Letter: Written off

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Written off

Sir: If Boyd Tonkin considers that the "silence" of British writers over the Kosovan war is "more deafening than bombs over Belgrade" (A Week in Books, 17 April), perhaps he should have his ears examined.

Writers as a class are no more compelled to respond instantly and in public to events than, say, chiropodists, who are on the whole a more homogeneous group. And to compare the writer unfavourably with the journalist, whose job precisely is to provide short-order comment, is completely misguided.

Even if writers actively concerned with war and peace have been sitting on their hands over Kosovo, it may be less to avoid wringing them than to think. Tolstoy's novel was not the fruit of a sleepless night followed by a couple of days' scribbling.