Friday, 10 October 2008

Scandal trumps beauty

Zbigniew Herbert, 1924-1998

Having finished a draft of the Liverpool lecture, I responded to poems by various friends, acquaintances, people I am mentoring (mentees?) and started on the Zbigniew Herbert talk, which will begin with Hamlet, Fortinbras, Prufrock and Philip Larkin and look to explore the fortunes of cold war poetry in England.

That is because it has been obvious to me for some time that interest in specific areas of literature is partly determined by its value as news, particularly political news. So, in the early post war days there was a lot of interest in Russian literature, in the days of the Greek colonels in Greek literature, in the days of different Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean etc colonels in South America in South American literature, just as currently there is an interest in Arabic literature. The Eastern Europeans had their turn from the mid sixties until 1989, at which point interest began, if not exactly to die, at least to diminish.

This is not cynical, it just happens to be so. Beauty does not trump scandal. Nor should we be surprised.

But there is another angle to this, just as interesting, in fact a great deal more interesting than scandal. What interest? Well, that is what I want to explore in the brief 20-30 minute talk, so I'll just work on it for now, as and when I can.

In the meantime I see Peter over at Fat Man on a Keyboard, has taken up and developed some points I was making regarding Márai, class, and the conservatism of the poor. And I have also been in a fight with the otherwise reliable Shuggy regarding teacher-student relationships. You could check the comments boxes there. I might write more about this some time. It is sad but true that the people best placed to write about such things are the last people likely to do so because even discussing them leads to tension, anxiety, paranoia and - in my opinion - foolishness. 'Fear stalks the streets of Reason!'

And so to bed.


Shuggy said...

tense, anxious, paranoid? You should take something for that. Oh, do you mean me? You're wrong about that you know.

Like I said in my own comments, disagree by all means but the amateur psychology I find patronising in the extreme.

George S said...

I don't mean particularly you, Shuggy. Now that is paranoid. In fact that is the perfect illustration of what I mean. I was referring to the climate in which such language is so readily resorted to and which, in my opinion, should be resisted.

Go ahead, feel patronised if that's what you think you are. Me, I don't intend it. I think it all just shows how hard this subject is.

As to the psychology, we are all amateur something yet we all practice. Even you. So fume away if it pleases you, but why waste your time?

Anonymous said...

Shuggy, I read your piece. It was a good one: illustrating the anomolies of the law. Unfortunately, the 'arseholes' in your original piece, and the 'slimeballs' in the following debate was not, in my opinion, a proper way to describe human frailty. I agree with George. It was very N.O.W.

By the way, I am not a teacher. I am a pupil. You can shag me, or take advantage of me any way you will, any time, and I promise I won't think of you as an arsehole. Misguided? Perhaps.In fact I know you would have to be. ;)