by Giulio Meotti
The evolution of cancel culture is called self-cancellation. At the first signs of criticism and to avoid being overwhelmed by stigmas, writers have begun to eliminate their own work.Alexandra Duncan had the cover of “Ember Days” ready. The novel was to be published by Greenwillow, which is part of the global publishing giant HarperCollins. But the author withdrew it. The problem? The novel is about a Gullah African American, but Duncan is white. The tweeters had already begun to attack her.The author initially tried to defend her work. Then the failure. “My view of the world is as limited as a white person. I am deeply ashamed of having made a mistake.”“The mood is becoming so militant that you are no longer allowed to write from the perspective of anyone other than yourself,” observes the literary agent Natasha Fairweather.
The Duncan affair could be dismissed as a case of personal mythomania, were it not that there are already many similar cases.
Amélie Wen Zhao was ready with the novel “Blood Heir,” a fantasy saga for teenagers, and had already sold it to Random House Children’s Books with a half-million dollar contract. But some critics, who had read the drafts, dismissed the novel as “racist,” so Zhao withdrew the book. Zhao had the audacity to talk about a world in which not only blacks are slaves, there are slaves and that’s it.
Keira Drake in “The Continent” centered the plot on a white girl who saves everyone. An unlikely heroine in times of “white privilege.” So, accused of “racial paternalism,” Drake withdrew the book.
The publication of the novel “When We Were Fierce” by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo, author of the award-winning “Fat Angie,” has been postponed by the author and publisher following criticism. The author apologized for “racial insensitivity.”
Kosoko Jackson, an African American and Lgbt writer, was about to come out with “A Place for Wolves,” the story of two homosexuals in the former Yugoslavia. After allegations of “cultural insensitivity,” Jackson also asked the publisher, Sourcebooks, to cancel the release.
One of the writers who signed the letter in Harper’s Magazine against “cancel culture”, Salman Rushdie, was overwhelmed thirty years ago by an Iranian fatwa that ordered the cancellation of the “Satanic Verses” under penalty of physical cancellation of the author himself. Rushdie was left alone by many European publishers who shivered in fear, from the French Christian Bourgois to the German Kiepenheuer.
Today it is the writers themselves, and not a few publishers, who cancel themselves in the name of another type of fear.
We are in the plot of “A too noisy solitude” by Bohumil Hrabal, the writer in disgrace for a long time and under forced oblivion in the former Communist Czechoslovakia, which tells of a man who for thirty-five years worked on the shredding of banned books, pressing them in parallelepipeds of paper.
When cancelling someone was decreed by dictatorships, not idiotic democracies, courage, not today’s abject cowardice, abounded.