I think that art needs time to emerge

commented by Cécile Wajsbrot

Living on less (Issue I/2023)

“Words, words, words,” that's what Hamlet said. But for those of us who write, words are like delicate figures, like fragile individuals that we should handle with care. And because we use them every day in everyday life without giving them a second thought, it is always a challenge to transform language into literature.

We are surrounded by words from the news - words like “war,” “climate crisis,” “terrorism,” “pandemic.” Words that strike fear, that hint at tragedy, words that halt reflection. Artistic freedom can only take place, however, if we distance ourselves from everyday language, from the words that are commonly used.

If we write them down directly - together with the thoughts they carry and transmit - that is, if we use a second-hand language, then we not only write banally, then we also think banally. We don't need literature for that. In the prison of fashion, in the whirlpool of everyday life, there is no room for literature. Literature means loneliness, means withdrawal. I am free only when I no longer hear the loud echo of events.

Of course, we all live in the same world, and of course the events of the everyday world have an effect on creativity. When World War II broke out, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, “Now we have become journalists.” By this she meant that one could now only write articles, think briefly and quickly, but no longer write novels, no longer write a work that allowed for continuity in space and time.

When such events as World War II or the war in Ukraine or global warming occur, it is impossible to write about them immediately, on the one hand, and impossible not to write about them, on the other. I think: of course we should take a stand on important events - as citizens, as citizens. But do we have to express all our feelings and thoughts spontaneously in an artistic way?

“In the prison of fashion, in the whirlpool of everyday life, there is no room for literature. Literature means loneliness and withdrawal”

Freedom of art is not simply freedom of expression. Literature belongs to another dimension, where time flows more slowly - and via detours. Past, present and future are not always in a straight line and not always in the same order next to each other as in our lives. Here, the past can come after the future, as in “Alice in Wonderland,” where Alice says, “I can't remember things before they happen”-and the queen replies, “It's a poor memory that only works backwards.“

Artistic freedom means finding that dimension, inventing it. To move freely in writing is to open new windows, to create unexpected possibilities - in a word, to expand the world. To do this, we need to step away from the chorus of commentary, from ready-made thinking.

There are ready-made books that are written quickly, where the sentences can be written down almost automatically with the words of the newspapers. Like the corrections and suggestions of our smartphones, where everything is already pre-set, where the spirit of the times is accurately reflected. Freedom, on the other hand, is an empty space that everyone can fill in for themselves.

However, we have to find the way there on our own, and that means searching, and searching in turn takes time. Therefore, until we reach our goal, we must have the courage to simply be silent. We need time, we need silence to be able to hear other voices, voices that also speak in books.

We are not the first to have experienced such events, to have gone through such trials. What did they write then, what did they think? Paradoxically, it is the voices of the past that give us permission to go on our own way, because they have already gone their own way and thus created their works. A permission as a passport to freedom. Then we can write freely - far from the mainstream - and hopefully pass on this freedom so that there is less mainstream.

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