Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Introduction by Hatto Fischer

Literature: what is it about? Different paths to identity, or just a sign of understanding which seems to be lacking in any given social environment? There are feelings and there are problems. A person growing up can be perplexed by the many social problems surrounding him; he may not find the understanding he needs in his immediate surroundings, but only through literature. A case in point is Robert Musil's "Zoegling Toerless", a boy experiencing not only boarding school as a prelimary testing ground for man's sadism and masochism, but also he confronts the unresolved mathematical question of the infinite numbers. By linking the boy's struggle to a greater world in which it is acknowledged that this problem has not been resolved, his loneliness ceases for isolation begins with thinking of oneself as a failure, if one cannot solve that particular problem. There is the case in point that literature makes available experiences without having to go through the pains connected with the original going through these experiences. That is how knowledge is passed on from generation to generation. Literature is, therefore, closely connected with education: the learning to read, in order to have these experiences accessible and thus avoid unnecessary pain. That makes literature even into some kind of laboratory: what happens if.....The trails of thoughts disappear on the horizon, while options for life are decided upon: here is where one settles down or begins to act since literature can become a great compass for the voyage through life.

There are, of course, other positions taken up by writers that could deepen thoughts about literature as part of the very much needed 'cultural' orientation through life. If Solshenitzyn is taken as an example, to his mind the great literature is brought about by a writer who feels responsible for what is going on in his or her country, and thus acts as a second government. Literature in such a form is then an expression of 'moral responsibility', including the seeing what is going on, even if we do not like what we see. That, in turn, has influence upon the 'ethics of seeing' and upon the relationship between 'language and silence' (George Steiner). Solshenitzyn adds the example of a French journalist writing for 'Le Monde' sitting beside him on a bench in Moskow and both of them observing an unusual traffic, for many trucks with 'Meat' written on them pass by. The journalist comes to the conclusion that Moskow has a good meat supply system despite what people believe at that time is the situation of the economy under Communistic rule, while Solshenitzyn adds out of his own experience the bitter note, that the journalist did not know that the Meat trucks were used by the Communists to transport prisoners without them being seen by the people in the streets. Writers have to go through mere appearance, means of deception, in order to perceive what is going on in reality. It is only possible, adds a person working for amnesty international, by hearing stories from others without excluding their own human pain, so that the pain inside oneself is touched upon; it gurantees that human perception is not superficial, but can even distinguish a striken person by poverty and a poor looking fellow who nevertheless is a part of organised bandits. For perception and truth comes about in the recognition of 'moral' man.

Being moral does not mean outright condemnation or approval of the world as it is or has become. When the German writer Uwe Johnson describes how people, neighbours could all of a sudden betray a woman to the Nazis, he describes that in real terms: living persons undergoing changes, crisis, indecisions and failures to meet especially 'moral' challenges. Literature has to do with seeing things as they are without morally judging them by either taking sides or making some literary figure fulfil one's own moral or even ideological inclinations. Such wished for figures or even heros are not really convincing; they differ from those which are created by the writer in such a way that they begin to lead an independent life from that of the writer and speak up, whenever, whereever they like, even if in opposition to the opinions of the writer.

Robert Musil always said in his never ended historical reflections about 'The Man without Attributes' (the German word 'Eigenschaften' is usually translated into English as 'Qualities'), that the greatest danger is to prescribe to others morals, for that would lead to a war in permanence. That means in real terms literature has to be as moralistic in being objective, as life of mankind is close or not to becoming moral in human terms. There have been many ideological disputes about this, including attempts to define literature, the most demanding, equally tragic one being that of George Lukacs who tried to categorise literature as something having to be 'social realism' and became as servant to the communistic state and party 'real socialism'. It ended up making literature into 'Kampfliteratur': an extension of the ideological fight with western capitalism and left within its own censorship only certain themes open to be treated, i.e. anti-faschistic, workers or classical literary themes. Christa Wolf's 'Cassandra' fulfilled that to the best of her knowledge and ability to function as a writer in such a state. The difficulties she is going through since the break-down of the East German state and German re-unfication reveal how ideological underpinnings figure to a great extent in literature, and not only there, at the risk of subtle replacing the moral voice of feelings with an ideology prescribing what to feel in certain situations, especially if there is the requirement to fight, to be aggressive, to shout out slogans as a loyal follower, etc..

In other words, the great literary debates about 'morality' figure in speeches written down for the sake of testifying to the world, as did Dostoevsky, that 'not everything is allowed, even if God is dead'. That repercussion of Nietzsche was, for instance, a part of the drama in 'Brothers Karamasov'. It indicated already a line of resistance against Westernization equated commonly with a loss of moral standards (see here the excellent analysis of the 'moral base of Russia' by Prof. Baeck at the end of Workshop 5: 'Culture driven Economy') and relates to the recurring theme of any kind of Fundamentalism, whether of Moslem or other religious origin. The danger is then, as in all cases of art, to succumb to ideological forces. In such cases, literature becomes a mere instrument of propaganda and thus a tool of ideology. This includes even apparently universal writers like Octavia Paz who recreates a distinct Mexican identity by really debasing language to something local, artificial and abstract, as one literary criticism pointed out, for it leaves the reader with the illusion the own culture can be lived without having to be in touch with the world. That latter point was made by Bart Verschaffel in his essay on 'Localism', a speech he gave already two years ago in Greece and before he became the co-ordinator of the literary workshop of Antwerp '93: the cultural capital of Europe during that year.

