Posts Tagged: literature Results 15
As I was perusing the New York Times book reviews this weekend (yes, the section whose cover features a review by Woody Allen), I happened upon an interview with French-Jewish writer and public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy. As someone with an above-average interest in French and Jewish (I’ve got a doctorate in just that topic, and have subjected undergrads to my thoughts about the Dreyfus Affair), and long familiar with BHL in particular, I dove in. And I tried to focus, really I did, but I got distracted. In the print edition, I counted 11 writers named (not including BHL himself, who also gets a friendly shout-out) and… all dudes. Some but oh, not all, from eras where uniform dude-ness might be expected. In cases where the name was ambiguous and not one I was familiar with, I Googled to check and… yup. Dudes. The extended online version of this interview does mention one woman writer: Lévy’s daughter. As far as I can tell, only one other writer also noticed this.
It’s struck me lately that the American writer perhaps most deeply associated with White Male Writer-ness is one who made his name writing fiction about identity. Google “Philip Roth” and “white male” and you find an endless stream of essays that offer up Roth as a prime example of the white male literary novelist. As a prime example, that is, of the demographic of writers whose work gets the noble (if not Nobel) literary treatment, while any writer who isn’t a white dude gets dismissed as unimportant or merely political, and certainly not universal.
Samantha Bee offers up the not-implausible possibility that Donald Trump can’t read.
It’s neat, in a way, that Elena Ferrante’s Jewish. Well, not Ferrante—the author behind the pseudonym. Anita Raja, the Italian translator whom Claudio Gatti has convincingly argued is Elena Ferrante, is, as Gatti recently explained in detail in the New York Review of Books, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Whether we think it’s terrible that Ferrante’s identity has been revealed, or sort of OK, what’s known is known. Raja is Jewish, at least by some definitions. Which is neat in the time-honored Jewish tradition (and every-group tradition) of noting whenever an impressive person shares our heritage. But there’s something particularly special about the author behind Ferrante being a Jewish woman.