Arguments about authenticity are “anti-imagination”


Fearing criticism for cultural appropriation would prevent writers from being able to write fiction and limit them to memoirs, Lionel Shriver said.

The bestselling author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, a novel about a school massacre, said if writers are too reluctant to create characters or settings outside of their own lived experiences for fear of offending, they will stop at all. to be able to write fiction. .

“I’ve spoken at length before about my aversion to this overt presence of cultural appropriation, which can mean that all you end up writing are memoirs,” she told the Cliveden Literary Festival. “It’s fundamentally anti-imagination.”

Shriver, 64, whose latest book Should We Stay or Should We Go portrays an aging couple coming to terms with their impending death, said the culture of cancellation must be resisted in order to ensure artistic freedom.

Social media, she said, has created a list of rules writers must follow, prescribing which characters they can and cannot write about, what places they can explore, and even in what accents they can get their protagonists to speak. .

Shriver said, “I think you have to resist these rules as well, because who makes these rules? Who thinks they can tell me how to do my job? “

“It takes a little more nerve than before”

Although readers are urged to find “the execution of a book missing in some respect”, the author has the “absolute right to create a character or use material that is not personal”.

“Being a fiction writer is now a little more complicated than it used to be, it takes a little more nerve than before, and it takes a certain amount of political sense,” she said.

“You can’t be as naive as before, and you have to claim your right to write, to invent whatever you want. You didn’t have to do this before.

Speaking of a meeting she once had with two French authors who had written a book about the southern United States, without ever having visited the area, Shriver said she felt momentarily angry with the element of cultural appropriation – but realized that they had the right to exercise their right artistic freedom.

She said, “I was born in the southern United States. These two men had never been to Alabama and had written about American race relations in the southern United States when I would have been a child.

“I had a reaction like: Are they laughing at me? It doesn’t belong to you. And I had to make up for it – I don’t own it.

The authors have come under fire for cultural appropriation in recent years, with American novelist Jeanine Cummins’ 2020 American Dirt slammed by critics for her portrayal of the plight of a Mexican family after fleeing a drug cartel in their town. native.

Cummins, who is not Mexican, has been accused of making indigenous suffering and experiences his own and showing “white savor.”


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