Instant Opinion

‘Let’s not cage in novelists with bad-faith readings’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

James Marriott in The Times

Sally Rooney has discovered that novelists are cursed

on literary criticism 

“There’s a weird media alchemy that transforms a novelist into a ‘public intellectual’,” writes James Marriott in The Times. While some novelists “yearningly pursue cultural relevance” others “stumble into the role” and find their works “are doomed to be interpreted not as works of the imagination but as public statements, their every action scrutinised for its socio-political significance and evidence of moral rectitude”. Novelist Sally Rooney “embarked on this melancholy trajectory this week” after criticism of her decision to boycott an Israeli publishing house. It seems that “controversy is now unavoidable for a publicly celebrated novelist”, writes Marriott. “The danger now is that our novelists get no freedom at all and we cage them in with our bad-faith readings, hatred of context, excessive literalism and obsession with politics over art. After all, I want to read another Rooney novel,” he concludes. 

2

Allister Heath in The Telegraph

Anti-British, anti-Brexit Macron has turned France into a hostile state

on fraught relations

“Tragic doesn’t even begin to describe it,” writes Allister Heath in The Telegraph. “Relations between France and Britain, Europe’s two greatest nations, the country of my birth and the country of my home, are at a multi-generational low.” And the “real stumbling block to renewed post-EU friendship” is Emmanuel Macron himself, says Heath. He is “an arrogant, uninspiring president desperate not to end up a one termer like Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande”. With an election looming Macron hopes to “shore up his nationalistic credentials in a country that is shifting Right-wards culturally.” Our two nations are “desperately” in need of “reconciliation”, says Heath. “But only a fool would be optimistic.”

3

The Guardian editorial

The Guardian view on austerity: get ready for its return

on the Budget 

“In British politics, unquestionably the best salesman of his generation is Boris Johnson, who has made the electorate some unbelievable promises: get Brexit done, ‘level up’ the country, race to net zero,” writes The Guardian. “The result won him a landslide at the last general election and still-healthy poll ratings today.” But in two weeks, “his government will have to disclose its cash position”, continues the paper. “When Rishi Sunak reads out those figures in the budget and the three-year spending review” the “strange jubilation” that has hung over the party this autumn will “dissipate”. “Reality will bite and, the early forecasts indicate, it has sharp teeth.”

4

Tom Chivers on UnHerd

Prince William is wrong: let Bezos go to space!

on indulgences

Jeff Bezos’ $7 billion space mission certainly feels “indulgent”, says Tom Chivers on UnHerd, “especially when you’re taking William Shatner to space for four minutes”. But Prince William’s assertion that we should concentrate on saving this planet first, is “wrong and silly”, according to Chivers. It is not an “either-or” situation. “You could say to Jeff Bezos that all the money he’s spent on Blue Origin could have been spent on developing green energy,” he writes. But “if he’d done that, the $7 billion he’s spent might have covered … a bit more than 20% of the cost of the Hinckley Point C nuclear power plant”. He continues: “Seven billion is a rounding error – less than a rounding error – in the effort to prevent climate change. Complaining that we’re wasting money on it is like worrying you’ll empty the sea with a teaspoon.”

5

Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times

Nicola Sturgeon is right – democracy must prevail

on the union stalemate

“[Nicola] Sturgeon made two forceful points on tactics” in her recent interview with the Financial Times, writes Robert Shrimsley in the same paper. The first – and most important – was that “democracy must ultimately prevail: a nation consistently voting for parties demanding a new referendum cannot indefinitely be ignored”, he writes. While it “cannot be a given that her patience will be rewarded” we should be mindful that “the Union exists by consent and it cannot be maintained indefinitely by denying expression”. If the government insists on denying Scotland another referendum it would “undermine both democracy and the nature of the Union”. “While Sturgeon admitted she did not know how the stalemate would play out, she maintains ‘it will resolve itself on the side of democracy, because actually, the alternative is pretty unthinkable’.” Shrimsley concludes: “Ultimately she has to be right. If the nationalist tide does not soon ebb it will have to be confronted. Democracy can be delayed. It must not be denied.”

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