Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Literary figures

One of my late friends knew Emile Cioran as a young man. I was not so fortunate: when I read him for the first time, not so long ago, I decided to ring at his doorbell, before learning he had committed suicide a short time before. He had an incurable disease. A cancer I believe.

Cioran never asked the why of things, which he shied away from like the pest for a simple reason, and which I think is common to a good number of artists: he was terrified of losing himself if he became truly contemplative.

It is a false alternative, at least it seems to me to be a false alternative. We imagine that art is necessarily a revolt; I do not think this to be true. Revolt or bitterness are tempting from the standpoint of inspiration, as conflict fecunds imagination. However, I do not believe in this obsession with negation from the viewpoint of artistic creation. Obviously, to not believe in it is more comfortable: it is always easier to lean on asinity to create, if only because it is without limit... whereas to lean on nothing can be daunting, and even scary. I think Cioran was frightened of that. He preferred his talent to truth. He loved his talent above all.

This is not, for example, the case of Frederic Dard, who was a delicious and tender person. Dard didn't care much for his talent. He had read Louis-Ferdinand Céline and decided there was nothing serious to be done in literature; he had wanted to do what Céline had done, and it was done. I like Dard, the writer and the man. He touches me deeply. Through his SanAntonian deliriums seeps a rare person, moving, very cultivated, a subtle soul.


  1. Hi Harvey, would be interested in knowing a little more about Dard. I read a great deal of Cioran at one point, and on the whole don't really care for him. I find him too intentionally pessimistic, looking for the bitter pill in everything. I'm a writer of aphorisms, short notations like him, and unfortunately I feel he's exercised a negative influence on the field. People think aphorisms have to throw some kind of dirt on human joys and hopes, be sarcastic or ironic, give life the stinger, and of course that doesn't have to be the case. There are other models-dating back to the pre-Socratics. I certainly agree that talent is overrated; character is much more important. I love this Montaigne quote:

    "It is our duty to compose our character not to compose books, and to win not battles and provinces but order and tranquillity for our conduct of life."

    For me, life comes first.

  2. Hi Nothing Profound,

    I (Harvey, the translator of Avatar's musings) have not read Dard. Before Avatar mentionned this to me, I did not realize Dard had a great talent for writing. I'm looking to get my hands on his books :)

    Cioran really worked his writing style. He is a great stylist. What you write about his aphorisms squares perfecly with Avatars comments above.

    Here are some aphorisms of Dard which I found on Wikipedia. Of course, some are close to impossible to translate.

    "A pedestrian is someone walking to get his car"

    How do you find my bottom? - Very easily!

    "A woman's ten most beautiful years are between the age of 27 and 30."

    "If all dumb asses could fly, it would be night."

    Interestingly, the name of San Antonio was chosen on a map :)

  3. Very thoughtful post. It'd write some more, but I'm more interested in thinking about what you wrote. :)

  4. Hi Your thoughts! Glad the post gave you food for thoughts. :)