quinta-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2010
Ainda a propósito de Alice, deixo-vos este ínvio diálogo do texto com uma tradição nossa (vulgo judaico-cristã) de relação com o tempo.
Colhi-o na Pastoral da Cultura. O tópico é a edição fac-similada de um Livro de Horas.
"Antes das torres das igrejas serem decoradas com relógios, o que só se generalizou pelo século XV, o tempo era marcado pelo som das horas canónicas, tangidas pelo clérigo no sino, horas essas que o cristianismo recuperou da prática judaica de recitar orações a horas fixas do dia. Numa cadência de três horas, os sinos tocavam e anunciavam o momento de rezar, marcando assim o tempo religioso e o ritmo do trabalho.
Inicialmente destinava-se a servir de guia aos religiosos e monges de cada comunidade, assim como a todos os ordenados, dado que estes tinham de realizar, de forma ininterrupta, a oração da Igreja (louvar a Deus e pedir a salvação da humanidade). A vida consagrada, organizada com o monaquismo, tinha como objectivo máximo essa oração regular que assim se desenvolveu e aumentou, pois a ela eram dedicadas várias horas do seu labor. Seguiam para esse efeito o Breviário, livro que, de uma forma breve e prática, condensava todos os textos necessários para esses ofícios divinos.
Essas horas, distribuídas na sua forma inicial por oito tempos, tinham os seguintes nomes: matinas (meia-noite); laudes (três da manhã); prima (seis horas); terça (nove horas); sexta (meio-dia); noa (três da tarde); vésperas (seis da tarde); completas (nove da noite/depois do pôr-do-sol). A cada uma destas horas correspondia um conjunto de orações.
Toda a comunidade cristã era também convidada a participar nessa celebração constante. Para que o pudesse fazer começaram a aparecer, na Idade Média tardia, os chamados Livros de Horas, que tornavam acessível aos leigos, através de imagens e de diálogos, o Breviário, que os não tinham. Lembremos o que escreveu Lewis Carroll. no começo da sua obra imortal Alice no País das Maravilhas: «Alice começava a aborrecer-se imenso de estar sentada à beira-rio com a irmã, sem nada para fazer: espreitara uma ou duas vezes para o livro que a irmã lia, mas não tinha gravuras nem diálogos: “E de que serve um livro, pensou Alice,se não tem gravuras nem diálogos?”». Pensamento semelhante deveriam ter os Homens medievos, dado que os Livros de Horas se tornaram o maior best-seller dos séculos XIV a XVI. O aparecimento da imprensa veio ajudar essa divulgação e esse êxito.!"
Faltaria acrescentar que depois surgiriam aqueles que, através do controle da imprensa e de zelosas escutas, nos queriam obrigar a ler só os seus Livros de Horas...
quarta-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2010
ou, como diria Astérix, "ils sont fous ces romans!" Foi esta a conclusão óbvia a que cheguei após ter lido a indispensável crónica de Manuel António Pina no JN. Eis o seu início: "A procuradora-geral adjunta Cândida Almeida tirou da sua inesgotável cartola mais um coelho mediático: a solução para obstar às violações do segredo de justiça é pôr os magistrados sob escuta."
A ausência de cultura democrática arrasta-nos, lenta e tranquilamente, para o abismo do silêncio.
Obrigado, Manuel António Pina, por ser uma voz que se ergue contra as tentativas de nos silenciar!
é objecto de um caderno na edição de hoje do JL. Yours truly tem lá um texto seu. Esclareço, desde já, que surge uma antipática gralha, à qual sou em absoluto alheio, já que me identificam como professor da Universidade Nova. Já enviei um mail a pedir que, numa edição posterior, a corrigissem, não vá haver, por aí, mentes mais sinuosas a... enfim, tudo o que vai por essas cabeças é Carnaval medíocre, importa, sim, a Alice.
Leiam o caderno, pois estou certo de que irão gostar.
terça-feira, 23 de fevereiro de 2010
é o título de um influente ensaio do crítico de arte Clement Greenberg, publicado na Revita Partisan Review, em 1939, que todo aquele que se debruça sobre arte contemporânea tem necessariamente de conhecer.
"ONE AND THE SAME civilization produces simultaneously two such different things s a poem by T. S. Eliot and a Tin Pan Alley song, or a painting by Braque and a Saturday Evening Post cover. All four are on the order of culture, and ostensibly, parts of the same culture and products of the same society. Here, however, their connection seems to end. A poem by Eliot and a poem by Eddie Guest -- what perspective of culture is large enough to enable us to situate them in an enlightening relation to each other? Does the fact that a disparity such as this within the frame of a single cultural tradition, which is and has been taken for granted -- does this fact indicate that the disparity is a part of the natural order of things? Or is it something entirely new, and particular to our age?
The answer involves more than an investigation in aesthetics. It appears to me that it is necessary to examine more closely and with more originality than hitherto the relationship between aesthetic experience as met by the specific -- not the generalized -- individual, and the social and historical contexts in which that experience takes place. What is brought to light will answer, in addition to the question posed above, other and perhaps more important questions.
A society, as it becomes less and less able, in the course of its development, to justify the inevitability of its particular forms, breaks up the accepted notions upon which artists and writers must depend in large part for communication with their audiences. It becomes difficult to assume anything. All the verities involved by religion, authority, tradition, style, are thrown into question, and the writer or artist is no longer able to estimate the response of his audience to the symbols and references with which he works. In the past such a state of affairs has usually resolved itself into a motionless Alexandrianism, an academicism in which the really important issues are left untouched because they involve controversy, and in which creative activity dwindles to virtuosity in the small details of form, all larger questions being decided by the precedent of the old masters. The same themes are mechanically varied in a hundred different works, and yet nothing new is produced: Statius, mandarin verse, Roman sculpture, Beaux-Arts painting, neo-republican architecture.
It is among the hopeful signs in the midst of the decay of our present society that we -- some of us -- have been unwilling to accept this last phase for our own culture. In seeking to go beyond Alexandrianism, a part of Western bourgeois society has produced something unheard of heretofore: - avant-garde culture. A superior consciousness of history - more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism - made this possible. This criticism has not confronted our present society with timeless utopias, but has soberly examined in the terms of history and of cause and effect the antecedents, justifications and functions of the forms that lie at the heart of every society. Thus our present bourgeois social order was shown to be, not an eternal, "natural" condition of life, but simply the latest term in a succession of social orders. New perspectives of this kind, becoming a part of the advanced intellectual conscience of the fifth and sixth decades of the nineteenth century, soon were absorbed by artists and poets, even if unconsciously for the most part. It was no accident, therefore, that the birth of the avant-garde coincided chronologically -- and geographically, too -- with the first bold development of scientific revolutionary thought in Europe.
True, the first settlers of bohemia - which was then identical with the avant-garde - turned out soon to be demonstratively uninterested in politics. Nevertheless, without the circulation of revolutionary ideas in the air about them, they would never have been able to isolate their concept of the "bourgeois" in order to define what they were not. Nor, without the moral aid of revolutionary political attitudes would they have had the courage to assert themselves as aggressively as they did against the prevailing standards of society. Courage indeed was needed for this, because the avant-garde's emigration from bourgeois society to bohemia meant also an emigration from the markets of capitalism, upon which artists and writers had been thrown by the falling away of aristocratic patronage. (Ostensibly, at least, it meant this - meant starving in a garret - although, as we will be shown later, the avant-garde remained attached to bourgeois society precisely because it needed its money.)
Yet it is true that once the avant-garde had succeeded in "detaching" itself from society, it proceeded to turn around and repudiate revolutionary as well as bourgeois politics. The revolution was left inside society, a part of that welter of ideological struggle which art and poetry find so unpropitious as soon as it begins to involve those "precious" axiomatic beliefs upon which culture thus far has had to rest. Hence it developed that the true and most important function of the avant-garde was not to "experiment," but to find a path along which it would be possible to keep culture moving in the midst of ideological confusion and violence. Retiring from public altogether, the avant-garde poet or artist sought to maintain the high level of his art by both narrowing and raising it to the expression of an absolute in which all relativities and contradictions would be either resolved or beside the point. "Art for art's sake" and "pure poetry" appear, and subject matter or content becomes something to be avoided like a plague.
It has been in search of the absolute that the avant-garde has arrived at "abstract" or "nonobjective" art -- and poetry, too. The avant-garde poet or artist tries in effect to imitate God by creating something valid solely on its own terms, in the way nature itself is valid, in the way a landscape -- not its picture -- is aesthetically valid; something given, increate, independent of meanings, similars or originals. Content is to be dissolved so completely into form that the work of art or literature cannot be reduced in whole or in part to anything not itself.
But the absolute is absolute, and the poet or artist, being what he is, cherishes certain relative values more than others. The very values in the name of which he invokes the absolute are relative values, the values of aesthetics. And so he turns out to be imitating, not God -- and here I use "imitate" in its Aristotelian sense -- but the disciplines and processes of art and literature themselves. This is the genesis of the "abstract."(1) In turning his attention away from subject matter of common experience, the poet or artist turns it in upon the medium of his own craft. The nonrepresentational or "abstract," if it is to have aesthetic validity, cannot be arbitrary and accidental, but must stem from obedience to some worthy constraint or original. This constraint, once the world of common, extroverted experience has been renounced, can only be found in the very processes or disciplines by which art and literature have already imitated the former. These themselves become the subject matter of art and literature. If, to continue with Aristotle, all art and literature are imitation, then what we have here is the imitation of imitating. To quote Yeats:
'Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence.'
