Fuentes endorsed the writer's right to militate when his own come into power. "The writer must be the voice that rankles."
He spoke of the silent, insidious violence of television and the media. Writing literature offered other possibilities to human beings, he said.
Fuentes said he grew up listening to radio in Washington in the 1930s. "When Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling, I imagined the fight through what the radio announcer said. Baseball was also an aural experience. We no longer listen, we see; we do not care about the bombing we see on television. It robs us of our capacity to judge our thinking; knowledge is more important than information, but knowledge requires us to be well informed."
Napoleon invaded Russia in 1810, said Fuentes. Then Tolstoy came along and wrote War and Peace. If Tolstoy had not existed, the Napoleonic invasion of Russia would not be part of our reality today.
War and Peace is a deep examination of the psychological phenomenon of war and how it related to power, Gordimer said. It relates also to the present psychology of war:
"The idea that God must help us because we are on the right side; the people on the other side are also calling their gods, which brings the question of who the gods should answer.
"Can you think of a time when writers have been a force in changing policies?" she asked. "Camus, Sartre, De Beauvoir wrote about France's withdrawal from Algeria, but did they have any influence on ordinary people?" And in South Africa, she asked, did writers have any influence on the mass of people?
We were left with this: illiteracy and semi-literacy, shockingly prevalent, continue to deprive the masses of the stimulation provided by these and other writers, and to deprive these writers of readers.
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