Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 10th, 2013

Masterpieces. In Literature? Since when?

“We judge a great man by his masterpieces: His faults are irrelevant” Voltaire.

Apparently, in the western civilization, it is the same French Voltaire who first coined the terms “Homme de letter” and “Chefs-d’oeuvre” in the 18th century.

The world knew plenty of masterpieces in literature before the advent of the western civilization. The ancient Greek specifically build a library so that the works of Homers be transcribed and made public. The Arabs used the term Tehfa for the grand works in literature.

Petrarque  wrote on April 13, 1350: “This is what I affirm: We show elegance and skill when we express in our proper terms“, meaning that a masterpiece should be written in the popular language of the country in order for the common people who can read to comprehend the manuscript. Since then, Boccaccio and Dante followed suit and kept Latin at bay. And that’s how the Europe Renaissance took a giant step forward in achieving all kinds of masterpieces in literature, art, sculpture, painting…

A Masterpieces in literature creates its proper criterion, and it is the most audacious and unique expression of a personality.

The subject has a single utility: It is the yeast to rise the dough of its characteristic form. And the form is what defines a masterpiece and the author.

A masterpiece burst open taboo topics that normative cultures love to control. For example, same sex relationship, drag queen, taboo sickness of terminally ills…

A masterpiece in literature doesn’t serve the grand ideological trend or guideline of the period, such as the “Greatness of a nation”, “Progress”, “Technological breakthrough”, “globalization”, Capitalism, Communism, description of the Middle-Classes…

A masterpiece is meant to emancipate people from the common values, and thus, are fresh through the ages…

A masterpiece doesn’t talk about the future or the past: It is written by an author living his period and in his lifetime…

A masterpiece is not meant to describe any petty reality, or see meanness in life… The avid reader has already read all kinds of minor literature and he is set to discover and mine the gold in the masses of dirt…

The present is shown in its eternity: the present extends the sensation of immortality.

Nothing ever originated from pure abstraction that does not exist. All origins are generated from the sensation, and the idea of immortality is born from the simple fact of existing.

What counts is not reason but the seriousness of the author, camouflaged under comical and easy going style. We all can differentiate between a genuine and a copycat manuscript.

What counts is that “You liked the book”, that it touched a nerve, a hidden passion, a desire, an uplifting sensation, that demonstrated to you that you are not all alone, and the author happened to know you and is a friend of yours…

What counts is that the words feel like they are playing in a trance, dancing, cavorting, making sense to you.

Since humor is a scares ingredient, who manages to make you laugh is an angel: Like in “Too much ado about nothing“, Decameron, Life is a dream (Calderon)…

There are sentences that don’t sound funny to you, but they generate hilarious moments to others. It takes some training to discover the funny and this flap peeking in the cloudy sky, an opening to let sunshine seep in.

It is possible and beautiful to live a masterpiece, like a love story: We become better people when we read a masterpiece.

Publilius Syrus wrote in the first century: “The beautiful thoughts may be forgotten but never vanish

The are people who are masterpieces in the way they live, at least in moments of their lives, and they are very discreet and fragile creatures.

Do you think that it make sense to categorize masterpieces? Like collecting data from viewers and readers and analyzing the data statistically?

Note: Inspired from the French book “A propos des Chefs-d’Oeuvre” by Charles Dantzig

Many still hate former Margaret Thatcher PM, even after her death, many are still angry 

Ken Loach wrote:
Margaret Thatcher was the most divisive and destructive Prime Minister of modern times.
Mass Unemployment, factory closures, communities destroyed – this is her legacy.
She was a fighter and her enemy was the British working class. Her victories were aided by the politically corrupt leaders of the Labour Party and of many Trades Unions.
It is because of policies begun by her that we are in this mess today. Other prime ministers have followed her path, notably Tony Blair. She was the organ grinder, he was the monkey…
Remember she called Mandela a terrorist and took tea with the torturer and murderer Pinochet.
How should we honour her? Let’s privatize her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she would have wanted.”
Call Me Cynical posted:

In one of my earliest childhood memories, my father is perched on the toilet reading the newspaper, while i am taking a bath. As I’m playing with my secondhand barbies, dunking their heads underwater in the hope that they’d turn green (a myth, it turns out, propagated by girls in my kindergarden), he suddenly flies into a rage. I remember nagging him to explain. Right around that time, I had started to join him in front of the TV for the 8’ o clock evening news bulletin, which included recaps of that day’s parliamentary debates. I would ask, “Is he good? Is he bad? Is he good? Is he bad?” as various politicians filed across the screen. My dad would, at first, play along and yell “Good! Bad! Bad! Bad! Good!” until he quickly tired of the game and ordered me to be quiet so he could follow the debates. That afternoon in the bathroom, he explained to me that he was furious at Thatcher, a VERY bad politician who had once abolished free milk programs in school. This was pretty advanced policy for me and a decisive step up from our TV game. I didn’t understand if it meant the kids all went hungry or not. But I was a little bit proud that he’d bothered to explain it to me in the first place. So Thatcher was a big deal to me then. And now she’s dead and I am thoroughly enjoying the unadulterated scorn being heaped on her. I detest the hagiographic rituals common in the US when villainous figures pass away. The sanitized coverage of Reagan’s legacy upon his death was as traumatic as Bush’s re-election later that same year.Fuck Thatcher in life and in death. My only regret is not to be watching it all on TV with my dad in Berlin. Bad Thatcher. Bad.

