Proletarian Writing


FRANCIS: Where modern writing is concerned, it would seem that the age is more spontaneous than ever before and therefore, in a sense, more careless than ever before.  Would you agree?

GERALD: Yes, in a way I would.  For spontaneity is pertinent to a comparatively advanced age, in which intellectual dynamism has come to signify the appropriate momentum.  Where, formerly, it was the body that was especially active and the mind that remained relatively inert, nowadays it is the converse which increasingly applies, and this is compatible with evolutionary progress from the material to the spiritual realm, from the physical to the mental one.  To deliberate overmuch on a script one was writing would be to acquiesce in a degree of mental inertia out-of-step with the essential intellectual dynamism of the age.  As a truly contemporary writer, one should be hard-pressed to keep-up with one's thoughts and, consequently, if one writes before typing, one will be obliged to adopt a kind of shorthand in order to ensure the quickest possible conveyance of one's thought to paper.  For it normally happens that one's best thoughts come to one 'on the wing', so to speak, and must be captured for letters before they disappear again.

FRANCIS: Yet, to return to the second part of my question, surely this results in a degree of carelessness unprecedented in literary history?

GERALD: In the aesthetic sense I suppose it does, since one won't have either the time or inclination to carefully arrange and, as it were, chisel one's sentences into harmonious shapes.  But in another, dynamic sense one must remember that the contemporary literary mind is so much more highly charged than the traditional one ... that it is able to both muster and master thought more quickly and efficiently than ever before, and thus mould it into intelligible sentences with the minimum of hesitation.  The struggle is mainly carried out before the words reach paper, so that only a minimum revision is required for the completed script.  It is no use one's coming to the work with a lazy or disordered mind, as various writers did in the past.  The test of one's credibility as a contemporary writer will rest with the fluency of one's style, and that is dependent upon the dynamic workings of the mind.

FRANCIS: Yet, even so, it cannot be denied that such writings as you endorse are less than perfect from a grammatical standpoint.  I mean, there will be instances of split infinitives, prepositions ending sentences, conjunctions out of place, adverbs not close enough to the adjective or noun they are intended to define, subordinate phrases occurring in ungainly or even unlikely places, punctuation logically inconsistent, phrases less than wholly apposite, choice of words sometimes inappropriate, tenses not properly followed through, elision, and so on - through a whole host of academic failings.

GERALD: Yes, there will doubtless be lapses - sometimes frequent, sometimes occasional - from textbook criteria ... as expounded by pedants.  But so what?  Does that necessarily disqualify the contemporary writer from artistic or intellectual credibility, turning his work into an example of how not to write?  No, I don't believe so, and for the simple reason that textbook criteria and serious literary endeavour are two entirely separate things, which rarely if ever overlap!

FRANCIS: Oh, but really...!

GERALD: I assure you this is no exaggeration, but a wholehearted confession of fidelity to contemporary literary requirements, irrespective of what the case may have been in the past.  Of course, it is true that bourgeois and, to an even greater extent, aristocratic authors have taken great pains with their work in the past, not least as it bears on grammar.  But such a fastidious attitude, by no means uncommon in the present century, is hardly justifiable as an eternal verity, to be scrupulously adhered to in the interests of professional dignity and integrity.  On the contrary, we find that as writing progresses from class to class, so it becomes increasingly bolder in defying strict grammatical rules and establishing new criteria for itself in the face of tradition.  Where, in less enlightened ages, writing was shackled by numerous grammatical fetters, it is now comparatively free of them and must become even more so in the future, if there is to be any further literary progress.

FRANCIS: But why must it become ever freer in this way?  After all, grammatical rules exist to assist our understanding of writing, not to hinder it.

GERALD: Doubtless that is fundamentally true.  But it should also be remembered that, if adhered too rigorously to, such rules can also serve to impede or obscure our understanding.  No, the real reason behind the gradual emancipation of letters from grammatical fetters is that, by so freeing itself, writing can become a medium for the conveyance of essence over appearance, as it should be in any advanced stage of its evolution.

