I’ve been trying to wrap my dwindling sensibility around this notion, which was put forward in last night’s Third Wednesday Free-For-All. I think the rationale was something like “people writing under censorship – a la Eastern Bloc countries back in the bad old cold war days – have to be more circumspect and subtle in their work in order to get it past government censors, therefore the writing was superior.

Well, the first thing that pops into my head is “superior to what?” To the same writing without the subtlety and circumspection? Do we have examples for comparison? And what are the criteria for “better,” that we need to apply? I’m a big fan of subtlety and ambiguity but they’re not, in and of themselves, discriminators for “better writing.”

I may be barking bananas but it doesn’t make sense to me to think it’s a good thing to impose conditions on writers that force them into not saying what they mean, entirely, or hiding what they really mean under some other stuff, or not saying things the way they think best suits their work. Not to say writers don’t do those things, they certainly do. If they want to. Does it make the writing better?

Sometimes. Sometimes not. I guess we’d have to look at alternate versions of supposedly “great” works produced under censorship in order to judge.


Visit WriteFreeorDie.org