Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

A phenomenon to the tenth power

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Amidst the immense emotional excitement surrounding works of art, it is desirable that talk about art be marked by the greatest restraint. For the immense majority, a work of art is enticing only insofar as it illuminates the artist’s perception of the world. For the artist, however, his perception of the world is a tool and an instrument, like a hammer in the hands of a stonemason, and the only thing that is real is the work itself.

To live is the artist’s highest self-esteem. He wants no other paradise than being, and when he’s told about reality, he only smiles bitterly, because he knows the infinitely more convincing reality of art. The spectacle of a mathematician proclaiming the square of a ten-digit number without stopping to think about it fills us with a certain astonishment. Too often, however, we overlook the fact that the poet raises a phenomenon to its tenth power, and the modest exterior of a work of art often deceives us concerning the prodigiously condensed reality that it possesses.

Osip Mandelstam, Selected Essays

Written by nevalalee

September 30, 2018 at 7:30 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

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