Dave Eggers won’t accept Grass Foundation prize lest he have to– horrors– say anything about Israel and Iran

US Politics
on 13 Comments
Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers

Good career move. One of the great moments in intellectual spinelessness. Look at the last paragraph here, the justification of intellectual irresponsibility by Dave Eggers. If Gunter Grass stands for anything now, it is the responsibility of prominent intellectuals to speak out on important questions when world peace is threatened. Reported in the Turkish Press, from AFP:

US writer Dave Eggers will not travel to Germany to receive a prize Friday from the Gunter Grass Foundation due to the controversy over the Nobel laureate’s recent poem on Israel, his agency said.

Eggers, 42, best known for his memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and Hollywood screenplays, was to pick up the foundation’s Albatross award for his book “Zeitoun” about a Syrian-American businessman accused of terrorist links during Hurricane Katrina.

The New York-based Wylie Agency said in a statement released by his German publisher that Eggers would not attend the event in the northern city of Bremen because he did not wish to be drawn into the uproar over Grass’s poem.

“Eggers won’t be coming for the ceremony because in light of the recent debate, he would be forced into commenting, endlessly and needlessly, on Grass and Israel and Iran, when the purpose of his visit was supposed to be about discussing his book Zeitoun, and the plight of Americans during and after Hurricane Katrina,” it said.

This moment demonstrates something else. Eggers isn’t in the Israel lobby; I don’t think he’s said a word about the question. But the lobby has what Daniel Bell would describe as cultural hegemony (in the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism). Any criticism of Israel is still the third rail in American public life. Writers who take a stand endanger their hardwon status— their reviews, their assignments, their publishing futures. John Mearsheimer used to be published on the Times Op-Ed page all the time. He hasn’t been on there since the Iraq war. Brave guy. Or Naomi Klein– she is simply too independent a thinker to care about mainstream status. So she takes a brave stance on Gaza.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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13 Responses

  1. David Samel
    April 15, 2012, 10:27 am

    “One of the great moments in intellectual spinelessness.” Sums it all up. There is no legitimate reason for Eggers to shrink from being drawn into the Israel/Iran controversy. Too bad, Dave. These things happen. Presumably he has an opinion, and why should he be reluctant to state it if asked? Even if he insisted that he preferred to make no public comment, he could have easily done so: “I prefer not to comment on Grass’s poem,” etc. What Eggers was worried about was the accusation that he impliedly endorsed Grass by accepting the prize, and his refusal to attend is actually an active participation in an unofficial boycott of Grass.

    As for Zeitoun, it was a fascinating story told rather unimpressively by Eggers. The only other Eggers I have consumed is the Maya Rudolph/John Krasinski movie (he wrote the screenplay) that I thought was awful. But dumping on the guy’s talents is beside the point. This spinelessness is truly ugly.

  2. HarryLaw
    April 15, 2012, 1:50 pm

    Spinelessness it may be, but after the online poll in that German paper outlined in Annie’s article [ the Grass just keeps growing 13 april 2012] Where 84% of the German electorate thought the Grass poem either correct or worth discusing, I became rather deflated when reading that left, right and centre of the German political elite show breathtaking spinelessness see here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=30298

    • MHughes976
      April 15, 2012, 3:23 pm

      Very interesting! If a British writer were to say the same amid such immense publicity the reaction of the British leadership would be the same, I’m sure. It’s a logical extension of the attitudes that are treated throughout the West as definitive of civilisation.

    • Theo
      April 16, 2012, 9:59 am

      “German politicians”

      They are just typical of any politician in this world!!
      Should the situation change, they will easily say exactly the opposite in a few weeks or even days. Five dollar prostitutes have more character and spine.

  3. Henry Norr
    April 15, 2012, 2:05 pm

    You can send a message to Eggers, through his publishing operation McSweeney’s, at https://www.facebook.com/messages/McSweeneys.Publishing

    You can also try to post something on their Facebook wall at
    I just did so, but I don’t see it – not sure where such things go in Facebook’s new timeline.

