Should writers engage with politics, asks this article from The Guardian:

With the exception of a notable debate in and around the London Review of Books, authors’ responses to September 11 and the conduct of the war were no more than an intensification of the usual traffic between the journalistic and literary worlds. It has taken the binary fix of Israel/Palestine – nomenclature itself is a charged issue, as Jack Straw learned to his cost – to marshal writers along partisan lines. Discounting world wars, in which many British authors were official propagandists, not since the Spanish civil war have so many writers taken sides. (…)
British writer Sarah Maguire has been using emails to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinian poet Zakaria Mohammed, who was holed up in Ramallah. (…) A large number of British poets have lent their support, Maguire says, including John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, Sean O’Brien, Ruth Padel, Kathleen Jamie and Benjamin Zephaniah. (…)
Other authors emphasise the danger of writers speaking out on events abroad. “On the whole,” says A. S. Byatt, “I do not believe writers of fiction have any more privileged insight into international affairs than other members of the public. (…)
A somewhat similar situation existed in 1937, when Auden and Spender published “Authors Take Sides on the Spanish Civil War” in the Left Review , having sent out a questionnaire to virtually every leading British and Irish writer. The Spanish republic, they asked: “are you for/against/neutral?” (…) There was some literary gerrymandering: Ezra Pound, a natural fascist, found himself in the “for” camp as a consequence of the ambiguities of his prose. But the result was pretty clear. Of all the writers asked, only five – including Evelyn Waugh and Edmund Blunden – were against the republicans, which is not necessarily the same thing as being pro-Franco.

When authors take sides


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