FRANCIS: How, pray, do you distinguish between essence and appearance?

GERALD: Very simply.  Essence appertains to the thematic content of a work, appearance to the means used to convey it.  The one is subject-matter, the other technique.  Now the fact is that the ratio of the one to the other has been steadily changing ever since man first acquired the rudiments of civilization and put pen to paper.  If you'll permit me to generalize, we shall discover that appearance predominates over essence in pre-dualistic writings; that appearance and essence are approximately in-balance during a dualistic age; and that now, as we enter a post-dualistic age, essence predominates over appearance, in accordance with the spiritual bias of the times.  Thus less attention is given to technique in post-dualistic writings than was given to it at any previous time in the history of letters, and this is compatible with the fact that much more importance is attached to content, to what is being said rather than the way in which one says it.  Content is the all-important factor, and because it is recognized as such in the best and most progressive writings of the age, less time is wasted on apparent factors than ever before.  Indeed, a concern with appearances could only detract from the content, as well, no doubt, as impede the fast flow of thought so crucial to the intellectual dynamism of the times.  To unduly deliberate over the choice and arrangement of words like an aristocrat or pseudo-aristocrat, such as Edgar Allan Poe, would constitute a gross anachronism in an age which is tending, willy-nilly, towards greater spiritual mobility.  What Poe was to pseudo-aristocratic writings, Baudelaire was to bourgeois writings, and neither of them should be emulated now - certainly not by proletarian authors, at any rate!

FRANCIS: Would this development away from appearance, as applied to literature, also apply to poetry then, so that the absence of rhyme from modern poems is regarded as a mark of their evolutionary superiority over traditional, rhyming poems, rather than as a reflection of technical disintegration or prosy degeneration?

GERALD: Most assuredly!  And never more so than when we are dealing with the free verse of the best proletarian poets.  Not for nothing is Poe regarded as a jingle-jangle man.  For to write verse in the manner of Poe now would be to fall way behind the foremost developments of the day, which are becoming ever more biased on the side of essence.  Rhymes of whatever sort primarily appeal to the senses, to eyes and ears, rather than to the mind, and so, too, do such apparent devices as alliteration, assonance, regular metres, vowel placements, and stanza divisions - all of which have constituted an irreplaceable and, I regret to say, irreproachable aspect of pre-dualistic and even dualistic poetry.  In the final analysis, however, appearance can only detract from or limit the applicability of essence, never enhance it!  The rhyming poetry of the past can never be resurrected in any seriously progressive context, and in general one finds that only the most conservative poets of the twentieth century continued to write it, as did W.B. Yeats and Robert Graves, doubtless with some justification within the context of dualistic civilization.  But such rhyming poetry can certainly be bettered, and it is and will continue to be the fate of petty-bourgeois and/or proletarian poets to do so.  Compare Yeats' early poems with Allen Ginsberg's late ones, and you'll see what I mean!  Yet poetry is only one branch of literature, and what applies there must also apply elsewhere, in response to evolutionary progress.  Thus the spontaneous attitude of D.H. Lawrence to novel writing is, despite the reactionary or traditional nature of much of his thought, inherently superior to and somehow more contemporary than the deliberative, rather formal attitudes of novelists like James Joyce and Thomas Mann, whose large attention to technique could only detract, in the long-run, from the importance attached to content.  With Joyce, words become important in themselves, as things to be looked at and listened to, juggled into amusing or teasing juxtapositions, riddles or puns.  He retains a traditional poetic attitude to writing, so that his novels become - most especially in the case of Finnegans Wake - exercises in poetic prose.  How different from D.H. Lawrence, who conveys the impression that words are all on the same level, with no hierarchic preferences, and need scarcely be looked at except as means of conveying thought!  Truly, Lawrence's is the more progressive attitude, and although I despise much of his thought, I can't help but admire his spontaneous approach to writing, which gives maximum priority to essence.

