No, It’s Not About “Political Correctness”

I had not heard of this novel….

Screen capture of the Daily Beast.
Screen capture of the Daily Beast.

….until reading this article by author Warren Adler in the Daily Beast:

The recent flap over the romance novel For Such a Time, whose plot features a concentration camp inmate falling in love with her Nazi captor, has aroused the wrath of various critics and readers on grounds that it is too discomfiting and disturbing to have been published.

While I can understand why some readers are offended by the premise, it smacks of political correctness gone awry. The problem is that it has invaded an art form that can be dangerously compromised by the basic tenets of political correctness, which posits that any expression or attitude that discomfits others must be excised from all forms of public communication.

I’m more concerned about my own books and my own readers than “wrathing” at other writers and fixating on various “flaps.” So I missed that “flap.” It is explained in more detail here in Newsweek:

Screen capture of Newsweek.
Screen capture of Newsweek.

After reading that Newsweek piece, I read the rest of Mr. Adler’s piece, and then paused and reflected on what Mr. Adler had to say as well.

Think about “romance” literature. And not just about my novels. 😉 Well-known books that jump immediately to my mind right this second are anything by Jane Austen, Gone With The Wind, The Thornbirds, The Winds of War, and even films like Casablanca.

What I like and influences me is a giveaway in my offering that quick list, I suppose.

What do they all have in common? Fundamentally, that the love relationship(s) at the heart of the tale – no pun intended – is actually plausible. Even if they may be unlikely, or improbable, which is half “the fun” of course, they are not unreasonable.

They are certainly not preposterous.

So it’s not about any author being “silenced” owing to demands for “political correctness.” (Spewing hate is a separate matter, which I’ve addressed in another post.) There is always someone who will be “offended” by something; as a novelist, irritating someone is almost unavoidable. Framing the issue in that manner about that novel misses the point.

The bottom line to me in “romance” is if you are not exploring that which is also believable to readers, you are just making stuff up. In doing that, you are asking your readers to check reality at the door and are, indeed, venturing into the realm of the “bizarre.” Doing that is all well and good in other genres – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter anyone? – but is a huge ask in “romance” literature.

The Queen having an affair with President Obama is more plausible than that For Such a Time storyline. Heck, that Chicago teachers’ strike book is far more plausible than that storyline. Almost any other “love-pairing” you could possibly imagine would be.

Theresienstadt, which the Newsweek article describes as the setting for the book, was a real concentration camp. Herman Wouk writes about it chillingly in War and Remembrance. I see no indication in either that Daily Beast article, or the Newsweek one, that For Such a Time is based on anything even remotely resembling a true story.

Nonetheless, many readers, however, do appear to buy into its relationship premise. That they do is concerning. For it would seem to indicate perhaps a great deal of ignorance about the Holocaust.

For Such a Time strikes me far more as fantasy than as proper “romantic” historical fiction.