The dichotomy of opinion as regards art is as follows: art is either useful, or it is useless. The debate revolves around whether it is a means to an end, or an end in and of itself. I wish to express my personal opinion here so that I don’t have to keep explaining myself when I say that a supposed “great work of literature” is but a platidunous statement des vue du monde which, far form being Kafka’s axe, serves only to harden the proverbial ‘ice.’ No, save it for the essays. I wish for my art, my literature – saeva succubus – to give me pleasure. To the land of milk and honey take me. Fly me to Philebus’s voluptarius dreams.
Shall I explain myself? Why do you think Nabokov (who had similar views as my own) was a lepidopterist? Well if I were to give a somewhat Freudian answer, butterflies represent a link between art and nature, and we find that both are great deceivers; any attempt to find truth in either of them is but futility, lost in the subjective.
The butterfly’s lies, those winged eyes. The owl butterfly bears its eyespots not because they bestow it with vision, but merely for the reason that they symbolise vision. These ocelli won’t help the insect see, just as Anna Karenina won’t (necessarily) help us live better lives. Tolstoy’s novel does not function as life nor does it tell us how to live ours; it is simply the greatest landscape painting of life. It shows us, if anything, that our voice is but a cadence amongst the polyphony.
Art – like nature – does not give us the answers, but simply presents itself. Indeed the work of art is a slice, in one aspect or another, of nature. It is a picture of the world which does nothing to change the world.
Art is passive, not active; subjective, not objective.
So, I must be perverse. In conclusion, real art does not conclude. It just is. Conclusions come from characters. Unfortunately in God’s narrative some of those characters who draw conclusions, do so on a canvas.
- I recommend Susan Sontag’s Essay – ‘Against Interpretation’ for further reading.