FRANCIS: You would obviously admire the spontaneity of John Cowper Powys' writing, too.  He must surely be among the most prolific novelists of the century.

GERALD: Yes, though once again I am obliged to admit that I despise his thought and would not wish to champion it!  The age of nature-worship is long dead and unlikely ever to be resurrected in the future, as the world tends ever more radically away from nature in pursuit of the supernatural.  Powys is, it seems to me, a kind of neo-pagan anachronism in the modern world, a remnant or rehash of the old world rather than a pioneer of a new one.  If his literary facility is commendable, his philosophy, in my opinion, is considerably less so, and we need not expect it to be influential in building the next civilization.  He is really one of those curious hybrids or chimeras which the twentieth century, as a transitional age, seemed prodigal in producing, whose class bias, while fundamentally bourgeois, isn't exempt from proletarian leanings, whether technical, as in Powys' case, or thematic, as in the case, for example, of Aldous Huxley.  A wholly post-dualistic writer we haven't as yet seen, which isn't altogether surprising, since the West remains fundamentally bourgeois and, hence, dualistic.  Even America, which represents the higher, transitional civilization between dualism and post-dualism, hasn't produced a full-blown transcendentalist, although it has fostered a number of transitional (bourgeois/proletarian) writers whose works are, on the whole, more progressive than those of their European contemporaries.

FRANCIS: I presume you are alluding to writers like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac, whose novels are not only more transcendentalist than is to be found in the general pattern of European writings, but more technically spontaneous as well?

GERALD: Yes, especially is this true of Kerouac, whose quasi-mystical novels are among the most free and enlightened literature of the age.  Kerouac went a step further than Miller in developing the American novel, and, no doubt, others have since gone a step further again, using a more spontaneous technique in the service of a more enlightened transcendentalism.  But there are limits, as I said, to the development of such literature within the confines of a transitional civilization.  For truly proletarian literature is only relevant to a post-dualistic civilization, and nowhere in the world does such a civilization currently exist.

FRANCIS: Not even in the former Soviet Union?

GERALD: No, since the Soviet Union was essentially a neo-barbarous post-dualistic state, not a civilized or partly religious one.  The absence of an official post-dualistic religion, such as Transcendentalism, from the Soviet Union inevitably limited the scope of proletarian writings to political and social propaganda, precluding the development of an avant-garde technique in pursuance of spiritual ends.  What one usually encounters in Soviet literature, as in the other Soviet arts, is a bourgeois technique, in which deliberation and appearance balance content, put to the service of proletarian propaganda - not the utilization of a truly proletarian, spontaneous technique in response to the intellectual dynamism of the times.  Technically, Soviet art was very conservative, and this fact could only hinder the progress of proletarian literature which, as in the Soviet Union, necessarily remained confined within materialist limits.  No, the highest proletarian literature, whether novelistic or otherwise, will only come from a post-dualistic civilization ... where technique and content can be developed along the most transcendental lines.  If Ireland is destined to become such a civilization before any other country in the world, then it will be there that this literature will first arise ... in accordance with post-dualistic criteria.

FRANCIS: And what, exactly, will these criteria be?

GERALD: Adherence, above all, to the intellectual dynamism of the age, with the inevitable corollary of spontaneity in writing and the reduction of appearances to the barest minimum.  The further development of truth as essence is expanded as much as possible.  The organization of one's work into a collectivistic format, so that the traditional procedure of keeping the various literary genres separate is transcended in a divine-oriented literature that reflects an evolutionary convergence to the Omega Point, to cite Teilhard de Chardin.  The use of computers, so that discs replace books as the medium through which this ultimate literature is read.  An adherence, all along the line, to post-dualistic ideology, whether political or religious.... Thus the full-blown proletarian literature of the future will bring literature to its consummation, and so prepare the way for the post-literary epoch of the post-Human Millennium.  It will eventually spread throughout the world, becoming universally accepted, as the ultimate civilization supersedes the neo-barbarism of socialist materialism in response to historical necessity.

