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Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties


The news
Diana Athill Writer
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Faraway events in the newspaper, I've come to the conclusion… I never read the book, but I read a review of a book that someone had written in America, saying that he thought that really the beginning of, sort of, corruption was when news became freely disseminated all over the world. He said, 'Local newspapers write about things that are within your control, to a certain extent. They're things that you know and see and can, if you want to, do something about. So it makes sense to read that sort of news. But when you read about distant famines and wars and horrors, it becomes, in the end, just some ghastly form of entertainment, because you can't do anything about it. It is nothing to do with you, really'. It's unreal, so if you're reading it, you're reading it for thrills or in order to enjoy horrors, or… you know? It is a dubious thing.

And I think it's even worse when you're seeing it. I loathe it. I can't bear it, actually, now. I never… I just don't watch dreadful things because it doesn't, in fact, give me any kick. It just gives me horrors, and why should I experience that horror when there's nothing I can do about it? But of course, it's never going to reverse. News is going to go on being as accessible, or more so, all over the world. But I do think it separates people from reality, in a funny way. They think they're getting more of it, but they're… they're not.

Diana Athill (1917-2019) was a British literary editor whose publishing career began when she helped André Deutsch establish his company. She worked with many notable writers, namely Philip Roth, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and VS Naipaul. Following the publication of her memoirs, she came to be hailed as an author in her own right.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: corruption, news, newspapers, gossip, horror, reality

Duration: 2 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008