By the way, that literary workshop at Antwerp '93 was called 'discourse and identity', so that this workshop within the Fifth Seminar reflects a certain decision and wish to continue this discussion as started in Antwerp. It would mean linking 19th century literature topics to what have become literary preoccupations at the end of the twentieth century by perceiving the excellent themes that literary workshop reflected upon. As a possible scanning of current literary 'sujets', in particular on the basis of the texts produced, there exists, for instance, the one on  'Wordlessness': the dilemma of writing in a world of communication in which nothing is communicated but the need to communicate. Then, there are texts about 'Zoology. On (Post) Modern Animals', a possible literary reaction to the post-modernistic interpretation of life in search of a 'home' (Derrida) being there, where the 'self' is as a possible answer not only to the 'search for identity', but also to cultural functionaries trying to link literature to 'Heimat': one's native grounds or roots of cultural identity. The latter theme was treated during the literary work in Antwerp from two sides: one dealt with 'line, border and horizon', the other with the often overlooked relationship between 'provincialism and uprootedness'. The latter text contains, for example, the excellent reflections by Gyoergy Konrad who as a Hungarian writer indicates the worrying signs of our post-communistic era in both Eastern and Western Europe with many of those ascending to power giving but a mere 'veiled lip service to democracy', when in fact trying to replace the pluralistic state with the one defined along ethnic lines (see Yugoslavia). All this tremendous work for literature was not done free of strains, Bart Verschaffel tells us (see also his reflections as co-ordinator of that literary workshop in the appendix of Workshop 10: 'Cultural Exchange and Cultural Evaluation'), in particular due to local forces wishing Antwerp '93 to be more a showcase of Flemish culture, than a meeting point of European cultures and hence literary traditions.

Differences in concepts determine not only the character of 'cultural work', but even more so, any attempt to go beyond the usual boundaries of cultural management, in order to do something truly substantial for literature go usually unnoticed or even worse, is faced by contempt, slander and refutation by the 'moralistic screamers' wishing some purity in culture, in reality their 'own' works being presented and nothing else. As Maja Panajotova, herself being a Bulgarian poetess living in Antwerp and equally capable of writing in Dutch/Flemish, pointed out, the work of Bart Verschaffel will only be recognised later when people begin to see what he has done for literature by putting all of his efforts behind such texts. This comment coming from her is all the more interesting, as she writes in two different languages, so that her cultural orientation, geopolitically speaking, is conveyed by a different notion of identity as distinct from belonging to but one culture and really 'owning' but one specific tradition, that is, form of expression. Thus one-sided cultural policies adopted by governments and implemented by cultural managers that single out only a certain 'home'-literature, in order to preserve the purer version of 'cultural identity' can have far reaching, equally bad effects. For the moment literature is used to stress only a preferred 'cultural identity' by which political forces can decide about belonging and ownership, then this is clearly in favour of those who never have left their 'place' or 'home' to live in yet another country. Instead it would polarise the cultural and thus the social world into those still rooted in their local cultures and all the others who have become fugitives. In Germany, the term 'Vaterlose Gesellen' - apprentices without a father - was used to denounce all those who had not sworn their allegiance to the state. This included immediately the Jewish people who were already in the eyes of Hegel 'cosmopolitan': lovers of the entire world and not to be tied down in their interests to those of but one state.

Thus of interest is what Richard Meheux pointed out while proof-reading these materials, namely it seems as if it is the underlying assumption of the Flemish initiative and hence of that government that people never leave their country and that there is something like an unchanging Flemish identity, while in reality people move about, live abroad, take on new cultural identities and revitalize their own cultural backgrounds by including all these elements of 'otherness' into their own value systems. Life is only then an interesting process if open to change. However, if it is regulated by the need to prove something, or to uphold but one single definition of identity, then the literary discourse would be silenced and nothing of interest would happen anymore. For such a culture would no longer be open minded, but rather drive out good literature and use what remains only if it proves to be viable, that is an ideological support for the state and its politicans to 'govern' the people.

Reflections about the role of literature as contributor to cultural formations can be expected from the Professor for Comparative Literature, Joris Duytschaever. He was asked to join this workshop already at the end of the Brugge seminar which he participated not as an invited participant, but as an observer, that is out of his own interest. He adheres to the principle that literature should not be taught as a kind of 'national philology', but with cross-references to other cultural streams and movements of thought include aspects such as the Enlightenment having touched Scotland, but not Flandern, explaining thereby differences in tolerance to foreigners and the Flemish culture being village, not urban based. Related to that are fears of loss of identity, yet a closer look will show according to him, that they are linked to really an improper usage of the own language claimed as refuge and vehicle of 'cultural identity', i.e. in this case the Flemish one. The improper usage can very quickly empty the speaker of feelings allowing him or her to relate to other people, so that pseudo-collective, xenophobic tendencies as described by Adorno and Horkheimer are not only enhanced, but leave the person with no choice between being socially isolated and joining in with those shouting all the same slogans: expressions of a highly politicized, but equally a non-literary, uninteresting approach to life.

Of interest in this context is a comment made by Gorki about the Russian language, for he marvelled how someone could swear and still not be carried out of the curves like otherwise a fast speeding car would do once the driver had lost all control. The proper usage of language implies adherence to a kind of truth: if related to, then equally a potential to relate to other people. This touches then upon the binding element of language as a social and even anthropological element, for someone like Claude Levy-Strauss would claim language has replaced nowadays the 'totem and tabu' society since no longer customs, parents and tribal adherences regulate marriages, but the feeling of intensity when speaking to one particular person as compared with another.

This guidance through language is, however, quite a different notion from the one used by Gadamer who advocates that people should give up thinking in terms of an individual 'I' and let language take over the leadership. This being but an extension of Heidegger's claim that people need a leader into post Second World War developments, it is of no great wonder that Gadamer wanted to keep Celan out of the German language for he feared Celan would destroy it, or more precisely the possibility of that language acting as if a leader. Whether or not Gadamer's attitude results from a tradition of thinking linked to Plato, something Karl Popper was very critical off, is not so important here, as is Gadamer's own claim that someone not knowing how to use the word 'ganz', i.e. but that is 'ganz schoen', would not know the German language. 'Ganz' stands for 'whole', but also complete, that is, not as of yet broken like a child's toy after much usage. In the end, this controversy about proper usage of language or not has something to do with how the vocal and the visual are related, so that in every sound used to express a word there is an element of truth. The best indication of that is what can be remembered once something has been said.

