Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mario Vargas Llosa's mind | Nadeem Aslam on his writing life| Nabokov's lecture on Kafka's The Metamorphosis

Mario Vargas Llosa must be one of the few great writers ever to have argued that society should place less trust in great writers. “The mandarin writer no longer has a place in today’s world,” he has observed. “Figures like Sartre in France or Ortega y Gasset and Unamuno in their time, or Octavio Paz, served as guides and teachers on all the important issues and filled a void that only the ‘great writer’ seemed capable of filling, whether because few others participated in public life, because democracy was nonexistent, or because literature had a mythical prestige.” But today, “in a free society, the influence that a writer exerts—sometimes profitably—over submissive societies is useless.”

The City has an interesting article by Adam Kirsch on Mario Vargas Llosa. the 1980 Nobel Laureate, who defends liberty and reason, and at the same time seems fascinated by fanaticism and violence.

Nadeem Aslam on his writing life
"I've more or less realised my writing has cost me almost everything. Sometimes friendship, love – because there's not enough time to be with people, and never enough money. Work can take so much out of you, with 12- or 13-hour days. A study is a laboratory first – then a factory."

Nabokov's lecture on Kafka's The Metamorphosis

         The Kafka Project has a new post.
Of course, no matter how keenly, how admirably, a story, a piece of music, a picture is discussed and analyzed, there will be minds that remain blank and spines that remain unkindled. "To take upon us the mystery of things"—what King Lear so wistfully says for himself and for Cordelia—this is also my suggestion for everyone who takes art seriously. A poor man is robbed of his overcoat (Gogol's "The Greatcoat," or more correctly "The Carrick"); another poor fellow is turned into a beetle (Kafka's "The Metamorphosis)—so what? There is no rational answer to "so what." We can take the story apart, we can find out how the bits fit, how one part of the pattern responds to the other; but you have to have in you some cell, some gene, some germ that will vibrate in answer to sensations that you can neither define, nor dismiss. Beauty plus pity—that is the closest we can get to a definition of art. Where there is beauty there is pity for the simple reason that beauty must die: beauty always dies, the manner dies with the matter, the world dies with the individual. If Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" strikes anyone as something more than an entomological fantasy, then I congratulate him on having joined the ranks of good and great readers.

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