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Politics & Current Affairs

Why Today’s Writers Are So Gutless

Social topics like politics and economics have been sectioned off from society and are now treated as expert fields beyond the scope of mere mortals, says economics writer Aditya Chakrabortty. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Who are the towering novelist-social critics of our time? If you have trouble coming up with names, you are not alone. Beyond perhaps Dave Eggars, and his novels on Sudanese refugees and post-Katrina New Orleans, there are remarkably few novelists or poets who can sustain a work of fiction while drawing attention to the day’s political and economic concerns, says Aditya Chakrabortty, lead economist at the Guardian. According to Chakrabortty, modernist writers like Orwell, Spender, Auden and Pound set the standard for Western political engagement. 

What’s the Big Idea?

At a time when environmental and economic problems threaten the world at large, we need the artist more than ever to weigh in as an expert in all disciplines and in none. “But literature too has been professionalized, so that authors now go from their creative-writing MAs to their novels to their relentless promotional work. … In Britain or America or India today, our social boundaries are defined by the market and ever more diffident politicians.” Is Chakrabortty’s vision of the engaged writer simply nostalgic or is artistic industry now ruled by the masters it once critiqued? 

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