Don’t vil­ify nov­el­ists for do­ing their job

The Week Middle East - - News -

Nick Co­hen

Stand­point Should nov­el­ists be free to write from the point of view of some­one from a dif­fer­ent racial or so­cio-eco­nomic back­ground? It seems crazy even to pose the ques­tion, says Nick Co­hen, yet the au­thor Lionel Shriver was re­cently vil­i­fied for dar­ing – in a speech given at the Bris­bane Writ­ers Fes­ti­val – to sug­gest they should. Her crit­i­cism of the new fad for ac­cus­ing peo­ple of “cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion” so up­set the “so­cial ad­vo­cate and writer” Yass­min Ab­del-Magied that she fled in tears and de­nounced Shriver in a blog that was “quoted with ap­proval across so­cial me­dia”. Weird. These crit­ics pride them­selves on be­ing cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive, yet lump peo­ple into cat­e­gories in a way that is re­duc­tive and bossy. “Not ev­ery­one in an eth­nic­ity shares the same iden­tity, and it is rank prej­u­dice to treat them as if they do.” If rich writ­ers can only write about rich char­ac­ters, white writ­ers about white ones... and so on, we’ll end up only writ­ing about our­selves. Such solip­sism might sat­isfy “the so­cial jus­tice war­riors”, but it’s “un­likely to pro­duce fic­tion even they will want to read”.

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