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Author Topic: Terry Eagleton: Only Pinter remains among the politically engaged writers in Britain
Babbler # 4140

posted 09 July 2007 04:18 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Eagleton: 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. One might make an honourable exception of Harold
Pinter, who has wisely decided that being a champagne socialist is better than being no socialist at all ...

Maybe if reviewers weren't actually afraid of naming the system, C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M ... ?

In any case, Eagleton's piece is a useful summary of some writers on the left over the last century in Britain. And it's worth knowing how much some writers have moved away from solid, critical approaches to cheerleading for imperialism.

The knighting of Salman Rushdie is the establishment's reward for a man who moved from being a remorseless satirist of the west to cheering on its
criminal adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. David Hare caved in to the
blandishments of Buckingham Palace some years ago, moving from radical to
reformist. Christopher Hitchens, who looked set to become the George Orwell de nos jours, is likely to be remembered as our Evelyn Waugh, having thrown in his lot with Washington's neocons. Martin Amis has written of the need to
prevent Muslims travelling and to strip-search people "who look like they're
from the Middle East or from Pakistan". Deportation, he considers, may be
essential further down the road.

Eagleton essay

But is Eagleton correct? Perhaps he's overlooking or not paying attention to the right people?

In fairness to Eagleton, he notes that this trend applies both to the left and the right. He claims that politically committed writers are missing from the entire spectrum:

Not all rebukes were administered from the left. DH Lawrence, a radical
rightist, denounced "the base forcing of all human energy into a competition
of mere acquisition". Possession, he thought, was a kind of illness of the
spirit. High modernism, however politically compromised, questioned the
fundamental value and direction of western civilisation. The 1930s witnessed
the first body of consciously committed left writing in Britain. Taking
sides was no longer seen as inimical to art, but as a vital part of its

That last sentence is worth repeating a hundred times. Taking sides is a vital part of the purpose of art; in this regard I like to recall the remarks of one Georgi Plekhanov (aka N.Beltov) on this subject:

The belief in art for art's sake arises when artists and people keenly interested in art are hopelessly out of harmony with their social environment. ...[on the other hand - N.B] the so-called utilitarian view of art, that is, the tendency to impart to its productions the significance of judgements on the phenomena of life, and the joyful eagerness, which always accompanies it, to take part in social strife, arises and spreads wherever there is mutual sympathy between a considerable section of society and people who have a more or less active interest in creative art.

Well, we've got Tom Wayman, among many others, here in Canada. Maybe it's other countries that carry the torch of politically engaged art when the "motherland" no longer produces such work.

[ 09 July 2007: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]

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