This is a time when it is frightening to be alive, when it is hard to think of human beings as rational creatures. Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that--a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check. But I think that while it is true there is a general worsening, it is precisely because things are so frightening we become hypnotized, and do not notice--or if we notice, belittle--equally strong forces on the other side, the forces, in short, of reason, sanity and civilization.
Writers brought up in Africa have many advantages - being at the center of a modern battlefield; part of a society in rapid, dramatic change. But in a long run it can also be a handicap: to wake up every morning with one's eyes on a fresh evidence of inhumanity; to be reminded twenty times a day of injustice, and always the same brand of it, can be limiting.
Why were the Europeans bothered about the Soviet Union at all? It was nothing to do with us. China had nothing to do with us. Why were we not building, without reference to the Soviet Union, a good society in our own countries? But no, we were all - in one way or another - obsessed with the bloody Soviet Union, which was a disaster. What people were supporting was failure. And continually justifying it.
But it isn't only the terror everywhere, and the fear of being conscious of it, that freezes people. It's more than that. People know they are in a society dead or dying. They are refusing emotion because at the end of very emotion are property, money, power. They work and despise their work, and so freeze themselves. They love but know that it's a half- love or a twisted love, and so they freeze themselves.
What a luxury a cat is, the moments of shocking and startling pleasure in a day, the feel of the beast, the soft sleekness under your palm, the warmth when you wake on a cold night, the grace and charm even in a quite ordinary workaday puss. Cat walks across your room, and in that lonely stalk you see leopard or even panther, or it turns its head to acknowledge you and the yellow blaze of those eyes tells you what an exotic visitor you have here, in this household friend, the cat who purrs as you stroke, or rub... Read more »
At last I understood that the way over, or through this dilemma, the unease at writing about 'petty personal problems' was to recognize that nothing is personal, in the sense that it is uniquely one's own. Writing about oneself, one is writing about others, since your problems, pains, pleasures, emotions—and your extraordinary and remarkable ideas—can't be yours alone. [...] Growing up is after all only the understanding that one's unique and incredible experience is what everyone shares.
London has changed enormously and so have the English in the past decade. They're more like Americans and more like Europeans, too. They're always eating out, and when they're at home they don't cook the way they did ten years ago. They're all sitting around in cafés, like the Continentals, drinking coffee and chattering and watching the world go by.
When you look at my life, you can go back to the late 1930s, what I saw was, first of all, Hitler, he was going to live forever. Mussolini was in for 10,000 years. You had the Soviet Union, which was, by definition, going to last forever. There was the British empire -- nobody imagined it could come to an end. So why should one believe in any kind of permanence?
What of course I would like to be writing is the story of the Red and White Dwarves and their Remembering Mirror, their space rocket (powered by anti-gravity), their attendant entities Hadron, Gluon, Pion, Lepton, and Muon, and the Charmed Quarks and the Coloured Quarks. But we can't all be physicists.
I don't think that Women's Liberation will change much though -- not because there is anything wrong with their aims, but because it is already clear that the whole world is being shaken into a new pattern by the cataclysms we are living through: probably by the time we are through, if we do get through at all, the aims of Women's Liberation will look very small and quaint.
It has become a kind of religion that you can't criticise because then you become a traitor to the great cause, which I am not. It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests ... Men seem to be so cowed that they can't fight back, and it is time they did.
All political movements are like this -- we are in the right, everyone else is in the wrong. The people on our own side who disagree with us are heretics, and they start becoming enemies. With it comes an absolute conviction of your own moral superiority. There's oversimplification in everything, and a terror of flexibility.
I'm going to make the obvious point that maybe the word neurotic means the condition of being highly conscious and developed. The essence of neurosis is conflict. But the essence of living now, fully, not blocking off to what goes on, is conflict. In fact I've reached the stage where I look at people and say - he or she, they are whole at all because they've chosen to block off at this stage or that. People stay sane by blocking off, by limiting themselves.
The current publishing scene is extremely good for the big, popular books. They sell them brilliantly, market them and all that. It is not good for the little books. And really valuable books have been allowed to go out of print. In the old days, the publishers knew that these difficult books, the books that appeal only to a minority, were very productive in the long run. Because they're probably the books that will be read in the next generation.
He destroyed in her the knowing, doubting, sophisticated Ella, and again and again he put her intelligence to sleep, and with her willing connivance, so that she floated darkly on her love for him, on her naivety, which is another word for a spontaneous creative faith. And when his own distrust of himself destroyed this woman-in-love, so that she began thinking, she would fight to return to naivety.
[On her mother:] I was in nervous flight from her ever since I can remember anything, and from the age of fourteen I set myself obdurately against her in a kind of inner emigration from everything she represented. Girls do have to grow up, but has this battle always been so implacable?
The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents... Read more »
And it does no harm to repeat, as often as you can, 'Without me the literary industry would not exist: the publishers, the agents, the sub-agents, the sub-sub-agents, the accountants, the libel lawyers, the departments of literature, the professors, the theses, the books of criticism, the reviewers, the book pages- all this vast and proliferating edifice is because of this small, patronized, put-down and underpaid person.'
The novel has become a function of the fragmented society, the fragmented consciousness. Human beings are so divided, are becoming more and more divided, and more subdivided in themselves, reflecting the world, that they reach out desperately, not knowing they do it, for information about other groups inside their own country, let alone about groups in other countries. It is a blind grasping out for their own wholeness, and the novel-report is a means toward it.
I woke up one morning, and I couldn't move my arm. It was the oddest thing, the paralysis. I called up a friend and said, "I think I've had a stroke," and, in fact, that's what my doctor told me. It wasn't terrible, but it was enough to scare me. Now I think about death all the time. I have my death arm, my right arm.