London: Salman Rushdie, British author of Indian-origin, and his contemporaries like Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes are like prep-school boys, arrogant, self-satisfied and "profoundly disappointing", a leading literature expert has said.
Gabriel Josipovici, research professor at Sussex University and former professor of comparative literature at Oxford, has condemned the work of "giants of the modern English novel" as "hollow", saying they were virtually indistinguishable from one another in scope and ambition, the Guardian reported.
Josipovici said "their mantelpieces might creak under the collective weight of literary gongs" but Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes are unworthy of the accolades they receive.
The fact that such writers won so many awards was a "mystery", Josipovici says, adding: "It`s an ill-educated public being fed by the media - `This is what great art is` - and they lap it up."
"We are in a very fallow period," Josipovici said, calling the contemporary English novel and authors "profoundly disappointing" and a "poor relation of its ground-breaking modernist forebears".
"Reading Barnes, like reading so many other English writers of his generation - Martin Amis, McEwan - leaves me feeling that I and the world have been made smaller and meaner."
"An author like Salman Rushdie takes all the tricks without recognising the darkness underneath. You feel Rushdie`s just showing off rather than giving a sense of genuine exploration."
Josipovici has brought forward his criticism in a forthcoming book, "What Ever Happened to Modernism?", which will feature a wide-ranging debate on modern English literature.
The novels by contemporary authors are read "to pass the time" and have a "lack of vision and limited horizons". "One finishes them and feels, `So what?`," said Josipovici.
The modern peers seemed arrogant and self-satisfied, "which is mildly depressing".
Many of the books by the authors named by Josipovici are published by Random House. A spokesman for the publisher said: "Obviously we wouldn`t agree. I don`t think the authors would want to comment either."