In one of my earliest childhood memories, my father is perched on the toilet reading the newspaper, while I am taking a bath.

As I’m playing with my secondhand barbies, dunking their heads underwater in the hope that they’d turn green (a myth, it turns out, propagated by girls in my kindergarten), he suddenly flies into a rage.

I remember nagging him to explain. Right around that time, I had started to join him in front of the TV for the 8’ o clock evening news bulletin, which included recaps of that day’s parliamentary debates.

I would ask, “Is he good? Is he bad? Is he good? Is he bad?” as various politicians filed across the screen. My dad would, at first, play along and yell “Good! Bad! Bad! Bad! Good!” until he quickly tired of the game and ordered me to be quiet so he could follow the debates.

That afternoon in the bathroom, he explained to me that he was furious at Thatcher, a VERY bad politician who had once abolished free milk programs in school. This was pretty advanced policy for me and a decisive step up from our TV game.

I didn’t understand if it meant the kids all went hungry or not. But I was a little bit proud that he’d bothered to explain it to me in the first place. So Thatcher was a big deal to me then.

And now she’s dead and I am thoroughly enjoying the unadulterated scorn being heaped on her.

I detest the hagiographic rituals common in the US when villainous figures pass away. The sanitized coverage of Reagan’s legacy upon his death was as traumatic as Bush’s re-election later that same year. Fuck Thatcher in life and in death.

My only regret is not to be watching it all on TV with my dad in Berlin. Bad Thatcher. Bad.

Glenn Greenwald published in the Guardian on April 8, 2013 under: “Margaret Thatcher and misapplied death etiquette”

News of Margaret Thatcher‘s death this morning instantly and predictably gave rise to righteous sermons on the evils of speaking ill of her. British Labour MP Tom Watson decreed: “I hope that people on the left of politics respect a family in grief today.”

Following in the footsteps of Santa Claus, Steve Hynd quickly compiled a list of all the naughty boys and girls “on the left” who dared to express criticisms of the dearly departed Prime Minister, warning that he “will continue to add to this list throughout the day”.

Former Tory MP Louise Mensch, with no apparent sense of irony, invoked precepts of propriety to announce: “Pygmies of the left so predictably embarrassing yourselves, know this: not a one of your leaders will ever be globally mourned like her.”

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher Photograph: Don Mcphee

This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power.

“Respecting the grief” of Thatcher’s family members is appropriate if one is friends with them or attends a wake they organize, but the protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse about the person’s life and political acts.

I made this argument at length last year when Christopher Hitchens died and a speak-no-ill rule about him was instantly imposed (a rule he, more than anyone, viciously violated), and I won’t repeat that argument today; those interested can read my reasoning here.

But the key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren’t silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person’s death to create hagiography.

Typifying these highly dubious claims about Thatcher was this (appropriately diplomatic) statement from President Obama: “The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.” Those gushing depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized.

Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.

Whatever else may be true of her, Thatcher engaged in incredibly consequential acts that affected millions of people around the world. She played a key role not only in bringing about the first Gulf War but also using her influence to publicly advocate for the 2003 attack on Iraq.

She denounced Nelson Mandela and his ANC as “terrorists”, something even David Cameron ultimately admitted was wrong. She was a steadfast friend to brutal tyrants such as Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein and Indonesian dictator General Suharto (“One of our very best and most valuable friends”).

And as my Guardian colleague Seumas Milne detailed last year, “across Britain Thatcher is still hated for the damage she inflicted – and for her political legacy of rampant inequality and greed, privatization and social breakdown.”

To demand that all of that be ignored in the face of one-sided requiems to her nobility and greatness is a bit bullying and tyrannical, not to mention warped. As David Wearing put it this morning in satirizing these speak-no-ill-of-the-deceased moralists: “People praising Thatcher’s legacy should show some respect for her victims. Tasteless.”

Tellingly, few people have trouble understanding the need for balanced commentary when the political leaders disliked by the west pass away. Here, for instance, was what the Guardian reported upon the death last month of Hugo Chavez:

To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance.”

Nobody, at least that I know of, objected to that observation on the ground that it was disrespectful to the ability of the Chavez family to mourn in peace. Any such objections would have been invalid. It was perfectly justified to note that, particularly as the Guardian also explained that “to the millions who revered him – a third of the country, according to some polls – a messiah has fallen, and their grief will be visceral.

Chavez was indeed a divisive and controversial figure, and it would have been reckless to conceal that fact out of some misplaced deference to the grief of his family and supporters. He was a political and historical figure and the need to accurately portray his legacy and prevent misleading hagiography easily outweighed precepts of death etiquette that prevail when a private person dies.

Exactly the same is true of Thatcher.

There’s something distinctively creepy – in a Roman sort of way – about this mandated ritual that our political leaders must be heralded and consecrated as saints upon death. This is accomplished by this baseless moral precept that it is gauche or worse to balance the gushing praise for them upon death with valid criticisms.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn’t change simply because they die.

If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistic  self-serving history

Note 1:  Pierre Madani commented: “It seems that only “Enemies of the West” can be bashed in newspapers post-mortem; take Hugo Chavez as a recent example… balanced criticism for a deceased public figure seems inappropriate among the society she helped tear apart…. Chutzpah

Note 2: The Irish are jubilant: dozen of Irish prisoners died, and one was let to die during his hunger strike. The Scots also are jubilant…


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