The Critics and Patrons
All have the right to criticize artists or their art.
The artists who do not like criticism have no future.
But it is also appropriate to say a word or two about the critics.
- Their criticisms should help the artists, not discourage them or belittle them.
- Those who criticize others should also be thoroughly well-versed in art and literature.
To pass opinion without having studied or written anything oneself, after merely going through a few books of criticism, is nothing but officious meddling and interference. Such critics who lack adequate knowledge indulge in literary gasconades based on their superficial views, and think that they can get away with it. Yet such a sham and hollow intellect is to no avail, for it will ultimately be exposed. Those sincere and discriminating artists who are truly willing to reform themselves, if they are deluded by such critics, will only become disturbed.
In this connection there is one more important factor: those who could not succeed as authors themselves even after writing dozens of books, are the very people who are extremely vocal in criticizing others. In other words, they betray their own long-standing failures through their criticism.
It is futile to expect any help or constructive guidance from this class of so-called critics. In all spheres of life it must be remembered that if one seeks to display one’s authority, one also has to shoulder the responsibility. We have the right to walk on the streets, and so we also bear the responsibility of keeping them in good order by forming a municipality.
Those who love art and artists, should criticize them with a sympathetic mind. In such a criticism there may even be caustic censures of serious and sizeable flaws, yet behind these the sympathetic touch of the critic’s heart should be able to be easily understood by any litterateur or artist; then the artist may easily accept the critic as his or her own. Indeed, today we need this type of critic.
These days the Goddess of Learning (Sáhitwa Sarasvatii) is mortgaged to the Goddess of Wealth (Lakśmii), for the value of the Goddess of Learning now depends upon the favour of the Goddess of Wealth. Whatever the quality of writing, if the publisher is well-established, the book will sell well in the market due to effective advertisement techniques. Thus the indigent litterateur undergoes humiliation by cringing at the doors of the reputed publishers; and the publishers are quick to exploit this situation in their favour. Due to publicity stunts and propaganda, it has become impossible for the common people to know which book is good and which is not.
There is a flagrant dearth of developed critical literature or critical magazines in every country of the world. Books sell in the market on the strength of publicity alone, or due to their ability to excite the lower human propensities, or due to their gross catering to the crude entertainment of the common mass. That is why we find that the books published by the authors themselves, regardless of how good they are, do not sell well in the market.
On the other hand, books which excite people’s sexuality, whatever might be their content or language, sell extremely well. Every reader knows that books like Sasadhar Dutt’s “Mohan Series” or Dinen Roy’s “Rahasya Laharii” sold much better than any of the quality books of Bengali literature. Thus sales are no criterion to judge the superiority of any book. It is therefore a great problem for the readers, the purchasers, and the library directors, to select books, and there is no solution to this problem as long as critical literature and critical reviews of high quality are not available.
Caught in the eddies of commercial and party cliques, litterateurs have to face yet another disadvantage. Literary criticism, whether right or wrong, (though in my opinion every criticism (samálocaná) should be healthy criticism (samálocaná)) must always be constructive, and also acquaint the readers with the writer. But where literature is not given proper recognition for any particular reason, where the writer is kept remote from the readers without any introductory review, the situation is very difficult for the writer.
It is to avoid this situation that today’s writers have started knocking at the doors of the reputed publishers. This is certainly not a healthy sign for the world of literature.
Taking advantages of their indigence, powerful persons have exploited the litterateurs in various ways and this has taken place from very ancient times. In those days even the kings and emperors’ nurtured court poets, giving them gifts of tax free properties, and in exchange they bought their souls. The talented litterateurs or artists frequently had to do uncongenial jobs under circumstantial pressure for the amusement of their patrons. To satisfy the whims of their licentious patrons they had to compose obscene poems and model obscene statues and images.
To make their patrons’ enemies look contemptible, they had to besmirch their names with scandals and calumnies. To extol the dress, colour, family, caste, class, and ancestry of their patrons they had to resort to lies and fraud, and cite the relevations of the gods in support. The same condition has continued even today. With a very few exceptions, most of the litterateurs belong to the lower stratum of society.
In spite of their desire to work independently, most of them have pawned themselves, from the grey matters of their brains to the very tips of their fingers – to particular people and organizations. Even those who appear from their writings to be bold and spirited, have under circumstantial pressure become the play-things of the political parties.
