Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Task of Art

"I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors."
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was a truly great writer. His short stories are masterworks of imagination and structure. They cleverly twist and morph our ideas of what literature and story is and can be. He expresses the beautiful cyclic connection between reality and fiction by reminding us of the "character of unreality in all literature." In this way he is relevant for the Illuminated Showman, for the nature of literature is also the nature of the Carnival; make-believe more real than reality itself.
Literature and Carnival Arts are human creations, made by man for man so per definition; artificial.
What Borges shows with exceptional beauty through his work is how this artificiality isn't something to be shunned or explained away but rather something to be playfully enjoyed and explored.

At the end of his life, now completely blind, he saw more clearly than ever the task of art and he sums it up beautifully and poignant what the art's role in the world is.
"The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all these things into symbols, into music, into something which can last in man’s memory. That is our duty. If we don’t fulfill it, we feel unhappy. A writer or any artist has the sometimes joyful duty to transform all that into symbols. These symbols could be colors, forms or sounds. For a poet, the symbols are sounds and also words, fables, stories, poetry. The work of a poet never ends. It has nothing to do with working hours. Your are continuously receiving things from the external world. These must be transformed, and eventually will be transformed. This revelation can appear anytime. A poet never rests. He’s always working, even when he dreams. Besides, the life of a writer, is a lonely one. You think you are alone, and as the years go by, if the stars are on your side, you may discover that you are at the center of a vast circle of invisible friends whom you will never get to know but who love you. And that is an immense reward."

If you don't know much about Borges you could start by checking out this documentary about him called The Mirror Man.

(Thanks to Open Culture for finding this.)

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