Picasso, Braque, Mondrian, Miro, Kandinsky, Brancusi, even Klee, Matisse and Cézanne derive their chief inspiration from the medium they work in.(2) The excitement of their art seems to lie most of all in its pure preoccupation with the invention and arrangement of spaces, surfaces, shapes, colors, etc., to the exclusion of whatever is not necessarily implicated in these factors. The attention of poets like Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Valéry, Éluard, Pound, Hart Crane, Stevens, even Rilke and Yeats, appears to be centered on the effort to create poetry and on the "moments" themselves of poetic conversion, rather than on experience to be converted into poetry. Of course, this cannot exclude other preoccupations in their work, for poetry must deal with words, and words must communicate. Certain poets, such as Mallarmé and Valéry (3) are more radical in this respect than others -- leaving aside those poets who have tried to compose poetry in pure sound alone. However, if it were easier to define poetry, modern poetry would be much more "pure" and "abstract." As for the other fields of literature -- the definition of avant-garde aesthetics advanced here is no Procrustean bed. But aside from the fact that most of our best contemporary novelists have gone to school with the avant-garde, it is significant that Gide's most ambitious book is a novel about the writing of a novel, and that Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake seem to be, above all, as one French critic says, the reduction of experience to expression for the sake of expression, the expression mattering more than what is being expressed.
That avant-garde culture is the imitation of imitating - the fact itself - calls for neither approval nor disapproval. It is true that this culture contains within itself some of the very Alexandrianism it seeks to overcome. The lines quoted from Yeats referred to Byzantium, which is very close to Alexandria; and in a sense this imitation of imitating is a superior sort of Alexandrianism. But there is one most important difference: the avant-garde moves, while Alexandrianism stands still. And this, precisely, is what justifies the avant-garde's methods and makes them necessary. The necessity lies in the fact that by no other means is it possible today to create art and literature of a high order. To quarrel with necessity by throwing about terms like "formalism," "purism," "ivory tower" and so forth is either dull or dishonest. This is not to say, however, that it is to the social advantage of the avant-garde that it is what it is. Quite the opposite.
The avant-garde's specialization of itself, the fact that its best artists are artists' artists, its best poets, poets' poets, has estranged a great many of those who were capable formerly of enjoying and appreciating ambitious art and literature, but who are now unwilling or unable to acquire an initiation into their craft secrets. The masses have always remained more or less indifferent to culture in the process of development. But today such culture is being abandoned by those to whom it actually belongs - our ruling class. For it is to the latter that the avant-garde belongs. No culture can develop without a social basis, without a source of stable income. And in the case of the avant-garde, this was provided by an elite among the ruling class of that society from which it assumed itself to be cut off, but to which it has always remained attached by an umbilical cord of gold. The paradox is real. And now this elite is rapidly shrinking. Since the avant-garde forms the only living culture we now have, the survival in the near future of culture in general is thus threatened.
We must not be deceived by superficial phenomena and local successes. Picasso's shows still draw crowds, and T. S. Eliot is taught in the universities; the dealers in modernist art are still in business, and the publishers still publish some "difficult" poetry. But the avant-garde itself, already sensing the danger, is becoming more and more timid every day that passes. Academicism and commercialism are appearing in the strangest places. This can mean only one thing: that the avant-garde is becoming unsure of the audience it depends on -- the rich and the cultivated.
Is it the nature itself of avant-garde culture that is alone responsible for the danger it finds itself in? Or is that only a dangerous liability? Are there other, and perhaps more important, factors involved?
Where there is an avant-garde, generally we also find a rear-guard. True enough -- simultaneously with the entrance of the avant-garde, a second new cultural phenomenon appeared in the industrial West: that thing to which the Germans give the wonderful name of Kitsch: popular, commercial art and literature with their chromeotypes, magazine covers, illustrations, ads, slick and pulp fiction, comics, Tin Pan Alley music, tap dancing, Hollywood movies, etc., etc. For some reason this gigantic apparition has always been taken for granted. It is time we looked into its whys and wherefores.
Kitsch is a product of the industrial revolution which urbanized the masses of Western Europe and America and established what is called universal literacy.
Prior to this the only market for formal culture, as distinguished from folk culture, had been among those who, in addition to being able to read and write, could command the leisure and comfort that always goes hand in hand with cultivation of some sort. This until then had been inextricably associated with literacy. But with the introduction of universal literacy, the ability to read and write became almost a minor skill like driving a car, and it no longer served to distinguish an individual's cultural inclinations, since it was no longer the exclusive concomitant of refined tastes.
The peasants who settled in the cities as proletariat and petty bourgeois learned to read and write for the sake of efficiency, but they did not win the leisure and comfort necessary for the enjoyment of the city's traditional culture. Losing, nevertheless, their taste for the folk culture whose background was the countryside, and discovering a new capacity for boredom at the same time, the new urban masses set up a pressure on society to provide them with a kind of culture fit for their own consumption. To fill the demand of the new market, a new commodity was devised: ersatz culture, kitsch, destined for those who, insensible to the values of genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversion that only culture of some sort can provide.
Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money -- not even their time.
The precondition for kitsch, a condition without which kitsch would be impossible, is the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions, and perfected self-consciousness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends. It borrows from it devices, tricks, stratagems, rules of thumb, themes, converts them into a system, and discards the rest. It draws its life blood, so to speak, from this reservoir of accumulated experience. This is what is really meant when it is said that the popular art and literature of today were once the daring, esoteric art and literature of yesterday. Of course, no such thing is true. What is meant is that when enough time has elapsed the new is looted for new "twists," which are then watered down and served up as kitsch. Self-evidently, all kitsch is academic; and conversely, all that's academic is kitsch. For what is called the academic as such no longer has an independent existence, but has become the stuffed-shirt "front" for kitsch. The methods of industrialism displace the handicrafts.
Because it can be turned out mechanically, kitsch has become an integral part of our productive system in a way in which true culture could never be, except accidentally. It has been capitalized at a tremendous investment which must show commensurate returns; it is compelled to extend as well as to keep its markets. While it is essentially its own salesman, a great sales apparatus has nevertheless been created for it, which brings pressure to bear on every member of society. Traps are laid even in those areas, so to speak, that are the preserves of genuine culture. It is not enough today, in a country like ours, to have an inclination towards the latter; one must have a true passion for it that will give him the power to resist the faked article that surrounds and presses in on him from the moment he is old enough to look at the funny papers. Kitsch is deceptive. It has many different levels, and some of them are high enough to be dangerous to the naive seeker of true light. A magazine like the New Yorker, which is fundamentally high-class kitsch for the luxury trade, converts and waters down a great deal of avant-garde material for its own uses. Nor is every single item of kitsch altogether worthless. Now and then it produces something of merit, something that has an authentic folk flavor; and these accidental and isolated instances have fooled people who should know better.
Kitsch's enormous profits are a source of temptation to the avant-garde itself, and its members have not always resisted this temptation. Ambitious writers and artists will modify their work under the pressure of kitsch, if they do not succumb to it entirely. And then those puzzling borderline cases appear, such as the popular novelist, Simenon, in France, and Steinbeck in this country. The net result is always to the detriment of true culture in any case.
Kitsch has not been confined to the cities in which it was born, but has flowed out over the countryside, wiping out folk culture. Nor has it shown any regard for geographical and national cultural boundaries. Another mass product of Western industrialism, it has gone on a triumphal tour of the world, crowding out and defacing native cultures in one colonial country after another, so that it is now by way of becoming a universal culture, the first universal culture ever beheld. Today the native of China, no less than the South American Indian, the Hindu, no less than the Polynesian, have come to prefer to the products of their native art, magazine covers, rotogravure sections and calendar girls. How is this virulence of kitsch, this irresistible attractiveness, to be explained? Naturally, machine-made kitsch can undersell the native handmade article, and the prestige of the West also helps; but why is kitsch a so much more profitable export article than Rembrandt? One, after all, can be reproduced as cheaply as the other.
In his last article on the Soviet cinema in the Partisan Review, Dwight Macdonald points out that kitsch has in the last ten years become the dominant culture in Soviet Russia. For this he blames the political regime -- not only for the fact that kitsch is the official culture, but also that it is actually the dominant, most popular culture, and he quotes the following from Kurt London's The Seven Soviet Arts: ". . . the attitude of the masses both to the old and new art styles probably remains essentially dependent on the nature of the education afforded them by their respective states." Macdonald goes on to say: "Why after all should ignorant peasants prefer Repin (a leading exponent of Russian academic kitsch in painting) to Picasso, whose abstract technique is at least as relevant to their own primitive folk art as is the former's realistic style? No, if the masses crowd into the Tretyakov (Moscow's museum of contemporary Russian art: kitsch), it is largely because they have been conditioned to shun 'formalism' and to admire 'socialist realism.'"
In the first place it is not a question of a choice between merely the old and merely the new, as London seems to think -- but of a choice between the bad, up-to-date old and the genuinely new. The alternative to Picasso is not Michelangelo, but kitsch. In the second place, neither in backward Russia nor in the advanced West do the masses prefer kitsch simply because their governments condition them toward it. Where state educational systems take the trouble to mention art, we are told to respect the old masters, not kitsch; and yet we go and hang Maxfield Parrish or his equivalent on our walls, instead of Rembrandt and Michelangelo. Moreover, as Macdonald himself points out, around 1925 when the Soviet regime was encouraging avant-garde cinema, the Russian masses continued to prefer Hollywood movies. No, "conditioning" does not explain the potency of kitsch.
