Silence is a strange thing, a gooey, sticky substance that sours the longer you keep it inside your mouth, like a gum gone rotten without your being aware. And it carries a contagion: strangely, silence loves company. It is easier to remain silent when others, too, do the same. Silence hates individuality. Silence hates solitude. Elif Shafak
I’ve just read an interesting article on the imprisoning and silencing of writers in Turkey. Coincidentially Silence was an Abridged issue a ways ago. It explored how contemporary society needs the ‘noise’ in the same way as cavemen perhaps needed fire – to keep us warm and to keep the darkness at bay. Of course in Turkey it is the darkness that is the noise or even more absurdly it is the darkness masquerading as the light as Mr Erdoğan presents himself as some kind of saviour, using the recent coup attempt to crack down on writers and journalists of all types (apart from obviously those that support him and even they will be silenced eventually). The issue, 0 – 22, before Brexit, before Trump, focused on how society periodically needs something to keep the silence at bay and nothing does that better than the smack of a firm government that names and blames the ‘other’.
How writers respond to being on the other side of popular opinion will be interesting. Though perhaps in a sense the best writers always start on the other side of public taste. Not everyone has the talent, courage, determination or opportunity to carve out their own path in the face of a dangerous populism. Shafek quotes Orwell as reckoning that poetry rather than prose can survive totalitarianism better. Possibly because very few read poetry or poets maybe tyrants have learned that poets make for more romantic martyrs (Lorca for example) so are left alone until they can’t be ignored. Though Orwell it has to be said was writing before the upsurge of fundamentalist religion that likes nothing better than searching art for signs of ‘blasphemy’. Abridged with its usual lack of faith always held the view that it is when the people lose faith in themselves and their leaders that the loudest charismatic frauds and despotic thugs will be listened to.
Anyway here’s the article by Elif Shafak: