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Response to Les Rosenblatt.

In his review of Christos Tsiolkas's Dead Europe ('A Place Where Wolves Fuck', Arena Magazine No. 79), Les Rosenblatt has no right to attribute to me comments signed by someone else. Ian Syson can speak for himself but, for the record, I explicitly argue (in the most recent Overland) that Robert Manne's comments on Dead Europe are important and should be taken seriously, even if I don't altogether agree with them.

It's not just with his quotations that Rosenblatt needs to be more careful. If he thinks Dead Europe is racist, he should say so. If he believes left-wing commentators have turned a blind eye to anti-Semitism (as he implies), he should argue his case--perhaps, say, engaging with the long essays Syson and Humphrey McQueen wrote on the book, rather than with their ephemeral comments on a weblog and a radio interview respectively.

Instead, he insinuates the worst and then--bizarrely--concludes that the novel is an important piece of political writing, in which 'perhaps Tsiolkas has displaced anxieties and resentments regarding homophobia with, perhaps unwittingly, a substitute demonisation of Jews as 'the other' onto whom such anxieties could be transferred'.

In other words, he charges supporters of Tsiolkas with insufficient zeal in opposing anti-Semitism--but hedges his own analysis of Dead Europe behind an array of qualifiers. The book is, apparently, so problematic that the most malign motives can be attributed to critics who praise it--yet Rosenblatt himself won't advance beyond a double 'perhaps', an 'unwittingly' and a 'could'! It's a pretty flimsy platform from which to attack the rest of us, particularly if the subtext of the attack is an accusation of complicity with the most murderous ideology of the twentieth century.

Elsewhere, Rosenblatt, in another of his inimitable metaphors, explains that 'there is a need for honesty in assessing the damage the novel may do in reinstating the grossly varicose vein of vicious anti-Semitism'. Well, quite. He might start with some honesty in his own work.

Jeff Sparrow is a Melbourne Writer.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Author:Sparrow, Jeff
Publication:Arena Magazine
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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