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Boris Johnson’s resurfaced novel contains horrific ‘racist, misogynistic, homophobic’ references

Emma Powys Maurice November 28, 2019
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson's 2004 novel 'Seventy Two Virgins' is being tweeted in full (Matt Cardy/Getty/Twitter)

A novel written by Boris Johnson in 2004 is receiving fresh condemnation as a new Twitter account is bringing excerpts back into the spotlight, tweet by tweet.

Seventy-Two Virgins is described as a “comic political novel” and stars a blonde, bicycling, buffoonish Tory MP (sound familiar?) named Roger Barlow.

“To a man like Roger Barlow,” Johnson writes, “the whole world just seemed to be a complicated joke… everything was always up for grabs, capable of dispute; and religion, laws, principle, custom – these were nothing but sticks from the wayside to support our faltering steps.”

With this in mind, the book refers to Arabs as having “hook noses” and “slanty eyes”. A mixed-race person is described as “coffee-coloured” while others are called “half-caste”. The word “negroid” is also used.

One character is said to look “like a lingerie model only cleverer, and, if anything, with bigger breasts”, while another woman is eloquently described as “a mega-titted six-footer”.

The main protagonist lusts after his personal assistant, a young woman named Cameron who is said to be “almost hugging herself with excitement” to hear that her boss is against same-sex marriage.

The excerpt in question reads: “She was thrilled when he seemed to take some sort of stand on gay marriage.

“His answer was indistinct, no doubt deliberately so, but she heard him say something to the effect that gay marriage was ‘a bit rum when you consider that marriage is normally thought of as taking place between a man and a woman’. Whoopee!

“At once it was as though she had chanced upon a knuckle of principle in the opaque minestrone of his views. He was actually AGAINST something, she thought, almost hugging herself with excitement.”

She is then given the “disappoint[ing]” task of drafting a letter to a constituent who is seeking “the joys of matrimony with his same-sex ‘partner'” – with Barlow’s response being: “Go right ahead. Frankly I don’t see why the state should object to a union between three men and a dog.”

The book received mixed reviews when it was released and sold around 46,000 copies.

As Twitter user @VirginsJohnson began sharing excerpts of the book earlier this month, new readers are expressing their horror at Johnson’s “puerile” attempt at humour and disbelief that it was ever thought acceptable to publish.

Speaking to iNews, book historian Dr Elizabeth Savage said of the passages published on Twitter: “It’s horrific: racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and more.”

Dr Zubaida Haque, deputy director of race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, said it was clear Johnson had “no qualms about using casual racist references and stereotypes whether in fiction or in real life”.

“And even when Boris Johnson argues that we have misunderstood his racist tropes because they were meant to be funny, you have to ask yourself, why do his ‘jokes’ or ‘humorous references’ always result in minority groups being at the brunt of it?

“Reinforcing racist tropes through humour isn’t comedy; it’s racism through another vehicle.”

More: Boris Johnson, conservatives, general election, racist tropes, Seventy-two virgins

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