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Sebastian Faulks says he’s stopped describing female characters in his books for fear of offending

Author Sebastian Faulks says fear of offending readers means he no longer describes what female characters look like in his books – but Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo slams the idea as ‘ridiculous’

  • Birdsong and Engleby author, 68, told Cheltenham Literature Festival he’d been queried over descriptions of female characters in his previous book Paris Echo
  • Revealed he made the decision not to describe physical appearance of Lena, central protagonist in his new book Snow Country 
  • 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo said idea of not being able to invent characters from imagination wags ‘ridiculous’ 
  • Fellow author Dawn French said: ‘The minute we start to police people’s imaginations, we go down a very nasty old route’


British author Sebastian Faulks says he’ll no longer physically describe female characters in his novels – after he was criticised for doing so in a previous book. 

Discussing writing female characters as a white male, the Birdsong writer, 68, says he’ll leave it to readers to decide what the women in his books look like, telling The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival he felt ‘liberated’ after the decision. 

However, fellow authors Dawn French and 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo said the notion that writers can’t write about something they don’t know was ‘ridiculous’. 

 

Birdsong and Engleby author, Sebastian Faulks, 68, told Cheltenham Literature Festival he’d been queried over descriptions of female characters in his previous book Paris Echo and decided not to write about the physical looks of female characters in his latest book Snow Country

2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, pictured in September, said idea of not being able to invent characters from imagination wags 'ridiculous'

2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, pictured in September, said idea of not being able to invent characters from imagination wags ‘ridiculous’

Faulks said criticism of physical descriptions of female characters in his book Paris Echo had led him to spend time researching identity. 

He told the audience at the Festival: ‘Instead of getting all huffy and puffy and grumpy old man about it, I thought about it a lot.’ 

His latest book Snow Country sees Lena, the central protagonist, described in scant detail with Faulks saying readers might assume she was physically attractive because two men were trying to woo her.     

However, his peers strongly disagreed with the idea that writers should stop describing characters for fear of offending. 

Dawn French, who writes about mixed race characters in her latest book Because of You, said: ‘The minute we start to police people’s imaginations, we go down a very nasty old route. I have the right to write anybody or anything I like. This is called writing. It’s about my imagination: I’m inventing some characters.’ 

Fellow authors Dawn French said: 'The minute we start to police people's imaginations, we go down a very nasty old route'

Fellow authors Dawn French said: ‘The minute we start to police people’s imaginations, we go down a very nasty old route’

On the much-discussed 'male gaze', Faulks said 'Instead of getting all huffy and puffy and grumpy old man about it, I thought about it a lot.'

On the much-discussed ‘male gaze’, Faulks said ‘Instead of getting all huffy and puffy and grumpy old man about it, I thought about it a lot.’

2019 Booker prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, 62, blasted the notion writers can’t invent characters beyond their own communities as ‘ridiculous’ saying there was ‘no logic’ to stopping people writing about different ethnicities.   

Snow Country, published in August, opens in Vienna just before the outbreak of World War I and sees journalist, Anton, fall for French woman Delphine before war parts them. 

Years later, a grief-shattered, war-damaged Anton winds up at a once-famous sanatorium, commissioned to write a piece about Freud’s diminishing influence on psychiatry. 

His character crosses with that of Lena, a young woman brought up in a family devastated by poverty and alcoholism. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk