Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prime Passages: Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, and Ben Okri (impromptu)

from Vila-Matas's Dublinesque:
“He dreams of the day when the spell of the best-seller will be broken, making way for the reappearance of the talented reader, and for the terms of the moral contract between author and audience to be reconsidered. He dreams of the day when literary publishers can breathe again, those who live for an active reader, for a reader open enough to buy a book and allow a conscience radically different from his own to appear in his mind. He believes that if talent is demanded of a literary publisher or writer, it must also be demanded of a reader. Because we mustn’t deceive ourselves: on the journey of reading we often travel through difficult terrains that demand a capacity for intelligent emotion, a desire to understand the other, and to approach a language distinct from the one of our daily tyrannies. … The same skills needed for writing are needed for reading. Writers fails readers, but it also happens the other way around and readers fail writers when all they ask of them is confirmation that the world is how they see it.” (New Directions, 2012; p.51)
Ben Okri, speaking at the World Writers Festival in Edinburgh, 2012:
“My brothers and sisters in Africa, we feel that our stories have still not been told. We feel that the form of the telling of those stories has not yet been found and articulated and evolved in a way that, as it were, can be appreciated round the world. We feel that the novel is still very young. … I seem to be hearing about the exhaustion of the novel. I find that very puzzling, personally. Because I think that the novel is only 350 years old. It’s not as old as painting. It’s not as old as sculpting. And as an art form itself, I think maybe the real future of the novel lies with the fact that we, the writers, have not issued the fundamental challenge to the perception of the novel as a form. What do I mean by that? In almost all the other forms—in music, and certainly in art—the narrative tradition, the naturalistic tradition of painting, has been superseded by abstract, by many other kinds of media. And I think that we have accepted too much, as it were, the definition of the limitation of the novel. I think the real challenge is to change the form of the novel in terms of how we read it. I still think that we accept too much the beginning, middle, end.  Even where we have experiments, we have not managed, as it were, the kind of Duchampian change of game. I feel that the novel is not dead yet. I just feel like I’m at a funeral here, really. I feel like speaker after speaker has given a kind of oration to the end of the novel, as if the novel has yet begun to express all the different possibles, all the different ways in which reality can be expressed. I don’t think that reality is as homogenous as that. I think each person carries within them a special way of seeing and perceiving reality, and I think that’s what the novel does. The novel constantly challenges us to say that the way that we’re told that the world is, is not the way the world is. The world is much more mysterious than that, is much more elusive than that, and is much more magical and more challenging, and possibly even more fragmented. I just would like to propose that we talk about where we can go as novelists, where we can go as writers, and whether we accept the fact that we are really totally determined by the marketplace, which I don’t accept.”  
(Okri's remarks are transcribed from the dazzling 2-hour discussion on "the Future of the Novel," involving 50 authors from all over the world, which can be viewed in its entirety here.)