Double Vision: A Story about Writers and Spies, 01.05.22
Journalist Maya Sela in conversation with Prof. Yehouda Shenhav-Shahrabani about his new book Double Vision A Story about Writers and Spies (Pardes, Progressive Hebrew Literature)
“The CIA’s literature department is a cover story for dirty goings-on. Literature is always a cover story.”
During the Cold War, the CIA opened a covert front. The campaign began in Europe but soon spread to the entire globe. It was waged in cafes, universities, journals, and publishing houses. What began as a holding action against Communism led to an unprecedented literary flowering and set in motion the wheels of the most significant revolution in twentieth century literary theory.
Using literature and culture to stop the “Communist Satan” was the brainchild of an anonymous Estonian Jew who created an anarchic network of scholarly agents in the literature departments of American universities. For this project he recruited authors, translators, and renowned philosophers, prize winners, and scholarship recipients. The network’s members turned Doctor Zhivago into a global bestseller, distributed 1984 beyond the Iron Curtain, made Animal Farm into an animated film, kept Pablo Neruda from receiving a Nobel Prize, and made Graham Greene’s life a misery. All these accomplishments backfired when they became entangled in networks that smuggled arms, dollars, and opium in Saigon, Manila, Mexico City, and Beirut.
Double Vision is an intellectual thriller, a novel inspired by historical accounts and events that deals, inter alia, with the history of the novel and the humanities in the twentieth century.