G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Should Berenger of Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros' open a Facebook account?

Joe Penhall:

"Rhinoceros is filled with animal grunts and snorts and panicky human frailty, showing us how it feels to have one's identity subsumed and traduced...more interestingly today, it describes a human response to creeping transmogrification...The hero, Berenger, is alternately frightened, defiant, desperate, frustrated, impotent, self-loathing, envious and ultimately completely unhinged by the "epidemic" in a way that is immediately recognisable to us..." (Guardian, October 3 2007)

Erich Fromm:

(man has) "constructed a complicated social machine to administer the technical machine he built…. The more powerful and gigantic the forces are which he unleashes, the more powerless he feels himself as a human being. He is owned by his creations, and has lost ownership of himself."

Pankaj Mishra:

"...Gandhi’s example has inspired many globally revered figures, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Aung San Suu Kyi. Gandhi, rather than Mark Zuckerberg, may have been the presiding deity of the Arab Spring..." (The New Yorker, May 2, 2011)

Bob Mankoff:

“...(James Thurber's) cartoons were not about politics, but they were protests: against formulas, conventions, and systems of all kinds. They celebrated the authentic, the eccentric, the original..."



Zadie Smith, attacking social media, wrote on November 25 2010 'Generation Why?':

"...Different media designs stimulate different potentials in human nature. We shouldn’t seek to make the pack mentality as efficient as possible. We should instead seek to inspire the phenomenon of individual intelligence.

But the pack mentality is precisely what Open Graph, a Facebook innovation of 2008, is designed to encourage. Open Graph allows you to see everything your friends are reading, watching, eating, so that you might read and watch and eat as they do. In his New Yorker profile, Zuckerberg made his personal “philosophy” clear:
Most of the information that we care about is things that are in our heads, right? And that’s not out there to be indexed, right?… It’s like hardwired into us in a deeper way: you really want to know what’s going on with the people around you.

Is that really the best we can do online? In the film (The Social Network), Sean Parker, during one of his coke-fueled “Sean-athon monologues,” delivers what is intended as a generation-defining line: “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities and now we’re gonna live on the internet.” To this idea Lanier, one of the Internet’s original visionaries, can have no profound objection. But his skeptical interrogation of the “Nerd reductionism” of Web 2.0 prompts us to ask a question: What kind of life? Surely not this one, where 500 million connected people all decide to watch the reality-TV show Bride Wars because their friends are?...

...When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears...

...With Facebook, Zuckerberg seems to be trying to create something like a Noosphere, an Internet with one mind, a uniform environment in which it genuinely doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you make “choices” (which means, finally, purchases). If the aim is to be liked by more and more people, whatever is unusual about a person gets flattened out. One nation under a format...

...These designs came together very recently, and there’s a haphazard, accidental quality to them. Resist the easy grooves they guide you into. If you love a medium made of software, there’s a danger that you will become entrapped in someone else’s recent careless thoughts. Struggle against that!..."


Struggle against that!


I bought Eugene Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros The Chairs/ The Lesson' in Mumbai (Jaico) in October 1984 for Rs. 31/50 (Price in UKP 1.95).

I started reading it with a lot of trepidation: I was NOT going to understand any of this leading play from the school of drama known as the Theatre of the Absurd...

And I fell in love with 'Rhinoceros' where "over the course of three acts, the inhabitants of a small, provincial French town turn into rhinoceroses; ultimately the only human who does not succumb to this mass metamorphosis is the central character, Bérenger, a flustered everyman figure who is often criticized throughout the play for his drinking and tardiness." (Wikipedia)

To put into Facebook language: inhabitants change their status to "Just turned into rhinoceros and feeling good about it..."

I have still not understood why some say 'Absurd Play' is difficult to understand.

I wrote about my confusion to M V Dhond (म वा धोंड) when I read his argument how R G Gadkari (राम गणेश गडकरी) anticipated the Theatre of the Absurd and almost became its inventor.

Later I learnt how Vijay Tendulkar (विजय तेंडुलकर), bemused at the start of the play, was mesmerised watching 'Khurchya' (खुर्च्या), Marathi translation of Ionesco's 'The Chairs'.

Soliloquy of the central character Bérenger from Rhinoceros at the end of the play with all brackets, punctuation marks, grunts, snorts etcetera has to be read in full.

I couldn't find it anywhere on the www. Here are a few lines copied from the book:

"...The only solution is to convince them - but convince them of what? Are the changes reversible, that's the point? It would be a labour of Hercules, far beyond me. In any case, to convince them you'd have to talk to them. And to talk to them I'd have to learn their language. Or they'd have to learn mine. But what language do I speak? What is my language? Am I talking French? Yes, it must be French. But what is French? I can call it French if I want, and nobody can say it isn't - I'm the only one who speaks it...

...Oh, how I wish I was like them! I haven't got any horns, more's the pity! A smooth brow looks so ugly. I need one or two horns to give my sagging face a lift. Perhaps one will grow and I needn't be ashamed any more - then I could go and join them. But it will never grow!...

...My hands are so limp - oh, why won't they get rough! My skin is so slack. I can't stand this white, hairy body...

...I should have gone with them while there was still time. Now it's too late! Now I'm a monster, just a monster. Now I'll never become a rhinoceros, never, never!...

...People who try to hang on to their individuality always come to a bad end! Oh well, too bad! I'll take on the whole of them, the whole lot of them! I'll put up a fight against the lot of them, the whole lot of them! I'm the last man left, and I'm staying that way until the end. I'm not capitulating!"

(Rhinoceros, First Published 1959, Act Three)

(Sir Lawrence Olivier and Duncan Macrae in the 1960 Royal Court production, produced in London by Orson Welles, of Rhinoceros)

courtesy: Penguin Books

Not everyone would like 'Chairs'. It's likely a large number of people at a performance don't like it.

What would they do? Vandalise the theatre using chairs?

Following picture by Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे ), a dear friend of Vijay Tendulkar, is titled 'Khurchya! Khurchya!!' (खुर्च्या! खुर्च्या!!).


Caption to the picture at the bottom:

"Understand that only because of our union even during a lousy play we can stay protected."

(केवळ आपल्या युनियनमुळेच आपण अत्यंत भिकार नाटकाच्या प्रसंगीही सुरक्षित राहू शकतो बरं का !)

[from book 'Savadhan! Pudhe Valan Aahe!' (सावधान! पुढे वळण आहे!), 1990]

The late Jaywant Dalvi (जयवंत दळवी), another dear friend of Sarwate, once said that if he asked Sarwate his views on a particular book and if Sarwate replied 'interesting', it meant lousy (भिकार)!

I must find out from Sarwate if he saw 'Chairs' and found it 'interesting' or otherwise!