[Marxism] British Islamophobic novelists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 8 09:14:21 MST 2006


http://www.newstatesman.com/200612110045
Welcome to Planet Blitcon
Ziauddin Sardar
Published 11 December 2006

Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan dominate British literature - 
and they're convinced that Islam threatens civilisation as we know it

The names of the most famous contemporary writers have become international 
brands. When they speak, the world listens. And increasingly, they speak 
not just through their fiction, but also via newspaper opinion pages, 
influential magazines, television chat shows and literary festivals. 
Novelists are no longer just novelists - they are also global pundits 
shaping our opinions on everything from art, life and politics to 
civilisation as we know it.

What we want from them is clear: insight into the human condition. From the 
most favourable conditions in human history, we have generated terror, war 
and a proliferation of tensions grounded in mutual fear and hatred. 
Humanity is unquestionably in need of help. But is it amenable to literary 
soundbites? Do literary pundits provide us with the best insight into our 
conundrums or serve as useful guides to the future?

The British literary landscape is dominated by three writers: Martin Amis, 
Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan. All three have considered the central 
dilemma of our time: terror. Indeed, Amis has issued something of a 
manifesto on the subject he terms "horrorism". In their different styles, 
their approach and opinions define a coherent position. They are the 
vanguard of British literary neoconservatives, or, if you like, the "Blitcons".

Blitcons come with a ready-made nostrum for the human condition. They use 
their celebrity status to advance a clear global political agenda. For all 
their concern with the plight of the post-9/11 century, they do not offer a 
radical new outlook on the world. Their writing stands within a tradition, 
upholding ideas with deep roots in European consciousness and literature. 
They are by no means the first to realise that fiction can have political 
clout; but they are the first to appreciate the true global power of 
contemporary fiction, its ability to persuade us to focus our attention in 
a specific direction. How conscious Blitcons are of their traditionalism 
may be in question. But it is a question that must be put to them. Where 
are you coming from? And where do you want to take us?

The Blitcon project is based on three one- dimensional conceits. The first 
is the absolute supremacy of American culture. Blitcon fiction is 
orientalism for the 21st century, shifting the emphasis from the supremacy 
of the west in general to the supremacy of American ideas of freedom. This 
shift can be traced back to Allan Bloom, the influential academic and 
author of The Closing of the American Mind (1987), who argued that American 
culture was the best in this best of all possible worlds. Bloom was a close 
friend of the novelist Saul Bellow, who promoted Bloom's ideas in his 
fiction: his 1970 novel about a "western-civ" thinker, Mr Sammler's Planet, 
is a good example. By the time Bellow wrote his last novel, Ravelstein, in 
2000, his views had become more overtly aligned with the political 
establishment - it includes lightly fictionalised and highly sympathetic 
portraits of both Bloom and Paul Wolfowitz, the former Bush administration 
apparatchik, now head of the World Bank.

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