Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What makes the Literati Leftist?

Benjamin Nugent's article on Mark Halperin has inspired a bit of a debate on whether it is true that there are no good right-wing novelists and, if so, what the explanations are.

Exceptions like the older Mordecai Richler aside, it certainly seems to be generally true in Canada that its novelists are either conventional leftists, apolitical or old-style establishment Tories -- with the bulk probably conventional leftists. So the issues are why, and will this change?

One obvious explanation is a materialist one. Writers vote for left-wing parties for the same reason as muncipal workers -- because most of their income comes from the state.

Another explanation arises out of the peculiarities of the Canadian political scene. There has always been a tie between the novel and nationalism. In English Canada, nationalism is even more appealing to literary types because -- at least since Grant -- it is tied to the kind of lost cause elegiac sensibility Nugent suggests is an appealing background for literature.

On the other hand, the centre left is so hegemonic in Canada that one might think its pieties would make tempting targets. And it is a bit odd that the old rural Protestant Canada seems in all our fiction to be treated like an all-powerful force of oppression when it is fairly obviously a culture in decline (making it a tempting object for elegiac treatment, one would think).

Update: Andy the Ectomorph and the mysterious Man Who is Thursday both respond to this post.

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