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: "… इ. स. 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Behind a Thousand Veils: Snub-nosed Woman Wearing Anklets of Footnotes
"...with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration."
“What is so staggering about ‘Ulysses,’ is the fact that behind a thousand veils nothing lies hidden; that it turns neither toward the mind nor toward the world, but, as cold as the moon looking on from cosmic space, allows the drama of growth, being, and decay to pursue its course.”
"You won’t have to worry about opening a greeting card and seeing “We must love one another and die.” Not a Hallmark moment.
But this change still didn’t satisfy Auden, who seems to have genuinely feared for his reputation as a complex and serious poet if “We must love one another or die”—in any version—continued to be his most quoted legacy. And so he kept attacking it whenever he spoke or wrote of it, banning the stanza from publication. (The stanza in which the line occurs is admittedly not his best, concerning itself as it does with the poet speaking truth to power in a self-congratulatory way.)
But there I go, adopting Auden’s retroactive self-loathing of the line, and I’m not sure it was such a crime against poetry. Must we ban from our minds a burst of emotional earnestness from a poet whose frequent acerbic ironies makes it all the more salient? Has self-consciously highbrow culture made such a fetish of complexity, ambiguity, and obscurity as a measure of worth that we condemn or condescend to more simple, heartfelt exclamations? Don’t we feel a “sharp tender shock” at the original line? Is it always more mature and serious for a poet to be riddled by doubt and conflict, rather than to give way to transcendence?..."
I had always felt that B S Mardhekar (बा सी मर्ढेकर) was far more influenced by W H Auden than Marathi saint-poets Tukaram (तुकाराम) and Samarth Ramdas (समर्थ रामदास). I was happy to read later that Vilas Sarang (विलास सारंग), my favourite literary critic, too felt something similar.
I don't know how Mardhekar felt about Auden's easily 'comprehensible' line: 'We must love one another or die' from his poem '1 September 1939'.
Was he startled by this 'heartfelt exclamation', its simplicity, its sentimentality?
Like James Joyce, Mardhekar was accused of both obscenity (अश्लीलता) and obscurity (दुर्बोधता).
For the former- again much like Joyce- he was tried, on the latter, he was advised by some to annotate his own work!
He didn't oblige and instead wrote:
"शब्दांवर थोडी हुकमत असली आणि लय तोंडवळणी पडली म्हणजे कविता लिहिणं फारसं कठीण नसतं. त्यापलीकडे काही पुढील लिखाणांत आहे किंवा नाही हे वाचकच ठरविणार. त्यांच मत अनुकूल पडल नाही तर लेखकाने योग्य तो बोध घ्यावा. पण 'भूमिके'चा टोप चढवून आणि तळटीपांचे पैंजण घालून नकटीला शारदेच सोंग घ्यायला लावण ह़ा त्यावर तोडगा खास नाही."
"If one has some command of the words and has rhythmic expression, writing poetry is not very difficult. If there is anything more to it or not will be decided by the reader alone. If his opinion is not favourable, the writer should learn the right lesson. But making a snub-nosed woman play the role of Sharada by wearing the hat of a 'role' and the anklets of footnotes is certainly not a solution."
[A leading lady character called Sharada from G B Deval's 1855-1916 (गो ब देवल) play 'Sharada', 1899 once was a benchmark of woman's beauty in Maharashtra.]
Was this rebuttal so straight forward for Mardhekar? Had he made 'a fetish of complexity, ambiguity, and obscurity' and 'indulged' in them?
I suspect a little.
For me, Mardhekar is more complex, ambiguous, and obscure than Auden. It need not have been so. Like Auden, he should have written more and easier to understand poems. Like Arun Kolatkar (अरुण कोलटकर) later did.
The late M V Dhond's (म. वा. धोंड) Marathi book 'Tarīhi Yeto Wasa Phulānnā', 1999 (तरीही येतो वास फुलांना) and articles on his poetry have tried to lift the veil from some of them but many still remain a challenge for me.
For instance, I don't get most of this:
"सांदीला पण सोवळ्यांत जो
आजवरी ह़ा देव ठेवला,
धरावयाच्या मुळ्या फांदिनें
ओवळ्यांत तर प्रभूस ढकला."
[poem 20, 'aanakhee kahee kavita' (आणखी कांहीं कविता)]
Like Auden, his choice of everyday words suck me in, hold me captive and, therefore I tend to remember them, but what do they mean collectively?
In fact, in one of my telephonic conversations with Mr.Dhond, I had sought his help by requesting him to interpret all Mardhekar's poems from 'kahee kavita' (कांहीं कविता) and 'aanakhee kahee kavita' except a few! He just laughed.
Now, who would think of poetry-like complexity, ambiguity, and obscurity in cartoons?
I quite liked them in the following one brought upon by Pythagorean theorem!
Mr. Steinberg was no less talented than James Joyce.
Artist: Saul Steinberg, The New Yorker, 7 October 1961