books by despairing men

I open my eyes wide only for them: Kafka, Beckett. Bolaño, Sebald, Delillo. They don’t fear the worst. It seems to free them to speak as nothing else. To create in fact a personal tongue, a carved ship wrested from the forest of Language. That soars, dark letters against an ashen sky.


4 thoughts on “books by despairing men

  1. absolutely true. really Kafka is the only one of the writers I mentioned who seemed substantially hampered by his own anxiety and dread – maybe why so much of what he wrote feels (or is) unfinished? and yet he is the gold standard of the art of negation, or negation as art. meantime the rest of us just have to keep looking for the way to square the circle of existence… without some capability for engaged detachment, for sure… it ain’t no way.

  2. I better note for my own sake that this “not minding” can’t be confused with dispassion, with false transcendence, which is mere indifference. Not dispassion, but disengagement with an abstract level of predictive worry, with that whole “means of distraction” you mentioned. These writers don’t escape the worst through a predictive mindset, but feel out the potential of the present, which is closer to prophecizing like you said: feeling out the “always imminent” potential for things to proceed in this hellish direction, or to go “otherwise.” It’s interesting that the more I “mind” the future (the more worrisome, abstract and predictive my mind), the less passionately I engage the moment, the fewer possibilities I see. You’ve dug up a fertile little ground of interesting paradoxes.

  3. Beautiful. “They don’t fear the worst. It seems to free them.” A paradox might be that this freedom is a kind of renunciation, sometimes, of despair itself. Krishnamurti, who rarely spoke about himself, once leaned closer to his audience and said, very quietly, “do you want to know what my secret is? I don’t mind what happens.”

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