Sunday, May 3, 2015

"This Should Be the Most Uncontroversial Award in the History of Awards"

Vinay Menon of the Toronto Star--yes, the Toronto Star!--lambastes those who don't "get" why PEN is paying tribute to Charlie Hebdo. Menon accuses such writers as Canada's own Michael Ignatieff of "paying lip service to free speech."

I thought this part of Menon's piece was especially good:
Then there was [novelist Francine] Prose, a former president of PEN, who wrote a column in the Guardian that included this baffling passage: “The narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders — white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists — is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East.” 
I’m sorry, what? Narrative? These murders were not the start of a novel. They happened in the real world and the perpetrators were not the victims. Not only does the use of “white Europeans” scrub from history the others who were killed — including Mustapha Ourrad, an Algerian-French copy editor and Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer — it also betrays Prose’s own troubling biases. Make no mistake: if Christian extremists were angered by vulgar depictions of Jesus and opened fire inside the offices of a magazine, New York’s literati would have already heaped dozens of awards on the slain...

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