All values are human values, relative values, in art as well as elsewhere. Yet there does seem to have been more or less of a general agreement among the cultivated of mankind over the ages as to what is good art and what bad. Taste has varied, but not beyond certain limits; contemporary connoisseurs agree with the eighteenth-century Japanese that Hokusai was one of the greatest artists of his time; we even agree with the ancient Egyptians that Third and Fourth Dynasty art was the most worthy of being selected as their paragon by those who came after. We may have come to prefer Giotto to Raphael, but we still do not deny that Raphael was one of the best painters of his time. There has been an agreement then, and this agreement rests, I believe, on a fairly constant distinction made between those values only to be found in art and the values which can be found elsewhere. Kitsch, by virtue of a rationalized technique that draws on science and industry, has erased this distinction in practice.
Let us see, for example, what happens when an ignorant Russian peasant such as Macdonald mentions stands with hypothetical freedom of choice before two paintings, one by Picasso, the other by Repin. In the first he sees, let us say, a play of lines, colors and spaces that represent a woman. The abstract technique -- to accept Macdonald's supposition, which I am inclined to doubt -- reminds him somewhat of the icons he has left behind him in the village, and he feels the attraction of the familiar. We will even suppose that he faintly surmises some of the great art values the cultivated find in Picasso. He turns next to Repin's picture and sees a battle scene. The technique is not so familiar -- as technique. But that weighs very little with the peasant, for he suddenly discovers values in Repin's picture that seem far superior to the values he has been accustomed to find in icon art; and the unfamiliar itself is one of the sources of those values: the values of the vividly recognizable, the miraculous and the sympathetic. In Repin's picture the peasant recognizes and sees things in the way in which he recognizes and sees things outside of pictures -- there is no discontinuity between art and life, no need to accept a convention and say to oneself, that icon represents Jesus because it intends to represent Jesus, even if it does not remind me very much of a man. That Repin can paint so realistically that identifications are self-evident immediately and without any effort on the part of the spectator -- that is miraculous. The peasant is also pleased by the wealth of self-evident meanings which he finds in the picture: "it tells a story. " Picasso and the icons are so austere and barren in comparison. What is more, Repin heightens reality and makes it dramatic: sunset, exploding shells, running and falling men. There is no longer any question of Picasso or icons. Repin is what the peasant wants, and nothing else but Repin. It is lucky, however, for Repin that the peasant is protected from the products of American capitalism, for he would not stand a chance next to a Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
Ultimately, it can be said that the cultivated spectator derives the same values from Picasso that the peasant gets from Repin, since what the latter enjoys in Repin is somehow art too, on however low a scale, and he is sent to look at pictures by the same instincts that send the cultivated spectator. But the ultimate values which the cultivated spectator derives from Picasso are derived at a second remove, as the result of reflection upon the immediate impression left by the plastic values. It is only then that the recognizable, the miraculous and the sympathetic enter. They are not immediately or externally present in Picasso's painting, but must be projected into it by the spectator sensitive enough to react sufficiently to plastic qualities. They belong to the "reflected" effect. In Repin, on the other hand, the "reflected" effect has already been included in the picture, ready for the spectator's unreflective enjoyment.(4) Where Picasso paints cause, Repin paints effect. Repin predigests art for the spectator and spares him effort, provides him with a shore cut to the pleasure of art that detours what is necessarily difficult in genuine art. Repin, or kitsch, is synthetic art.
The same point can be made with respect to kitsch literature: it provides vicarious experience for the insensitive with far greater immediacy than serious fiction can hope to do. And Eddie Guest and the Indian Love Lyrics are more poetic than T. S. Eliot and Shakespeare.
If the avant-garde imitates the processes of art, kitsch, we now see, imitates its effects. The neatness of this antithesis is more than contrived; it corresponds to and defines the tremendous interval that separates from each other two such simultaneous cultural phenomena as the avant-garde and kitsch. This interval, too great to be closed by all the infinite gradations of popularized "modernism" and "modernistic" kitsch, corresponds in turn to a social interval, a social interval that has always existed in formal culture, as elsewhere in civilized society, and whose two termini converge and diverge in fixed relation to the increasing or decreasing stability of the given society. There has always been on one side the minority of the powerful -- and therefore the cultivated -- and on the other the great mass of the exploited and poor -- and therefore the ignorant. Formal culture has always belonged to the first, while the last have had to content themselves with folk or rudimentary culture, or kitsch.
In a stable society that functions well enough to hold in solution the contradictions between its classes, the cultural dichotomy becomes somewhat blurred. The axioms of the few are shared by the many; the latter believe superstitiously what the former believe soberly. And at such moments in history the masses are able to feel wonder and admiration for the culture, on no matter how high a plane, of its masters. This applies at least to plastic culture, which is accessible to all.
In the Middle Ages the plastic artist paid lip service at least to the lowest common denominators of experience. This even remained true to some extent until the seventeenth century. There was available for imitation a universally valid conceptual reality, whose order the artist could not tamper with. The subject matter of art was prescribed by those who commissioned works of art, which were not created, as in bourgeois society, on speculation. Precisely because his content was determined in advance, the artist was free to concentrate on his medium. He needed not to be philosopher, or visionary, but simply artificer. As long as there was general agreement as to what were the worthiest subjects for art, the artist was relieved of the necessity to be original and inventive in his "matter" and could devote all his energy to formal problems. For him the medium became, privately, professionally, the content of his art, even as his medium is today the public content of the abstract painter's art - with that difference, however, that the medieval artist had to suppress his professional preoccupation in public - had always to suppress and subordinate the personal and professional in the finished, official work of art. If, as an ordinary member of the Christian community, he felt some personal emotion about his subject matter, this only contributed to the enrichment of the work's public meaning. Only with the Renaissance do the inflections of the personal become legitimate, still to be kept, however, within the limits of the simply and universally recognizable. And only with Rembrandt do "lonely" artists begin to appear, lonely in their art.
But even during the Renaissance, and as long as Western art was endeavoring to perfect its technique, victories in this realm could only be signalized by success in realistic imitation, since there was no other objective criterion at hand. Thus the masses could still find in the art of their masters objects of admiration and wonder. Even the bird that pecked at the fruit in Zeuxis' picture could applaud.
It is a platitude that art becomes caviar to the general when the reality it imitates no longer corresponds even roughly to the reality recognized by the general. Even then, however, the resentment the common man may feel is silenced by the awe in which he stands of the patrons of this art. Only when he becomes dissatisfied with the social order they administer does he begin to criticize their culture. Then the plebian finds courage for the first time to voice his opinions openly. Every man, from the Tammany alderman to the Austrian house-painter, finds that he is entitled to his opinion. Most often this resentment toward culture is to be found where the dissatisfaction with society is a reactionary dissatisfaction which expresses itself in revivalism and puritanism, and latest of all, in fascism. Here revolvers and torches begin to be mentioned in the same breath as culture. In the name of godliness or the blood's health, in the name of simple ways and solid virtues, the statue-smashing commences.
Returning to our Russian peasant for the moment, let us suppose that after he has chosen Repin in preference to Picasso, the state's educational apparatus comes along and tells him that he is wrong, that he should have chosen Picasso -- and shows him why. It is quite possible for the Soviet state to do this. But things being as they are in Russia -- and everywhere else -- the peasant soon finds the necessity of working hard all day for his living and the rude, uncomfortable circumstances in which he lives do not allow him enough leisure, energy and comfort to train for the enjoyment of Picasso. This needs, after all, a considerable amount of "conditioning." Superior culture is one of the most artificial of all human creations, and the peasant finds no "natural" urgency within himself that will drive him toward Picasso in spite of all difficulties. In the end the peasant will go back to kitsch when he feels like looking at pictures, for he can enjoy kitsch without effort. The state is helpless in this matter and remains so as long as the problems of production have not been solved in a socialist sense. The same holds true, of course, for capitalist countries and makes all talk of art for the masses there nothing but demagogy.(5)
Where today a political regime establishes an official cultural policy, it is for the sake of demagogy. If kitsch is the official tendency of culture in Germany, Italy and Russia, it is not because their respective governments are controlled by philistines, but because kitsch is the culture of the masses in these countries, as it is everywhere else. The encouragement of kitsch is merely another of the inexpensive ways in which totalitarian regimes seek to ingratiate themselves with their subjects. Since these regimes cannot raise the cultural level of the masses -- even if they wanted to -- by anything short of a surrender to international socialism, they will flatter the masses by bringing all culture down to their level. It is for this reason that the avant-garde is outlawed, and not so much because a superior culture is inherently a more critical culture. (Whether or not the avant-garde could possibly flourish under a totalitarian regime is not pertinent to the question at this point.) As a matter of fact, the main trouble with avant-garde art and literature, from the point of view of fascists and Stalinists, is not that they are too critical, but that they are too "innocent," that it is too difficult to inject effective propaganda into them, that kitsch is more pliable to this end. Kitsch keeps a dictator in closer contact with the "soul" of the people. Should the official culture be one superior to the general mass-level, there would be a danger of isolation.
