[ilds] Artistic Freedom

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 19 10:11:06 PDT 2009

Provocative as ever, Charles.  Thanks for recalling the De Sade  
epigraph.  Very relevant.  I suspect Durrell had strong suicidal  
tendencies, and the reference to De Sade's "noose" is much more than a  
bit of cleverness.  It's an obsession — perhaps finally fulfilled in  
Sappho Jane's suicide.  Re Keat's "negative capability," I don't think  
even he would want to go into some territories of depravity.  Hard to  
imagine any nightingales in Dracula's castle, although I'm sure LD  
could.  But why some areas are off-limits and others not is a real big  
question.  I'm not upset by Cormac McCarthy's novels, Blood Meridian,  
in particular.  In fact, I'm strongly attracted to Cormac's depictions  
of violence.  Sexual depravity, however, touches another cord, a  
prudish one.  When writing about sex, Durrell would go only so far and  
got into a big argument with Miller over the latter's explicitness.   
Too bad we don't have Byron's Memoirs, then we'd see how far things  
could go.  "Only fit for a brothel," they were called.  Hobhouse  
burned them, and Durrell has Pursewarden's letters burned, which may  
be a good deal more than a touch of authorial indebtedness to an  
honored predecessor.  Maybe Durrell was also hiding something.


On Aug 18, 2009, at 6:48 PM, Charles Sligh wrote:

> My appreciation goes out to Sumantra and Bruce for their detailed,
> thoughtful conversation.
>>    My reaction to /Lolita/ is based on the subject matter.  An
>>    American locale has absolutely nothing to do with it.  I'm queasy
>>    about the topic, uncomfortable, as I am with De Sade's
>>    /Justine./  Pedophilia and sadism — I have problems with those
>>    two.  Being queasy is not a rejection of the novel; it's an
>>    admission of my own limitations.
> That is a brave admission of the limits of your "negative capability,"
> Bruce.  I can respect this choice.
> Lawrence Durrell and Algernon Charles Swinburne were provocative  
> writers
> who self-consciously aligned themselves with De Sade, so I have spent
> some time pondering these limits.
> Durrell said that "it was necessary" for de Sade to "go as far as he
> did" (/Conversations/ 87).   And I have always been fascinated by the
> precise targeting implied by the epigraph to /Justine/:
>>        There are two positions available to us -
>>        either crime which renders us happy, or
>>        the noose, which prevents us from being
>>        unhappy.  I ask whether there can be any
>>        hesitation, lovely Thérèse, and where will
>>        your little mind find an argument able to
>>        combat that one?
>>        D.A.F. DE SADE: /Justine/
> We readers are "lovely Thérèse," right?  Literature is not really
> working if our "little minds" do not hesitate at the limits--some  
> would
> say. . . .
> You can guess where I would turn in order to test the point.
> For the advocacy of the devil--no hope for me, after all!--why mark  
> out
> some artistic "crimes" as /outré/ (say, predation in Nabokov's / 
> Lolita/,
> rape in Cendrars' /Moravagine/, or anti-Semitism in Celine) and pass
> more readily over other heinous acts (the murder of infants and  
> children
> and political cleansing in, say, /Macbeth, Richard III/, /King Lear/,
> and /Hamlet/)?
> Again, I can respect your uneasiness because I know how rigorously you
> distinguish between the "virtual world" of your imagination while you
> read Conrad and the so-called "real world."
> Finding a work of literature that tests our ability to make that
> distinction promises interesting results.  I often find myself weeping
> while reading to my students David Copperfield's account of being  
> beaten
> as a child or lost on the roads.  That is the strangeness--David and  
> his
> world are fiction, a tissue of lies, not real--words words words--but
> man they can make me hurt.
> Again, no hope for me--but my best to you--
> Charles
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