If on this Sunday morning you happen to be reading (either of the two sequels of) the all time best selling Book – in original or in any of its more or less loose adaptations – chances are you will be reading accounts of explicit violence – wars, mass murders, rapes and whatnot.
If the Holy Bible was to enter a competition for some prestigious contemporary literature award – chances are the jury would toss it out immediately, as it doesn’t fulfill the necessary criteria.
The text is discriminating, violent , misogynist and all in all in opposition to all our civilizational values… albeit, paradoxically, those were actually built on the very scripture.
Right, its a high quality prose and – which matters the most – it’s gruesome, which for unknown reason became criteria number one for distinguishing good prose from that which is not.
Woody Alan, whose own writing style is mostly satirical, said writing a drama was like sitting at the table with grow-ups.
Which, for example, places the quintessential English humorist P.G. Wodehouse with his genius body of work – at the kids’ table. And, you know, i am certain that author of the genius Jeeves canon – a hereditary nobleman admired by Rudyard Kipling in the past and by Douglas Adams, J. K. Rowling and John Le Carré in our times – would be way happier there, at the children’s table.
For among the grown ups, the “literature heavyweights”, there would be those with long faces – the bores, the neurotics and the obnoxious drama queens. And they would be drinking heavily, many would leave the table often to sniff crack in the bathroom, at least few of them would have a nervous break down while still at the first course and by the time the busy waiters would serve a dessert, what they would find at the grown ups’ table – would be best described by a dreary cliche – they would have found only a pile of dead bodies.
Meanwhile, at the kids’ table, Sir Wodehouse would have acknowledged:“I go in for what is known in the trade as ‘light writing’ and those who do that – humorists they are sometimes called – are looked down upon by the intelligentsia and sneered at.”
While looking at the other table, being a humanist that he was, Sir Wodehouse would experience the profound sadness, the sort of “…abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.” (1)
Sir Wodehouse would node his head in disbelief and, sighing, would say to the amazed by the happening young people at his table: “There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”
Addressing the young man to his right, he would add in his Queen’s English spiced with contemporary clubroom slang: “You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.” (2)
And he would be right in diagnosing Nietzsche, who – as misinterpreted as he is – was a mentally ill misogynist and predecessor to Nazism.
It’s true that Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth, and avid supporter of Hitler, meddled with his work(3); after his mental breakdown she added, removed and altered whole passages to make his philosophy suit her own beliefs and those of her anti-Semite husband Bernhard Förster.
Sure, boo you, Elisabeth, for doing so, but… How could have Nietzsche been so venomous towards Jewish religion and its God, without being an anti-Semite?
Scholars agree that his attitude towards ancient Hebrews was rather affirmative, and that he virulently opposed onlySecond Temple Judaism…
The things is that it’s during that very period that Jews established the tenets of their religion – authority of the Scripture and centrality of the religious law.
So basically, Nietzsche only approved of the strand from which Christianity sprung and – surprise, surprise – that’s the only element of Judaism that all anti-Semites universally approve. (4)
So, please, spare me.
These are Nietzsche’s words: Woman is not yet capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at best cows… (5)
And more: “You are going to women? Do not forget the whip!”
Sure Nietzsche’s remarks on women became notoriously sordid after Rée-Salomé episode, the truth is that tacky story of a love triangle merely brought to surface his underlying dudgeon and preexisting indignation.
So, lets’ leave Nietzsche where he belongs – at the “grown ups’ table” and lets’ go back to Sir Wodehouse, who was meanwhile joined by the first chick-lit author in written history – by Jane Austin herself.
At that very moment, she was contributing to the lively discussion: “Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.”
Upon being interrupted and asked would she like to move with the grown ups’, she said she’d rather not and added: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”
George Mikes, who was also there, laughed heartily at Jane Austen’s comment and expanded on his commandment to imitate the English: ‘On the Continent learned persons love to quote Aristotle, Horace, Montaigne and show off their knowledge; in England only uneducated people show off their knowledge, nobody quotes Latin and Greek authors in the course of a conversation, unless he has never read them.’
Meanwhile, one of Russian kids stood up from the small table and approached Dostoevsky who was sitting at the head of the grown ups’ table.