Nevertheless, if the masses were conceivably to ask for avant-garde art and literature, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin would not hesitate long in attempting to satisfy such a demand. Hitler is a bitter enemy of the avant-garde, both on doctrinal and personal grounds, yet this did not prevent Goebbels in 1932-1933 from strenuously courting avant-garde artists and writers. When Gottfried Benn, an Expressionist poet, came over to the Nazis he was welcomed with a great fanfare, although at that very moment Hitler was denouncing Expressionism as Kulturbolschewismus. This was at a time when the Nazis felt that the prestige which the avant-garde enjoyed among the cultivated German public could be of advantage to them, and practical considerations of this nature, the Nazis being skillful politicians, have always taken precedence over Hitler's personal inclinations. Later the Nazis realized that it was more practical to accede to the wishes of the masses in matters of culture than to those of their paymasters; the latter, when it came to a question of preserving power, were as willing to sacrifice their culture as they were their moral principles; while the former, precisely because power was being withheld from them, had to be cozened in every other way possible. It was necessary to promote on a much more grandiose style than in the democracies the illusion that the masses actually rule. The literature and art they enjoy and understand were to be proclaimed the only true art and literature and any other kind was to be suppressed. Under these circumstances people like Gottfried Benn, no matter how ardently they support Hitler, become a liability; and we hear no more of them in Nazi Germany.
We can see then that although from one point of view the personal philistinism of Hitler and Stalin is not accidental to the roles they play, from another point of view it is only an incidentally contributory factor in determining the cultural policies of their respective regimes. Their personal philistinism simply adds brutality and double-darkness to policies they would be forced to support anyhow by the pressure of all their other policies -- even were they, personally, devotees of avant-garde culture. What the acceptance of the isolation of the Russian Revolution forces Stalin to do, Hitler is compelled to do by his acceptance of the contradictions of capitalism and his efforts to freeze them. As for Mussolini -- his case is a perfect example of the disponsibilité of a realist in these matters. For years he bent a benevolent eye on the Futurists and built modernistic railroad stations and government-owned apartment houses. One can still see in the suburbs of Rome more modernistic apartments than almost anywhere else in the world. Perhaps Fascism wanted to show its up-to-dateness, to conceal the fact that it was a retrogression; perhaps it wanted to conform to the tastes of the wealthy elite it served. At any rate Mussolini seems to have realized lately that it would be more useful to him to please the cultural tastes of the Italian masses than those of their masters. The masses must be provided with objects of admiration and wonder; the latter can dispense with them. And so we find Mussolini announcing a "new Imperial style." Marinetti, Chirico, et al., are sent into the outer darkness, and the new railroad station in Rome will not be modernistic. That Mussolini was late in coming to this only illustrates again the relative hesitance with which Italian Fascism has drawn the necessary implications of its role.
Capitalism in decline finds that whatever of quality it is still capable of producing becomes almost invariably a threat to its own existence. Advances in culture, no less than advances in science and industry, corrode the very society under whose aegis they are made possible. Here, as in every other question today, it becomes necessary to quote Marx word for word. Today we no longer look toward socialism for a new culture -- as inevitably as one will appear, once we do have socialism. Today we look to socialism simply for the preservation of whatever living culture we have right now.
1. The example of music, which has long been an abstract art, and which avant-garde poetry has tried so much to emulate, is interesting. Music, Aristotle said curiously enough, is the most imitative and vivid of all arts because it imitates its original -- the state of the soul -- with the greatest immediacy. Today this strikes us as the exact opposite of the truth, because no art seems to us to have less reference to something outside itself than music. However, aside from the fact that in a sense Aristotle may still be right, it must be explained that ancient Greek music was closely associated with poetry, and depended upon its character as an accessory to verse to make its imitative meaning clear. Plato, speaking of music, says: "For when there are no words, it is very difficult o recognize the meaning of the harmony and rhythm, or to see that any worthy object is imitated by them." As far as we know, all music originally served such an accessory function. Once, however, it was abandoned, music was forced to withdraw into itself to find a constraint or original. This is found in the various means of its own composition and performance.
2. I owe this formulation to a remark made by Hans Hofmann, the art teacher, in one of his lectures. From the point of view of this formulation, Surrealism in plastic art is a reactionary tendency which is attempting to restore "outside" subject matter. The chief concern of a painter like Dali is to represent the processes and concepts of his consciousness, not the processes of his medium.
3. See Valéry's remarks about his own poetry.
4. T. S. Eliot said something to the same effect in accounting for the shortcomings of English Romantic poetry. Indeed the Romantics can be considered the original sinners whose guilt kitsch inherited. They showed kitsch how. What does Keats write about mainly, if not the effect of poetry upon himself?
5. It will be objected that such art for the masses as folk art was developed under rudimentary conditions of production -- and that a good deal of folk art is on a high level. Yes it is -- but folk art is not Athene, and it's Athene whom we want: formal culture with its infinity of aspects, its luxuriance, its large comprehension. Besides, we are now told that most of what we consider good in folk culture is the static survival of dead formal, aristocratic, cultures. Our old English ballads, for instance, were not created by the "folk," but by the post-feudal squirearchy of the English countryside, to survive in the mouths of the folk long after those for whom the ballads were composed had gone on to other forms of literature. Unfortunately, until the machine age, culture was the exclusive prerogative of a society that lived by the labor of serfs or slaves. They were the real symbols of culture. For one man to spend time and energy creating or listening to poetry meant that another man had to produce enough to keep himself alive and the former in comfort. In Africa today we find that the culture of slave-owning tribes is generally much superior to that of the tribes that possess no slaves.
Numa conferência da Asia and Europe Foundation, no Convento da Arrábida, há uns anos atrás, João Bénard da Costa afirmou que não poderia ser amigo de alguém que não gostasse dos filmes de Oliveira.
Afinal, a estética não é um mero apêndice da nossa identidade, mas algo que radica bem fundo dentro de nós.
Hoje deixo-vos um comentário seu aos insondáveis caminhos que percorremos.
Encontrareis este texto, na íntegra, em Crónicas: Imagens Proféticas e Outras, livro publicado há dias pela Assírio & Alvim:
'Na Primavera de 1938, o ano do "Anschluss", Odon von Horvath, que já em 1933 fora forçado a abandonar a Alemanha, trocou Viena por Paris. Gide, que, por influência de Béguin, lera algumas das peças e romances dele, prometeu-lhe um vantajoso contrato com a Gallimard. A 1 de Junho, jantou com uns amigos. Estava particularmente bem disposto. Depois, decidiu ver a "Branca de Neve e os Sete Anões", em estreia europeia numa sala dos Champs-Elysées. Durante a projecção, desencadeou-se uma típica borrasca estival. Coisa de trovoada. Apesar disso, quando o filme acabou, Von Horvath resolveu atravessar a avenida. Tudo estava deserto, o hotel ficava perto. Um grande relâmpago fendeu ao meio um castanheiro. Um dos ramos atingiu-lhe a parte posterior do crânio. Morreu logo. Tinha 36 anos.
No prefácio à primeira edição francesa de "Jugend ohne Gott" ("Juventude sem Deus"), último livro de Horvath, editado pela Plon em 1939, o tradutor e introdutor (Armand Pierhal) resume três atitudes típicas perante esta morte absurda (como se alguma houvesse que o não fosse). O fatalista invoca o destino: "Estava escrito." O materialista diria que, entre quatro milhões de parisienses, cada um deles tinha uma hipótese em quatro milhões de ser a vítima. Calhou a Von Horvath, podia ter calhado a qualquer M. Dupont ou a qualquer Mme Dupont. Teorias do acaso, cálculos das probabilidades. O crente pensaria nos insondáveis desígnios de Deus, que não cabe ao homem tentar perscrutar. Um dia, quando deixarmos de ver como num espelho, para ver "Face a Face", perceberemos.
Mas, no mesmo "Jugend ohne Gott", Odon von Horvath - ele próprio um crente -, num capítulo chamado "À procura dos ideais da humanidade", dá-nos ou dá-se outra resposta. O narrador, um professor perseguido por uma comunidade maléfica, identificável com um grupo nazi, vai falar com um padre num dos momentos mais tensos e trágicos da sua vida (um aluno assassinado). O padre cita-lhe Santo Inácio ("Entro, com qualquer homem, pela porta de casa dele, para, quando sairmos, o poder reconduzir para a minha"). Cita-lhe Anaximandro ("Todas as coisas regressarão de onde vieram, quando cumprirem o destino delas. Pois todos devem expiar a culpa da sua existência, segundo a ordem do tempo"). O professor acha-o "diabolicamente inteligente", mas não se convence com as razões dele para explicar os males do mundo. Até que se chega à passagem que, depois, domina o livro todo.
Diz o padre: "Deus vai por todos os caminhos." Objecta o professor: "Como é que Deus pode passar pelo caminho em que vivem estas crianças miseráveis, vê-las e não as ajudar?" "Ele calou-se. Bebeu do seu vinho a lentos golos meditativos. Depois, olhou-me de novo: 'Deus é o que há de mais terrível no mundo.'" O professor ficou tão estupefacto que nem acreditou no que tinha ouvido. Daí para diante, repetiu-o muitas vezes, como se se quisesse convencer a si próprio.
