"The work of art may have a moral effect, but to demand moral purpose from the artist is to make him ruin his own work."
Which dangerous irresponsible radical said that? Try Goethe, as cited by Rachel Campbell-Johnston in a very cogent argument against the Comedie-Francaise in today's Times of London.
Imagine getting away with such a statement in grant application today? Luckily Goethe had more enlightened patrons.
Many interesting comments here yesterday on L'Affaire Handke. Once again we have the questions of is it censorship if the play isn't banned everywhere, or is it censorship just because it was pulled as opposed to never selected in the first place. Fair points, worthy of debate. But I return as I have before to the counter question that if "censorship" is only wholesale totalitarian prosecution and shutdown, then we're left with the unconvincing assertion that there is no censorship in the West at all now. We have to call it something when the official state theatre of France decides to pull a play due to a writer's political views.
And, again, pulling the play is the point. Maybe that seems unfair to go after those who reverse a decision to produce a controversial work over those who don't bother. But the distinction is important. I don't think every unproduced writer sitting alone, toiling over a play exposing the government is a victim of censorship when they get a rejection letter. The realm of censorship (ok, how's "censorship-relateactivitieses"?) is upon us when forces suddenly intervene into the normal artistic process. A theatre likes a play wants to do it... then stops, due to external circumstances or pressures. With both Handke and Rachel Corrie (our two "authors" here) their personal histories suddenly emerged as too controversial for these theatres to want to handle. This despite both theatres' strong initial commitment to the art itself.
By the way, Comedie-Francaise now has posted a whole page of damage control under "raisons", including official statements, press conference transcripts, etc. Google translator won't work on it for some reason. (Hm, might Google have already perfected the bullshit detector?) My French isn't good enough to summarize it, but have at it if you wish. Also here's a bio of M. Bozonnet. Looks like he's hardly the usual bureaucrat, but an actor!
As for the comment that it is ironic to go out of one's way to defend free speech rights of someone supporting a real censor, I can only say: I don't believe free speech should be reserved only for the free or freedom-loving. What else is freedom?
Addendum: Ben Ellis, again, has the latest. Including this vigorous defense by Handke himself.
"I did not place a red rose on the coffin of Slobodan Milosevic. I did not touch the coffin. I did not brandish the Serbian flag. And never did I approve of "the Srebrenican massacre and other crimes committed in the name of cleansing." Never did I consider the Serbs as "the real victims of the war".
See Ben to read more.