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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Essay: Amis and Islam - Rachel Donadio

“I’m a passionate multiracialist and a very poor multiculturalist,” Martin Amis said a few weeks ago. He was on the phone from London, praising his hometown’s ethnic variety — “It’s exhilarating and moving to live in a city with so many races and so many colors” — and denouncing its fissures, particularly over radical Islam. “I don’t think that we can accommodate cultures and ideologies that make life very difficult for half the human race: women.” Amis was explaining his stance in a gloves-off row that’s been raging in the British press since last fall, when the literary theorist Terry Eagleton likened some of Amis’s statements on Muslims to “the ramblings of a British National Party thug.”

Random House via Bloomberg News

Martin Amis

On the one hand, it’s a classic English literary donnybrook, full of punchy insults like Eagleton’s claim that Amis was taking after his curmudgeonly father, Kingsley Amis, whom he characterized as a “racist, anti-Semitic boor, a drink-sodden, self-hating reviler of women, gays and liberals.” But the dust-up also touches on the fault lines of multiethnic Britain. In the press, Amis has been accused of lazy thinking and Muslim-bashing. The left-leaning Guardian ran a prominent feature, “Martin Amis and the New Racism,” with an unflattering illustration. Things have only heated up since January, with the British publication of “The Second Plane,” Amis’s new book of essays, subtitled “September 11: Terror and Boredom.” (The book, which received fairly tepid reviews in England, will appear in the United States in April.)

[for the rest of this essay click on the heading]


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