coromandal


the world flattened out
April 23, 2008, 1:58 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

(Kureishi | Tolstoy | Chekhov)

Hanif Kureishi is the writer of The Buddha of Suburbia.  In this quotation, he says that we use art to raise the events of our lives out of the realm of insignificance.

He asserts that writing is an opening up, an unraveling, a continual search.  The conclusive and finite, and systems we have blindly come to accept like political thought, are limiting – like flattening out a round earth.  So, life is made sweet and human and dimensional by perpetual asking and questioning and yearning.

The master Chekhov taught that it is in the ordinary, the everyday, the unremarkable – and in the usually unremarked – that the deepest, most extraordinary and affecting events occur. These observations of the ordinary are bound up with everyone else’s experience the universal – and with what it is to be a child, parent, husband, lover. Most of the significant moments of one’s life are ‘insignificant’ to other people. It is showing how and why they are significant and also why they may seem absurd, that is art.

The aged Tolstoy thought he had to solve all the problems of life, Chekhov saw that these problems could only be put, not answered, at least by the part of yourself that was an artist. Perhaps as a man you could be effective in the world; and Chekhov was. As a writer, though, skepticism was preferable to a didacticism or advocacy that seemed to settle everything but which, in reality, closed everything off.  Political or spiritual solutions rendered the world less interesting. Rather than reminding you of its baffling strangeness, they flattened it out.

In the end there is only one subject for an artist, What is the nature of human experience? What is it to be alive, suffer and feel? What is it to love or need another person? To what extent can we know anyone else? Or ourselves? In other words, what it is to be a human being. These are questions that can never be answered satisfactorily but they have to be put again and again by each generation and by each person. The writer trades in dissatisfaction.

~excerpted from Something Given: Reflections on Writing, by Hanif Kureishi

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