Sep 29, 2011

Bad love.

The desire for possession is only another form of the desire to endure; it is this that comprises the impotent delirium of love. No human being, even the most passionately loved and passionately loving, is ever in our possession. On the pitiless earth where lovers are often separated in death and are always born divided, the total possession of another human being and absolute communion throughout an entire lifetime are impossible dreams. The desire for possession is insatiable, to such a point that it can survive even love itself. To love, therefore, is to sterilize the person one loves. The shamefaced suffering of the abandoned lover is not so much due to being no longer loved as to knowing that the other partner can and must love again. In the final analysis, every man devoured by the overpowering desire to endure and possess wishes that the people whom he has loved were either sterile or dead.

—Albert Camus, The Rebel
The hope that we may meet the right one is about as absurd as falling for a tree. The seeker makes a list of things he wishes for in a partner: "someone who can make me laugh", "someone with whom I can share the good and bad times together", "someone who values me above everything else"—essentially, he wishes for something dead, which in his complete possession can he then use for self-gratification whenever such situations arise that require it to make him laugh, or him it, or share in his or its joy or sorrow. One will be amazed to know how heartily the dead can laugh. And since we all seek, how then are we to find? I've got a little plush dog. Whenever I feel unloved I pick it up, flap its ears, wave its paws, and put its nose against mine. It cheers me up everytime. Unfortunately, nobody is responsible for the way we love poorly. That is because it is easier to love and be loved by the dead, for they will never shatter the ideals we hold in them, unlike those alive who always seem to break our hearts somehow.

Sep 28, 2011

I had dropped one form and not taken on the other.

A man who gives himself to be a possession of aliens leads a Yahoo life, having bartered his soul to a brute-master. He is not of them. He may stand against them, persuade himself of a mission, batter and twist them into something which they, of their own accord, would not have been. Then he is exploiting his old environment to press them out of theirs. Or, after my model, he may imitate them so well that they spuriously imitate him back again. Then he is giving away his own environment: pretending to theirs; and pretences are hollow, worthless things. In neither case does he do a thing of himself, nor a thing so clean as to be his own (without thought of conversion), letting them take what action or reaction they please from the silent example.

In my case, the efforts for these years to live in the dress of Arabs, and to imitate their mental foundation, quitted me of my English self, and let me look at the West and its conventions with new eyes: they destroyed it all for me. At the same time I could not sincerely take on the Arab skin: it was an affectation only. Easily was a man made an infidel, but hardly might he be converted to another faith. I had dropped one form and not taken on the other, and was become like Mohammed's coffin in our legend, with a resultant feeling of intense loneliness in life, and a contempt, not for other men, but for all they do. Such detachment came at times to a man exhausted by prolonged physical effort and isolation. His body plodded on mechanically, while his reasonable mind left him, and from without looked down critically on him, wondering what that futile lumber did and why. Sometimes these selves would converse in the void; and then madness was very near, as I believe it would be near the man who could see things through the veils at once of two customs, two educations, two environments.

—T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The wretched writer.

It is always easier to read than to write a book; to play than to develop a game. These are the easier things to do no doubt, but these things are not mine. In the end, after reading a good book, say, 'The Myth of Sisyphus', those ideas still belong to Camus. What then are my ideas? What is my story?

Why do I even want to write the story? Does it matter whether it gets told? What do I want out of it?

It doesn't matter—nothing does. So why bother? Why why why? Indeed, why bother about anything at all. The sound and the fury. Much ado about nothing. It probably means nothing at all.

Then I filled another page-and-a-half on his childhood, and wondered if I am not a wretch.

Sep 23, 2011

On work, and what life is.

Without warning the work has begun. On Wednesday I filled a page-and-a-half of a blank jotter book with details of his childhood. On Thursday I did not have the mood to write anything. Instead I spent the day reading Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. It is truly a beautiful story, and as I read I remembered those insights that once came to me and those that Adrian once shared with me, and there they are, all in the book too. Often, when I encounter stories that mimic situations in my life, I would be amused by a sense of illusion about reality, as if my life were created from these stories and I was to read them someday. I would then wonder if I am not a character in a book as well, reading a story about one who resembles myself, and is in turn a writer working on a novel using experiences from his life. Such depths it can go to! Yet life cannot be a book, for if it were then the author must be a very bad writer to have included all sorts of insignificant fillers, details such as hanging out every single piece of laundry to dry, or brushing the teeth everyday.

So one does his work on some days, and does not on some other days. Man is neither greater nor lesser in that way. There are lives, and then there are great books about people's lives, but it is not the same between reading about one and living one.

Sep 20, 2011

Stop aspiring. Start writing.

Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.

—Alan Watts (via awritersruminations)
It must be mentioned that there are a number of tumblrs which I have been following for inspiration and good quotes. A Writer's Ruminations, as quoted from, is one; another two are Book Oasis and A Poet Reflects. There indeed exist many other inspiring blogs but I particularly like these three for their names, selections, and style.

Sep 16, 2011

Grand's grandeur.