Os acontecimentos são-nos incompreensíveis porque queremos julgá-los imediatamente, antes de lhes conhecermos todos os prolongamentos e consequências. Mas, para Deus, não há o "imediatamente", não há a árvore que de súbito cai numa noite de trovoada. Há o tempo todo, todo o passado, todo o presente, todo o futuro. E é isso que é terrível. "O mais terrível no mundo."'
segunda-feira, 22 de fevereiro de 2010
escrita por Irving Howe, detecta muito do diálogo desta narrativa com o seu tempo.
A recensão foi publicada a 10 de Maio de 1952, em The Nation.
"This novel is a soaring and exalted record of a Negro's journey through contemporary America in search of success, companionship, and, finally, himself; like all our fictions devoted to the idea of experience, it moves from province to city, from naive faith to disenchantment; and despite its structural incoherence and occasional pretentiousness of manner, it is one of the few remarkable first novels we have had in some years.
The beginning is nightmare. A Negro boy, timid and compliant, comes to a white smoker in a Southern town: he is to be awarded a scholarship. Together with several other Negroes he is rushed to the front of the ballroom, where a sumptuous blonde tantalizes and frightens them by dancing in the nude. Blindfolded, the Negro boys stage a "battle royal," a free-for-all in which they pummel each other to the drunken shouts of the whites. "Practical jokes," humiliations, terrors--and then the boy delivers a prepared speech of gratitude to his white benefactors.
Nothing, fortunately, in the rest of the novel is quite so harrowing. The unnamed hero goes to his Southern college and is expelled for having innocently taken a white donor through a Negro gin-mill; he then leaves for New York, where he works in a factory, becomes a soapboxer for the Harlem Communists, a big wheel in the Negro world, and the darling of the Stalinist bohemia; and finally, in some not quite specified way, he finds himself after witnessing a frenzied riot in Harlem.
Though immensely gifted, Ellison is not a finished craftsman. The tempo of his book is too feverish, and at times almost hysterical. Too often he tries to overwhelm the reader; but when he should be doing something other then overwhelm, when he should be persuading or suggesting or simply telling, he forces and tears.
Because the book is written in the first person singular, Ellison cannot establish ironic distance between his hero and himself, or between the matured "I" telling the story and the "I" who is its victim. And because the experience is so apocalyptic and magnified, it absorbs and then dissolves the hero; every minor character comes through brilliantly, but the seeing "I" is seldom seen.
The middle section of novel concerns the Harlem Stalinists, and it is the only one that strikes me as not quite true. Writing with evident bitterness, Ellison makes his Stalinists so stupid and vicious that one cannot understand how they could have attracted him. I am ready to believe that the Communist Party manipulates its members with conscious cynicism, but I am quite certain that this cynicism is both more guarded and more complex than Ellison assumes; surely no Stalinist leader would tell a prominent Negro member, "You were not hired to think" -- even if that were what he secretly felt. The trouble with such caricature is that it undermines the intention behind it, making the Stalinists seem not the danger they are but mere clowns.
Equally disturbing is Ellison's apparent wish to be intellectually up-to-date. As his hero quits the Communist Party, he wonders: "Could politics ever be an expression of love?" This portentous and perhaps meaningless question, whatever its place in a little magazine, is surely inappropriate to a character who has been presented mainly as a passive victim of experience. Not am I persuaded by the hero's final discovery that "my world has become one of infinite possibilities," his refusal to be the invisible man whose body is manipulated by various social groups. Though the unqualified assertion of individuality is at the moment a favorite notion of literary people, it is also a vapid one, for the unfortunate fact remains that to define one's individuality is to stumble over social fences that do not allow one "infinite possibilities." It is hardly an accident that Ellison's hero does not even attempt to specify those possibilities.
These faults mar Invisible Man but do not destroy it. For Ellison has an abundance of that primary talent without which neither craft nor intelligence can save a novelist; he is richly, wildly inventive; his scenes rise and dip with tension, his people bleed, his language stings. No other writer has captured so much of the confusion and agony, the hidden gloom and surface gaiety of Negro life. His ear for Negro speech is magnificent: a share-cropper calmly describing how he seduced his own daughter, a Harlem street-vender spinning jive, a West Indian woman inciting her men to resist an eviction. The rhythm of the prose is harsh and tensed, like a beat of harried alertness. The observation is expert: Ellison knows exactly how zoot-suiters walk, making stylization their principle of life, and exactly how the antagonism between American and West Indian Negroes works itself out in speech and humor. For all his self-involvement, he is capable of extending himself toward his people, of accepting them as they are, in their blindness and hope. And in his final scene he has created and unforgettable image: "Ras the Destroyer," a Negro nationalist, appears on a horse, dressed in the costume of an Abyssinian chieftain, carrying spear and shield, and charging wildly into the police -- a black Quixote, mad, absurd, yet unbearably pathetic.
Some reviewers, from the best of intentions, have assured their readers that this is a good novel and not merely a good Negro novel. But of course Invisible Man is a Negro novel -- what white man could ever have written it? It is drenched in Negro life, talk, music: it tells us how distant even the best of the whites are from the black men that pass them on the streets; and it is written from a particular compound of emotions that no white man could possibly simulate. To deny that this is a Negro novel is to deprive the Negroes of their one basic right: the right to cry out their difference."
é a de Ralph Ellison.
No entanto, a vinda das margens não significará uma inevitável menorização ou balcanização da voz; aliás, ela pode edificar-se no choque com e na assimilação do centro: veja-se o eco de T. S. Eliot em Ellison.
Assim se concebe uma identidade.
Deixo-vos um excerto da entrevista por ele concedida à Paris Review, em 1955, no qual estes tópicos são aflorados:
Did you have everything thought out before you began to
write Invisible Man?
The symbols and their connections were known to me. I began
it with a chart of the three-part division. It was a conceptual frame
with most of the ideas and some incidents indicated. The three
parts represent the narrator’s movement from, using Kenneth
Burke’s terms, purpose to passion to perception. These three major
sections are built up of smaller units of three which mark the
course of the action and which depend for their development upon
what I hoped was a consistent and developing motivation.
However, you’ll note that the maximum insight on the hero’s part
isn’t reached until the final section. After all, it’s a novel about
innocence and human error, a struggle through illusion to reality.
Each section begins with a sheet of paper; each piece of paper is
exchanged for another and contains a definition of his identity, or
the social role he is to play as defined for him by others. But all say
essentially the same thing: “Keep this nigger boy running.” Before
he could have some voice in his own destiny, he had to discard
these old identities and illusions; his enlightenment couldn’t come
until then. Once he recognizes the hole of darkness into which
these papers put him, he has to burn them. That’s the plan and the
intention; whether I achieved this is something else.
Would you say that the search for identity is primarily an
It is the American theme. The nature of our society is such that
we are prevented from knowing who we are. It is still a young
society, and this is an integral part of its development."
Podereis ler a entrevista na íntegra em
quinta-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2010
"não será a escrita uma outra forma de fotografar o real?", importa recordar toda a tradição de diálogo entre a palavra e a imagem, nomeadamente aquela virtualidade da palavra de reproduzir com vivacidade o objecto, a que os gregos chamavam enargeia.
Deixo-vos hoje uma outra vertente de Welty, a do diálogo com prosadores de outras paragens, os sempre clássicos Jane Austen e Chekov:
You wrote somewhere that we should still tolerate Jane Austen’s kind of family novel. Is Austen a kindred spirit?
Tolerate? I should just think so! I love and admire all she does, and profoundly, but I don’t read her or anyone else for “kindred- ness.” The piece you’re referring to was written on assignment for Brief Lives, an anthology Louis Kronenberger was editing. He did offer me either Jane Austen or Chekhov, and Chekhov I do dare to think is more “kindred.” I feel closer to him in spirit, but I couldn’t read Russian, which I felt whoever wrote about him should be able to do. Chekhov is one of us—so close to today’s world, to my mind, and very close to the South—which Stark Young pointed out a long time ago.
Why is Chekhov close to today’s South?
He loved the singularity in people, the individuality. He took for granted the sense of family. He had the sense of fate overtaking a way of life, and his Russian humor seems to me kin to the humor of a Southerner. It’s the kind that lies mostly in character. You know, in Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard, how people are always gathered together and talking and talking, no one’s really listening. Yet there’s a great love and understanding that prevails through it, and a knowledge and acceptance of each other’s idio- syncrasies, a tolerance of them, and also an acute enjoyment of the dramatic. Like in The Three Sisters, when the fire is going on, how they talk right on through their exhaustion, and Vershinin says, “I feel a strange excitement in the air,” and laughs and sings and talks about the future. That kind of responsiveness to the world, to whatever happens, out of their own deeps of character seems very southern to me. Anyway, I took a temperamental delight in Chekhov, and gradually the connection was borne in upon me."
Podereis lker a entrevista na íntegra em
quarta-feira, 17 de fevereiro de 2010
A estrada, o recorrente tópico ligado à epopeia americana, e, também, aos momentos de maior disforia; veja-se Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) ou Caldwell (Tobacco Road).
A propósito desta vertente criativa de Welty transcrevo um interessante ensaio de T. A. Frail, publicado no Smithonian Magazine:
"Eudora Welty was one of the grandest grande dames of American letters—winner of a Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, an armful of O. Henry Awards and the Medal of Freedom, to name just a few. But before she published a single one of her many short stories, she had a one-woman show of her photographs.
