Monday, 29 June 2009
The house is strangely quiet after our three good friends left today. I chauffeured each to the station as and when, in between helping C put up her show, which looks magnificent now it is all in place. But we are both exhausted. Tomorrow early to Cumbria for Dove Cottage reading.
A brief reflection on last week's conference. As the week went on so the atmosphere became more convivial, more relaxed, with more people prepared to speak up. The two major topics of the second and third days - censorship and translation - overlapped a little. The censorship debate extended beyond literature. Vesna G proposed that it was all too easy to censor that which we don't like anyway. We can censor David Irving or Geert Wilders because we generally agree that we would rather not give such people a platform. The problem comes when people censor what we like. Or when we are made uncertain through acts of censorship by others from a different culture working among us. The Satanic Verses book burning and fatwa was an obvious case, but so were the Danish Cartoons and the play Behzti, that was closed down under pressure from fiercely demonstrating Sikhs. Afterwards I asked Vesna in private what she would do with Mein Kampf or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. She took the Eastern European libertarian position. She would publish them both, she said, thus robbing them, as she argued, of their notoriety.
Her other major-line was about the insiduousness and danger of self-censorship. The examples raised in discussion were not all necessarily political, and tended towards the social or aesthetic. We tend reserve the right to reject that which is aesthetically dull or clumsy and that which is clearly anti-social. But what it these categories overlap with the political? Or if censoring one becomes the pretext for censoring the other? Under what circumstances may editors be said to 'censor' when they choose not to publish something? An editor's job is to edit, after all..
This is well-trodden territory, at least to Vesna and I. I am not quite sure how it touches on 'creative writing' as such except in so far that authors submit works to publishers who may accept or reject them.
Yesterday the sea at Cromer and at Overstrand. Cromer is semi-busy. A post-Edwardian melancholia hangs over it, despite the pier, the end-of-the-pier show (starring Andy Abrahams!), the ice-cream cornets, the crabs, and the faint, slightly greyish pearly surf settling over the stones of the beach. The Hotel de Paris failed to look as magnificently broody as I tend to remember it. There are holidaymakers here but they are mostly on the far side of forty-five. One small amusement arcade.
At Overstrand a sea-mist started rolling in and soon settled over the cliff too, the distinction between sea and sky eroding then gone.