21Feb

Ian McEwan Has Cojones

First, Ian McEwan was attacked by Pro-Palestinian writers for deciding to accept the “corrupt and cynical” Jerusalem prize. Then, when he accepted the prize, McEwan used it as a platform to attack the “great injustice” in Israel.

Addressing his remarks at the opening ceremony of Jerusalem’s international book fair to “Israeli and Palestinian citizens of this beautiful city”, the novelist said: “Hamas has embraced the nihilism of the suicide bomber, of rockets fired blindly into towns, and the nihilism of the extinctionist policy towards Israel.”

But it was also nihilism that fired a rocket at the home of the Gazan doctor, Izzeldin Abuelaish, killing three of his daughters and a niece during the Gazan war. “And it is nihilism to make a long-term prison camp of the Gaza Strip. Nihilism has unleashed a tsunami of concrete across the occupied territories.”

The author referred to “continued evictions and relentless purchases of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the process of the right of return granted to Jews but not to Arabs, the so-called facts on the ground of hardening concrete over the future, over future generations of Palestinian and Israeli children who will inherit the conflict and find it even more difficult to resolve than it is today.”

That probably took a bit of nerve. I liked the notion about:

In the UK, he said, novelists were free to choose how much to write about politics. “Here, for both Israeli and Palestinian novelists, ‘the situation’ is always there … It’s a creative struggle to address it and a creative struggle to ignore it.”

It’s hard to imagine writing under great creative restrictions (even though we sit happily in our genre). Even having this blog and occasionally getting on my soapbox – in other cultures such actions might be difficult to maintain.

Though if we did write and publish under more oppressive regimes, how would the fantasy and science fiction genre be regarded, I wonder? Something that could pose a threat, or something trivial?

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.
  • http://andrewliptak.wordpress.com Andrew Liptak

    Wow. I’d love to listen to that.

  • Alex C

    “It’s a creative struggle to address it and a creative struggle to ignore it.” < most definitely! And unless you have a personal stake in an issue (naive we-are-the-world Socialist handwringing aside) it's in the end merely an intellectual one that doesn't require the same bravery to tackle and you are less likely to make anything meaningful from it. This is largely why I'm opposed to what often seems to be an advocation of complete cultural embargo and am very much in favour of constructive engagement.

    "Though if we did write and publish under more oppressive regimes, how would the fantasy and science fiction genre be regarded, I wonder? Something that could pose a threat, or something trivial?"

    < Perhaps an ideal way to get subversive/critical/questioning ideas out there under the guide of "fiction for kids and nerds"? Perhaps the ol' cognitive estrangement thing might also be a way to pass subversive notions by estranging them beyond the censors' limited, cursory examination? Resistance communications/propaganda encrypted via metaphor…

    Renaissance writers used to set works in other European nations that were thinly-veiled versions of their own societies because it was a good way examining them without making outright, obvious digs. SFF just takes it a little further afield and involves a much greater degree of abstraction but the root principle is largely the same.

    I'm sure I read an excellent Calvino story about agents of some oppressive regime having to read large numbers of stories to vet them and ending up questioning their own ideology and, in the end, change spreading en masse from within. I may have just made that up from a memory mashup however, but it's a nice (if somewhat quaint!) thought nonetheless!

    I would love to hear of any good resources focusing on the treatment of Speculative Fiction in Eastern Europe under Communism by the way, or the fascist regimes of South America, if anyone could point me in the right direction. I think Fantasy/Magic Realism/SF/etc truly do have the potential to harness a unique voice because of their unsurpassed potential for allegory.

  • http://markcnewton.com Mark Charan Newton

    Hi Alex, that sounds like Calvino even if you just made it up! I need to read more of his short fiction – I always appreciated that over his more lengthy work.

    Yes, that would be interesting re: Spec Fic under such regimes. Sounds like something Adam Roberts might know about.

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