“No beauty if it is paid for by human injustice” : By way of introduction

Hello there. A while ago I started reading. Sometime later I figured out it would be best to read only good books. I read mostly novels, some short stories, and the occasional poem if I can be bothered (usually I can’t). Favorite authors: Haruki Murakami, Roberto Bolaño, Victor Serge, Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t read as much as I feel I could, but probably more than most people my age, who in my experience spend more time complaining about how they never have time to read than making good on it.

So one reason I started this blog is as a way to keep track of what I read. I tend to think a little bit too much about what I read, so I figure one way I could deal with that is to empty those thoughts onto an environmentally-friendly website. Also it might help me work out my ideas a bit more, which I hear might be a good thing if I’m planning on trying to make a living in this business.

A while ago I became a socialist due to the influence of a troublemaking uncle. I always had the problem though that I enjoy reading literature much more than even the best written polemic. So another idea I had for this blog is to explore the political content of what I read, which I tend to be thinking about anyway. I will not mercilessly criticize whatever I’m reading for failing to speak to the socialist alternative, but as Thomas Mann says, “for the rational man, everything is politics,” and I don’t feel as if I harm literature at all by practicing a little political criticism, along the lines of what Tadeusz Borowski says in his story “Auschwitz, Our Home”:

The Egyptian pyramids, the temples, and the Greek statues – what a hideous crime they were! How much blood must have poured on to the Roman roads, the bulwarks, and city walls. Antiquity – the tremendous concentration camp where the slave was branded on the forehead by his master, and crucified for trying to escape! Antiquity – the conspiracy of free men against slaves!

You remember how much I used to like Plato. Today I realize he lied. For the things of this world are not a reflection of the ideal, but a product of human sweat, blood and hard labor. It is we who built the pyramids, hewed the marble for the temples and the rocks for the imperial roads, we who pulled the oars in the galleys and dragged wooden ploughs, while they wrote dialogues and dramas, rationalized their intrigues by appeals in the name of the Fatherland, made wars over boundaries and democracies. We were filthy and died real deaths. They were ‘aesthetic’ and carried on subtle debates.

There can be no beauty if it is paid for by human injustice, nor truth that passes over injustice in silence, nor moral virtue that condones it.”

(Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen)

So that is my spiel. If I’m lucky, I might introduce a couple people to books I feel are really good, and possibly to a different angle on reading them. I would be really glad if I could do that.


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