Sebastian Faulks says he stopped describing female characters in his books for fear of offending
Author Sebastian Faulks says fear of offending readers means he no longer describes what female characters look like in his books – but Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo criticizes the idea as “ridiculous”
- Birdsong and Engleby author, 68, told the Cheltenham Literature Festival he was asked about descriptions of female characters in his previous book Paris Echo
- He revealed that he made the decision not to describe the physical appearance of Lena, the central protagonist of his new book Snow Country.
- Booker Prize 2019 winner Bernardine Evaristo said the idea of not being able to invent characters from the imagination was “ridiculous”
- Another author, Dawn French, said: “As soon as we start to control people’s imaginations, we take a very nasty old road”
British author Sebastian Faulks has said he will no longer physically portray female characters in his novels – having been criticized for doing so in a previous book.
Discussing writing female characters as a white man, writer Birdsong, 68, says he’ll leave it to readers to decide what the women look like in his books, telling the Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival that he felt “liberated” after the decision.
However, fellow authors Dawn French and 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo have said the idea that writers can’t write about something they don’t know is “ludicrous.”
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Birdsong and Engleby author Sebastian Faulks, 68, told the Cheltenham Literature Festival he was asked about descriptions of female characters in his previous book Paris Echo and decided not to write about physical appearance female characters in her latest book Snow Country
Booker Prize 2019 winner Bernardine Evaristo, pictured in September, said the idea of not being able to invent characters from the imagination was “ridiculous”
Faulks said that criticism of the physical descriptions of female characters in his book Paris Echo caused him to spend time researching his identity.
He told the Festival audience: “Instead of becoming an annoyed, puffy, cranky old man, I thought about it a lot.”
Her latest book Snow Country sees Lena, the central protagonist, described in little detail with Faulks saying readers might assume she was physically attractive because two men were trying to woo her.
However, his peers strongly disagreed with the idea that writers should stop portraying characters for fear of offending.
Dawn French, who writes about Métis characters in her latest book Because of You, said, “The minute we start to control people’s imaginations, we’re down a very nasty old road. I have the right to write anyone or whatever I like. This is called writing. It’s about my imagination: I invent characters. ‘
Other authors, Dawn French, said: “As soon as we start to control people’s imaginations, we take a very nasty old road”
On the much-talked-about ‘male gaze’, Faulks said, “Instead of becoming a puffy, puffy, cranky old man about it, I thought about it a lot. “
2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, 62, lambasted the idea that writers cannot invent characters beyond their own communities as “ridiculous”, saying there was “no logical “to prevent people from writing about different ethnicities.
Snow Country, published in August, opens in Vienna just before the outbreak of World War I and sees journalist Anton fall in love with Frenchwoman Delphine before the war separates them.
Years later, grief-stricken and war-damaged Anton finds himself in a once famous sanatorium tasked with writing an article on Freud’s waning influence on psychiatry.
Her character intersects with that of Lena, a young woman raised in a family devastated by poverty and alcoholism.