Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Finding Refuge

"Books, though, have been my most enduring refuge, not the ones I've written, but the ones I've read - my good, long disappearances into them, how they always return me to the world; in the best of instances, to an enlarged world. In fact, a world with more places that I could have imagined in which to hide, get lost, or be found. A great book, I'm tempted to say, is a refuge for the negatively capable, those of us more or less at home with uncertainties, who are not made entirely miserable by the burden of consciousness. But I've also found comrades in books merely good, even mediocre. I've loved how some authors manage to give, if not refuge, then a kind of home to the displaced, the misunderstood, the estranged, give them names and secret thoughts, even chapters of their own - and the displaced, the misunderstood, the estranged among us turn the pages and find ourselves there and are less alone.

I tell my students that I once believed my strangest thoughts had only been thought by me. Kafka made me feel sane."


***

"The hunger artist had only his art, and therefore, when faced with neglect, had no place to go except further inward, that dangerous province where only touchy-feely folks find refuge. Get in touch with your feelings, they say, as if feelings were all sanguine and warm. Kafka would have laughed. He'd have his hunger artist shed another pound. He sent his hunger artist inward, however, to a point where success was concomitant with personal annihilation. That's scary enough. But he has no choice, he says. Where's the thin line between artistic courage and artistic suicide? Between restraint and timidity? Between a fine excess and indulgence? It seems that for artists who go all the way those are questions not often asked.

To the extent that Kafka was his hunger artist, his parable scared him as well, but Kafka, in a more important way, wasn't him. He was the hunger artist's maker, and was amused by what he made. Unlike the hunger artist, Kafka was able to look outward as well as inward, and he understood that the enemies of true seriousness are often compositional sobriety and earnestness."


- Stephen Dunn in the latest edition of the American Poetry Review (not up on the Web yet) speaking about finding refuge in books and in Kafka.

3 comments:

iconoplastic said...

try this link.. (provided you haven't already)..http://www.metameat.net/kafka/index.php?en

Anonymous said...

The first para (quite eloquently) spun my thoughts into words. I read Kafka for the first time very recently. Brilliant and beautiful. I so feel grateful to him.

Astha said...

"I've loved how some authors manage to give, if not refuge, then a kind of home to the displaced, the misunderstood, the estranged, give them names and secret thoughts, even chapters of their own "

Beautifully expressed. Its not just the thought- but the language into which its woven- thanks for sharing this.