The relationship to truth is, however, dependent upon the psychoanalytic insight into how close unconscious and conscious processes intertwine, for usually we tend to forget all too easily unpleasant things (S. Freud), while retaining only that what we wish to hear. Brendan Kennelly speaks in this context about those people who listen only half-heartedly and thus speak in a language of labels, a system of collective prejudices by which knowledge about the world is ordered really on the basis of a pseudo-knowledge. The latter makes itself felt exactly in the improper usage of language, or in the distortion of reality by giving others, the foreigners, etc. the blame for something having to do with things much closer to home, to the 'self' than what is wished for. Andrι Maurois would say, people live by illusions, and Michel Foucault added programmatically speaking, we should take away these illusions, but leave those needed to survive.

A complete reduction to truth is, therefore, impossible, openness to other kinds of truths but a simple way out of restrictions of language to the point that the 'proper' usage becomes in reality an inhuman one. Peter Weiss in his book 'The Art of Resistance' describes how during National Socialism in Germany the common language was deprived daily more and more of its human elements, so that everyone started to speak a military language, that is, one of order, command and obedience, while Jean Pierre Faye made a brilliant analysis of 'Totalitarian languages' which in essence make everything adaptable to everything else until there is no identity left and people only ready to 'unload' all the stored up hatred, built up against themselves for being so malleable, as a safeguard against a suitable object of hatred, i.e. usually a foreigner, some weak person or even a child. In short, ideological mistakes of the past have been always related to a restricted usage of language, so that 'cultural policy' and democratic practises must coincide, if the distinctive feature of culture, namely its openness, is to be maintained.

At the Brugge Seminar this problematic course of 'cultural policy' was not as of yet a topic; however, as indicated already in the evaluation of the Fourth Seminar (see prime texts of the Fifth Seminar: 'Introduction' by Hatto Fischer), when it came to the non-community reflections by the American writer Conlin Wagner, reference was made to that conceptual level. For he asked what does the change in name signify when we no longer refer to the 'European Community', but rather to the 'European Union'. The uneasiness felt amongst the participants was thus not only a response to the number of unresolved problems Conlin Wagner referred to at that time, and which prompted even the chairperson to intervene with the question, 'if he had any answers to all those questions'. It was equally an expression of 'ambivalence' between wishing an authentic cultural identity and in not knowing fully what lies ahead. Yet by fearing European unification can bring in its wake a loss of 'cultural diversity' and hence of one's own 'cultural identity' through uniformity and conformity, many participants seemed to opt for culturally defined regions as a solution to all these problems. They spoke thus in favour of the Flemish initiative or at least agreed with the overall premise that 'cultural diversity' should be preserved in Europe.

In the perspective of the Fifth Seminar, it was, however, not assumed that the Flemish initiative and a 'cultural policy' of the European Commission leading to cultural actions in favour of 'diversity' need necessarily to coincide. As a matter of fact, there was much apprehension in the forefield of the seminar in Athens on the side of Greek participants and equally others with regards to the political and cultural implications of the Flemish initiative. The question was raised, whether this might mean a return to a world of 'localism' as part of a regionalisation of Europe and have in its wake, as already to be observed, every academy or cultural institute start soliciting only those who write in the name and for the sake of unholding a single defined cultural identity. On the contrary, if  'cultural actions' are to be a step forward towards ensuring vital, authentic cultures within Europe, what ought to be the role of writers and poets? Is it sufficient, for instance, to ensure only that translations from one minority language into another becomes a major European premise for promoting literature? While the topic of minority language has to be related to cross-cultural identities (see Workshop 1), these apparent threats to 'language', the very own, culturally defined, included, cannot be taken as given facts. It became, therefore, of interest how participants of this workshop reflect upon this issue and which can be related to the questions posed by the Flemish initiative. The crucial question is whether or not the Flemish language as a minority is really threatened, and if so, to what extent by what factors? For even if true, it is not at all self-evident that the entire blame can be given to the European integration process, nor that solutions must follow in the strict course of the Flemish initiative as can be expected from Robert de Spiegelaere, a man of the theatre and whom Conlin Wagner asked to join his workshop since they had met already in Brugge during the Fourth Seminar.

To give but an example, this Flemish initiative is expressed already in the 'Charter of the Europe of Cultures', a proposal made by Mr. Luc van den Brande, minister president of the Government of Flanders, in Edinburgh, 10 December 1992. Among other things, it would mean going sofar as introducing specific regulations in terms of 'Language use in economic life'. Art. 9 of that charter stipulates quite distinctly that: "Every cultural region has the right to protect its trade and industry against the overpowering influence of other languages by means of language laws. / As a consequence, the European Community must recognize that smaller languages can employ stricter language laws."

Prior to any analysis and evaluation of the implications of such an article, if applied, there is the question already at the level of literature as posed by Joris Duytschaever: 'is it an act of treason if a Flemish citizen decides to write in French?' The same goes for a German writer using the English language, or even more so for writers like Samuell Beckett or James Joyce in their search for a language that exists between all European and even world languages. According to them none of the languages by themselves could cover fully the range of human possibilities to experience emotionally the world, that is without words. If left solely at the mercy of one language, but one without any expression for that experience, then the poverty in one's own language has to be confronted! Usually that is called the silence of man brought about by the repression of having to speak but one language which apparently all others understand already and which is claimed to be the common cultural heritage, when in fact the norming and negation of 'otherness' and 'differences' begins already with forces determining that only a certain kind of language is spoken, written and transcribed (see here the philosophy of Hegel). If this is reinforced by strict language enforcement programmes,  and 'cultural policies' ignoring the complexity of 'cultural actions'  whenever language and identity are involved, the outcome for the 'Europe of Cultures' can be even more negative than expected.

