Does Iain Banks Have a Problem with Hebraic Influences?

After suppressing the resurrection of his penis, last experienced in 2003, Norm Geras has allowed Eve Garrard a guest-post on his blog.

This concerned Iain Banks – famous for being an author or something – who has defined Israel as being outwith the human family, and called for a cultural boycott: presumably this goes beyond that criticism he levies at other sovereign states such as China or Sudan or Russia or Sri Lanka; all of which, as Garrard observes, have killed more of their citizens than the Israeli state has killed Arabs and in a much shorter periods of time.

Banks, whose greatest dilemma of late has been whether to work or play computer games, has instructed his publishers not to accept translation deals with Israeli publishers.

This he states is potentially a vapid request: a wise precaution as it would entail too much effort on his part to determine if his principal publishers (Orbit Books and Little, Brown Books) hold other contracts with Israeli writers or arrange the translation of their fully human authors’ work for distribution in Israel, or even if his own books are sold in English-language form there.

But, seen from another angle,this is a potentially highly significant request which Banks appears too modest (or self-righteously thick) to consider. Translation deals from Israeli publishers are to be assumed to be for Hebrew (or, at a pinch, Yiddish; Russian or Arabic speakers have other avenues).

Thus, unless I am very much mistaken, Banks considers speakers of a language historically and factually associated with Jews to be (currently, at least) beyond the political pale. Of course, refusing to have one’s works translated into any named language is, at the very least, the hallmark of a knitwit.

So, will Banks consider this, or push for a meaningful boycott (i.e. one which would require onerous actions on his part) by demanding his agents or publishers have nothing to do in toto with Israeli distribution? Or is he, and I personally think this is far more likely, a callow and pampered luvvie who, like an overgrown child (or wealthy person) does not think he should face the consequences of his actions?

‘Artists’ and faux bellwethers of the litterarti receive all they are owed by our purchasing their material.  This is not the 19th Century, when William Wadsworth Longfellow besotted Queen Victoria’s household (who had, presumably, seen all the great names the world had to offer). I can pick up a DVD from the petrol station, or a book from Tescos, or turn on the radio and television at any time of the day and get my cultural fix. None of us are beholden to some self-appointed moral guardian who has not fought for a single moment of his comfort.

Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off Iain Banks.


15 Responses to “Does Iain Banks Have a Problem with Hebraic Influences?”

  1. Caro Says:

    What a lovely man, I do hope that nothing horrible happens to him, like a gas line rupturing in his house or anything.

    Does this great humanitarian have anything to say about the 26 Iranians mass murdered by Iran today? Their pictures, hanging from cranes, are all over the net. Israel has executed ONE person in its history, the Nazi Eichmann. Even the worst terrorists don’t get executed. Well, I suppose he doesn’t mind if his novels are translated into Farsi.

    What about Afghanistan? Dozens of people murdered by other Afghans while attending a wedding, and 70 people hurt or maimed. Does he mind if his novels are translated into one of the Afghani languages, or all of them?

    Well, I am not much of a novel reader at the best of times, leaning towards non-fiction, but I will be sure to give this racist creep’s books a miss.

    My guess is that I am not missing much.

    • efrafandays Says:

      Yup, assuming Israeli actions have been reprehensible (I don’t believe this, that’s the argument), someone genuinely committed to the principles Banks claims to espouse would pursue a proportional response wherever oppression was occurring.

      Given his apparent silence on the Yemeni blockade of southern Yemen, and Saudi shelling of the Yemen/Saudi borderland, I assume he places Arab misfortune in context.

      During the Bosnian War and even at the height of the Chechen Wars, no-one was spiteful enough to boycott Serbian and Russian cultural/academic output. So much as it exists, I wouldn’t call for the DPRK equivalent to be treated similar either.

      Banks apparently tore up his British passport over Iraq (I’d be interested to know if he’s since gone abroad) and ‘opposes’ the UN-mandated Afghan intervention, yet believes he can freely operate in this country and the language of the Anglo-American Imperialists.

      He’s a spoilt child caught in mememe. But, a good writer. The M-less stuff often had brilliant mentions of obscure Scottish locations [1], and puzzlingly the Culture is yer classic do-gooding liberal interventionist stuff.

      Then again, I like Lizst and think Wager is sublime, and *adore* Karl Orff.

      [1] The Crow Road contained a tortuous line about how the Israelis would invade the Mediterranean if they thought the fish were Palestinian.

  2. Tarquin Says:

    Banks is a piece of Jew-hating filth. Just like that vile Finlan fellow, and the equally vile Caryl.

