Monday, May 12, 2008

Ian Rankin, 'So what would you burn?' (New Statesman, 13 December 2004)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

There is another aspect of war and culture which it is refreshing to notice. Although there is very little new being written, there is a vast amount of old that is being forgotten. Blake told us to ‘drive our harrow over the bones of the dead,’ and such a silent revolution is happening. The vast top-heavy accumulation of learning, criticism, scholarship, expertise, the Alexandrian library of nineteenth-century Liberal capitalism, is falling to decay. Human beings have a tendency to over-civilization, they cannot tear up old letters, they collect and catalogue up to the edge of insanity. A burning of the books becomes at times a necessity; it was necessary to think Milton, or Pope, or Tennyson, or Proust, or James, bad writers, if writing was to go on. Before the war the stream of creative writing was choked with the leaves of exegesis; writers were bowed down with their intellectual possessions, with their names and dates, their sense of the past, their collection of unspoilt villages, their knowledge of cheese, beer, wine, sex, first editions, liturgy, detective stories, of Marx and Freud.