Do authors’ opinions and personalities influence if we end up reading their books? This is a question that has been occupying my mind recently for a couple of reasons. First, I read an interview with Arturo Pérez-Reverte, a Spanish author whose work I was interested in, but felt disappointed with some of his views. Second, people were tweeting J.K. Rowling saying they were going to burn her books, because they disagreed with her assessments on Donald Trump, what I found ridiculous. Are we more likely to read authors whose views we agree with?
Arturo Pérez-Reverte gave in September last year an interview to a Portuguese newspaper where he made some statements I completely disagreed with. The main one was that Islam is not compatible with democracy, and that the West is about to lose a war of civilizations. This is a really dangerous statement to make. Muslims have been living in Europe for decades and decades and the vast majority abide by the rules and don’t want to bring down our civilization. Arturo Pérez-Reverte mustn’t have heard of Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, who supported gay marriage and who is a feminist, for example. Obviously, the problem is extremism, which is not exclusive to Islam. He went on to criticise almost everything about today’s education, claiming that the youth would not be capable to fight against the rise of authoritarianism and fascism.
He also claimed that the Iberian Peninsula should have been one single country, meaning that Portugal and Spain should have formed one single federation. Although I completely disagree with his opinion, that was not the reason why I almost completely lost any desire to read one of his books. José Saramago, the only Portuguese author to win a Noble prize, shared a similar view and that didn’t stop me from wanting to read more of his books.
I don’t want to get too political, but what tamed my desire to read a book by Arturo Pérez-Reverte for the first time was mainly his views about a war of civilizations and his assertions about Islam, as he apparently (I may have misunderstood his opinion) sees all Muslims as extremists that don’t know how to live in European democracies.
On the other hand, when some people were tweeting J.K. Rowling that they were going to burn her books, because she was expressing anti-Trump opinions, I found that quite absurd. Was that because I agreed with her negative views on Trump? Probably yes. But it was also because I really don’t think we have to share the exactly same views as the authors we read. However, it is difficult to start reading an author who we think has expressed xenophobic views.
In fact, writing this post has already made me change my mind about not reading any books by Portuguese author António Lobo Antunes. He is critically acclaimed by many people in Portugal. Nevertheless, I had no desire to read his books, because of his public image. He always sounds quite arrogant in interviews, believing to be the best writer Portugal has ever produced. He has also criticised Portuguese literature, even calling Eça de Queirós, an acclaimed writer from the 19th century, a “pigmy”. However, now I want to read at least one of his books to see what I think of his work regardless of his personality. Maybe he really is an extremely talented writer and I am missing fantastic books.
To conclude, we shouldn’t let authors’ views and personalities influence if we read their books or not but only until a certain point. I draw the line at human rights and respect for other cultures and religions. We should never forget that our rights end where others begin and that we cannot say an entire religion is extremist because a group of people who share that religion is. That only cultivates more hate.