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The pricks of conscience

The expectation that writers should comment on major political issues, which dates back to the start of the 20th century, has only increased since 9/11. But writers are people who sit at home all day largely oblivious to the outside world. Why should they be expected to trade in slogans?

By Linda Grant   January 2008

At the launch a few years ago of a new collection of short stories, a collaboration between the Israeli Etgar Keret and the Palestinian Samir el Youssef, a gentleman in the audience sorrowfully asked where, in Israel, were the “writers of conscience.” Not, evidently, on the platform: Keret’s brief, slightly hallucinogenic prose focusing on the weird lives of Tel Aviv slackers was thought to be apolitical. The collaboration between the two authors from across the great divide of the Arab-Israeli conflict was not intended as a kind of literary peace camp; they had met at a conference of Palestinian and…

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