That then takes the discussion about initiatives like the Flemish one even further, for what is European integration about, if not bringing languages and identities together, so that Europeans become rooted in cross-cultural webs! These can be networks using different languages all at the same time, while working with the differences between them to enlighten what concepts can mean what in a different cultural context. In that sense poets, not writers move faster between these various worlds, translating quickly a poem from one language into another, in order to create bridges of mutual understanding and appreciation. Someone like Elli Peonides from Cyprus and interested especially in childrens' literature or literature for children will certainly contribute to the workshop along those lines as discussed with her and her husband, Panos Peonides, namely how can it be made possible that small and large cultures live together within one Europe? In other words, it makes already a difference if cultural relationships are not antagonized nor only the own position is stressed as a need without any regards to cultural interests of others. European member states must learn, so it appears, to extrapolate, in order to reach out to other cultures; this can be done by the promotion of literature and poetry, while not forgetting the valuable and vital linkages many European countries have to non-European cultures, i.e. Spain and Portugal to Latin-America. Much depends upon making literature available in another country, thus upon translation.

In that sense, it was important for this workshop to have Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, Greek poetess speak about the problems of translation, for aside from her excellent knowledge of the English language, into which she translates sometimes her own poems, she knows many other languages, including Russian. As a process of cultural enrichment, people can come closer to each other through translations and comparisons between different languages. It enhances their capabilities of expressing something unique, if they are multi-lingual and diverse in their lifes. For it would enliven their outlooks, culturally speaking, and enrich their lifes if appreciated by someone beyond the personal cultural borders, especially if the thought prevailed until that time never to be understood by the other. Katerine would add the thought, if it is already difficult to reach that kind of understanding with your neighbour, what then if that person happens to be of a different culture with quite another history, sense for time and place, would that not be a great event if it occurs? Thus any literary effort to bring people closer, to find bridges of understanding despite the problems of translation, is vital for keeping a 'balance of sanity'. Writers do not want to be restricted to an inbred cultural circle to get that all important feedback to their works. If the responses are balanced and multi-cultural in their background, it might be become possible with time that literary works and peoples' identities will be formed by various layers of possibilities to exist in different worlds at one and the same time. This, in turn, restates somewhat the crucial thesis of writers having only as much identity as people themselves have in their real world of experience. Certainly Sarajevo was a different place to experience prior to the ethnic war; literature and literary forms of expressions are as much subject to these political limitations, as it is literary effort not to become a victim or mere product of political circumstances.

This aspect was indeed touched upon by Hugo Dyserinck in his contribution to the workshop on 'Culture and Identity' at the Fourth Seminar. By approaching the problem of national and cultural identity from a comparative study of literature, he avoids being involved in linguistic studies or disputes. Rather he relates to identity as an 'imagological' process shaped by literature. This idea would be in need of further inquiry, in order to comprehend cultural processes leading up to identity building moments.

The Frankfurt school of thought, otherwise known as 'Critical Theory', believes that writers begin then to relate to culture, when they re-create reality by lifting it up to the level of 'redemption' (a line of thought from Adorno to Martin Jay). At this level, people have a second chance by looking closer at the categories which seem to instigate their thoughts and actions. Or as Guenter Grass would say in the aftermath of Second World War and in his criticism of fellow-writers, 'one cannot nor should try to create anti-fascistic heros when there were none'. As a struggle with the impossible, human limitations become transparent. A writer has to show them while not loosing his or her compassion for mankind. Thus Brendan Kennelly would say about James Joyce, he gained the humanistic perspective through 'indifference': a different distance to man. Given such a perspective, literature is about the true understanding of man not only how he or she is, but what are the inherent potentialities of being human, a potentiality not necessarily lived due to circumstances. It avoids contributing to a 'culture of manipulation' by being truthful within that humanistic perspective.

Literature is, therefore, very much about where to draw the line between reality and fiction. The latter is not so much literature itself, as it has been called so mistakingly in the Anglo-Saxon world, but rather an illusionary world which, if man becomes used to it, turns out to be a rather artificial environment. The best literature is still the most authentic one in adherence to the convergence of reality and pleasure, compassion and sense for justice when it comes to deal or even to confront issues lived daily. Literature in reality is made by people faced with hardships, different options and movements of ideas. Life is decided by marrying this woman or joining that political movement, for life is involvement and only once lived through, then the writer may toss up the head like a long distance swimmer in the ocean, to see if land is at all approaching.

At the Fourth Seminar held in Brugge, Lenoble spoke about the end of the great narration, even though he meant by this an 'explosion of time'. During that same plenary discussion, it was, however, Picht who questioned that assumption of literature contributing to identity building processes as somewhat naive. He felt literature claimed always that their characters were of an unchanging identity, staying throughout the entire narration the same, when he could in fact observe in daily life individuals going through mutuations after mutuations with hardly anyone being in a position to follow all of these ongoing changes. That touches again on the same problematic: is 'cultural identity' defined by virture of staying the same - 'la stesso' in the Italian language - or else an integral part of something making possible changes, adaptations and revolutions included. It appears that many positions taken with regards to cultural issues oscilliate between these two poles. As in Surrealism, many who argue for the one or other position have merely juxtaposed emotions against intellectual thoughts, in order to express themselves without really being able to step out of their 'language of silence'. By categorising literature, art works, etc. with definite labels even before trying to understand the content of those works, they admit that their receptivity of literature could not be maintained independent from ideological fixations, hence moral judgements based on the quick assumption, what contributes to, for example, Flemish identity must be good literature and vice versa, what impedes Flemish culture and identity cannot be good. Hence it would be good to know what differentiation is made within each respective culture, in order to know subtle distinctions between good and bad literature. For such an open receptivity, good literary criticism is needed; otherwise everything, including literature succumbs to the fashions of the day. What is being praised, can be equally read as an ideological tendency of the day or specific time period.

