Sunday, June 7, 2009


"...Growing detachment from the world is of course the experience of many writers as they grow older, grow cooler or colder. The texture of their prose becomes thinner, their treatment of character and action more schematic. The syndrome is usually ascribed to a waning of creative power; it is not doubt connected with the attenuation of physical powers, above all the power of desire.

Yet from the inside the same development may bear a quite different interpretation: as a liberation, a clearing of the mind to take on more important tasks.

The classic case is that of Tolstoy. No one is more alive to the real world than the young Leo Tolstoy, the Tolstoy of War and Peace. After War and Peace, if we follow the standard account, Tolstoy entered upon a long decline into didacticism that culminated in the aridity of the late short fiction.

Yet to the older Tolstoy the evolution must have seemed quite different. Far from declining, he must have felt, he was ridding himself of the shackles that had enslaved him to appearances, enabling him to face directly the one question that truly engaged his soul: how to live."

Page 193. 'Diary of a Bad Year' by J.M.Coetzee [Nobel Prize, 2003]

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