‘But one day the why arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement. Begins – this is important. Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness. It awakens consciousness and provokes what follows. What follows is the gradual return into the chain or it is the definitive awakening. At the end of the awakening comes, in time, the consequence: suicide or recovery.’
‘To think that the work of art can be considered at last as a refuge for the absurd, it is itself an absurd phenomenon and we are concerned merely with its description. It does not offer an escape for the intellectual ailment. Rather, it is one of the symptoms of ailment which reflects it throughout a man ́s whole thought. But for the first time it makes the mind get outside of itself and places it in opposition to others, not for it to get lost but to show it clearly the blind path that all have entered upon.’
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
Returning from a trip that took me from LA to NYC, speaking to emboldened Conservatives bolstered by the pervasiveness of a rising right, what was most visible was the social vulnerability on the streets. As I write this, the UK is governed by an unelected and xenophobic administration expecting great success at an imminent election. Each day brings further frightening developments barely reflected in a neutered media.
This blog reflects my passion for a literature that ‘awakens consciousness and provokes what follows’, but it is sometimes difficult to sustain the concentration necessary when witnessing daily the destructiveness and xenophobia. Will literature help understand poverty beneath the cloud of abundance and extraordinary consumption, or the loneliness of rampant individualism? Is community, literary or otherwise, even possible in this late capitalist society?
Art, for Malraux, was triumph over death, the only thing that resists death. It is a beautifully simple idea. Deleuze wrote something similar: ‘The act of resistance has two sides. It is human, and it is also the act of art. Only the act of resistance resists death, whether the act is in the form of a work of art or in the form of human struggle.’
On the flight from LA, I watched Oliver Assayas’ Non-Fiction, essential for those passionate about literature, but also its themes of individualism and loneliness. Social criticism is the film’s undercurrent, with complex and multi-layered characters that, exposed in vulnerable moments, display aspects and emotions that people prefer to conceal. It isn’t preachy, nor are there moral judgements, but an encounter with an artist that handles painful subjects with honesty and courage. This is the possibility of art, whether film or literature, a place where dreadful things happen in a parallel existence, creating the chance for us to encounter our unplumbed fears and the Other within.