     'You see, what I want, doctor, is that on the day when the manuscript reaches the publisher, he should stand up after reading it and say to his colleagues: "Hats off, gentlemen!" ...Yes,' Grand said. 'It must be perfect.'
     Though he knew very little about customs and practice in the literary world, Rieux had the impression that things were not so simple, and, for example, that publishers would be bare-headed in their offices. But, in fact, one never knew and he preferred not to make any remark about it. Grand went on talking and Rieux could not always follow what the good fellow was saying. He only understood that the work in question was already many pages long, but that the efforts the author was taking to bring it to perfection cost him dear. 'Whole evenings, whole weeks on one word... sometimes just a simple conjunction.' Here Grand stopped and took hold of the doctor by a button of his coat. The words stumbled out of his ill-adjusted mouth.
     'You understand, doctor. At a pinch, it is easy enough to choose between but and and. It already becomes more difficult to opt for and or then. The difficulty grows with then and afterwards. But what is surely hardest of all is to decide whether one should put and or not.'
     'Yes,' Rieux said. 'I understand.'
     And he set off again. The other man seemed confused and once more caught up with him.
     'Excuse me,' he stammered. 'I don't know what's wrong with me this evening!'
     Rieux tapped him lightly on the shoulder and said that he wanted to help him, because his story interested him a good deal. Grand seemed a little calmer and when they arrived at his house hesitated for a moment, then invited the doctor to come up. Rieux accepted.
     In the dining room, Grand invited him to sit down at a table spread with papers, a manuscript in minute handwriting, which was covered with crossings-out.
     'Yes, that's it,' Grand told the doctor, who was looking at him enquiringly. 'But, don't look. It's my first sentence. It's giving me trouble, a lot of trouble.'
     He, too, was staring at all the sheets of paper and his hand seemed to be irresistibly drawn towards one of them, which he raised up until the light from the unshaded bulb was shining through it. The sheet trembled in his hand. Rieux noticed that the clerk's forehead was damp.
     'Sit down,' Rieux said, 'and read it to me.'
     The other man looked at him with a kind of gratitude.
     'Yes,' he said. 'I think I'd like to.'
     He waited for a moment, still looking at the sheet of paper, then sat down. Rieux was listening at the same time to a sort of vague humming sound in the town, as if replying to the whistling flail of the plague. At this particular moment he had an extraordinarily acute perception of the town spread out at his feet, the enclosed world that it formed and the dreadful cries stifled in its night. He heard Grand's muffled voice: 'On a fine morning in the month of May, an elegant woman was riding a magnificent sorrel mare through the flowered avenues of the Bois de Boulogne.' Silence returned and with it the faint murmuring of the suffering town. Grand had put down the sheet of paper, but was still staring at it. After a pause, he looked up:
     'What do you think of it?'
     Rieux replied that this beginning made him curious to know what would follow. But the other man said with excitement that this was not the right way of looking at it. He slapped the flat of his hand down on the paper.
     'That's only a rough idea. When I have managed to describe precisely the picture that I have in my imagination, when my sentence has the very same movement as that trotting horse, one-two-three, one-two-three, then the rest will be easy and above all the illusion will be such from the very start that it will be possible to say: "Hats off, gentlemen!"'
     However, before he reached that point,there was still a lot of work to be done. He would never agree to hand over this sentence as it was to a printer because, though from time to time he did feel pleased with it, he realized that it still did not entirely accord with reality and that, to some extent, it had a certain facility of tone that made it sound distantly—but sound, for all that—like a cliché.
     'You see what I'll do with it,' Grand said. And, turning to the window, added: 'When all this is over.'

—Albert Camus, The Plague

Sep 15, 2011

Two quotes.

...The fact that creation is necessary does not perforce imply that it is possible. A creative period in art is determined by the order of a particular style applied to the disorder of a particular time. It gives form and formulae to contemporary passions. Thus it no longer suffices, for a creative artist, to repeat, say, the words of Mme de La Fayette in a period when our morose princes have no more time for love. Today when collective passions have stolen a march on individual passions, the ecstacy of love can always be controlled by art. But the ineluctable problem is also to control collective passions and the historic struggle. The scope of art, despite the regrets of the plagiarists, has been extended from psychology to the human condition. When the passions of the times put the fate of the whole world at stake, creation wants to dominate the whole of destiny. But, at the same time, it maintains, in the face of totality, the affirmation of unity. In simple words, creation is then imperilled, first by itself, and then by the spirit of totality. To create, today, is to create dangerously.

Every great reformer tries to create in history what Shakespeare, Cervantes, Molière, and Tolstoy knew how to create: a world always ready to satisfy the hunger for freedom and dignity which every man carries in his heart. Beauty, no doubt, does not make revolutions. But a day will come when revolutions will have need of beauty. The procedure of beauty, which is to resist the real while conferring unity upon it, is also the procedure of rebellion. Is it possible eternally to reject injustice without ceasing to acclaim the nature of man and the beauty of the world? Our answer is yes. This ethic, at once unsubmissive and loyal, is in any event the only one which lights the way to a truly realistic revolution. In upholding beauty, we prepare the way for the day of regeneration when civilization will give first place—far ahead of the formal principles and degraded values of history—to this living virtue on which is founded the common dignity of man and the world he lives in, and which we have to define in the face of a world which insults it.

—Albert Camus, The Rebel

Sep 10, 2011


Unbearable as the days of training were, they still came to an end finally. Then as I lay in my own bed, surrounded by the familiar musty scent of clothes and books, I wonder if they had gone too fast. Always too fast, the way we part. And I wish I could tell them that I love most the brotherhood of men but who is ready to understand what it is supposed to mean? So perhaps it is enough to give a light pat on the shoulder followed by a quick, friendly squeeze, for no words should exist between comrades more than necessary. Some place in the depths of our hearts and souls we're understood, I'd like to think.