The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 19 August 2010

Literature as Dialogue

Hello Gentle Reader

Is Literature a form of dialogue?

Literature appears to share many common elements. Story, style, characters, and the exploration of a theme. Is it far stretched to say that Franz Kafka's notorious works of the surreal and the idea of mans absurd battle with society and itself, and the constant exploration of alienation, to have influenced others like:

Samuel Beckett
Thomas Bernhard
Haruki Murakami
Charles Bukowski
Albert Camus

among many others . . . ?

Some would say yes, while others would say no.

Literature has a lot in common. Authors read books. But authors also write books. Would it be far fetched to say that any of the above authors were not influenced by Franz Kafka. Could it not be said that Virginia Woolf, had influenced an entire generation of feminist authors?

Does this mean that Literature is dialogue? Some form of universal tongue, written in different languages, but always changing the way that the individual may see the world around them in some different form or another? Perhaps it does. However one must also take into account that many different people will read many different kinds of books.

Some remain in the science fiction genre. Others remain in the fantasy genre. While some may remain in the horror genre. And an "elite," group turn to the "Literary Fiction," that shapes and dictates "Mainstream," Literature. Though I of course find that sometimes funny, because one must always look so hard to find some actual "Literacy Fiction," rather then just genre fiction it appears.

The question still remains though. Is Literature a form of dialogue? In my (humble) opinion it is.

Herta Muller writes about the communist dictatorship and its bleak and horrible control it had on others.

Haruki Murakami, writes about the alienation that the people of Japan (usually younger people) feel, within the new consumerism driven economy.

Charles Bukowski, had written about the seedy low life of those that lived in a world of madness of booze, and otherwise hedonistic cravings.

Emile Zola, took the realism literary genre and advanced it into the "Naturalism." where he tried to show that the environment (and genetics) ultimately influences the person/individual's character.

Irvine Welsh, shows us the Scottish working classes day to day struggles, and the recreational drug use that encompasses the youth from the 1960's to the present.

Elfriede Jelinek, takes the novel and uses her characters like string puppets, and plays with them to show how the sexes (two genders) are always combating each other for domination of the other.

It appears that literature always has the same form of themes running through out. The themes, come from all over the world, and are put into various locations and settings. The themes are faced, and challenged by the characters from all over the world. Yet the basic principles of the novel or the story and often Literature itself, remain the same, opening it up for a sense of dialogue. Allowing the reader to talk to the others about what they interpret from the novel. This does make Literature a form of dialogue.

If the mechanics stay the same, if the themes are presented, and the authors shows these themes and allows for the characters to overcome or tragically fail, the reader is given a certain welcoming into the dialogue of literature. Though the dialogue is not like the normal dialogue that people may experience when they talk on the phone or with a friend face to face.

Literature is to show the reader as the individual something. What that may be, is most likely up to the reader. the author simply writes. what is written is words. words are composed by letters. Letters are in all honesty a symbol. Something that represents a certain syllable or sound. Therefore all words are, are just simple syllables and sounds. But what the author writes about is (usually) unique to the author themselves. The author may wish to entertain or enlighten. Perhaps both. Such a thing is not impossible. Its all just a matter of how the author does it.

Literature then is dialogue. A strange dialogue, that is unique and follows its own rules. -- yet again what they teach in English class in High School, Middle School, and Grades School, does not always meet the expectations of some of the books out there. For a quick example "Malloy," by Samuel Beckett, is set in two paragraphs. That’s it. In school we are often taught to write in paragraphs, and complete sentences. Well sometimes those rules are broken.

But literature remains a dialogue.

Horace Engdahl the former permanent secretary (Also Known As: spokesperson) for the Swedish Academy (the same Academy that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature) was reported as saying:

[he's talking about the United States] "too insular and ignorant to challenge Europe as the center of the literary world and does not really participate in the big dialogue of literature."

or something along those lines.

What Horace Engdahl meant by the "big dialogue of literature," and what i mean by literature as dialogue maybe different. But we can both agree that literature is like language, and language is communication -- therefore literature is dialogue. Both of us agree then that, literature is dialogue, and that remains the purpose of literature itself. To remain a dialogue, to entertain, and to enlighten. Sometimes however one of the two is taken to a more larger extent then the other. But the main objective of Literature itself is to remain a form of dialogue.

Thank-you for reading Gentle Reader

I apologize that i have not written more recently. I know I should have. My writing has been out of whacked recently but I am trying to get the groove back.

Stay Well Read Gentle Reader


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