In Germany, Martin Walser has become somewhat a symbolic figure for German unification, replacing as it were Guenter Grass who began with the 'Thin Drum' to show the contortions and the crippling of Germany after the end of Second World War. Elsewhere, whether Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Holland, Belgium, England, Ireland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Greece, the literary scene has undergone similar changes, all depending upon the democratic impulses overcoming periods of dictatorship as in Greece or Spain. Still, there is a sense that European literature altogether has not been as provocative as in the times of James Joyce and Hemingway. Perhaps this is due to having become too European or even more, an inward turned process of self-reflection lamenting about an 'I' not willing to show itself, except in self-contradictory situations. Martin Jay thinks that this is related directly to a search for the 'middle voice' or such a voice as Brendan Kennelly found in his epic poem 'Judas', in order to account for the many forms of betrayals, including of one's own dreams. If that voice is not found, nothing can be told. It is not any voice, but a specific one, namely the 'human voice' which becomes only then audible, when the human being has become a free, sovereign subject. Many German philosophers, including Ernst Bloch, made therefore quite often reference to Bach's Fuge as being the first time when such a voice was heard. It was barely to be heard and disappeared before something equal to the level of music could be articulated, but it left a notion for what searches in literature and elswhere are all about. These searches should not be abused, politically speaking, nor can they be completed by taking short-cuts. As a matter of fact, Homer's 'Odysseus as well as James Joyce's Ulysses convince because they show that detours are sometimes the quickest way to reaching home, a self in peace with the world.

Literature was and is not the only way to Ritz in Paris, but it accounts for a time which was more European than the one which professes nowadays to strive towards European unification. Everyone knowing the real defeats in terms of culture for the benefit of some ellusive economic solution - restoring the balance of payment, decreasing the state deficit, slowing down inflation - can sing a song about this. It is not one of broken hearts, nor about a soul searching 'down town' the lights of life; it is a song about children making their way through the snow and yet they will have to wait for a modern Dickens to describe plastically their kind of 'poverty'. For that poverty stems from a loss of honest criticism and from a 'war of cultures' having replaced the Cold War and the turmoils of Second World War. It appears that enemy pictures are constantly re-invoked as part of the business ensuring that others stay out of business. Hence no one seemed to be really bothered by the fact that participants at the Brugge seminar spoke openly about their interests in exploring possibilities to 'exploit' cultural diversity of Europe for economic purposes. Somehow this loss of social criticism is repeated in the failure to see the connection between what kind of economic solutions are being favoured and what poverty is reproduced. Often that leaves writers with very few alternatives. It was Pavese who said in the last sentence of his diary: "I shall no longer write; I will stop living". He commited suicide immediately thereafter.

Insights into poverty are not to be derived from Marxistic categories, nor 'culture from economy' (Kris Rogiers); rather, they stem from a discrepancy between the acknowledgement of the richness of life and the practical possibility for many. As the painter and theatre maker from Poland, but living and working in Berlin, Andrzej Woron said in an interview with Hasso Bruse for the 'Kuenstlergilde' 1/94:

"it is a pity that we have not as of yet managed to create a huge level for the Europe of  Culture. There does not exist any cultural policy in Brussels. All our cultures and traditions are endangered. On the one side you have Maastricht, industry and capital with an remorseless efficiency and on the other side Russia, which has broken down. No wonder, that was to be expected. The western system has more power, no one wants in Eastern Europe to have again the socialistic system or a communistic dictatorship - but an economy, which destroys all culture? Who should organise our lifes, the economy or culture? Do we really want superstructures, buy things only through the phone, sit in front of the television or go purchasing our food at the local grocery shop and enjoy in the process a small conversation? In such a manner we are manipulated and we manipulate ourselves. That is as if we construct a wall behind which we hide and does not allow anyone to approach us. Only through a small peeping hole do we still experience the world, become alienated from life and nature."

The real poverty is loss of authentic experiences, a sense of time so that when looking back, people believe then have not lived, but just twenty-five years have gone by unnoticed. That concern was already noticeable in the workshop 'culture and identity' held during the Fourth Seminar in Brugge. Over and again people made reference to the difference between poor as opposed to rich times.

Richness may be called a living experience of happiness or a poem inscribed on the waves in the harbour of Hydra, for the selection of places, names, resounding recollections feed upon the desire to live and to know who lived there before, lives now here and will come in future. That desire cannot be upheld at all times nor is it easy to realise in a society where comfort reigns before any kind of truth, including the aesthetical one. What is then of essence to literature can be described as this effort to link beauty and truth. In the past the true inspiration came from a woman who endorses life and thus sets free the imagination to find realms of questions never perceived until then. That realm of the imagination which allows us to question further ourselves, that has been stated already in the context of Workshop 7 and the idea of Brendan Kennelly. There the unlearning of hatred was focused upon as a possible contribution to reduce violence and ugly conflicts which impede so many social processes seeking to reach a mature understanding even at the school yard level.

In this context, however, it becomes more of a concern for the voice to be heard, or else which voices carry 'language', for sounds and utterances are modulations; they convince or they turn off the true intention of speaking, of uttering a sound. Invoking such speeches in literature was a main aim of James Joyce. His entire 'Ulysses' builds up towards something incredible, for all previous chapters sharpen the mind and the ear towards listening how sounds paint words and through this process create images by which man can adapt to changes. In the final chapter, James Joyce lets the reader become completely free. There are no punctuations, no signs on how to break down endless lines into meaningful units. That in itself is an interesting reflection of 'building stones', since we need clearly a phonetical interluction with the sentence in front of us, in order to be able to read it.

Painting with sounds reflects, therefore, really the need for a kind of language much closer and in adherence to one's emotions. Criteria like being differentiated or not seek some approximinity to that kind of closeness to truth, but it will never succeed due to a disturbed relationship to truth itself. What is meant by a differentiated approach to the self is that the emotional inclination of a person towards the world must be reciprocrated, otherwise that individual will only reproduce the personal inabilities to live in that kind of world. Clearly here is a conflict in the making, and how a writer treats that material or conflict determines in turn the quality of literature.

