Archive | April 2015

Charlie Hebdo, PEN and the “wrong” kind of free speech

33revolutionsperminute's Blog

Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Taiye Selasi and Francine Prose are very clever people. Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, for example, is one of the most dazzlingly brilliant novels in years. So you would think that at least one of them could muster a justification for their decision to withdraw from the forthcoming PEN gala, at which Charlie Hebdo will receive the annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award, that wouldn’t make you want to bang your head against your desk. Apparently not.

Explanations have come in dribs and drabs. The longest, and worst, was published yesterday by Francine Prose — a former PEN President, no less. It opens with a classic case of the Liar’s But, where the whole paragraph preceding “but” is disingenuous blather: “tragic murders”, “nothing but sympathy”, “abhor censorship”, blah blah blah. This is the language of the politician, not the novelist, lacking both intellectual honesty…

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