Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Baddiel on Jewish Book Week

With predictable levity, comedian-turned-novelist David Baddiel expresses frustration with Jewish Book Week. He thinks it limits the universal appeal of books with Jewish themes. It's quite clear they aren't part of the British mainstream. Baddiel observes that
We are happy to appropriate certain minorities as representing our national voice, as long as they are thought of as cool, oppressed and part of the multicultural texture of modern Britain: which frankly Jews ... are not.

So, if you write a book with a Jewish theme in this country, the goys don’t buy it.
He's probably right, but probably for the wrong reasons. Over the years, I've been impressed by the range and seriousness of Jewish Book Week. It is hard to imagine the Hay-on-Wye or Cheltenham festivals offering up such attractive programmes. They tend toward the author-as-celeb. The reason why Jewish Book Week seems to Baddiel "to represent a niche market" is probably due to Britain's almost-terminally philistine culture. Thank (the Jewish) God for small mercies.


  1. Anonymous6:11 pm

    Other ethnic minorities exist in a narrative of British Imperial history and existence. They thus link to, and are concerened with, the strange and intimate and oppressive racial and cultural confluences of the British Empire and its continuum. The sons and daughters of Jamaica and India who now are British thus speak to England of its history, of its decline, and of the manifold variations and tensions in Britain today. This is a vibrant, living, seething culture that these writers come from, unstable, not yet assimilated, full of generational conflict, dynamic contradictions, ironies, afflictions, movement, languages, desperation and exuberant life. Dark as well as light.
    Baddiel's assertion that they are 'favoured' for reasons of liberal guilt or as a kind of tokenism for exotica or to assuage what is groan inducingly described as 'oppressed people' is incorrect. There are real fascinations and tensions being played out here. Baddiel comes across as bitter about something. He ends up sounding himself quite patronising.


  2. If we're talking about specific ethnicities being 'favoured' or (presumably) 'disfavoured' in the cultural landscape, can someone tell me when the next Chinese Book Week is going to take place?



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