    • efrafandays Says:

      Caryl Churchill wrote an antisemitic play, I have no doubt about that – just as the appalling Ken Loach and Ben White think antisemitism is an understandable political expression.

      Banks’ belief that Hebrew is a politically compromised language is a good start on paleo-antisemitism, but mostly he’s thick (I know PhDs who can’t be trusted to boil an egg). He’s spent the past 25 years creating his own worlds on paper (no need for literary analysis on L-shaped worlds in the case of The Culture), so believes he – and specifically himself – can extend this to global politics.

      And a coward, as he doesn’t go for the global persecutors like Britain and America (I don’t believe this, but that’s his argument) because of their relative power as well as his personal benefit from them. He, like others, pick on the perceived weakling.

      For him the revolution has been televised, and it’s to be understood from blog-posts and partisan political rallies and YouTube posts.

      Israel is, undoubtedly, at risk of attack, but she’s an organized and heavily armed State unlike the carpet of shetls and disenfranchized Jews of Eastern Europe 70 years old.

      Personally, I’d lock Banks in a room with one of these blokes.

  3. Tarquin Says:

    Wagner’s so-called music is pompous, overblown, self-important cacophony. It is a lot worse than it sounds.

  4. Dominic Says:

    “obscure Scottish locations”: McCaig’s Folly. Strike one!

    I think “The Crow Road” was the last of his books I read (was quite a fan of Banks-without-the-M, once: “The Bridge” made me think of the then-under-construction redevlopment of London Docklands that I went to the now demolished 1970s railway station at Canning Town to read some of it, while “Walking On Glass” struck my 16-year-old-self as close to sublime, or, well, almost as good as “London Fields” by another author who has also written nothing readable since), but the last novel of his I picked up (at WHSmug, Edinburgh Waverley, mid 1990s), the one about some Scottish journalists into S&M really disgusted – and I do mean disgusted – me so much that I chucked it in the bin before the train reached Newcastle, not wishing to inflict it on anybody else. Maybe that was the moment I realised I was properly an adult, with no further need to read Iain Banks.

    He really is exceedingly self-important though, isn’t he?

    • efrafandays Says:

      I’ve been meaning for sometime to re-read Canal Dreams (The Algebraist wasn’t worth a first-read). The Crow Road mentioned the A82 trunk road between Balloch and Dumbarton, which I grew-up under.

      almost as good as “London Fields” by another author who has also written nothing readable since),

      Yeah, authors getting involved with politics often make complete tits of themselves. Well, fiction authors, as Tristram Hunt and Rory Stewart could be quite good.

  5. Chips and Gravy Says:

    Oh Gawd! I was worried for a moment there, I mistook Iain Banks for Ian Rankin. Never heard of this Iain Banks, so I think I’ll let him enjoy his self-imposed martyrdom.

    • efrafandays Says:

      Ian-with-one-I Rankin is lovely. When I lived in Edinburgh, he’d come into the charity bookshop where I volunteered, and buy all the classic vinyls.

      JK Rowling also lived nearby, and she’s been happy to have that other HP translated into Hebrew; where Dumbledore’s sherbet lemon became the kosher Tunnock’s Tea Cake (i.e. Krembo).

  6. David D. Says:


    Re Wagner’s “pompous, overblown” music. Same here. Though it’s hard to judge fairly since I learned about Wagner’s odiousness before I really ever heard anything substantial by him, so no doubt my reaction was highly coloured.

    Luckily I’ve never read anything by Banks and am unlikely to do so now.

    • efrafandays Says:

      I went in the opposite direction, from not accommodating the rancid racist turd ‘cos he was a rancid racist turd to ignoring the fact he was a rancid racist turd. No other composer can create the universe from a single E note. Plus, he arguably invented cinema, by blacking-out the audience and directing all lighting at the stage.

      But, a rancid racist turd he was. Not misunderstood. A fairly unambiguous Jew-hater (in no mean part from jealously towards Strauss and Mendlesohn).

  7. Rob Shorrock Says:

    I am an Iain Banks fan and I was really disappointed to hear this.

    Not good.

  8. angrysoba Says:

    Awww! I quite liked reading Iain Banks. Consider Phlebas was great.

  9. Next You Will Be Telling Us Shergar is Dead « A Rabbit's Eye View of the Hyperborean North Says:

    […] Iain Banks still can get to Forfar. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Israeli actors to boycott […]

  10. Oleg Sverdlov Says:

    M. Banks chose to side with Idirans over The Culture.

    May be he does not boycott Arabic translations simply because they do not translate science fiction that much. There is AFAIK very low amount of science fiction in Arabic.

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