The pictures, made in Mississippi in the early to mid-1930s, show the rural poor and convey the want and worry of the Great Depression. But more than that, they show the photographer's wide-ranging curiosity and unstinting empathy—which would mark her work as a writer, too. Appropriately, another exhibition of Welty's photographs, which opened last fall at the Museum of the City of New York and travels to Jackson, Mississippi, this month, inaugurated a yearlong celebration of the writer's birth, April 13, 1909.
"While I was very well positioned for taking these pictures, I was rather oddly equipped for doing it," she would later write. "I came from a stable, sheltered, relatively happy home that by the time of the Depression and the early death of my father (which happened to us in the same year) had become comfortably enough off by small-town Southern standards."
Her father died of leukemia in 1931, at age 52. And while the comfort of the Welty home did not entirely unravel—as an insurance executive in Jackson, Christian Welty had known about anticipating calamities—Eudora was already moving beyond the confines of her family environment.
She had graduated from the University of Wisconsin and studied business for a year at Columbia University. (Her parents, who entertained her stated ambition of becoming a writer, insisted that she pursue the proverbial something to fall back on.) She returned to Jackson after her father's diagnosis, and after he died, she remained there with her mother, writing short stories and casting about for work.
For the next five years, Welty took a series of part-time jobs, producing a newsletter at a local radio station; writing for the Jackson State Tribune; sending society notes to the Memphis Commercial Appeal; and taking pictures for the Jackson Junior Auxiliary. She had used a camera since adolescence—her father, an avid snapshot man, helped establish Jackson's first camera store—but now she began taking photography more seriously, especially as she traveled outside Jackson. In 1934, she applied to study at the New School for Social Research in New York City with photographer Berenice Abbott, who was documenting landmarks disappearing in the city's rush toward modernity. Welty's application was turned down.
It hardly mattered. Through the early '30s, Welty gathered a body of work remarkable for the photographer's choice of subjects and her ability to put them—or keep them—at ease. That is especially noteworthy given that many of her subjects were African-Americans. "While white people in a Deep South state like Mississippi were surrounded by blacks at the time...they were socially invisible," the television journalist and author Robert MacNeil, a longtime friend of Welty's, said in an interview during a recent symposium on her work at the Museum of the City of New York. "In a way, these two decades before the civil rights movement began, these photographs of black people give us insight into a personality who saw the humanity of these people before we began officially to recognize them."
Welty, for her part, would acknowledge that she moved "through the scene openly and yet invisibly because I was part of it, born into it, taken for granted," but laid claim only to a personal agenda. "I was taking photographs of human beings because they were real life and they were there in front of me and that was the reality," she said in a 1989 interview. "I was the recorder of it. I wasn't trying to exhort the public"—in contrast, she noted, to Walker Evans and other American documentary photographers of the '30s. (When a collection of her pictures was published as One Time, One Place in 1971, she wrote: "This book is offered, I should explain, not as a social document but as a family album—which is something both less and more, but unadorned.")
In early 1936, Welty took one of her occasional trips to New York City. This time she brought some photographs in the hope of selling them. In a decision biographer Suzanne Marrs describes as spontaneous, Welty dropped in at the Photographic Galleries run by Lugene Opticians Inc.—and was given a two-week show. (That show has been recreated for the centennial exhibit and supplemented with pictures she made in New York.)
That March, however, Welty received word that a small magazine called Manuscript would publish two short stories she had submitted. "I didn't care a hoot that they couldn't, they didn't pay me anything," she would recall. "If they had paid me a million dollars it wouldn't have made any difference. I wanted acceptance and publication."
That acceptance foretold the end of her photographic career. Welty used her camera for several years more but invested her creative energies in her writing. "I always tried to get her to start over again, you know, when I got to know her in the mid-1950s," the novelist Reynolds Price, another longtime friend of Welty's, said in an interview. "But she'd finished. She said, I've done what I have to do. I've said what I had to say."
In her memoir, One Writer's Beginnings, published in 1984, Welty paid respects to picture-taking by noting: "I learned in the doing how ready I had to be. Life doesn't hold still. A good snapshot stopped a moment from running away. Photography taught me that to be able to capture transience, by being ready to click the shutter at the crucial moment, was the greatest need I had. Making pictures of people in all sorts of situations, I learned that every feeling waits upon its gesture; and I had to be prepared to recognize this moment when I saw it."
She added: "These were things a story writer needed to know. And I felt the need to hold transient life in words—there's so much more of life that only words can convey— strongly enough to last me as long as I lived."
That was long indeed. Welty died on July 23, 2001, at the age of 92. Her literary legacy—not only her stories but her novels, essays and reviews—traces the full arc of a writer's imagination. But the pictures bring us back to the time and the place it all began."
E agora, vamos à leitura dos textos de Welty!
segunda-feira, 15 de fevereiro de 2010
é o título de um episódio hilariante dessa série genial que dava pelo nome de Yes, Minister, à qual sucedeu a não menos genial, Yes, Prime Minister.
Dizia-se que era uma série de culto da Dama de Ferro, a primeira-ministra conservadora Margaret Thatcher. Se era, só abona a favor dela!
Eu, cá por mim, tenho as duas séries em DVD e revejo-as sempre com imenso gozo. À semelhança do que sucede com as dos Monty Python.
No episódio que referi, surgem mimos (verdades? evidências?) como estes:
"The Official Secrets Act is not to protect secrets, it is to protect officials."
"The perfect representative on a government committee is a disabled black Welsh woman trades unionist."
"Conjurors offer the audience any card in the pack and always get them to take the one they want. This is the way we in the Civil Service get Ministers to take decisions."
"It is my job to protect the Prime Minister from the great tide of irrelevant information that beats against the walls of 10 Downing Street every day."
Quando assumiu funções como primeiro-ministro o Engenheiro (curso de Engenharia feito com elevada classificação no Instituto Superior Técnico, recorde-se, ao mesmo tempo que andava envolvido em actividades de solidariedade social nos chamados bairros de barracas, recorde-se, também) António Guterres foi contundente: "No jobs for the boys!"
O que sucedeu depois já são outras narrativas...
O que não deixa de me surpreender são os elevados montantes que estes jobs hoje em dia consigo arrastam, deixando bem na vida boys que, desta vida, pouco sabem, de tão imberbes que são. Será caso para perguntar (com o êduquês in mind) quais são as competências dos miúdos?
Uma coisa é certa: a metáfora de arranjar um tacho já pertence a tempos de antanho!
Face ao pântano em que vivemos, deixo-vos uma sugestão: rever Sir Humphrey e C&a e sorrir com o wit britânico!
quarta-feira, 10 de fevereiro de 2010
deixo-vos este site onde podereis ler uma entrevista por ele concedida a Eugene Walter:
Curiosamente, esta entrevista decorreu em Roma, no apartamento de Ralph Ellison, um dos escritores sobre os quais iremos falar em breve. Corria o ano de 1957.
"Mr. Warren, who might be described as a sandy man with a twinkle in his eye, is ensconced in an armchair while the interviewers, manning tape recorder and notebook, are perched on straight-back chairs. Mrs. Ellison, ice-bowl tinkling, comes into the room occasionally to replenish the glasses: all drink pastis."
Lembrai-vos das linhas iniciais de All the King's Men?
Do ponto de vista do narrador, qual road movie, numa vertigem de percepção e de enunciação do espaço?
Confrontai, então, essas linhas com aquilo que refere Warren, nesta entrevista, a propósito da Geografia:
"Thing that interested me about Buckle was that he had the one big answer to everything: geography. History is all explained by geography." (itálico meu)
Uma derradeira citação, desta feita em torno da dimensão mítica da História, evocando o seu poema desse relevantérrimo ano de 1956, "Founding Fathers...":
In this connection, do you feel that there are certain themes which are basic to the American experience, even though a body of writing in a given period might ignore or evade them?
First thing, without being systematic, what comes to mind without running off a week and praying about it, would be that America was based on a big promise—a great big one: the Declaration of Independence. When you have to live with that in the house, that’s quite a problem—particularly when you’ve got to make money and get ahead, open world markets, do all the things you have to, raise your children, and so forth. America is stuck with its self-definition put on paper in 1776, and that was just like putting a burr under the metaphysical saddle of America—you see, that saddle’s going to jump now and then and it pricks. There’s another thing in the American experience that makes for a curious kind of abstraction. We suddenly had to define ourselves and what we stood for in one night. No other nation ever had to do that. In fact, one man did it—one man in an upstairs room, Thomas Jefferson."
E agora boas leituras!
é um tópico sobre o qual já me debrucei aqui tendo, então, em mente o poeta colonial americano Edward Taylor.
Trata-se, aliás, de um tópico com muita actualidade, nomeadamente devido ao cenário político e ao acolhimento de estratégias kafkianas de invasão da nossa privacidade e da nossa intimidade que se têm tornado perigosamente banais.
O governo, e o primeiro-ministro em particular, queixam-se de serem objecto dessa invasão.
Ora,qual é o problema político que se coloca aqui?
O da ausência de leitura!
Ausência de leitura? Perguntará.
Exacto, porque este governo e este primeiro-ministro ignoram, afinal, as lições da literatura distópica novecentista, como Fahrenheit 451, de Ray Bradbury, ou o óbvio ninety eighty four, de Orwell.
Se tivessem lido e compreendido Bradbury ou Orwell, ou, pelo menos, se tivessem visto os filmes, não teriam tido, certamente, a ideia peregrina e big-brotheriana de inserir chips nas matrículas dos nossos automóveis, ou de, num voyeurismo estalinista, exibir na net as declarações dos impostos do banal cidadão.
