The Library of Babel

library of babel

 

A surrealist short story by Jorge Luis Borges about a universe that entirely consists of libraries.

Read the full story in The Critical Point.

 

Excerpt:

 

Some five hundred years ago, the chief of one of the upper hexagon came across a book as jumbled as all the others, but containing almost two pages of homogeneous lines. He showed his find to a traveling decipherer, who told him that the lines were written in Portuguese; others said it was Yiddish. Within the century experts had determined what the language actually was: a Samoyed-Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with inflections from classical Arabic. The content was also determined: the rudiments of combinatory analysis, illustrated with examples of endlessly repeating variations. Those examples allowed a librarian of genius to discover the fundamental law of the Library.

Art, Truth, and Politics

art, truth, and politics

 

Harold Pinter (1930-2008) presented what, arguably, could be the most controversial Nobel Lecture upon winning his literature prize in 2005.

 

Excerpt:

 

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Qaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Analyzing Kafka

kafka

 

 

This is how Kafka interprets the world: a man wakes up to find himself transformed into a huge bug (literally) with no obvious cause. An ordinary employee was, against his own destiny, detained by unknown agents, and put into trial for unclear reasons. A lonely old man is disrupted by two rolling balls with origins totally unknown. And these all resonate pretty well with the oftentimes disturbing, and incomprehensibly enigmatic, reality of our universe.

The Atlantic provides an in-depth analysis of Kafka’s literary realm. Read the full article here.

Excerpt:

Kafka created “obscure lucidity,” Erich Heller wrote in his book on Kafka. “His is an art more poignantly and disturbingly obscure,” he added, “than literature has ever known.” One thinks one grasps Kafka’s meaning, but does one, really? All seems so clear, yet is it, truly? A famous aphorism of Kafka’s reads: “Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities of escape, again, are as many as hiding places.” Another runs: “A cage went in search of a bird.”

As with Kafka’s aphorisms, so with his brief parables. The parables, Walter Benjamin wrote, are “never exhausted by what is explainable; on the contrary, he took all conceivable precautions against the interpretation of his writings.” Whatever these precautions may have been, they were inadequate, for the works of Franz Kafka—apart perhaps only from the Bible and the works of Shakespeare—may be the most relentlessly interpreted, if not overinterpreted, in the modern world.

How to write like Italo Calvino

calvino_art

 

 

I’m a regular guy, I like well-defined outlines, I’m old-fashioned, bourgeois. My stories are full of facts, they have a beginning and an end. For that reason they will never be able to find success with the critics, nor occupy a place in contemporary literature. I write poetry when I have a thought that I absolutely have to bring out, I write to give vent to my feelings and I write using rhyme because I like it, tum-tetum tumtetum tum te-tum, because I’ve got no ear, and poetry without rhyme or meter seems like soup without salt, and I write (mock me, you crowds! Make me a figure of public scorn!) I write … sonnets … and writing sonnets is boring, you have to find rhymes, you have to write hendecasyllables so after a while I get bored and my drawer is overflowing with unfinished short poems. – Italo Calvino

 

Read the full article on Brain Pickings to gain more insight on how one of the history’s most enigmatic writers thinks about writing.

Bonus: more worthwhile quotes included.

 

The magical world of Haruki Murakami

haruki murakami

 

 

There is more to the reality he wants to convey through his mind-bending narratives, but some literary critics are still unsure what he actually wants to convey about.

Read the full article on The Daily Beast.

Excerpt:

With Murakami, there are certain motifs that appear again and again, and for which he’s sometimes mocked—cats, wells, baseball, and jazz, to name a few. Thematically, Murakami’s work explores the complexities of relationships, sex, self-discovery, the influence of Western culture in Japan, violence, and the reverberations of World War II. “You get a sense of the oddness and the eeriness of a modern culture, I think, which was born from a great act of violence,” said John Freeman, the editor of the literary magazine Granta. “His work is full of monsters and earthquakes.” Freeman said there are two things that make it hard for Murakami to win big literary awards and gain unmitigated praise. The first is that his stories have an improvisational feel to them, even if they weren’t actually improvised. The second is that “there’s a silliness and comedy to his work, and people who have comic impulses I think are always underrated in the short term.”