We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A flinching depiction

A Google search for the words “unflinching depiction” got me 57,100 hits. Not so long ago “unflinching” was only just edged out by “edgy” as a term of praise for a work of fiction. Novelists prided themselves on their willingness to probe the depths of the human psyche. No criticism by a reviewer stung more sharply than to say that the characters in a novel were “sanitised” or “bowdlerised”.

We know better now. And how uplifting that our modern novelists submit to the judgement of the people and engage in spontaneous self-criticism!

“Elin Hilderbrand asks for Anne Frank reference to be cut from novel after complaints”, reports the Guardian.

It features a short passage in which Vivi, as a child, is planning to stay in her friend’s attic. “‘You’re suggesting I hide here all summer?’ Vivi asks. ‘Like … like Anne Frank?’ This makes them both laugh – but is it really funny, and is Vivi so far off base?”

Judging from the extract quoted, I will not be rushing out to buy Ms Hilderbrand’s latest even after it is cleansed of the fictional depiction of one child making a tasteless joke and another child laughing at said joke. There are some things one cannot forgive. The novel appears to be written in the present tense.

9 comments to A flinching depiction

  • George Atkisson

    There is no censorship so devastating and crushing of the human mind and spirit, than self-censorship to appease the ever changing Narrative. What can and cannot be said, inexorably becomes what can and cannot be thought. How does one escape the collar and chains that one has willingly fastened about one’s own neck and limbs? 😒

  • Mr Ed

    There was a noted, but perhaps not celebrated, actress Pia Zadora who found fame in the UK in the 1980s. She was almost universally deprecated for her performances. At some point in the mid-1980s she reportedly played Anne Frank in a theatre play in Dublin, and the British press (most likely the Daily Mail iirc) reported that when the German soldiers entered the house, a wag in the audience shouted ‘She’s in the attic!’, most likely Ben Trovato, but not anything other than a reference to the disappointment of the punter at the performance, and rightly taken as such. The astonishing thing is the current-day confection of outrage which is so transparent, yet almost always unchallenged, as George A points out above.

  • John B

    ‘You’re suggesting I hide here all summer?’ Vivi asks. ‘Like … like Anne Frank?’

    It’s a simile and quite valid, and makes a strong point. Was it a joke? People laugh for a number of reasons, to hide embarrassment, fear, uncertainty, for example.

  • Ian

    I’m glad someone else is taking aim at people who use the present tense in that way. It’s almost as annoying as the American habit of pronouncing every “o” in a foreign word as a long “o”, which afflicts even classics professors.

  • Paul Marks

    The people who are complaining about this joke are much more like the Nazis than they are victims of the Nazis. They wish to control all of life and make it subject to their whims – they are totalitarians.

    And, yes, my father’s cousins in the Netherlands did go to the gas chambers.

  • Michael Gillespie

    Echoing Ian’s comment above. Those last 2 sentences are a master class in English understatement. Beautiful.

  • Sigivald

    It could be worse.

    It could be present tense, second person.

    (The first chapter of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler is second person, and it made me literally throw the book across the room.

    I eventually read the whole thing, and the rest is much better.

    But … no.)

  • Andrew Duffin

    Present-tense-ism affects far too many BBC documentaries, too.

    Makes (made?) me want to throw things at the screen.

  • I never use present tense in fiction (quotes don’t count) but I indulge myself in essays.