Diary 2020-2022, part V

Sunday, May 3, 2020

I need to dare to be myself. I need to read, either texts that are part of a specific project, or texts that bring me joy, that bring me an aesthetic or intellectual pleasure. I must escape from this absurd logic of a self-imposed curriculum.

Monday, May 4, 2020

This morning, right now, I am happy. Dawn came (although perhaps I am embellishing) with a light drizzle. It is very humid and very cool. Very green. The house behind our building has moss growing through the cracks, and the nearest tree has tiny green branches growing from its bark. I listen to Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits… Right now, I’m happy.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Criticism is ultimately a way of sharing. It is a form of saying: «Look, this is what I found and I want it to be yours too».

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I have been thinking about the issue of authors with reprehensible lives.

The reason why, I believe, we should not fall into the dynamic of censoring authors with reprehensible lives is not apologetical, nor am I advocating the often-repeated admonition: «to separate work and author», because the latter is fallacious. It is impossible to perform that surgery and if it were done, the result would be artificial. The most fascinating works are usually those that reach the curious point where universal and individual meet. Wagner’s music is only Wagner’s, Céline’s novels are one hundred percent Céline.

No. The reason is that trying to erase artistic expressions because the artists who produced them were despicable, or because the works themselves betray villainies, is to deny a fundamental quality and danger of the human soul: that beauty and evil can coexist without the slightest problem; that the most abject mind can create moving passages, that an ideology that has embraced and perhaps even incited hatred can also shed a powerful light on understanding. Ultimately, it is an effort as false as the other. Some separate (or pretend to separate) the work they like from the author that troubles them in order to enjoy it without their conscience buzzing. Others throw away author and work alike in the trash because it upsets them to accept that a being with abhorrent views or actions is also capable of something valuable. It is, therefore, a process that impoverishes us and that fosters Manicheism and also a certain opposite mediocrity: confusing someone with noble ideals and good intentions with a worthy artist regardless of the work.

It also impoverishes us as readers and audiences. It judges us incapable of discernment.

We can be aware that Octavio Paz (to speak of the one who now seems to attract the most attention) was a cruel husband, an absent father and a servant to the political regime; while at the same time knowing that he was a lucid thinker, a prodigious essayist and a great poet.

Recognizing this is already a wealth: being able to inhabit the tension, the contradiction, the irreducible complexity.

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