"Those who sentimentally indulge humanity do it no favours," argues Eagleton in this brisk, deep and oddly entertaining book about mankind at its very worst.
Splicing his radical affiliations with a respectful grounding in traditional theology, the critic aims to rescue the reality of evil. He argues against liberals who would discount the idea as the hangover from a superstitious age.
Eagleton begins with James Bulger and, if he treats the boy's killers merely as "semi-socialised creatures", he firmly accepts the truth of evil as a proud, clever and almost abstract cruelty, from Iago to the Nazis.
Eagleton's evil is a form of absolute selfishness built upon the denial of our mortality, and of our dependence from the womb "on others of our kind".