For instance, Solshenitzyn decided in 'Cancer Ward' to polarise these conflicts into two choices: the traditional doctor working at home and knowing children as they grow up and get older, and the specialist doctor who works in laboratory like conditions and has little inkling of the true, that is individual person. Indeed, the specialist does not even care whether or not that person has a soul, for he forfeits his way of doing things with the businesses in need of being attended to. His time sequence and agenda does not allow him to stop and consider when it is the time to enlighten a child about sexuality, for not every child is ready at the same time. There is no place of individuation in such a timeless, all the time consuming business orientation so that even the graphs and flip-charts made to produce efficient communication processes in board meetings appear much more in the eyes of the writer as an aliteral way of expressing oneself. These business talks are a kind of stochatic process by which the stuttering voice of the one in doubt is drowned in the rattling down of the latest statistical datas. The world exists everywhere and no where when such references are made as 'people want faster cars' or, for that matter, 'operations which leave no scars'. Culture in such medical or entrepreneurial professions are in-between outings with the wife to some concert or theatrical play and the need to perform at work as the successful role-maker in a cast and play no one has written, but which everyone adheres to. It has certainly nothing to do with immediate practice or feelings, nor with culture related arguments on how to go about it, when it comes to doing things.

This implies that the Flemish initiative may address a much larger conflict than between Europe and its regions, for it may well be one between Western Civilisation and culture as understood in Europe. If so the case, then literature will be caught in-between all of these many undecided conflicts. There will be then a confusion between what is small and what is large, or has influence when in fact there was no money, but much dedication due to common memories, including the myth making process directed towards the future of a Europe, in order not to be the home of war, but of peace. Even though there were many set-backs in literary criticism, there was during the times of Ernst Schnabbel, Ingeborg Bachman or Herman Broch still a sense alive for what it takes to work with a knowledge of literary categories. One specific theme was the learning out of experience, that is outside normal educational paths and institutionalised forms of learning. But as early as 1948 in what became West Germany, there set in already repressive tendencies in radio and television stations. It did away with public independence and the distinction between news and editorial commentary. Equally, in literature sections of newspapers, they were paving the road for likes and dislikes, as if in the world of literature life was so simple, a black or white difference. Much of that loss of democratic spirit was provoked by the desired Western integration of the part of Germany under the controll of France, England and the United States of America. But no one seemed to stop and think, if that was not done deliberately, in order to suspend one thing: honest criticism of both the West and the East. Naturally, the early passing away of Uwe Johnson and the recent death of Elias Canetti indicates that the twentieth century is slowly but steadily loosing more and more its eye witnesses of Two World Wars and many other kinds of turmoils. It will be, therefore, a matter of time to find out what new literary and hence cultural premises are set by new writers reflecting in turn these larger conflicts as part of history, mankind, ideological circumstances, human weaknesses, etc..

In that sense, the workshop includes two important reflections, one by Jean Michel Maulpoix, a very sincere poet living and working on the outskirts of Paris and the other by Anne Born from South Devon, England and who is known aside from her own poetry for her excellent translations of Scandinavian poetry into English. Both refer in their papers to 'myth' since they intended to participate as well in the XVIth European Poetry Festival which began with a symposium discussing the relationship between 'poetry and mythology' in Kamilari, Crete one week prior to the start of the Fifth Seminar. The treatment of the literary topos 'myth' shows how important writers and poets are as carriers of other cultural reflections and how the spirit of 'cultural diversity' can look in practice.

In this context, the presence of other poets at the Fifth Seminar should be mentioned, including Bruno Kartheuser who represents the German speaking minority living in Belgium and who joined workshop 1, or Jose Reina L. Palazon who had just completed a large translation of Trakl into Spanish. He was joined by the Greek poetess Liana Sakelliou-Schultz who gave that major speech during the Second Plenary Session of the Fifth Seminar about the problem a state faces, when it has no longer culture to mask its identity. Eugιne van Itterbeek formed with them and Donatella Bisutti a group to formulate concrete proposals as they had been discussed already during the days in Crete and the Poetry symposium. Practically, it was a concept of the Fifth Seminar to have this interaction with the poets of Europe and to make audible the different voices in European poetry.

If culture is a way of living, then certainly writing is. The immediate transcendence of the living process experienced by our senses can, however, mean a 'seizure of words': Sartre's 'La Naussee'. For others words become like rain droplets running down the window pane one is looking through to detect some forms of shapes and objects down on the street: classical movie-like beginnings for a Hitchcock thriller. The fog and the lady killer. Themes upon themes have an urban diary as background. It is manifested in James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. Yet lately there is this feeling of loosing touch with the great narratives about our times. That was the main theme in Brugge or is it because of the Flemish culture being more rural, that is village oriented? Nevertheless, there was a kind of literary confrontation with the place where the Fourth Seminar was held, namely the former St. John's hospital and thus birthplace of Hugo Claus, author of the collections of poems called 'The Sign of the Hamster' published by the European House for Poetry in Leuven. So much for the setting; literature and especially poetry is still a matter of being born and becoming human, no matter the place of birth. Children and authors grow into the worlds they leave behind. It is a process of change and of adaptation.

Therefore when trying to refute that great literature no longer exists, real evidence must be found. Otherwise 'language and silence' (George Steiner) prevails over any plain search for space to hear and to let hear voices: screaming, arguing, softly spoken, never mind, but nevertheless voices of human beings alive and wrestling with questions of life. That can begin at the square with an old man taking his dog for a walk. Stories always begin with such innocence. Everything else thereafter is a description of how that innocence has been lost. Here is not only needed the great mythology of Virgin Mother, but more or less the 'voice of betrayal' of first the love of our parents, then our friends and finally of ourselves. As mentioned already above, the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly has made this into an epic poem called 'Judas'. He is quite astute in that respect: no other voice could have told better the many stories of betrayals. The outcome is less sure. Where have all the beautiful voices gone to; why have they been replaced by shrill ones, shouting, in panic, discontent, not knowing how to move, to make opinions be felt, but in a democratic not coercive way; why the gambit and why the blues; why the lack of true laughter in which all can join in, rather than that of a group despising another person excluded by their laughter?

