Last month, B-BBC reader La Cumparista made the following comment on David Vance’s post about a BBC interview with a Man Booker Prize nominee:
I would really like Howard Jacobson to win the Man Booker prize this year. Has he had much publicity on the BBC?
Jacobson is listed with the others on BBC news briefs about the authors on the short list, but only Peter Carey got a special feature, presumably because he had won twice before. I don’t recall Jacobson getting the attention of the other authors by the BBC when they did their special report from the black-tie gala event of the announcement.
In any case, I now have a copy of Jacobson’s winning book, The Finkler Question, in my hand. The story opens up with a passage that is very relevant to this blog. The BBC studiously avoided mentioning this in either of their brief interviews of him as one of those on the short list.
The relevant passage begins on Page 6, when Treslove, the non-Jewish character (one of the trio of friends around whom the book is focused), is mugged while walking home one night. It describes the incident which launches the book’s journey to explore what it means to be Jewish in England today:
He passed the BBC, an institution for which he had once worked and cherished idealistic hopes but which he now hated to an irrational degree. Had it been rational he would have taken steps not to pass the building as often as he did. Under his breath he cursed it feebly – ‘Shitheap,’ he said.
A nursery malediction.
That was exactly what he hated about the BBC: it had infantilised him. ‘Auntie’, the nation called the Corporation, fondly. But aunties are equivocal figures of affection, wicked and unreliable, pretending to love only so long as they are short of love themselves, and then off. The BBC, Treslove believed, made addicts of those who listened to it, reducing them to a state of inane dependence. As it did those it employed. Only worse in the case of those employed – handcuffing them in promotions and conceit, disabling them from any other life. Treslove himself a case in point. Though not promoted, only disabled.