Europe ‘in peril’, cultural figures warn

Alexievich, Kundera, Pamuk, Rushdie and Vargas Llosa urge fight for European values

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Cultural figures from across Europe have urged people to join a hoped-for “surge” against a populist “politics of disdain for intelligence and culture” that they say risks “catastrophe” and a return of “hatred and resentment” to the continent.

“There is a challenge greater than any since the 1930s: a challenge to liberal democracy and its values,” French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote in a manifesto signed by 29 other writers and historians and published in several newspapers.

“Europe is being attacked by false prophets who are drunk on resentment, and delirious at their opportunity to seize the limelight,” the manifesto says. “Europe as an idea is falling apart before our eyes. This is the noxious climate in which Europe’s parliamentary elections will take place in May.”

The signatories say that “a new spirit of resistance” must emerge to prevent “disaster”.

“We must now fight for the idea of Europe or see it perish beneath the waves of populism,” they say. “We must rediscover the spirit of activism or accept that resentment and hatred will surround and submerge us. Urgently, we need to sound the alarm.”

Signatories included the writers Svetlana Alexievich, Ismaïl Kadaré, Milan Kundera, Ian McEwan, Adam Michnik, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie and Mario Vargas Llosa. Pamuk, a Turkish novelist, told The Guardian, one of the newspapers that published the manifesto, that Europe sets the example for values such as freedom, women’s rights, democracy and equality.

“The historical success of Europe made it easier to defend these ideas and values which are crucial to humanity all over the world,” he said. “There is no Europe besides these values except the Europe of tourism and business. Europe is not a geography first but these ideas. This idea of Europe is under attack.”

Words: Craig Nicholson

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