Friday, February 24, 2006

Sri Aurobindo and Sartre

I think Aurobindo's "Future Poetry" represents a rather good example, in riveting language and style, of an atypical Indian view of literary criticism of English poetry.
Sartre's "What is Literature?" is a great essay, extremely well-written and illustrated like many of his other work. It attempts to be persuasive in every line and paragraph, and may even succeed at times but for the narrow view of literature espoused, particularly with the role of literature in modern society. I am forced to agree with Sartre when he says that literature needs to serve today's world; but it would again be a limited idea, inherently defective and contradictory to Sartre's advocacy of the primacy of free thought and expression. All literature written today cannot serve today's world, some need to and can, but others should exist in equal terms, whether accepted by today's world or not.
Literature can be a tool for societal change but its primary role may not be this Marxian view at all, particularly in today's globalised world. The essay has a great line on critics, comparing them to cemetery watchmen, the cemetery being a library - thus implying that literature was probably dead when the essay was written! When Sartre famously declined the Nobel Prize in 1964, one of the reasons he gave was that literature was dead!!! This disowning of literature was rather sensational and controversial because it was uncommon and unusual, but that apart I am not sure whether it carried much substance away from a Sarteran world view. Thejaswi Shivanand Location: Bangalore, India posted by Dumaketu Saturday, October 29, 2005 @ 11:43 AM 14 comments

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wallace Steven: never "true to life"

Language and Poetry Norman D. Livergood
A transformative poem such as Wallace Steven's Analysis of a Theme, is only actualized and consummated by its being appreciated, understood, and enjoyed by a discerning reader. A reader who merely passes over the words of a transformative poem by Stevens, without genuine comprehension, leaves the poem in an unfinished state in regards to his own experience. If the reader, out of egotism or scholastic puffery, injects spurious, extraneous meanings into the poem, he creates a perversion of his own design totally unrelated to the real poem which Stevens created. The essential poem, containing multiple meanings, cascading associations, and profound metaphysical dimensions, is available to the appreciative, discerning reader who has prepared himself to discover what Stevens deposited in his artistic creation.
From Wallace Stevens' perspective, "poetry has to do with reality in its most individual aspect." Only poetry deals with the singular element of reality, "science does not cover 'particularity here and now.'" Stevens claims that "there is in reality, whether we think of it as animate or inanimate, human or sub-human, an aspect of individuality at which many forms of rational explanation stop short." Humans, he claims, dismiss "individual and particular facts of experience as of no importance in themselves."
"The aim of our lives," Stevens claims, "should be to draw ourselves away as much as possible from the insubstantial fluctuating facts of the world about us and establish some communion with the objects which are apprehended by thought and not sense." Stevens believes that "Plato would describe himself as a realist in the sense that it is by breaking away from the world of facts that we make contact with reality." What we're after is "contact with reality as it impinges on us from the outside, the sense that we can touch and feel a solid reality which does not wholly dissolve itself into the conception of our own minds."
"The wonder and mystery of art," Stevens believes, "is the revelation of something 'wholly other' by which the inexpressible loneliness of thinking is broken and enriched." He claims that there is a "unity rooted in the individuality of objects," and that this individuality is "discovered in a different way from the apprehension of rational connections."
The genuine artist, Stevens claimed, is never "true to life." "He sees what is real, but not as we are normally aware of it." "The poet sees with a poignancy and penetration that is altogether unique." "Meaning is an awareness and a communication. But it is no ordinary awareness, no ordinary communication." In genuine poetry, Stevens believed, there is an "authentic note; it is the insistence on a reality that forces itself upon our consciousness and refuses to be managed and mastered." The poet mediates for us a reality not of ourselves. The supreme virtue of a poet "is humility, for the humble are they that move about the world with the love of the real in their hearts."
Stevens believed that for a genuine poet, "the faithful poem is an act of conscience." "What a modern poet desires, above everything else, is to be nothing more than a poet of the present time." The genuine poet attempts "to find, by means of his own thought and feeling, what seems to him to be the poetry of his time as distinguished from the poetry of . . . any other time, and to state it in a manner that effectively discloses it to his readers." Wallace Stevens' Poems
"So poetry arrives at the indication of infinite meanings beyond the finite intellectual meaning the word carries. It expresses not only the life-soul of man as did the primitive word, not only the ideas of his intelligence for which speech now usually serves, but the experience, the vision, the ideas, as we may say, of the higher and wider soul in him. Making them real to our life-soul as well as present to our intellect, it opens to us by the word the doors of the Spirit." Sri Aurobindo, "The Essence of Poetry"