  4. DICKERSON3870
    April 15, 2012, 5:16 pm

    RE: “John Mearsheimer used to be published on the Times Op-Ed page all the time. He hasn’t been on there since the Iraq war. Brave guy. Or Naomi Klein– she is simply too independent a thinker to care about mainstream status.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Yes, and I am reminded of I.F. Stone*. And even Galileo!
    You’ve probably guessed where this is leading. You go, (Indigo) Girls!

    YET ANOTHER EARLY AUTUMN EVENING’S MUSICAL INTERLUDE ~ Proudly brought to you courtesy of the makers of new Ziocaine
    Xtreme®: It’s guaran-damn-teed to knock you effing senseless!™

    “Galileo’s head was on the block
    The crime was looking up for truth
    And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
    I try to trace them to my youth…
    …I’m not making a joke, you know me
    I take everything so seriously
    If we wait for the time till all souls get it right
    Then at least, I know there’ll be no nuclear annihilation
    In my lifetime, I’m still not right…
    …How long till my soul gets it right?
    Can any human being ever reach the highest light?
    Except for Galileo, God rest his soul
    King of night vision, King of insight.
    How long
    (Till my soul gets it right)
    [Till we reach the highest light]
    How long
    (Till my soul gets it right)
    [Till we reach the highest light]
    How long”
    ~ from “Galileo”, by the Indigo Girls, on the ‘Rites of Passage’ CD

    Indigo Girls: Galileo (VIDEO, 04:09) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI1keSSwdcI&ob=av2e
    * I.F. STONE (1967):
    “All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out. ~ from In a Time of Torment, 1961-1967 (1967), p. 317
    SOURCE – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/I._F._Stone

    • DICKERSON3870
      April 15, 2012, 5:41 pm

      P.S. It is still early autumn, isn’t it? Mid-April, you say! OMG! How time flies (even when you’re not really having fun)! Then I’d better make that an early spring evening’s musical interlude instead.
      Good golly Pete, that new Ziocaine Xtreme® really does knock you effing senseless!™ And now my effing knee is bothering me to boot! Don’t that beat all?!?!

      Indigo Girls: Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (VIDEO, 04:04) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKSrW5pwuA4

      P.P.S. A damn nice recovery/obsfucation, if I do say so myself! Never neglect the old “Indian” trick: always cover your tracks, kimosabe!

  5. wondering jew
    April 15, 2012, 11:07 pm

    Dave Eggers is trying to sell books. Gunter Grass and the middle east will not help him sell books. Simple. Spineless? No. Sensible.

    • Citizen
      April 16, 2012, 8:32 am

      And who was more “sensible” by your light, WJ, than Leni Reifenstahl? Albert Speer? Oh, Leon Uris?

      • wondering jew
        April 16, 2012, 5:49 pm

        citizen- Holy Hyperbole, Batman, David Eggers is now Leni Reifenstahl or Albert Speer.

  6. aiman
    April 16, 2012, 3:23 am

    This is an eternal myth that writers and artists are above the multitudes. In ancient Greece, in the seat of “civilisation”, poets and writers were the masters of state xenophobia. In our generation we have liberals like Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie whose status is wedded to “the clash of civilisations”. Writers are like everybody else: good, bad, opportunists, vain, apathetic, brave, etc. etc. There is nothing inherent “goodly” in either art or aesthetics. Art is capable of being self-worship or a fount of joy and moral ethics.

  7. piotr
    April 16, 2012, 11:43 am

    Actually, if Eggers had a character who was of Arab origin and unjustly accused of terrorism then he is not a drinker of imperialist/xenophobic coolaid. The situation is strangely similar to a liberal Communist country where writers could convey a lot as long as they did not raise obvious red flags — censors were not all that zealous but if you explicitely wrote something prohibited or committed a deed from a NO-NO list, that would prevent publishing of an item or cut your carrier short.

    But as long as you stayed away from red flags you could really write whatever you want, including biting satire (it would have to be allegorical or in SF mode).

  8. kma
    April 16, 2012, 10:54 pm

    wow. all the Eggers fans who are parents in the bay area and could not have imagined such a childhood hero would be a supporter of zionist atrocities are rather horrified…
    this is a big disappointment.


    real pirates stand up to ethnic cleansing. Captain Dave runs and hides.

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