“Practical advice.—People who read much must always keep it in mind that life is one thing, literature another. Not that authors invariably lie. I declare that there are writers who rarely and most reluctantly lie. But one must know how to read, and that isn’t easy. Out of a hundred bookreaders ninety-nine have no idea what they are reading about. It is a common belief, for example, that any writer who sings of suffering must be ready at all times to open his arms to the weary and heavy-laden. This is what his readers feel when they read his books. Then when they approach him with their woes, and find that he runs away without looking back at them, they are filled with indignation and talk of the discrepancy between word and deed. Whereas the fact is, the singer has more than enough woes of his own, and he sings them because he can’t get rid of them. L’uccello canta nella gabbia, non di gioia ma di rabbia, says the Italian proverb: “The bird sings in the cage, not from joy but from rage.” It is impossible to love sufferers, particularly hopeless sufferers, and whoever says otherwise is a deliberate liar. “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But you remember what the Jews said about Him: “He speaks as one having authority!” And if Jesus had been unable, or had not possessed the right, to answer this skeptical taunt, He would have had to renounce His words. We common mortals have neither divine powers nor divine rights, we can only love our neighbours whilst they still have hope, and any pretence of going beyond this is empty swagger. Ask him who sings of suffering for nothing but his songs. Rather think of alleviating his burden than of requiring alleviation from him. Surely not—for ever should we ask any poet to sob and look upon tears. I will end with another Italian saying: Non è un si triste cane che non meni la coda… “No dog so wretched that doesn’t wag his tail sometimes.”
― Lev ShestovAll Things Are Possible And Penultimate Words And Other Essays

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