiction with a high political quotient. Nonetheless, it's difficult to read through the table of contents without remarking on the absence of numerous writers who wrote pointedly as well as proficiently. Where is Dickens? Kafka? Wolfe? Steinbeck? Upton Sinclair? Graham Greene? Mukherjee? Rushdie? Joyce's "Ivy Day in the Committee Room"? It's easy to second-guess anthologies, of course, so I won't persist in this vein other than to point out that some classics appear to have been displaced to make room for modern work that's more politically correct. This concession to fashion isn't altogether bad, however, for although some of these stories are negligible, some--those by Chinua Achebe, for example, and Jomo Kenyatta (yes, the first president of Kenya)--are truly first-rate. Read this volume for the likes of Thomas Mann's frightening "Mario and the Magician," which takes place in fascist Italy, but also for Carmen Naranjo's parable "And We Sold the Rain," which, despite its predictability, contains this collection's most wicked satire--a Third World contest to select "Miss Underdeveloped."

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