Sartre: Secrets spoil relationships

Q: Does it bother you when I ask you about yourself?


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Sartre: No. Why? I believe that everyone should be able to speak of his innermost being to an interviewer. I think that what spoils relations among people is that each keeps something hidden from the other, something secret, not necessarily from everyone, but from whomever he is speaking to at the moment.

I think transparency should always be substituted for what is secret, and I can quite well imagine the day when two men will no longer have secrets from each other, because no one will have any more secrets from anyone, because subjective life, as well as objective life, will be completely offered up, given. It is impossible to accept the fact that we would yield our bodies as we do and keep our thoughts hidden, since for me there is no basic difference between the body and the consciousness.

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“philosophers who write novels are nothing but pseudo-novelists”: Milan Kundera


But why would a novelist want to deprive himself of the right to express his philosophy overtly and assertively in his novel?



Because he has none! People often talk about Chekhov’s philosophy, or Kafka’s, or Musil’s. But just try to find a coherent philosophy in their writings! Even when they express their ideas in their notebooks, the ideas amount to intellectual exercises, playing with paradoxes, or improvisations rather than to assertions of a philosophy. And philosophers who write novels are nothing but pseudonovelists who use the form of the novel in order to illustrate their ideas. Neither Voltaire nor Camus ever discovered “that which the novel alone can discover.” I know of only one exception, and that is the Diderot of Jacques le fataliste. What a miracle! Having crossed over the boundary of the novel, the serious philosopher becomes a playful thinker. There is not one serious sentence in the novel—everything in it is play. That’s why this novel is outrageously underrated in France. Indeed, Jacques le fataliste contains everything that France has lost and refuses to recover. In France, ideas are preferred to works. Jacques le fatalistecannot be translated into the language of ideas, and therefore it cannot be understood in the homeland of ideas.

“In poetry, you don’t have to tell a story: Jack Kerouac


You have said that haiku is not written spontaneously but is reworked and revised. Is this true of all your poetry? Why must the method for writing poetry differ from that of prose?



No, first; haiku is best reworked and revised. I know, I tried. It has to be completely economical, no foliage and flowers and language rhythm, it has to be a simple little picture in three little lines. At least that’s the way the old masters did it, spending months on three little lines and coming up, say, with:

In the abandoned boat, 

The hail 

Bounces about.

That’s Shiki. But as for my regular English verse, I knocked it off fast like the prose, using, get this, the size of the notebook page for the form and length of the poem, just as a musician has to get out, a jazz musician, his statement within a certain number of bars, within one chorus, which spills over into the next, but he has to stop where the chorus page stops. And finally, too, in poetry you can be completely free to say anything you want, you don’t have to tell a story, you can use secret puns, that’s why I always say, when writing prose, “No time for poetry now, get your plain tale.”

Octavio paz: we create or destroy our own freedom

So for you freedom of speech is more than the right to speak your mind?
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Absolutely. Ever since I was an adolescent I’ve been intrigued by the mystery of freedom. Because it is a mystery. Freedom depends on the very thing that limits or denies it, fate, God, biological, or social determinism, whatever. To carry out its mission, fate counts on the complicity of our freedom, and to be free, we must overcome fate. The dialectics of freedom and fate is the theme of Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, although in Shakespeare fate appears as passion (love, jealousy, ambition, envy) and as chance. In Spanish theater—especially in Calderón and Tirso de Molina—the mystery of freedom expresses itself in the language of Christian theology: divine providence and free will. The idea of conditional freedom implies the notion of personal responsibility. Each of us, literally, either creates or destroys his own freedom. A freedom that is always precarious. And that brings up the title’s poetic or aesthetic meaning: the poem, freedom, stands above an order, language.

BRADBURY: You can’t learn to write in college

You have said that you don’t believe in going to college to learn to write. Why is that?
Ray Bradbury
You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time. A lot of the people whose work they’ve taught in the schools for the last thirty years, I can’t understand why people read them and why they are taught. The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself.

Create from your own experience: Michael Haneke

But would you say that drawing from one’s own experience and background is always good—or even necessary?
I’ve never seen good results from people trying to speak about things they don’t know firsthand. They will talk about Afghanistan, about children in Africa, but in the end they only know what they’ve seen on TV or read in the newspaper. And yet they pretend—even to themselves—that they know what they’re saying. But that’s bullshit. I’m quite convinced that I don’t know anything except for what is going on around me, what I can see and perceive every day, and what I have experienced in my life so far. These are the only things I can rely on. Anything else is merely the pretense of knowledge with no depth. Of course, I don’t just write about things precisely as they have happened to me—some have and some haven’t. But at least I try to invent stories with which I can personally identify.

Camus : A stranger life-1

Interviewer: The opening line of this novel (the stranger) has become one of the most widely known quotes in literature. What is your response to this and what were your original intents for the line?


Camus: When I was writing this novel, I did not intend for this line to become so well known. I did not even intend for this line to be spectacular or even important. But after the readers have read this novel, they believe that this line is very important to the novel. After sixty-something years, I have begun to agree with my readers. I think this is a very important line, and I have even begun to consider it worthy of its fame. I am a strong proponent of the Theory of the Absurd, and this line sums up the Theory very well. The Theory discusses the lack of coherence in a brief and painful human existence. In the first line of The Stranger, the reader gets their first glimpse of the Absurd in the character Meursault and the telegraph he just received. Meursault is essentially saying that the loss of his mother means nothing to him. Most people would argue that their mother’s death is a big deal, but Meursault, an indirect proponent of the Absurd, dismisses his mother’s death as a trivial event. Given the basis behind the line, I am glad that it has become so popular and widely known. I feel very strongly about the Theory of the Absurd, and I am glad I can spread my wisdom to others. After seeing the success of this single line, I feel very positive about what has happened to it and my novel.