: I thought I was the only one who typed and erased
: paragraph after paragraph.
So did I. Glad to know that there is company.
: haven't the slightest idea where Philip Roth's,
: Marilynne Robinson's or Thomas Pynchon's political
: sympathies lie, nor would it matter to me if I did.
It is not about where their political sympathies lie. It is about their integrity. Is the author writing this particular book, with this particular tilt, without really believing in it, or worse, knowing that it is not true, just to become popular among a larger audience, just to cause a sensation, a scandal, for monetary and promotional gain. Is the author in it for a good story or is he/she in it to ruin the reputation of one country so that he/she can get a promised award or an honorary doctorate or for a million dollars.
This, of course, does not happen in safe and secure countries, who are established in democracy, human rights, economy, environmental consciousness etc. So, no author in US in England or in France will ever get this kind of reaction. It can only happen in developing countries or countries that have problems, economical or otherwise. An opportunist in China, India, Turkey or Mexico can achieve fame and fortune by writing what is asked of them to write.
Let's take the two Turkish authors I mentioned in my post: Aziz Nesin and Orhan Pamuk. You can look Aziz Nesin up, he was one of the greatest story tellers in the world and also a great guy in every aspect. I have read all his books (there are many, maybe close to a hundred) and they all brutally criticize the Turkish mentality, corruption, human rights violations, sleazy politicians etc. etc. And that is why we love him. His books are all translated into many many languages and the whole world learns about the negative stuff that goes on in Turkey, and that is ok, because it is the truth, and it is all told in great witty stores.
Now let's take Orhan Pamuk. He was writing good books, we read them, we liked them. He wrote for 20 years. Orhan Pamuk had never uttered any political statement in his life, he was completely apolitical. He did not even support his colleagues who were jailed because of what they wrote or what they said. He never supported any social activism anywhere, he was never at a rally, a protest, a fundraiser... Nothing. Not even for the environment or for the poor. Absolutely no opinion on anything whatsoever.
Then he set his eyes on the nobel prize. The rumours started to circulate. He wasn't getting it. Year after year, his name was mentioned and he wasn't getting it. He started writing things that were offensive to Turkish people but in favor with the West. And, finally, some arrangements were made, and he said one sentence during an interview with a Swiss magazine. One sentence. He wasn't even asked a related question. He blurted it out, just like that, out of the blue. Countries who want a piece of Turkey, and other Western countries who think Turkey would be more manageable if it was divided, took that sentence and championed it and championed its speaker. Following nobel prize was his. After the nobel prize, he came to Canada and his new friends wanted him to talk about their issues, he refused, he said he was here to talk about his literature. Of course his new friends abandoned him because they felt betrayed. These are the kinds of things I can't stand.
: Is it a sense of national insecurity and sensitivity
: in some countries,
Yes, there is that too. Countries like India and Turkey don't want a bad reputation, their reputation is already shaky. Nobody cares about the reputation of US or France. They are big, they are hated by some, adored by some, but that doesn't affect their trade or their tourism. And their people have the comfort of being one of the bigger guys.
Back to White Tiger, this is what I ask myself: Was this author after ruining India, was his purpose to cause damage to India? Clearly not. He was only after a good book and he achieved that and it made me even more interested in India and Indian culture.
Very tough to talk about this in writing, I wish we could talk about this in person. There is so much more to say.