Tag Archives: Hari Kunzru

Hari Kunzru: ‘The right to freedom of speech trumps any right to protection from offense’

Author and English PEN deputy president Hari Kunzru has posted a tanscript of his address to the European Writers Parliament yesterday, in which he criticised the event’s host country Turkey over article 301 of its penal code which makes it illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish ethnicity and Turkish government institutions.

I believe that the right to freedom of speech trumps any right to protection from offense, and that it underlies all the other issues I’ve been speaking about. Without freedom of speech, we, as writers, can have very little impact on culture.

Full transcript at this link.

Update: Le Carré’s past – as told on the web

I wrote a post yesterday which looked at how the story of author John le Carré’s alleged temptation to defect to the Russians during his time as a British Intelligence officer (as reported by the Sunday Times) was spreading over the web, despite Le Carré’s lengthy contention with the report.

Hari Kunzru, who wrote a review that referred to the Sunday Times report, in Saturday’s Guardian, has left a comment:

For the record, I wasn’t aware of Le Carré’s objections to Liddle’s interview. My review was filed before the letter was printed in The Times. I’m not surprised. Even from Liddle’s quote the inference that Le Carré ‘almost defected’ is hard to draw.

So either the Guardian Review’s editor didn’t know of Le Carré’s complaint either, or it was a conscious decision to leave it as Kunzru wrote it.

It does seem to suggest that complaints or letters published post-coverage don’t really rectify a situation. It’s lucky that Le Carré aka David J.M. Cornwell enjoyed the Calvados and Liddle’s ‘erudite and perceptive’ conversation, or there could have been rather more costly repercussions for the Sunday Times.

Le Carre-d away: has the author’s alleged desire to defect become fact?

This, in Saturday’s Guardian, in Hari Kunzru’s review of John Le Carré’s latest book, ‘A Most Wanted Man’:

In a recent interview Le Carré was asked if he ever considered defecting. “Well, I wasn’t tempted ideologically … but when you spy intensively and you get closer and closer to the border … it seems such a small step to jump … and, you know, find out the rest.” Though this has been reported as some sort of tabloid confession (“I was tempted to defect, says spy novelist Le Carré”), it seems primarily interesting as a key to his fiction, whose central concern is the exploration of the metaphorical borderland occupied by the proponents of any polarised conflict.

The Guardian, September 27 2008

Perhaps surprisingly, no mention of the fact that Le Carré says that his quotes were out of context, as this lengthy letter to the Sunday Times pointed out. Le Carré writes that his interviewer, Rod Liddle, chose not to use a tape recorder and  subsequently misrepresented him that he was misrepresented in the interview and this article:

… he [Liddle] failed to encompass or indeed record the general point I was making about the temptations of defection.

Lord Annan, I ventured in our conversation, had declared that four years of Intelligence work were as much as any sane man could stand. I painted for Mr Liddle the plight of professional eavesdroppers who identify so closely with the people they are listening to that they start to share their lives.

It was in this context that I made the point that, in common with other intelligence officers who lived at close quarters with their adversaries, I had from time to time placed myself intellectually in the shoes of those on one side of the Curtain who took the short walk to the other; and that rationally and imaginatively I had understood the magnetic pull of such a step, and empathised with it.

John Le Carré, Times Online, September 20 2008.

Presumably the Guardian Review’s editors and the writer, Hari Kunzru, were aware of Le Carré’s problem with Liddle’s interview and chose not to mention it, although Kunzru does refer to the tabloid-like sensationalisation of the interview.

A Google search for John Le Carré brings back reviews for his latest book, but if you search “john le carre + defect” it’s possible to see how far the Sunday Times reports have spread… The AP reported it as the Sunday Times did, and then it went far and wide of course.

Will Le Carré’s consideration of defection go down in the history books, with no reference to his complaint?