Assim se ilude a verdadeira fuga aos impostos e se promove a delação!
São tempos tristes e perigosos estes que vivemos!
E não posso deixar de recordar os versos de Eliot: "one must be so careful these days".
segunda-feira, 8 de fevereiro de 2010
como diria uma personagem de Woody Allen, "todos os problemas da nossa vida são problemas de semântica." Escrevo isto a propósito do romance de Robert Penn Warren, All he King's Men. Será esta uma referência irónica àqueles que servem o detentor do poder? Ou ainda um índice subtil do código de cavalaria sulista?
Para intensificar a ambiguidade, aqui fica a "nursery rhyme" na qual esta expressão surge:
'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.'
E já agora, aqui fica também o diálogo de Alice com Humpty Dumpty em Through the Looking-Glass sobre... semântica:
'"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,'" Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't – till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that's all."
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.
"They've a temper, some of them – particularly verbs, they're the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"'
A propósito do livro Ouvi o Vento, de Manuela Silva, editado por Pedra Angular, eis um excerto do ensaio de Iabel Allegro de Magalhães. Podereis lê-lo na íntegra em:
"Ainda no adro, o título do livro chama a atenção, pelo seu carácter declarativo inicial (quase exclamativa) – que tem uma força singular: Ouvi do Vento.
A aliteração, com efeito sonoro evidente, sobretudo por os dois vv se situarem em sílabas tónicas consecutivas (ou-vio ven-to), dá eficácia à passagem do ar, do ar da vida e ar cósmico também, de um vento real (VV), que é o da própria respiração expirada, acentuando com isso o conteúdo de essa frase declarativa: “[eu] ouvi do vento”. Repare-se que não é o vento que é ouvido, mas algo que a partir do vento se ouve. Esta 1ª pessoa do título, é a mesma dos textos e assume neles a responsabilidade por este testemunho. O título, porém, deixa omisso o complemento directo que o verbo OUVIR, por ser transitivo, reclama. É um complemento longo: estas páginas, resultantes do que a voz (mesmo sem que o vento se tenha pronunciado) foi apercebendo a partir do vento.
Neste contexto, a relação entre acto de ouvir e vento não pode deixar de evocar diversos textos da literatura – portuguesa e de outras culturas, religiosos e profanos, que tematizam e incorporam modalidades infinitas do invisível vento, em poemas. Neles se figura essa passagem materialmente imaterial do ar, que pode trazer consigo, ou não, múltiplos sinais ou coisa nenhuma. Entre nós, por ex. Manuel Alegre, na sua “Trova do vento que passa”, escreve: “Pergunto ao vento que passa / notícias do meu país” e, nesse tempo de ditadura, o que declara é que o vento não diz nada: “o vento nada me diz;” (1). Alberto Caeiro, num dos seus versos, tem esta espantosa afirmação, verdadeiramente contemplativa: “E acho que só para ouvir passar o vento vale a pena ter nascido” (2). E ainda aquele vento, já sopro místico que perpassa por um dos poemas de Tolentino, justamente intitulado “O vento”, como que com-fundindo a marca ou traço individual com o próprio Ser do Divino:
E pelas fagulhas da luz reconheças então o vento
Vagaroso sobre o gelo
Movendo-se para apagar o teu próprio trilho. "
Boas leituras e melhores meditações!
sexta-feira, 5 de fevereiro de 2010
escreveu um dia, a propósito da relação pedagógica, que não é difícil obrigar a parar alguém com quem nos cruzamos na rua e forçar esse alguém a ouvir o que temos para lhe dizer. Difícil, sim, é cruzarmo-nos com alguém, dizermos o que temos para lhe dizer, sem interrompermos o seu percurso e o nosso próprio percurso.
Penso amiúde nesta ideia, a qual já citei por mais de uma vez em livros meus, pois creio que reside aí a verdadeira essência da relação pedagógica. Pelo menos, da relação pedagógica numa perspectiva humanista e personalista. A que me interessa, portanto!
Uma relação pedagógica que está nos antípodas do êduquês, obviamente!
Agora, que terminei um semestre e que tenho recebido tantos e tão generosos comentários a esse tempo vivido em conjunto, de novo constato quão justo e urgente é este paradigma!
Deixo esta meditação, com amizade, a quem comigo se cruzou ao longo destes meses, consciente de que, afinal, este encontro não se confinou a essa fatia de tempo!
são dois conceitos centrais no pensamento crítico de Michael Fried. A ele (particularmente ao livro sobre Eakins e Crane) devo alguma da leitura que fiz da poesia de Whitman.
O seu último livro sobre fotografia prossegue a reflexão realizada a partir de Diderot, e passando por Courbet e Manet.
Deixo-vos um excerto da entrevista que Fried concedeu a Carlos Vidal a propósito deste novo momento deste seu percurso intelectual:
"Continuo, por exemplo, ligado à absorção. Vejo-a na fotografia actual, nos Becher, em Struth, Ruff ou Wall. Penso que a fotografia prolonga a episteme de Diderot, episteme que teria durado cerca de dois séculos dando lugar às questões do modernismo tal como temos comentado. Contudo, agendas afins – a essência, medium, a convenção –, para a análise da fotografia, não me parecem tão significativas como a absorção versus teatralidade. Mas actualmente a absorção já não é simples nem genérica – não se trata de um conceito prévio para aplicação comum. Quando Barthes, em La Chambre Claire, nos fala do punctum, elemento de singularização de uma fotografia, diz-nos que não surge intencionalmente. Posso daí estabelecer relações com a tradição antiteatral da pintura e com Diderot ficcionando a ausência do espectador. Cada obra e cada fotógrafo lidam a seu modo com esta questão e a oposta, a da reinscrição da teatralidade. Struth, por exemplo, para vencer a teatralidade opta por fotografar gente que conhece (ou faz por conhecer, vivendo com os retratados antes de os fotografar), dialoga e pede para os modelos escolherem pose e disposição, utiliza longos tempos de exposição, coloca-se sempre ao lado da câmara, realiza várias sessões, etc. "
Bom fim de semana!
quinta-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2010
Considera Austeriana que o tratamento do espaço em Roth é muito austeriano. Ora, aí está um tópico interessante a ponderar!
Para já deixo-vos a conclusão do texto sobre Roth para o JL:
'No seu romance [à data da escrita deste texto] mais recente Exit Ghost, Roth prossegue o ciclo das Zuckerman novels e revela um Nathan Zuckerman envelhecido (está na casa dos setenta, tal como o autor, nascido em 1933) e debilitado fisicamente (uma operação à prostata deixara-o com limitações a vários níveis) no seu regresso a Nova Iorque após um exílio, aparentemente, voluntário numa remota propriedade na Nova Inglaterra.
Disse que Roth revela um Zuckerman; mais correcto seria dizer que é Zuckerman que se revela a si próprio, pois esta, à semelhança de Património, é uma narrativa na primeira pessoa, na qual o protagonista domina os factos e, acima de tudo, os pontos de vista que deles pretende transmitir, demonstrando uma grande capacidade de autorevelação acerca dos seus medos e fantasmas (e também dos fantasmas americanos). Há, aliás, um clássico (Rip Van Winkle, de Washington Irving [1783-1859]), cuja presença espectral nesta narrativa é explicitamente enunciada por Zuckerman. Ao percorrer as ruas de Nova Iorque, e ao voltar a olhar para lugares que outrora fizeram parte do seu dia-a-dia e que hoje estão transfiguradas, irreconhecíveis, o protagonista comenta: “Não me poderia sentir mais longe de mim se tivesse contornado a esquina da Sexta Avenida com a 45 Oeste com a arma enferrujada de Rip na mão e com as suas velhas roupas, sob o olhar de uma multidão de curiosos...”
Rip Van Winkle é a história de um homem que, antes da Independência, vai à caça, adormece e quando desperta, constata que as roupas envelheceram e a sua arma está enferrujada. Ao regressar à sua terra não a reconhece; tudo mudara. Esta é, na verdade, uma parábola sobre a transformação da sociedade americana, e de um Novo Mundo que emergiu das ruínas de um outro, o colonial. Ora, esta parábola simboliza a mudança que Zuckerman observa: com efeito, a Nova Iorque que ele abandonou anos atrás, mudou radicalmente com o 11 de Setembro. Este é, portanto, um novo mundo, embora não com a dimensão eufórica que caracterizou a Independência setecentista.
Este é um mundo de medos (o jovem casal, com quem irá trocar periodicamente de casa, enuncia esse medo de viver em Nova Iorque, devido à eventualidade de outros ataques terroristas) e de fantasmas (é como um espectro do passado que reconhece a autora sedutora e hoje decadente, transfigurada, moribunda e algo senil Amy Belette), e Zuckerman sente-se tão desajustado face a ele como Rip Van Winkle se sentira; a única diferença é que o desajustamento deste último era visível, enquanto que o do protagonista, não, é interior e decorre a sua incapacidade de se adaptar a uma nova realidade.
