Re: RARA-AVIS: European valuations of genre fiction

From: Marianne Macdonald (
Date: 01 Feb 2004

> are there really no distinctions made between genre fiction and
> literary
> fiction in Europe?

The situation is unclear - as the discussions of genre here and on similar lists probably make clear. There is a tendency for crime writing and sf to be considered as something "different", but there is a lot of confusion.

For example, in the very good local book store and in my local library (both 2 blocks from my home, but I'll try not to be triumphalist) "Fiction" and "Crime" shelves are separately labelled, but there is lots of crime on the fiction shelves. Yesterday I bought MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN from the fiction section, and THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE from the crime; in the library, I look in both sections if I want a little murder.

Even the more modern university "English" departments in the UK often teach courses in "The Murder Mystery" these days, or include crime writers in other literature courses: a very far cry from one of the worst days in my life, when I attended the usual oral exam at Oxford University for my doctoral thesis only to be told by the chief examiner "If you wish to publish this dissertation, do give my name as a reference; but this is not the sort of topic for which we award Oxford doctorates." (The subject had of course been formally accepted; the problem was that I was writing about Ezra Pound, who was both American and 20th century, and therefore beyond the pale to certain people. Nowadays, of course, you wouldn't let anybody get away with this, but I'm talking a while back, she quavered.)

Marianne Macdonald

Author of the Dido Hoare mysteries. Visit my website:

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