Adonis Diaries

Masterpieces. In Literature? Since when? Part 1

Posted on: April 10, 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

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adonis49

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