Henry Miller, The Time of the Assassins: a Study of Rimbaud (1946/1956), 163p.
The book starts uninspired but by the epiphany that the life of Rimbeaud contains the blueprint for genius, emphasizing the parallels between Miller and Rimbeaud. Did I mention Miller is a pretentious prick? Only after he made that first point of life and the formation of exceptional psychologies, does he enter the waters where the streams of Miller’s lyrical poetry grasp you and pull you under. It is when he talks about the end of the world, about the assassin of youth, the escapes and boredom, the venomous poison of a poet’s visions that entered the unknown, that Miller’s study becomes inspiring.
Guy De Maupassant, Sicily (1885) 63p.
De Maupassant’s travel notes from his tour of Sicily are not a literary effort in the first place, but without a doubt meant as simple travel notes. In that sense it is not enlightening of a special kind to read his Sicily notes, and it is not interwoven with reflections or symbolic layers. But it can still stand the test of time to serve as a travel guide for those who plan to visit the island, or it is an entertaining report to read again for those who have recently visited and toured Sicily themselves as I did in 2007.
Andre Malraux, Man’s Fate (1933) 371p.
“The stupidity of the human race is that a man who has only one life is willing to lose it for an idea.
It is very rare for a man to be able to endure [..] his fate as a man. [..]
All that men are willing to die for, beyond self-interest, tends obscurely to justify that fate by giving it a foundation in dignity: Christianity for the slave, the nation for the citizen, Communism for the worker. [..]
There is always a need for intoxication: China has opium, Islam has hashish, the West has woman.
Perhaps love is above all means which the Occidental uses to free himself from man’s fate.”
La Condition Humaine, for many one of the classics in the modern literary pantheon and I would agree, is about the struggle to reconnect to the world we lost, to find humanity in our soul, to live with dignity a life that knows no morals, to accept a path in life and to rise above it. At the end of our way there is death, and our companion is solitude, the road is narrow and we walk it alone. We escape this fate of man and find companion in the forgetfulness of alcohol, drugs and paid women. Or we strive to transcend our civic meaninglessness by becoming gods, and die for a higher ideology that serves mankind. This we dream to believe, but we are but dust in the wind, fond of thinkat we chose the direction in which we are heading. This power of the will is struck dead in an instant, it does not carry the force of our fate.
The existential reflection in Man’s Fate is the deepest representation of man’s thought. His struggle however is to overcome this isolated position in the world by action. And it is the ideological conclusion that drives man forward despite the reality of his existence. Unlike Dostoevsky’s writing, there is no sympathy provoked by or in the characters of Man’s Fate. But this is only to enforce the message that Malraux’ writing bears, that man is detached from the world, from the other, and that in this miserable reality we search and struggle to reconnect ourselves. Some reconcile themselves with the pity minded path that this brings us to, others prefer a chance for all or nothing, inevitably leading us to nothingness. Continue reading →