I was recently pointed in the direction of an op-ed piece written in the Welsh-language magazine “Barn” (Opinion) written by Emlyn Evans (those not familiar with the language can read a roughly translated version here… it makes almost as much sense…). In it, he bemoans the state of Welsh literature, denouncing it as being nothing but works filled with vile obscenities, lurid sexual content and lacking in any real depth. he goes on to point out that a majority of the ones he finds objectionable are written by women, and describes how one author has managed to get 5 books published that are full of filth.
He concludes that this is an incitement of contemporary society’s lax attitude to morality, and that it’s all the fault of the 1963 case around the book “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, and that it’s possible to draw a line from that case (and the subsequent dismantling of the apparatus to censor of books) to the situation we’ve got ourselves in today.
The diatribe reads like someone who is horribly out of touch, and reeks of misogyny . He seems to suggest that we should go back to a time in the 1940s when everything was virtuous and happy, people went about being jolly nice to each other and there were absolutely no problems with society whatsoever. Mr Evans goes on to suggest that we should restore the mechanism to censor books to prevent further (and presumably reverse) moral decay.
It’s hard to know exactly where to begin with such absolute tosh. The idea of state-sponsored censorship of content (especially in the age of the Internet) is laughable. Moral values in a society change over time, you go back to the 1800s and the idea of Women voting was considered a strange idea, in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the proles knew their place, the ’60s brought about the beginnings of reform to race relations and today we saw the Royal assent given to the Same Sex Marriage Act. Creating a group to hold society to a particular set of moral values damages our exploration and progression to new ideas and blinds us to new possibilities (see Galileo’s persecution at the hands of the Church for daring to suggest that the Earth orbited the sun). Censorship is ultimately self-defeating and is unsustainable in the long term.
I don’t really feel qualified to address the issues of misogyny myself, Mr Evans seems to suggest that (recent) moral decay is linked to the increasing numbers of female authors (which is frankly a bizarre mental leap). The increase in female authors points to a liberalization in the publishing world that means we can now draw from a wider group of talented people to write books, bringing new ideas and interpretations to the world, rather than sticking to the same three or four concepts. If Mr Evans objects to such content, then he should stop reading them. Publishers run businesses, and will print what sells. If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it. It’s quite simple.
Mr Evans’ ideas, to me at any rate, are part of a wider problem in Welsh Media. The content that gets produced seems to be targeted at people in their late 50s and beyond, which makes everything seem parochial and irrelevant. The sooner people like Mr Evans leave the stage, the sooner we can bring in people who produce content which is more relevant to audiences of today. Publishers who fail to see what’s coming will find themselves side-lined by authors and producers who are tired of being held back.
In short, the mantra for publishing should be “Adapt or die”, rather than “Those pesky kids!”.