Monday, February 13, 2006

Truer Than Fact

Why have we forsaken the novel for the memoir?
JULIA GLASS February 11, 2006
Fiction writers work tremendously hard to make things that are patently untrue seem as true as possible. "Let me tell you a story that isn't true," beckons the fiction writer, "and I will show you some of the truest things you'll ever know." A good novel is an out-of-self experience. It lifts you off the ground so that you have the sensation of flying. It says, Look at the world around you; learn from the people in these pages, neither quite me nor quite you, how life is lived in so many different ways.
A memoir says, Look at me; learn from me how one life has been lived. That solipsistic focus has its place; it, too, can move and inspire, but only fiction can give us faith that we all have the imaginative capability to understand any number of stories not our own, especially the stories of people who never would or could write a memoir. 2 Julia Glass, author of the forthcoming novel "The Whole World Over," won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What’s So Bad About Doing Good?

An Essay Review of "The Rainmaker" Mickel Adzema
MusePapers December 17th, 1997 Primal Spirit Home Page
Last night my wife and I went to see "The Rainmaker"—the hit new movie based upon the blockbuster novel of the same name by John Grisham. While it was an extremely well-produced, acted, and directed movie, I didn’t feel very good when I left the theater afterwards. Uncovering the layers of feelings that were in me then, I realized that I was not satisfied at all with the ending. The movie had a triumphal and climactic courtroom scene, a delightfully sweet love story, and was totally engaging throughout—so much so that I was surprised, upon checking in with my body, occasionally, at how tense and "in suspense" I was because of my involvement with the movie: Caring and pulling for the events to turn one way as opposed to another—just as if these were real events in people’s lives instead of mere fictional events played out by actors with lives totally unlike the characters they portrayed.
Nevertheless, I noticed my body being in suspense, as well as my wet cheeks, replenished continuously by tears flowing freely during love scenes of caring and compassion, and scenes of tragedy and sadness.
So why did I leave the theater feeling so dissatisfied? Beneath the more superficial layers of feelings—the disappointment that the "victory" was only a pyrrhic one—i.e., it did not reap the expected benefits and was almost as good as a loss; and the fact that the romantic element was left undertermined—you weren’t sure that there was going to be a "happily ever after" for this couple—I realized there was the larger disappointment that the "heroic" main character, after this first and only case as a lawyer, and despite his huge (though prryhic) victory, was considering quitting the legal profession. This, because of the corruption and injustice in it.
I realized that this part was disappointing because it fit with a pattern of numerous stories of the Nineties whose message was largely that corruption and injustice (or downright evil) was everywhere and that it is hopeless to resist . . . and that heroic responses, by contrast, were stupid, or na├»ve, or—worst of all—too . . . well, "Sixty-ish." (I was beginning here to notice the generational tie-in --> deeper depressing feelings still!)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Living away from Delhi and returning there from time to time made me look at the city differently. Hanging out at Safdarjung, Aurobindo Place and Green Park I was struck by the rambling and dilapidated ruins of monuments lying amidst the urban space of markets and colonies. I realized that I had taken them for granted to such an extent that I didn't even know what these structures looked like from within. A few trips made were enough to get my juices flowing and soonthe germ of an idea took place in my mind.
Delhi unlike Bombay was an urban city with space for clandestine love. Mosques and mausoleums, tombs and temples dotted the city and in turn were dotted by names of anonymous lovers etched forever on stone and granite. Who were these secret lovers, what was their story, for surely they had a story to tell, and by extension, there must be countless such myths and folk tales surrounding these various heritage sites...I decided to weave a contemporary clandestine love story among the ruins of Delhi - a love story where the young man and girl in question become influenced by the past to such an extent that it starts overtaking their conscious waking life...
As a filmmaker I also took a conscious decision to treat the proposed film differently. Some years ago I had the good fortune of seeing Chris Marker's legendary film "La Jetee" a sci-fi film comprised entirely of still images with voice-over narration and sound design -Marker called the film a photoroman. The film was so influential thatnot only did Hollywood make an ugly remake (12 monkeys) but a La Jetee Bar also exists in Tokyo! I came up with the decision to make my film in a similar fashion albeit do away with voice over narrative and in its stead have many voices of both the present and the past imbue thesound design. Best, SIDHARTH SRINIVASAN by reader @ 31.01.2006 09:04 CET