K.A. Dilday has a refreshing--though debatable--take on the Peter Handke affair at OpenDemocracy.net.
Do artists inevitably get into trouble when venturing into political commentary because of their inherent appreciation of ambiguity, ambivalence, and seeing the other side?
One could say that appearing at Slobodon Milsosevec's funeral is hardly an "ambiguous" gesture. Still the larger point is well taken, I think. This doesn't have to be considered a different standard, or lowering the bar of punditry. (As if that's possible!) Nor should this reinforce old saws of artists being insulated from "real world" politics and be allowed, like children, to play with ideas without consequences. It's just a different enterprise artists are engaged in than political scientists, or partisan hacks. A different way of interpreting and articulating the same problems we all live with.
When I worked as an editor on an opinion page we routinely asked novelists to write about political and social events in their country because they wrote well and engagingly; they made events vivid and real. Were they the sagest or the most politically astute? Probably not. But it is still the pieces by novelists that I edited that I remember most: Colm Tóibín on the road through Tara in Ireland, Javier Marias on terrorism in Spain and elsewhere, Emmanuel Dongala on the Rwandan genocide.
All were spectacularly beautiful, profound pieces, and as I remember them I realise the element they shared: the writers did not try to cloak the elusiveness of certainty - even as they advanced a particular position, they acknowledged its contradictions.
And that's perhaps why we give novelists fora outside of their medium. Pundits rarely admit ambivalence. They are like Isaiah Berlin's famous hedgehog, seeing only one big thing. There is little space for textured arguments in the age of television and lighting quick internet leaps, the pithy soundbite representing one particular argument is what producers are hoping for.
Indeed, how does a work of art "argue" anything? I think that's a very, very complicated question.