Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The writer and the blacksmith

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Jean-Paul Sartre

A blacksmith can be affected by fascism in his life as a man, but not necessarily in his craft; a writer will be affected in both, and even more in his craft than in his life. I have seen writers who, before the war, called for fascism with all their hearts, smitten with sterility at the very moment when the Nazis were loading them with honors…The freedom of writing implies the freedom of the citizen. One does not write for slaves. The art of prose is bound up with the only regime in which prose has meaning—democracy. When one is threatened, the other is, too. And it is not enough to defend them with the pen. A day comes when the pen is forced to stop, and the writer must then take up arms. Thus, however you might have come to it, whatever the opinions you might have professed, literature throws you into battle. Writing is a certain way of wanting freedom; once you have begun, you are engaged, willy-nilly.

Engaged in what? Defending freedom? That’s easy to say. Is it a matter of acting as a guardian of ideal values, like Benda’s clerk before the betrayal, or is it concrete, everyday freedom which must be protected by our taking sides in political and social struggles? The question is tied up with another one, one very simple in appearance but which nobody ever asks himself: “For whom does one write?”

Jean-Paul Sartre, Literature and Existentialism

Written by nevalalee

November 24, 2016 at 7:30 am

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