“Excuse me, Sir”- the well-behaved kid addressed creepy looking bearded man, “I need to tell you something…”
The man he spoke to seemed to be immersed in his thoughts, dwelling in an alien world confined within the borders of his own head, he paid no attention at the surroundings.
Still, with concerned expression on his face, the kid continued:”You see, Sir, the very premise on which you built your masterpiece is wrong. The thing is that, as you depicted Prince Myshkin, in mother Russia he would never be consider an idiot. He is yurodivy, a Fool for Christ, and you know from our history that Russian people would have never dealt with him in a manner you describe.
Your infamous anti-hero Rogozhin is downright a clown in comparison to our king Ivan the Terrible, yet even he was in awe of the yurodivy Bazil the Blessed and even built him a temple, the most beautiful temple in Moscow, because he was afraid of wreath of God… for it’s only yurodivy who speak the truth and we, Russians, know it.”
The kid also wanted to share his thoughts on the (in)necessity of writing thousands of pages on a topic that the Gospels have already thoroughly analyzed and even provided solutions for, but by the time he had finished the brief speech, Dostoevsky had lost consciousness and slipped under the table.
These very musings were prompted by a discussion on Proust that Jeanette, Roger, Aleksandra and i had on facebook.
You see, he’s criticized by some that his ‘In Search of Time Lost’ comes across as shallow and gossipy. Like, he is not sufficiently concerned with the ultimate definition of good and evil and alike.
Oh, really? And those writers who torture you page after page with descriptions of hardship and suffering, have they made this world a happier place?
I hear you when you say “the point is raising the question”… It certainly is, but the thing is that all those questions were raised at the dawn of the humanity – and unless you have an answer and a solution – please, shut the f*ck up.
We are witnessing an illogical dichotomy between scientific approaches of psychology and literary criticism.
In psychology, there is no definition of normal – average is the norm. “Normal” is a description of a behavior which conforms to the most common behaviour in a given society.
Social norms are marketed so that extreme behavior would be stopped, but if one’s behavior deviates way off the accepted social norms, it gets diagnosed as pathology.
Many, if not the most of the literary and philosophic heavyweights were diagnosed with mental illness and often held in confinement, as they were potentially dangerous for themselves and their surroundings too.
Yet it’s their thoughts and their words that we are pushed on as exemplary.
Do you see the paradox here? An individual is held in confinement because his behavioral pattern is problematic, yet the thoughts which led to that very behavior are considered the norm for a literature to be of quality and for philosophy to be substantial?!
How hypocritical is that?
Of course we need creativity. Of course we love eloquent story telling. Get Latin American writers or Middle Eastern ones or Indian writers if you need a very different worldview. I often do and i read them eagerly because i need to re-focus from Balkan reality which surrounds me – albeit it’s surreal in its own right.
If i feel like classical heavyweight i read Thomas Mann. Or Hese. With Pushkin or Gogol and Griboyedov you can’t go wrong. I often go back to mostly forgotten, yet genius Pearl S. Buck.
But do I (you) really need the mental onanism of a sick mind, albeit it’s eloquently worded and the abyss of desperation from which it comes is so deep that it’s blood chilling?
I don’t think so.
Copyright©20012 Lena Ruth Stefanovic, All Rights Reserved
Copyright Notice: The picture of P.G. Wodehouse was taken in 1904 and is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
(1)P.G. Wodehouse; The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology
(2) P.G. Wodehouse; Carry On, Jeeves
(3) Nietzsche-Lexikon, Christian Niemeyer, Darmstadt 2009.
(4) For further reading see: Weaver Santaniello; Nietzsche, God, and the Jews; State Univ of NY Pr, 1994.
(5) Thus Spoke Zarathustra – On the Friend
Second Temple Judaism: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Facts+About+Israel/History/HISTORY-+The+Second+Temple.htm
Nietzsche on Race and Sex, quotes: http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/Niet2.html
‘Criminal’ manipulation of Nietzsche by sister to make him look anti-Semitic: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/7018535/Criminal-manipulation-of-Nietzsche-by-sister-to-make-him-look-anti-Semitic.html
Lou von Salomé, Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche: http://www.virtusens.de/walther/lou1_e.htm