Al Alvarez, The Savage God (Random House 1972)

‘Suicide creates his own society: to shut yourself off from other people in some dingy, rented box and stare, like Melville’s Bartleby, day in and day out at the dead wall outside your window is in itself a rejection of the world which is said to be rejecting you. It is a way of saying, like Bartleby, “I prefer not to” to every offer and every possibility, which is a condition no amount of social engineering will cure.’

‘Suicide is a confession of failure. And like divorce, it is shrouded in excuses and rationalizations spun endlessly to disguise the simple fact that all one’s energy, passion, appetite and ambition have been aborted.’

‘The pity is not that there is a myth of Sylvia Plath but that the myth is not simply that of an enormously gifted poet whose death came carelessly, by mistake, and too soon.’

‘For the artist himself art is not necessarily therapeutic; he is not automatically relieved of his fantasies by expressing them. Instead, by some perverse logic of creation, the act of formal expressions may simply make the dredged-up material more readily available to him.’

‘[Sylvia Plath] was now far along a peculiarly solitary road on which not many would risk following her. So it was important for her to know that her messages were coming back clear and strong. Yet not even her determinedly bright self-reliance could disguise the loneliness that came from her almost palpably, like a heat haze. She asked for neither sympathy nor help but, like bereaved widow at a wake, she simply wanted company in her mourning.’

‘When an artist holds up a mirror to nature he finds out who and what he is; but the knowledge may change him irredeemably so that he becomes that image.’

See also Wikiquote:

In [The New Poetry] I had attacked the British poets’ nervous preference for gentility above all else, and their avoidance of the uncomfortable, destructive truths both of the inner life and of the present time. (p.25.)

Despite the hundreds of attempts, police terror and the concentration camps have proved to be more or less impossible subjects for the artist; since what happened in them was beyond the imagination, it was therefore also beyond art and all those human values on which art is traditionally based. (p.251.)

Mass democracy, mass morality and the mass media thrive independently of the individual, who joins them only at the cost of at least a partial perversion of his instincts and insights. He pays for his social ease with what used to be called his soul – his discriminations, his uniqueness, his psychic energy, his self. (p.254.)

The real resistance now is to an art which forces its audience to recognize and accept imaginatively, in their nerve ends, not the facts of life but the facts of death and violence: absurd, random, gratuitous, unjustified, and inescapably part of the society we have created. (p.262.)

Random House Edn. 1972

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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