Author of The Celibate (1993), about a gay ordinand, and Easter (2000), the chronicle of Holy Week in a north London parish when a gay curate is arrested and a lesbian couple’s daughter baptised at the Easter Vigil, Arditti has done more than most to explore what it means to be lesbian and gay in the Church today, and both novels introduce, or allude to, trans people within the orbit of the main characters – thank you, Michael.
Using humour and unexpected historical parallels or coincidences Arditti is a brilliant analyst of the key theological issue of theodicy – how suffering can be reconciled with belief in a God of unconditional love – and also of the effect of the erosion of faith or the loss personal religious convictions, subjects that he returns to in his latest novel, The Enemy of the Good (2009). The possibility of theology after the Holocaust is a constant theme of his fiction (one of his novels, Unity, concerns the Mitford sister who admired Hitler) which, despite Christian settings, contain key Jewish characters and themes (the narrator/ordinand of The Celibate is a convert from Judaism).
I have recently re-read Easter and am now two-thirds of the way through re-reading The Celibate which is set in 1980s Britain. With the media currently full of the General Election of 2010 it was sobering to read the following passage in which the narrator, inspired by the community and solidarity of taking part in a Gay Pride March through central London, reflects on the contrast with Thatcherite rhetoric of that period: