flowerville: Christa Wolf – mere life cannot come to terms with itself directly

mere life cannot come to terms with itself directly

The alternative is “honestly” to admit our failure and act accordingly by lapsing into silence, by owning up that words fail us – for a reason which is to be kept as indefinite as possible: any attempt to define it would mean writing again. This attitude – like any based on not doing something – will go largely unnoticed and very likely will soon harden into a pose. Once something begins to give something up justice, he commits himself to an injustice. He must keep finding reasons to justify his continued renunciation. His honesty is now a thing of the past.


All I can record is an observation, a partial answer to the question of what makes a person produce literature. Apparently, the writer waits for his hand successfully to trace a curve which is stronger, brighter, and truer to life than the curve of his life with its many deviations.
And since people have never completely abandoned the labor of writing even in the hardest times, it appears that mere life – life undescribed, untransmitted, uninterpreted, uncontemplated – cannot come to terms with itself directly.


Irreplacable, above all, is the knowledge that life’s abundance is not exhausted by the few actions which chance permits us to perform.


As if the mere existence of “things”, unaccompanied by commentary, were possible and desirable in the novel; as if art did not require the mediation of the artist who – with his fate and his conflict – stands between “reality” and the empty page, and has no choice of how to fill this page, but to project onto it the argument between the world and himself.


Nothing less is required than the total commitment of one’s personal moral existence; and the same must be offered anew each time.


The desire for self-realization is among the most vital prerequisites of literature. The writer’s compulsion to write things down stems from the fact that this may be the only possibility he has of not missing his true self.


Consequently, “writing” is merely one event in a more complicated process for which we have the beautiful and simple word “life”.


Besides this, what he needs as much as the intention to go to the limit is the tacit understanding that the most modest of his achievements – to be himself speaking with his own voice that is like no other – may turn out to be necessary to some other human being.

Christa Wolf — Reading and Writing

Source: flowerville: mere life cannot come to terms with itself directly

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