Lights in the fog

December 16, 2010

I heard that someone, knowing in advance the topic I had chosen, has shown some concern like, for my part, this was a choice, they say, curious. Instead, it seems clear to me that no topic today closely concerns, like this one, every writer. Unless you want to confuse writers with literary people: for which, as we know, the only important issue is, and always has been, the literature, but then I must warn you now that in my regular vocabulary, the writer (which means first of all, among others, poet), is the opposite of the literary man. Indeed, one of the possible right definitions of the writer, for me, would even be the following: a man whose heart is in everything that happens, but the literature.
[…]
But at the same time, as a luck’s credit, I am proud to belong to the species of the writers. Since, we can say, I began to speak, I desperately keen to this art, or better, in general, art and hope not to be too presumptuous if I think I have learned through my long experience and my long employment, at least one thing: an obvious, basic definition of art (or poetry, which to me are intended as synonyms).

Here it is: the art is the opposite of disintegration. And why? But simply because the proper reason of art, its justification, the only reason for its presence and survival, or, if you prefer, its function is precisely this: to prevent the disintegration of human consciousness, in his everyday, exhausting and alienating use with the world; to relentlessly give it back, in the unreal, fragmented and used confusion of the external relations, the integrity of the real, or in a word, the reality (but beware of scams, which show, under this brand of reality, artificial and perishable falsifications). The reality is perpetually living, on, present-day. You can not spoil or destroy it, it does not decay. In fact, death is but another movement of life. As a whole, the reality is the integrity itself: in its varied, changing end inexhaustible movement – that can never finished in exploration – the reality is one, always one.
So, if art is a portrait of reality, calling with the name of art some species or product of disintegration (disintegrating or disintegrated), would be at least a contradiction in terms. Of course, that name is not patented by the law, not even sacred and inviolable. Everyone is free of putting the title of art where they like, but I’ll be free too, when it seems to me to call this one at least a madcap. Just like I would be free to call a madcap – let’s say, by way of a hypothetical example – a man who was insisting in offering me, in the name of a chair, a hook hanging from the ceiling.
But then, you will need to ask a question: since art has no other reason than for the integrity, which use could be taken within the disintegration system? None. And if the world, in the enormity of its mass, was running forward disintegration as its highest good, what would remain to be done for an artist (but from now on, if you will, as a particular reference which applies to every artist in general, we will consider the writer) – who, if he really is what he is, tends to integrity (to reality) as the sole liberating, joyful condition of his conscience? He could only choose. He can convince himself to be in error, and wrong, and that absolute figure of reality, the unique and secret integrity of things (art), was only a phantom produced by his own nature – a trick of Eros, we could say, to let the cheat last. In this case, he will feel hopelessly its function ending, which indeed he will see to be worse than useless, disgusting, as the ravings of an addict. And accordingly, he will cease from writing.
Or, the writer is convinced that the error is not on his side. Not himself, but his contemporaries, in their enormous mass, are in the equivocation. That indeed is not, let’s say, Eros, but Thanatos, instead, the magician, who makes his monstrous visions to terrify the consciences and deceptions, distorting them from their own happiness and diverting them from their real explanation. So, reduced to the elemental fear of life, in the escape from themselves, and then from the reality, they, like those who resort to drugs, become addicted to unreality, which is the most squalid degradation, so that throughout their history men have never known the same. Alienated, then, in the sense of final denial; because the path of unreality does not reach the Nirvana of the wise, but just the opposite, Chaos, which is the lowest and most distressing regression.
[…]
The system of disintegration, logically, has got its officials, secretaries, parasites, courtiers, etc.. And all of them, in their (misunderstanding) interest, been they cheated (so to speak) in good faith, by their own error, try to weaken the writer’s resistance by other means. For example, they will try to win or to assimilate him into the system through corruption, tabloid popularity, vulgar success, promoting him to a star or a playboy. Or, conversely, will endeavor to make him see his difference from the system as a betrayal, or a crime, or immorality, or moralism, or a failure. Will be saying, for example, that he is not modern. Of course! Indeed in their concept, to be modern means to be disintegrated, or disintegrating. Will be saying maybe that he does not deal with serious matters, or of reality, and of course! as the main symptom of the disintegration, of which they are slaves or ill, is to assume as fact the very opposite.
As mentioned above, within the system no writers can exist, in the true sense of the term, but there are plenty of people who write and print books, and you can distinguish generically called writing people. Some of them are mere tools of the system instruments, however, of very secondary importance in comparison to others, such as scientists of the bomb. The rooms, the offices of these writers can be considered the minimum branches of nuclear facilities themselves.
[…]
And I was trying to explain what reality is, but unfortunately I doubt I have succeeded, since this is something that is understood only when you feel it, and when you feel it, you do not need much explanation. Once a novice asked an Oriental old wise: «What is Bodhidharma?» (Which means roughly the Absolute, or the like). And the wise man, ready, said: «The bush in the bottom of the garden». «And the one who understands this truth,» the boy asked, doubtfully, «what is he?». «It would be,» replied the old man giving him a blow on the head «a lion with golden fur.»

From Elsa Morante, Pro o contro la bomba atomica, in Pro o contro la bomba atomica e altri scritti, Adelphi, Milano, 1987.
Original italic, bold and translation are mine. May the great writer forgive me.

One Response to “Lights in the fog”


  1. Reading beside the lines is now up to architects.


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