There is a kind of terrorism, and a kind of self defeating mechanism in all of the various social behaviours denying literature any influence, suggesting that the distinctive European culture of especially the 'dialogue' seems to be amiss. If Conlin Wagner could speak about American values being brought in relationship to the values of the family, then that might be true in America where everything is reinforced anyhow by, if not Walt Disney, then by common sense ideology that makes the American dream still be the election campaign theme number one. It finds only variations between Reagan, Bush and Clinton, yet there are always the smiles, the daughter in the hand, when the presidential family is portrayed, or those who want to be no longer in rags, but in good clothes with the child being driven by chauffeur to school. All that 'what is wanted' is told in synchronic pictures. There is no stop in-between, to ask is that really what we want? When anyone has seen in real life those driven to school by a chauffeur, seen them later in the class room, move about or not, then that was not a desirable life: an alternative to the seeking through the pages of Dostoevsky why the 'Idiot' behaved the way he did? After such readings, it was a natural to want to go and to talk with people, to find out what life is about, to assess and to reflect not just prices and what had been cooking yesterday, but to find some access to the deeper problems, there where reality begins.

Human reality depends in our perception not of needs, but on how deep you can go. It does not want superficiality, even though, who would be surprised, someone will sure enough come along and win a Nobel Prize winning novel skimming this superficiality. Critics will acclaim that book is picturing exactly our present reality. They used such phrases already at cocktail parties with the ladies in three quarter black dresses; they shall use them as indications of something a hundred years later. Perhaps writers have to return to the places, times and hours of sequences from where they have started out from in the first place, in order to account for a little bit of change. She was five when she started to wonder about letters and books and those other worlds. She was fifty when she returned, after having spent nearly the entire time of her absence in libraries of European universities. Differences in the real world are those things which become visible between what stands there written and what is out there, in life. The German novelist Uwe Johnson is always present in one's mind when reading comments by the New York Times, for he called her in his "Days of the Year" la Grande dame who keeps a distance to events, so that she can comment on them with a dry wit, irony in her voice, but also with a caring and loving touch showing how much the issue bothers her. In a recent comment about the planned 'Population and Development Conference' to take place September 1994 in Cairo this kind of commentary was again evident. Uwe Johnson as a writer did nothing else but to create in his novel a kind of edifice to what is a long tradition, but a daily one converging upon us at the breakfast table when reading the newspaper by coffee or tee and some toast.

Bart Verschaffel has rightly asked, does culture begin with having the windows opening inside out or vice versa? A rephrasing of that question could be: does culture begin with literature? A more careful rephrasing of that question would be what do people read: classical literature, or just the cartoons which lure already children at an early age to populate their world of the imagination with Mikey Mouse, Donald Duck etc. and then turn later to the more outer space, mythical and devilish characters starting with Frankenstein and other blood-sucking monsters. The revival of interests in Dinosaurs is also a case: when civilisation tends to destroy the last whales or grizzly bears, it turns to the myth of the beginning. Originality to be had in plastic imitations or in movies, that is videos, replacing very much any kind of literature by which children used to grow up: Hansel and Gretel, the stories of the brothers Grimm, adventures by Karl May, Robinsoe Crusoe and of course not to forget Mark Twain. The latter one with his Tom Sawyer and Huckley Berry Finn are innocent ones for those who not only dream, but actually venture down rivers and learn how to organize work of fellow friends while not having to paint oneself the wooden fence. Tricks of the trade. Once you've got them, you know how to survive. That is like a mark of growing up, but equally still a loveable tale close to the heart and the spirit of humanity. There is no need for appearance, but the attraction to these kind of 'milk and honey' stories relied on subtle feelings or else knowing fully that the average child did not dare to break out, lest it would get to feel daddy's hard hand. Discipline and authority is still what is keeping most children from breaking out of the worlds filled with fear first in the imagination, then in real life.

The question is about freedom in relation to reality, or where is there a beginning, if at all, in what one writer could say, another not? Both aspects seem important to the point that not all children's stories of the past were innocent. An extensive research study of stories like Hansel and Gretel came to the conclusion that there is some correlation between the high amounts of suicide and such stories involving a great deal of violence. Alone that should caution of glorifying the past because innocent and to be horrified by the signs of violence in modern gimmicks presented to children. There is definitely an increase in 'kitsch', including how viciously the appeal to the emotions can be. They strangle any growing up in a righteous, up right manner due to taking measure to some of the cruel sports being played on school yards and on playgrounds. For children are drowning in boredom, indecisions by their parents but one aspect of that reproduced by watching television and forgetting how to read and write. The loss of basic language skills relates to an inability to free the mind, so that thinking could take place in the medium of the imagination. Extension of that could be literature, provided it is read with care and sensitivity for the depth of language.

The problem of adjustment or orientation can be immense for children, especially if they find but little or no authentic people they could fully respect and to which they would like to measure up to, while growning up. May that be a doctor or a drawer of rocks and flowers for botany books, always certain forms and things leave a deeper impression upon the open minds of children than other things. That is why they need  to reflect those alternative choices for their future path within a human context, one in which voices lend their opinion to the outcome. It is that what makes good books into friends for life. They are what Aristoteles defined already as very good friends: those who tell the child exactly consequences in the face, if it takes that and not this path. Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables' or 'Great Expectations' touch upon similar themes: a fast climb can cost you a quick fall.

What then seems to fall out of any kind vindictive spirit, but remains within the range of the 'myth of Europe' as George Steiner has defined it recently, is the emancipation of the erotic manifestation. It began perhaps with Lawrence's openly admonished, but secretly read book called 'Chatterly's Lover': the gardener who makes love to his aristocratic mistress when the master happened to be gone. Love made visible in erotic terms was always a taboo in literature. For good reasons. The classical definitions of love meant to leave the final point, that of making love, to be an intimate, equally highly valued and positive event for both. Literature like that of Tolstoy's 'Anna Karina' circumscribes that, as much as did Flaubert. It does not come to that point of reversing the search for a true love into an escape from that search. Classical literature held onto that tension because of being inevitably linked to the morality of the society of their times. That is why women trying to flee their husbands and families with some wild lover usually ended if not dead, then to be punished by either being sent into a monastery or they were returned to their families.

