Novels Are Dangerous

The Boston Globe has some additional NEA reaction, including a professor from Trinity in San Antonio once arrested in Haiti for having a Graham Greene novel in his pocket. This was back in the days when Papa Doc ran Haiti; he was followed by Baby Doc, a Neroesque figure who ultimately fled the country.

It’s not difficult to imagine a similiar scenario; dictators and novels are always a dicey blend; what did Idi Amin read at bedtime?

I was in Germany with a group of Indonesian officials; we walked past a cinema advertising The Year of Living Dangerously. The senior man in the group asked me if I’d read the novel. I had and said so. He smiled and suggested I not bring it with me to Jakarta; the PKI revolt never happened. Events depicted in the novel and film were western propaganda. Such books are disturbing to the people’s serenity.

If books in general, novels in particular, become intruments of the people’s serenity, it may be time to relocate. Meanwhile you might want to think about what’s in your backpack before embarking on your world tour. Attention spans may be short, but memories are long. Turks aren’t fond of Homer.