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

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