McEwan Criticises “Nihilism” of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

About a month ago we reported on Ian McEwan’s win of the Jerusalem Prize. McEwan’s acceptance of the prize led him to be accused of tacitly condoning some of the more controversial aspects of the Israeli government’s policy in relation to Palestinians and the occupied territories. McEwan himself defended the decision to accept the prize. The prestige of the Jerusalem Prize overshadows its modest cash purse thanks to its stellar list of previous winners.

McEwan has responded to the criticism with criticism of his own - of the Israeli government’s policy in relation to Palestinians and the occupied territories. In so doing, he also defended the relevance of the novel as an art form, saying, “The novel was born out of respect for the individual, and is impelled towards pluralism. There is no man, woman or child, Israeli or Palestinian, whose mind the novel cannot lovingly reconstruct.”

McEwan’s theme was the nihilism displayed on both sides of the conflict. He suggested creativity was the key to finding a political solution: “The opposite of nihilism is creativity. The mood for change, the hunger for individual freedom that is spreading through the Middle East, is an opportunity more than it is a threat.” McEwan spoke in front of an audience that included the Israeli president Shimon Peres, the minister of culture Limor Livnat and the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat. The US$10,000 cash prize will be donated to the charity Combatants for Peace, in which former combatants on both sides of the conflict promote a non-military solution.

Update: here’s the New Yorker on the issue.

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