And, of course, the ‘rot set in’ with the ‘post-war welfare state’. Another of Peter Hitchen's rants? No it is Terry Eagleton on the state of radical literature today.
For almost the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life.
Salman Rushdie? ‘… moved from being a remorseless satirist of the west to cheering on its criminal adventures in
Only Harold Pinter is an ‘honourable exception’. This is a big clue for anyone who has cringed at Pinter’s embarrassingly awful political tirades. The criterion for inclusion amongst the pantheon of great radicals is to agree with Eagleton, especially on
So what have these writers done to upset the eminent critic? Exactly what Orwell did; take a morally consistent line against totalitarianism. This is from Orwell’s essay, Why I Write; ‘Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as 1 understand it’. Note that these terms are not mutually exclusive but complementary. For Eagleton, opposition to the totalitarianism of our day automatically excludes anyone as being considered as a partisan of the democratic left.
Amongst those he praises are Brecht and Sartre, who, despite their considerable literary qualities, both accommodated themselves to Stalinism. And this should really get to Nick Cohen; Eagleton writes that “Virginia Woolf” (a particular bête noir of Cohen’s) “places herself to the left of almost every other major English novelist”. His view of radicalism is a narrow one, as is his literary canon.
I suggest he goes back and studies Orwell properly and then consider whether radical literary greatness is signified by writing unthinking tirades against Western democracies, combined with apologetics for totalitarianism, or by clarity of thought, a rigorous mental honesty and a consistent commitment to human liberty.
Norm adds an additional and important point