Of Literature

Published:  12:00 AM, 19 May 2016

An instantaneous pondering

I am not writing an essay, or any research paper. I am writing in simple language what I am pondering. This is an instantaneous pondering over literature. I guess most of the people know or think what I am going to focus. Yet, different kinds of issues gyrate in my mind while discussing about literature with anybody. Moreover, I face some common questions from my students while delivering lecture in the classroom. This writing is a reaction to my encounter with these situations. This piece of writing is not intended for the scholars; rather it is for them who can bring out some leisure to think even after living in this material anti- leisure society. Anyhow, some common questions have been disturbing my psyche for quite a long time. Some are saying, some are asking, some are criticizing. Even I have encountered some long arguments in the virtual world with some knowledgeable friends. But the issue has not been solved. I can't promise that it is going to be solved in this write up, yet I am writing. Like all my writings, this one is also like an adventure. As long as I am writing, I don't know the destination or decision.

The following questions are the most common that I have faced:
1.    What is the utility of literature?
2.    Thousands of classics are there in the world of literature. What differences have they brought about in the world?
3.    A writer sacrifices a lot: he becomes nocturnal over his writing table, struggles with adverse situations, burns in the flame of alienation, becomes considered as an outsider in the society and is victimized with misunderstanding. After all these he creates a piece of art. Is this suffering worth taking? Does the society care what he thinks of justice and politics and humanity?

Before looking for answers, I think a couple of questions should be considered:
1.    If no more literary works are created in the society, will the society run?
2.    If yes, then why should one practice literature? Or why does a writer write?
The answer to the first question is 'yes' for sure. Aren't the non readers eating and drinking and living? Don't their children make them proud? Moreover, aren't the non readers the majority of the society? Moreover, aren't they more recognized as social beings? Rather, a writer is often misunderstood and labeled as unsocial and stranger in the society. If literature doesn't exist, won't people do jobs? Won't they attend ceremonies? Won't they celebrate birthdays, holidays, and vacations? Won't they sleep at night? Won't they enjoy sex? Readers of literature have always been a sect of minority. Even in developed countries ('what development means' is another issue of debate, for now I accept traditional meaning) more than half of the population doesn't read literature. We don't see any visible top to bottom change in the society by reading literature. Then? Then the answer to the second question must be found. There may be some possible answers:
1.    Personal sufferings: A writer suffers from a special- inexplicable species of pain created by political, social and environmental situation of the world. After observing contemporary world, the writer examines it on the basis of history and then he realizes that he has a lot to say. Quoting Manik Bandopadhyay: 'I write to express what I can't make people understand in any other way.'
2.    Existential Crisis: Here the term 'existential' should not be taken only as the famous philosophical branch. Every writer is infected with the question WHY. Albert Camus said, 'we become so habituated to live that we never ask why we live.' A writer can't decide to lead a crammed- photocopy life, he intends to be a masterpiece. What should one do after being born only once in this world, having death ahead as the ultimate destination with only one human life? Did the world miss me when I was nonexistent? When I won't exist, will there be any difference? Then have I come to this world like a lottery- ticket? Will I leave this world like a lottery- ticket too after leading a weak life satisfying the society and adapting the situations and giving up freedom? Writing, painting or composing music is the result of a search for authentic life. Human being is essentially authenticity- searchers. He gives birth to children to consider himself as a creator. He tries to be better than others in job or family or sex or business or politics. One of the most refined searches for authenticity is creating art.
3.    Social liability: a writer writes to show responsibility to the society. Some writers consider literature as a weapon to reform the society.
Hence, practicing literature is no more an objective activity; I think it has never been though. All the people will accept literature-this kind of hope is not a folly but logically a mistake in the global context. Common people will buy one more kilogram of rice than buying a book. I am not teasing, it is the reality. To create or accept art, leisure is essential, where is that thing in this material society? The so called leisure the inhabitants of this modern (what we mean by modern is another issue of debate) society get after earning money and satisfying society and family is not adequate to think or do something deep and significant. Instead of being bookish or newspaper 'articlelish', we can realize this truth observing our surrounding urban reality. Now is the age of corporate life. People are looking for corporate jobs to be reclaimed. We see the bankers and other corporate job (I refrain from writing 'service') holders to run from dawn to dusk. They enter the office building early in the morning and don't know when they are going to come out. When they reach their home, most often it is after dark. Their brain is tired with monotonous file work, their soul is bothered with the heavy demand of the boss and their mind is full of jealousy to the promotion of their colleagues. This is a kind of capitalist hegemony. They don't feel the necessity to find anything greater to run after. What do they do after coming home? They rebuke their children for not studying properly; they watch a drama or commercial movie or an item song on TV and then sleep only to repeat themselves in the next morning. Firstly, government has to take responsibility to create leisure for its citizens. Doing this could have been easier for us than other nations as ours is essentially an agricultural society. Our fishermen, farmers, boatmen have created deeply philosophical folk- arts (what are we if they are folks?) while fishing, cultivating and crossing rivers. Secondly, to create leisure government must be, according to Plato, not politician but philosopher-Philosopher King. If the state doesn't virtually allow leisure, then the reader and the writer must be superman to be able to dig out leisure sacrificing temptation. It is a matter of happiness that some supermen have created great art in our country.  A couple of questions again:
1.    If the non readers read literature, would their existence get any new dimension?
2.    If yes, then what is the way to make them literature- oriented?
To be continued…

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