Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

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[BRIEF NOTE] What is it about writers and politics, anyway?

Even in translation, Yukio Mishima's short stories are esthetically pleasing models of economy and intelligence. When I first read them, I was left all the more astounded that their writer had died in 1970 by his own hand, committing seppuku after his attempt to rouse the Self-Defense Forces into staging a military coup had failed. There seems to be, in fact, a direct relationship between the greatness of a writer and the insanity of his or her politics. Céline, according to John Lukacs, wanted the Nazis to win the Second World in order to keep the Chinese from Brest, not Brest in Belarus on the Polish frontier but Brest in Brittany. Ezra Pound broadcast propaganda for Fascist Italy, drawing upon his ridiculous desire for a misunderstood Confucian China. Genet supported the Black Panthers, while Eliot was a creepy royalist and Solzhenitsyn's desires for a Holy Orthodox Russia encompassing most of the former Soviet territories and critical of Jewish and Western influence are, alas, well-known.

I would go so far as to say that great writers should not involve themselves in contemporary political affairs. Why is this? Günter Grass is the only writer of international renown I can think of whose political writings are respectable. Grass' oeuvre is dominated by a nostalgia for an irrevocably lost past: Danzig in the interwar period, the flourishing of Kashubia, in short, Mitteleuropa and the Baltic littoral before the Second World War wrecked things. It's important to note that Grass' vision doesn't stretch so far as to require the restoration of this reality, the reversal of the Oder-Neisse line and the recreation of a Kashubian peasant culture that is, by now, archaic. He memoralizes the past, and cares for the past, but he leaves it past. Grass certainly doesn't want to rebuild the world in line with his artistic visions. Too many other great writers, alas, are too caught up in their grand dreams to realize that reality must differ.
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