The latest salvos in the Amis/Eagleton polemic come from the increasingly rancorous novelist himself, who penned an earnest rebuttal in Saturday’s Guardian “ “No, I am not a racist,” pleads the headline “ and then glibly ran his mouth at a debate on Monday night. At the talk at Manchester University, where Amis and Eagleton both teach, Amis revisted the incendiary subject that got him into hot water in the first place “ namely, the discovery of an alleged Islamist plot against the U.K. in August 2006.
At a debate at Manchester University, where the novelist is head of creative writing, he told a packed auditorium that only a machine would not have experienced “retaliatory urges” upon learning in August last year of the alleged plot to bomb transatlantic aircraft, in which, Amis said, 3,000 people could have died.
“There should be from every corner of the west a permanent factory siren of disgust for these actions,” he told students, staff and members of the public, including Afzal Khan, the first Muslim to be lord mayor of Manchester. He acknowledged Muslim efforts “to put their house in order” were made more difficult by the jihadis’ “monopoly on intimidation”.
Upon closer inspection, Amis seems to apologize in advance for the outburst in the Saturday piece, where he advises readers never to take a novelist at his word. Sort-of quoting Nabokov, he writes, “I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished man of letters, I talk like an idiot.”
So we’re likely to hear from Amis again, in considered prose, given that he continues to speak like an idiot.
But there was less assent when he went on to speak of a “distorted sympathy” towards Palestine. “I have sympathy for Israel. It’s not nothing to have six million of your number murdered in central Europe in the last century. Don’t you think that this has had a psychological effect on this race or religion, or whatever you want to call the Jews?
“Palestinians have never suffered anything as remotely terrible as that. There is an inexplicable numbness about Israel.”