In an interview with The Standard on October 21, British writer Martin Amis shared some choice words about the validity of the Booker Prize, for which he has been listed twice in his career but never won.
In the quote below, Amis proudly declares that he has not read any of the novels by “contemporary winners,” explaining:
To read your contemporaries, let alone your juniors, is an uneconomical way of dividing your reading time, I almost want to snort with laughter. Why should I do that?…I haven’t read any of these books for the reasons I gave you. You don’t feel a literary push behind it. It’s politics, it’s sociopolitical considerations rather than literary like the Nobel: every country has to have its turn. It is an utterly external thing to me.
This was not the first time in the interview that Amis separated his identity as a writer from sociopolitical issues. When asked about how he was coping as a writer during the pandemic, Amis responded that he was unaffected. Claiming to speak for all writers, he elaborated, “Writers are withdrawn from society anyway. It is not like we’re used to a noisy office.”
Martin Amis’s usage of the word “we” in association with “writers” seems to apply to a narrow demographic of writers, and Bernardine Evaristo did not miss a beat in replying with her own definition of “WE” on Twitter.
Evaristo elaborated upon her response in an interview with The Londoner on October 24, stating,
Amis seems to belong to the school of privileged male writers of a certain generation who have benefited from a white, patriarchal society for decades…I wouldn’t want to consign any living writer to the history books, but I do think there is a massive schism between writers who believe in creating a literature landscape that is more inclusive…and those who think they are superior to any attempts at inclusivity. All fiction, including his own, is sociopolitical.
Evaristo’s retort comes in the heels her critique in The New Statesman/Goldsmith 2020 lecture, in which she talks about the tendency of certain interests in British literary establishment (often male and often white) to relegate the works of writers of color to an inferior status.
Whether Amis has registered the irony of his recent remarks in relation to his own novel is yet to be determined.