Significativamente uma das suas primeiras incursões neste regresso a Nova Iorque dá-se na Strand, famosa pelo livros usados; uma livraria que parece não ter sido afectada pela passagem do tempo, onde a memória do espaço em si se confunde com a dos livros aí acessíveis. Trata-se, portanto, de uma espécie de regresso ao passado. Aí encontrará os livros do seu mentor, E. I. Lonoff (nele projectar-se-á a figura parental do escritor Bernard Malamud), em casa de quem conhecera, em 1956, a jovem de vinte e sete anos que dava pelo nome de Amy Belette. Enquanto Património exibe a relação de um homem chamado Philip Roth com a figura parental, Exit Ghost revela essa relação parental entre o escritor e a figura forte (diria Bloom) que o antecedeu, e cuja memória ele pretende preservar de olhares pouco éticos.
Para além do medo, um dos aspectos desta nova realidade com que Zukerman se depara, é do voyeurismo. Partindo do sensacionalismo mediático, invadiu a esfera académica. Através do jovem casal de intelectuais Zukerman será abordado por um jovem cheio de iniciativa (“empreendedor” dir-se-ia, hoje em dia, da sua virtude) que pretende escrever uma biografia e (qual projecção da velha culpa calvinista que não raro percorre a sociedade americana), inquisitorialmente, desvendar um eventual esqueleto no armário do já falecido Lonoff (Roth abordara já este tópico em The Human Stain, num eco de Imitation of Life, de Douglas Sirk). É com estes fantasmas que Zukerman, qual fantasma num mundo onde não se reconhece, se vai debater até à sua saída de cena no final da narrativa. Será a última?'
O tempo demonstrou quão retórica era esta questão.
terça-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2010
se depois de Salinger restariam ou não nomes maiores na prosa norte-americana contemporânea?
Admirador confesso que sou de Philip Roth, não tenho dúvidas que neste prosador continuamos a ter um olhar singularmente arguto e, não raro, demolidor da realidade americana.
No topo da pirâmide, portanto. Seguir-se-ão outros como Auster, por exemplo.
Desta hierarquia peço perdão aos admiradores de Auster, nomeadamente à austeriana autora de bicho carpinteiro (http://clarices-bichocarpinteiro.blogspot.com/)
Deixo-vos este excerto de um texto que publiquei no JL há uns tempos atrás (início de 2008, creio) a propósito de Património - Uma história verdadeira:
'Todos os anos, no início de Dezembro, o Times Literary Supplement convida algumas dezenas de escritores, na sua maioria de língua inglesa, a indicarem quais os livros que, na sua opinião, marcaram o ano que finda. Em Dezembro último, um dos intervenientes começou a sua resposta, com algum humor, dizendo: “Lamento mas não foi o Exit Ghost, de Philip Roth.” De facto, o romance mais recente do escritor de New Jersey foi uma das obras mais citadas neste inquérito, a par do brilhante ensaio do, entretanto falecido, Professor Nuttall, Shakespeare – The Thinker.
Com Exit Ghost (2007), Roth parece encerrar o ciclo conhecido como Zuckerman novels. The Ghost Writer (1979) inicia a trilogia constituída por Zuckerman Unbound (1981) e The Anatomy Lesson (1983), a qual culminaria num texto crepuscular (novela?) The Prague Orgy (1985). O protagonista, tal como ele um escritor judeu, é um alterego óbvio de Roth. Refira-se num elíptico parênteses que esta representação de um alterego, percorrendo momentos da História contemporânea, lembra, embora com as devidas diferenças, a personagem Rabbit Angstrom, da Rabbit Trilogy, de John Updike – Rabbit Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971) e Rabbit is Rich (1981).
Após uma breve ausência, Zuckerman regressou ao universo literário do autor, embora não como protagonista, naquela que ficaria conhecida como Trilogia Americana, e que seria constituída por American Pastoral (1997), I Married a Communist (1998) e The Human Stain (2000 [adaptado ao cinema sob realização de Robert Benton, à semelhança de outras obras suas como Portnoy's Complaint, de 1969, realizado por Ernest Lehman - a mais recente adaptação American Pastoral, deverá estrear no próximo ano, sob realização de Philip Noyce]).
Ao longo da sua obra, desde o já distante texto inicial Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories (1959) que Roth tem evocado o microcosmo judaico norte-americano, num incessante diálogo com a cena histórica destas últimas décadas, penetrando bem fundo naquilo que de mais idiossincraticamente americano ela revela. O seu romance contrafactual The Plot Against America (2004), ao ficcionalizar o impacto de uma eventual vitória, nas eleições presidenciais de 1940, de um simpatizante nazi, o piloto Charles Lindbergh, é um dos momentos altos na desmontagem das fobias que percorrem tanto aquele subbconsciente colectivo como, uma vez mais, as do microcosmo judaico.
Foi, todavia, numa narrativa de cariz assumidamente autobiográfico, Património – Uma história verdadeira, que este microcosmo conheceu uma das mais intensas desmontagens por parte do autor. Curiosamente, o sítio na internet de The Philip Roth Society inclui esta obra no âmbito da ficção, o que levanta questões óbvias acerca dos limites entre realidade e ficção na obra de Roth. Tal começa, aliás, pela própria designação da personagem principal (embora em Património, devido à forte presença da figura parental, seja questionável a sua centralidade), Philip Roth. Com efeito, se podemos perspectivar um ciclo em torno da personagem Nathan Zuckerman - as tais, Zuckerman novels - também é legítimo conceber outro em torno da figura explícita do próprio autor. Este tipo de narrativas assumidamente autobiográficas surgem em finais dos anos oitenta, com The Facts (1988), seguindo-se-lhe Deception (1990), Património (1991) e Operation Shylock (1993). À excepção de Deception, a dimensão autobiográfica é explicitada nos respectivos subtítulos: autobiografia, memória, confissão.
New Jersey, estado do qual Roth é originário, e a cidade de Newark, em particular, são o espaço priviliegiado destas deambulações autobiográficas. Em Património a catografia de Newark assume uma função particularmente relevante, pois é ali que radica a memória familiar amiúde convocada pelo narrador: “... a tigela era ... a única coisa tangínvel que alguém se dera ao cuidado de guardar dos anos de imigração em Newark.” (24). Nos passeios a pé com o pai pela cidade, esta memória vai emergindo do passado. Se, por um lado, a velhice, a decadência física e a doença do pai, constituem o fio condutor a partir do qual a narrativa é estruturada, por outro lado, as histórias que ele recupera de um tempo irremediavelmente distante, permitem estabelecer uma ponte, não só entre dois tempos, mas, acima de tudo, entre duas pessoas: o pai e o filho.
Património é a história de uma aproximação entre dois homens; da aproximação que, nas circunstâncias particularmente severas da doença, permite o conhecimento e a compreensão mútuos, e, por fim, a resolução edipiana. Mestre da arte da escrita, Roth sabe explorar o pathos, inerente a esta relação, sem cair no patético. Vejam-se as suas confissões quando, no hospital, se prepara para dar autorização para que a máquina que mantém o pai artificialmente vivo, seja desligada: “... afaguei-lhe a testa, ..., e disse-lhe toda a espécie de coisas que ele já não podia tomar consciência. Felizmente, não lhe disse nada, naquela manhã, que ele já não soubesse.” (210)
Ora, esta aproximação passou, como referi, pela recuperação de uma cartografia perdida de Newark, e pela partilha das memórias que ela encerra. Nos passeios pelas ruas, e nomeadamente quando vai levar o pai ao médico, teve de “o conduzir através da pobre, da paupérrima velha Newark. Conhece todas as esquinas de todas as ruas. Sabe onde foram destruídos edifícios, lembra-se dos edifícios que lá existiram. ‘Não podes esquecer nada’: eis a inscrição da sua cota de armas. Estar vivo, para ele, é ser feito de memória. ... ‘Vês aqueles degraus? Em 1917 estive sentado naquela entrada com Al Borak...’” (113) Quando, no final, Roth prescinde de todos os bens materiais da herança paterna (afinal, ele é um escritor rico!), e guarda a velha tijela que o pai usava para se barbear, ele está a preservar o mais relevante dessa memória, e, consequentemente, o legado paterno.
De igual modo, a cartografia de Elizabeth, uma cidade a sul do estado de New Jersey, evoca o entrecruzar da memória pessoal e da colectiva: “Costumava haver apenas judeus, nesta área de Elizabeth, quando a mãe e eu nos mudámos de Newark. Não quando ela cresceu aqui, evidentemente. Então, eram irlandeses. Todos católicos. Deixou de ser assim. Espanhóis, coreanos, chineses, negros... O rosto da América muda todos os dias.” (77) A memória passa, assim, pelo registo desta dinâmica social e étnica em constante mutação; este é o melting pot, o mosaico de uma América que não cessa de se transformar, e dos quais a família Roth, também ela uma família de emigrantes, participa. Mas esse preservar da memória deve ser igualmente entendido no âmbito de uma tradição judaica: “Não devemos esquecer nada.” (214) Esta sentença com a qual o livro termina, encerra o imperativo ético da memória enquanto construção tanto pessoal como colectiva.
Por outro lado, ao acompanhar a decadência física do pai, e ao construir um momento significativo da sua autobiografia, o autor permite-nos desvendar tanto o que a proxima como o que a distingue do seu universo ficcional: “Nos meus romances sobre Zuckerman dera a Nathan Zuckerman um pai que não suportava a maneira como o filho descrevia as personagens judaicas, enquanto a mim o destino me dera um pai veementemente leal e dedicado que nunca encontrara nos meus livros nada que criticasse – o que o enfurecia eram os judeus que atacavam os meus livros e os que os consideravam anti-semitas e auto-abominadores.” (169)'