FRANCIS: So what the Americans, with their transitional literature, are to the contemporary dualistic world, the Irish, in their subsequent development of post-dualistic civilization, will become to the neo-barbarous one - cultural leaders on the world stage.

GERALD: I see no reason why not, especially as I am an Irishman and the world's first truly post-dualistic writer, whose literature awaits its due recognition.  Sooner or later my hour will come, and when it does you can rest assured that proletarian literature will be here to stay, never impeded, any more, by bourgeois realism or neo-barbarous materialism.  Who knows, but if such writings are allowed to develop to the full, they may well transcend appearances altogether one day, as increased spontaneity pushes them towards the maximum freedom in total abstraction, thereby transforming literature once again.  For once truth has been attained to, in meaningful sentences, there is nothing left for us to do ... other than begin to free ourselves from words by breaking-up meanings.  Verbal concepts are all very well for man, but they won't be of much use to his superhuman successor, believe me!

FRANCIS: I almost do, although, to be honest, I'm not entirely convinced that such abstract writings would constitute the ultimate literature, since, without meaningful sentences, they would be a bore to read.

GERALD: You are speaking more from an egocentric than from a post-egocentric point-of-view.  As it happens, there are three main approaches to art, of whichever kind, in the post-dualistic age.  In the first approach one can be post-egocentric in the sense of free from self-aggrandizing penchants for aesthetic finesse and embellishment.  One's work will accordingly be somewhat simplistic in construction and seemingly slapdash or careless in appearance.  It will be a literature approximating more to D.H. Lawrence than to James Joyce, with a fairly high degree of spontaneity.  In the second approach, however, one can create in the post-egocentric context of disrupting and discrediting the natural world, whether this is the external world of nature or the internal world of the subconscious.  With the former one gets Expressionism in one degree or another.  With the latter ... Surrealism in one degree or another.  Perhaps where the development of a truly abstract literature is concerned, one would be a proponent of this anti-natural type of post-egocentric creativity, so that the meaninglessness of one's sentences was largely designed to discredit and disrupt the subconscious as a means of partly freeing man from its influence ... in the interests of superconscious development.  But in the third approach, which I believe applies most especially to myself, one's commitment to post-egocentric writings would be with intent to explore and expand the superconscious, and for that it would be necessary to retain meaning, in well-ordered sentences, as one sought to elucidate spiritual progress.  This is the highest type of post-egocentric creativity because wholly forward-looking, and a good example of it can be found in the mature novels of Aldous Huxley, which aspire to the status of religious literature on a transcendent plane.  In painting, we find Mondrian generally signifying the same thing, and, in music, Michael Tippett has displayed a consistently transcendental bias.  One can only suppose that, eventually, this third type of post-egocentric creativity will completely eclipse each of the others, as evolution tends ever more deeply into the superconscious.

FRANCIS: Thus a kind of creative hierarchy exists, on the post-egocentric level, which stretches from the simplistic and/or slapdash to the transcendental via the expressionist and/or surreal, and such an hierarchy might well be reflected in twentieth-century literature by the novels of D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Aldous Huxley respectively; in twentieth-century painting by the canvases of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Piet Mondrian respectively; and in twentieth-century music by the works of John Cage, Karl-Heinze Stockhausen, and Michael Tippett respectively.

GERALD: In general, I think that would be approximately correct, even given all the creative changes which any one artist may undergo.  But post-egocentric art, in whatever context, has yet to develop to the full, and when it does you can rest assured that the attainments of most of the leading artists of the twentieth century will appear comparatively moderate.  Only the next civilization will be radically post-egocentric.  In fact, so radically post-egocentric as to be wholly superconscious.

FRANCIS: That I can well believe!