Saturday, November 16, 2013

Do novelists know anything about politics and economics?

It is frequent to read in the newspapers articles and columns by famous writers, or interviews with them, on a variety of issues, inlcuding of course politics and economics. It is certainly not only writers who are asked about these issues, so are singers, sports players and artists. In a free world, their right to express their opinions must be respected. However, one should be aware that their opinion is in many cases as valuable as the opinion of any person walking on the street. The only difference is that the famous have more access to the media. An article by Terry Eagleton in the Times Literary Supplement criticizing the political and economic opinions of J.M. Coetzee and Paul Auster (and the correspondence between them, which has recently been published as a book) reveals that the value of their judgement on these and other issues beyond literature is close to zero. These are great writers, but the fact that you are a good writer, singer, sports player or artist does not make your opinions in any field any more interesting than anyone else’s. This is one of the reasons why one should be suspicious of the views of people (like some in political circles) who only or mostly read from newspapers, which devote a disproportionate space to the opinions of famous people.

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