Sunday, September 03, 2006

Five Years On

I am pleased that it's Simon Armitage that has written a poem about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. He's unlikely to be portentious, or puffing his own agenda. I saw part of one of the many documentaries on the anniversary last night, and it still has the power to inflict troubling dreams on one. I felt at the time, as did one person on that footage, that this was the start of "a war", that anything could now happen. That "anything" has happened, I guess, but though there has been a range of terrorist attacks since, most notably in London, it has been anything but "orchestrated" - which was what was most chilling about 9/11. Being in shock at the first plane, and then seeing the second... this was clearly not random chance. Where I was working at the time, the initial response of a couple of my colleagues was "serves them right, American had it coming to them," singularly lacking compassion, because of their own anti-Americanism. I was reminded of this last night, watching the television - that nobody had that coming to them, and who, after all, was the "them?" The courage of the New York firefighters on that day, as well, seems of an entirely different order than the "courage" of a suicide bomber. As a writer, 9/11 and the events surrounding it, aren't my subject, and as we see the "anything" turning into the polarising wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I'm becoming more reticent about having an opinion on any of this. There's no simple opinion. I can make a judgement - say, that the Israeli bombing of Lebanon was wrong - but that's all it is. I'm still, vaguely, troublingly, more on the side of the American and British governments, than I am on the side of Muhammad Atta and others. I'm not sure I'm yet ready to have Martin Amis get into a terrorist's head. His recent work would imply he was the last person I'd want to be taking on that job; yet, the key to Amis's best subject was always a very personalised view of wider catastrophe. I've felt that since the passing of the Cold War, and particularly of an underlying worry about Nuclear catastrophe, (he seemed to need this "cloud" above his characters' perfect heads, to enable his satire to work), he's been fumbling for a subject strong enough for his talents. The war on terror, I guess, could well be it. He joins quite a crew -: Jonathan Safran Foer, Ian McEwan, Helen Fielding, Michael Cunningham, Iain Banks, John Updike, Jay McInerney and Monica Ali, have all written books touched, if only mildly, by this "new world." There will no doubt be a Terror Lit. 101 on American Literature courses in the near future. This week there will be no escaping the memories of 9/11, and remembrance seems the appropriate response. The geopolitics can wait for another time.

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