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This report is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.

Letter from Germany Michael Hulse
December 1981

'I should like,' wrote Cyril Connolly, 'to see the custom introduced of readers who are pleased with a book sending the author some small cash token: anything between half-a-crown and a hundred pounds . . .'. The question of financial rewards for the writer, with its corollary of the conferring of a public prize on a writer, is a bedevilled one. On the one hand it is bedevilled because there is dissent between those within the pale, the writers, who see literature, naturally, as essential in society, and those beyond, the non-writers, and the non-readers, who would deny, explicitly or (by simple neglect) implicitly, that literature has any role to play in life. And then, on the other hand, the question is bedevilled by differences of opinion even among those who are convinced that literature is essential; for, unable to decide quite what they are prepared to call literature, the 'serious' writers all too often complain that writers of cheap bestsellers command the markets, the fat fees, and the public's attention, while these 'gutter' writers retort, with more truth than one really cares to admit, that they give the reading public what it wants and are therefore entitled to a reward in fit proportion. If literature were seen as a democratic activity, then undoubtedly the word- or the purchasing habits-of the majority would count above all else, and a Hailey would needs be the highest among our writers. But no; we do not think like this; democratic ...


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