Archive for July 22nd, 2010

Walcott to Europe: “What is the meaning of your empires?”

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
Share

Rush Rehm‘s kind comment on yesterday’s post, “From Troy to the Caribbean: Homer onstage,” returned me to another passage from Irena Grudzińska Gross‘s Czesław Miłosz and Joseph Brodsky: Fellowship of Poets.  The passage occurs after an acrimonious confronation between Miłosz, Brodsky, and Susan Sontag on the nature of empire.  Walcott “rejects linear thinking, the straight line linking today to the past. Because the straight line, in the words of Peter Viereck, ‘is the longest distance between two points. And the bloodiest.'”  She continues:

Walcott "rejects linear thinking"

“During the conference in which Miłosz debated Brodsky on the matter of Central Europe, Walcott also spoke.  He had been hesitating, he began, before speaking: ‘I’ve a very great difficulty here between friendship and ideology. And I think that’s a penalty of ideology.’ This conflict causes in him ‘flashes of rage and an alternation between that and nausea. … The imperial voices dominates this conference and its range increases with every representation by European tribe, by European nation. This is not merely a historical posture of ancestry and tradition which goes under the general name of “civilization.” I am talking about tone … about a linear concept of progress and experiment in literature which I find no different from the presumptions of the priest and the conquistador. You writers of Europe continue that tone, that responsibility of carrying the banner and the cross or the book.  I have found no breadth, no expanse of imagination and, even at the risk of sounding corny, no evangelical vision.  What is the meaning of your empires? To hear all this from contemporary writers is only to deepen my conviction that for all its wars, its museums, its literatures, its revolutions, the provinciality of Europe and of Russia increases. Writers are not inheritors of history.'”