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Norman Mailer
Great impact of attacks on America

Norman Mailer says 11 September was "larger than the atom bomb". In a Newsnight interview, he tells Kirsty Wark how the aftermath of the attacks has affected America.

Mr Mailer believes people will be writing about 11 September for a long time. He has written about the horrors of war in Vietnam, and served in the US army during World War II.

But, he believes that nothing compares in magnitude to the attacks on New York and Washington. This includes the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which ended the Second World War.

Norman Mailer was one of the major US writers of the twentieth century, and came to prominence following his debut book "The Naked and the Dead" which drew on his experience in the Pacific during World War Two.

Cultural changes

He spoke to Kirsty Wark following a special investigation by Newsnight reporter Madeleine Holt. She travelled to America to discover whether there has been a cultural shift since 11 September.

Allah is a concept that is absolutely foreign to Americans

Norman Mailer
Newsnight found that the University of California in Los Angeles had set up fifty courses on "Perspectives on September 11th." All 700 places on the courses have been taken.

Norman Mailer is not surprised that people are looking for answers. "The key element in it is that Allah is a concept that is absolutely foreign to Americans," he says.

He believes that there is a great divide coming across the world. But the Americans do not know who their enemy is. "What are we unifying against? The point is that's what makes me nervous," he says.

He argues that World War II was a definable war. The allies were unified against Hitler.

But in this war, the US were able to take out the Taleban quickly. But now they do not know who they are fighting. He goes on to say it could take on huge siginificance because half the world is Islamic.


Mr Mailer believes that this is the reason that George Bush speaks in terms of an axis of evil. He is highly critical of the President's political rhetoric.

"The fact is I don't trust a man who uses the word evil eighteen times in ten minutes," he says.

He tells Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark that America takes solace from having an evil enemy.

Mr Mailer says, "If you're half-evil, nothing soothes you more than to think the person you are opposed to is totally evil."

Kirsty Wark's interview with Norman Mailer appeared on Newsnight's 4 February edition.

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