In contrast with the olden days, the different states of the world have allotted quite a lot of awards for the litterateurs these days. But that is where the danger lies. Any government – whether monarchical, republican or autocratic – is run according to a particular ideology, and so there is little chance for the government to suddenly become impartial while bestowing awards on the litterateurs. Naturally it will judge the merits and demerits of the litterateurs through the bias of its own party, and consequently the litterateurs will be compelled to sacrifice their ideals to serve their bellies.
These observations are largely applicable to different types of governments, but especially to democratic states, for in democratic states ideological clashes are more in evidence, and hence the necessity of the propagation of ideologies is also more acute. That is why the democratic states want to use the litterateurs as their tools of propaganda. Needless to say, such made-to-order writings cannot be called literature at all: political writings can never be called literature.
If a government sincerely wishes to give encouragement to good and honest litterateurs, then it should form a board of non-political educators to give awards. This task could also be performed by the universities for, on the whole, universities still maintain their non-political nature. Nevertheless, the appointment of a non-political board is preferable, for these days there is an increasing tendency among the universities to flatter the political leaders in the hope of getting an increased government subsidy or grant.
By liberally awarding Doctorate degrees to ministers and their deputies, regardless of whether they are deserving or not, the impartiality of the universities is being gradually eroded.
There are some critics who become extremely upset when litterateurs attach themselves to a particular literary group: they say that since literature is for all, why should a litterateur be attached to any particular group? I, however, hold a different view. The ideal of literature is to promote the welfare of all but the process of this endeavour for collective welfare cannot necessarily be the same for all.
What is there to grumble about if those litterateurs whose mode of service is similar, chose to move together in a unified group? Those who object to the formation of literary groups and societies under the name of “Anti-so-and-so” lack tolerance as well as civic sense. Litterateurs may also form “Pro-so-and-so” groups, and no one should object to it.
Acquiring Proper Knowledge
The greatest obstacle in the collective progress of the human race is the ignorance of the individual mind.
Knowledge is for all – it should be open and free like the light and air of the sky.
It is undeniable that the most powerful medium for the dissemination of knowledge is a good book. That the value of an object is assessed in the field of application is undoubtedly true. And so the greatest means of assessing the value of knowledge is its successful application in the practical field. We cannot accept sterile knowledge as true knowledge – either it is self-delirium or luxury.
Even recognized knowledge loses its value, if after being acquired it is stowed away like packed sacks in the corner of the mind. Of course, if anyone lacks the language to express their feelings or the knowledge that they have acquired through study, then I have no complaint against them. Yet I would say that an artist should try to convey whatever they know to the hearts of the people in an easily understandable manner.
Anyone who does not do this is, in my opinion, not properly conscious of his or her social responsibility. Of course, it is quite a different matter if a person suffers some sort of inconvenience or disadvantage in this regard. Those who prove their sense of social duty by placing their feelings properly before people are indeed artists, are truly distinguished litterateurs.
The sole cause of the internal weakness of human society is its ignorance.
The superlative intuition (Sambodhi) that removes this ignorance is nothing but the thought of the Cosmic Mind (Bhúmámánasa). Art or literature is one of those sources from which common people get the opportunity to become established in the Cosmic Mind. If the mind of one fails to know the minds of others, if the minds of many are not comprehended by the mind of one, then how is the establishment of unity possible?
The endeavour (sádhaná) of the artist or the litterateur has been continuing through the ages, and its aim is to see One among many, and to lead the many to the path of One. In this effort there is no imposition, no injunction of the Law, nor the imperious pressure of any administration, only a sweet and cooperative relation.
Though separated by many countries, many states, many religions, many communities and many languages, the human race is an indivisible entity. Every human mind is but the diversified individual manifestation of that same indivisible Cosmic Mind. Today we look forward to the advent of that artist, that litterateur who will convey this truth to the hearts of humanity in a still sweeter language, still more strongly and deeply.
The human race is moving at an irresistible speed. Today, humanity wants to forget those who have written their works centring around various kinds of fissiparous discriminations. Human beings want to channelize their whole range of vision towards the bright future – a future which will transcend all individual or group interests, all territorial limits of countries and states, and transform the fates of many people into one destiny. Human beings no longer want to rely on so-called providential favour.
Individual heroism is about to lose its vibrant spirit.
- Nowadays people have learned that if the thrill of victory is due to anyone, it certainly belongs to humanity.