Friday, September 12, 2008

See also

Pinter podcast
The British Library has posted a 47-minute podcast interview with Harold Pinter. Recorded this month, Pinter "discusses his work in forthright terms" and asserts that "to tackle injustice, our job is to look for the truth and tell it". See also the Pinter Archive blog.

One such truth might be the death twenty-two days ago of 91 men, women and children in "a 6-hour air and ground assault by U.S and Afghan commando forces". 61 children, 15 women, 15 men. Marc Herold reports. It's a truth that seems not to have troubled the blogosphere. What was that Chomsky said about ants? See also The Afghan Victim Memorial Project.

Proust's additions
"In 1913, the novel was to be 1500 pages; by 1922, when Proust died, it was 3000. How did it grow to such proportions?". Alison Winton provides answers in the two-volume Proust's Additions next month from Cambridge University Press (though it seems to be a reissue of a thirty-year-old edition). See also Blanchot's answer in the much shorter The Experience of Proust (part of The Book to Come).


  1. They're only Afghani children and others, Stephen. But of course noone in this part of the world's racist. Anyway their deaths are a little bit unfortunate, but were most certainly well meant, which one certainly can't say about the murders by the bad guys.

  2. Anonymous1:12 am

    But is sarcasm a worthy response, Andrew? It seems self-satisfied. And ultimately, it only slows things down.

    What is better? Particularised criticisms, and some specific demands. This is what marks This-Space out as important, whether Stephen writes about, say, some trends in current literary criticism, or politics.

    I was shocked by the Afghan Memorial Project when it a link was posted here before, but even so shocked, and genuinely saddened by it, I don't know if I have ever included myself within 'the frame' quite adequately - I don't genuinely feel utter disgust at this news, even though I realise that it is utterly disgusting and am somewhat saddened. This is unsettling, but maybe being pensive is quite sufficient, and it is impossible to really 'feel' for the neighbour in the Christian way. I don't know, but sarcasm would be an intrusion either way, whether in going about making cold demands, or in attempting to address this worrying (and pretty normal, I think) failure to feel truly sympathetically, because it would only serve, to my eyes, as a distraction, a delay.

    What would "the worthy" response then be? As I said, I'm starting to think that a firm intolerance towards the powers that induce these killings might be, as a basic stance, the most desirable.

    I know you were simply assenting to what was posted, so we probably share the same view, but there might be an alternative way to share it.

    A party?


  3. I don't think my response can be delineated as simple sarcasm, Hussein. Whether that is a 'successful' example or not, truth can be particularly highly charged when one takes what is more or less an approximate of a particular intellectual position, whose essential truthless, vile nature is couched in layers of spiritually comatose smugness, and then as I've tried to do above, just push the essence of that position into glaringly clearer light by using extreme distillation of its essence. The ugliness and insulting nature of the ensuing effect is very much intentional, as this is the essence of the 'life-force' of that which is being unveiled. It can't simply be called satire as I am being truthful to the nature of that sleeping in vileness that produces the attitude I have tried to strip to its core.
    This is the power of art; to contain maximum truth within minimal form, and why, for instance, Dostoevsky produced Notes From Underground as a response to narrow, materialistic rationalism, as opposed to an erudite essay.

  4. Anonymous12:10 am

    Andrew, the basic effect of your comment (or way of commenting) was NOT ugly, or insulting. It has a lot going for it.

    "[Pushing] the essence of [the vile] position into glaringly clearer light by using extreme distillation of its essence": this, pretty much, is what I can see it's got going for it. And that is OK.

    But the problem, as you've spotted it right away, is one of realising this illumination in an effective way: "Whether that is a 'successful' example or not..." etc. Things are uncertain.

    My original point basically was: does sarcasm (for yours was essentially a sarcastic, though not wrong, response) not finally limit itself? Can irony ever bring things fully out of the shade? And even if it does - if it can - bring to light the injustice a political position, war, or whatever, through the revealment of the ideology that maintained that original guise of justice, can it be said that this message would not be lost, or unavailable *where it most matters*?

    I'm not discounting their potential, but should we first rely on skirmishes of subtle rhetoric when dealing with what is, in one awful, unavoidable way, a terrible material catastrophe? I don't think that you were being facetious, but I'm unsure whether exploiting "the power of art" should be the primary political response here, in this instance, or not.

    Obviously the War On Terror is not simply a material catastrophe - there is perhaps more at stake - so I do mean it when I say that I'm unsure.

  5. The important thing is less about pointing out the obvious evil of the ones perpetrating the killing (a process which is almost starting to strike me as an experimental exercise in global population reduction) but to try to step back and see how *we*, the correct-thinking, are also complicit. We participate in the machine that connects to the machine that does the killing.

    Isn't it possible to renege on the daily pact of our tacit support? How can it be that we're still going to work; buying cars and petrol; believing that the overseers of the so-called Left are better than those of the Right and will work to bring change?

  6. Anonymous9:41 pm

    "The important thing is less about pointing out the obvious evil of the ones perpetrating the killing [...] but to try to step back and see how *we*, the correct-thinking, are also complicit. "

    This is what I initially meant about "the frame", and trying to see oneself within it. (That sounds really vain, but anyway, the idea is clear enough.)

    But it seemed to me that the distancing (even "formalising") aspect of sarcasm, in particular, was at odds with any attempt to recognise a personal tacitness, or culpability.

    Basically, it appeared too easy a response: it only required thinking through and denouncing someone else's position from the inside, not my own *in relation to it*.

    I read recently, and thought it was right, that bad poets blame others, while good ones blame themselves.

    Sarcasm, then, makes for bad poetry.

    I was wrong when I said "Can irony ever bring things fully out of the shade?" It, as much as anything, can. I should only have spoke of that small, limited kind of irony, sarcasm.

    A properly ironical response would allow you to blame yourself somewhat, even whilst on the attack. And that would be something we're after.

    (Apologies, Stephen, for that little complimentary gush earlier on, in my first post! (NOT that I did't mean it!))



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