It is not here really a matter as to where the writer draws the 'moral line' and lets his readers see the consequences of moral, equally immoral actions. In the past these lines seemed to be most obvious and any writer going against them had to pay equally for trespassing them, as his characters. But this time, towards the end of the twentieth century, it appears as if literature is without a language or the ability to communicate. That is not identical with the social silence between husband and wife when they no longer speak with one another, as it became the cruel texts of the seventies and which especially women used, in order to pluck their courage to break out of deadily wedlocks. They did so after having read Marie Cardinal's 'Shadows on the Mouth' or Peter Handke 'The left handed woman'. This indicates that by then the writers no longer wished to draw that punitive line of the past, but rather let their female characters break out and become successful in their newly found freedom. Added to this was a special category of literature of feminist writers who showed that rather than being destroyed by life itself in confirmation of the social opinion that a woman outside of marriage and family has no real chance of survival, that there is a place for the female self to exist. Whether this development will continue, that depends itself upon such factors as overcoming feelings of being abjected by society while not hardening to the same principles as did already the men in organisational forms which destroyed their personal lifes.

Carlos Fuentos in 'A Change of Skin' takes that even a step further: the real danger is to forget one's own history as well as ignore the basic premise in life being betrayal through love. Hence the emancipation of the 'erotic' wildness, irrespective of consequences, seems to elongate Dostoevsky's question, 'can there really be actions which have no moral consequences'. If that is linked, however, to the earlier question of betrayal, then it seems possible that a husband or wife can make love to someone else during vacations only due to the skills of separating daily from external life: fleeting moments of joy. As if it is an illusion which can exist, but only under very special conditions and never for life. That is the odd time zone of these erotic oriented descriptive stories locked into memory cells and guarded by soldiers who shoot at first sight the moment a thought in that direction dares to make the slightest appearance. These memory cells, like some of the forgotten or not acknowledged literary works, seem to exist independently of the need of humanity to continue surviving at its best.

That is why the question of what is world literature, now that regionalism and localism tries to ban the demand for universalism out of European literature, is an even more important theme to debate. For example, why is it that the Polish people love Gombrich because they recognise the fact that he has been understood outside of Poland as well, and why others want to keep their writers confined to the cultural sphere that they can influence directly? As if literature is not to be touched by the pain of others, especially those living in parts of the world not so well off as in Belgium, Greece or Germany? Sartre spoke about this aspect of universal truth being linked to that 'pain' and differentiated as a result between 'Black and White Literature' in a philosophical polemic directed against egocentrical European understanding of literature. That has especially a tradition in France and perhaps not only there when it comes to being receptive to world literature. Enzensberger did a great deal in Germany to make foreign poets be known there, an outstanding example of his work being perhaps translations of William Carlos Williams, the American doctor who stayed at one place and yet had an ear for what was going on in the world through his poetry.

Identity and discourse at the great level of European culture interacting with the world need not to be, therefore, two separate poles for any modern literature. Bart Verschaffel had a notion of that when asking all writers invited to come to Antwerp to first settle down, not to do anything else but getting a feeling of the place, before starting to interact with others, to give interviews or hold readings. All those involved in cultural and festival activities know what this mean: to step outside a busy agenda and do nothing is nearly impossible. Many have become addictive to a busy agenda and may even have grown afraid of emptiness, the void in which apparently nothing happens, except underneath the surface, there were future cultural works are already in the making before even the writer knows what is happening to him when the impulse to write grips him or as A.Woron confesses after having left painting for the sake of theatre, that the latter has something self perpetuating and it is difficult to get off such a fast moving train.

Yet a look around at what themes have dominated more and more literatery symposiums, or how languages and values have been singled out for a single purpose, then it seems as if everyone is carving for affinities to patriotic places filled with nostalgic feelings because it is here that the father was buried. These 'Heimat' literatures are as much fostered as artificial barriers erected against the world of becoming. And they lie. For the hardships encountered alone by a young girl trying to grow up and facing decisions whether or not she will join the others on a wild spin on motorcycles around the train station of the town, these are not simple nor innocent beginnings. Her search for identity cannot be restored by a folkloristic club preserving tradition by means of customs and old songs, cooking habits of grandmothers and ways to stuff the pipe as used to grandfather sitting underneath the tree. The historical spaces and time zones are eradicated by what Andre Loeckx calls the 'fragmented city' in which a 'culture of ambivalence' reigns. At its edges located somewhere between historical remnants and faceless suburbanian outskirts, there is the grinding of life coming to a halt like a train pulling into the station, the moment stores close and the main reasons for interacting with others removed. Whether an Italian city or a northern town like Hamburg, the time schemata ordering life in such non-urban, urban spaces remains schematic. It is reflected in the emptiness of the youth seeking some adventure by risking their lifes for not other reason, but to impress the others and to have some thrills: inklings of life, but really no intensity out of which to write a poem. Hence such a powerful metaphor as the train has become in Conlin Wagner's intuition silently not only a novel institution or narration, but as his reflections indicate rather into an 'instinct of fear' as to what Europe is awaiting if it continues to succumb to very same materialistic life as it prevails already in the United States of America.

Much of the youth growing up have money to survive, while others don't, but the blur of pictures and symbol is carefully prepared, in order to draw imaginary maps on the wall so as to know what one wants to become. This usually begins and ends with the wish to belong to humanity. Obviously this youth of Europe does not believe that it does any more. Who is there to transmit them feelings going beyond this brutal and meaningless world of fake cosmetics, one boutique after another, only to cater to styles and fashions, high or low shoes, all resting on disturbed feelings that something will be wrong with one, if one does not belong. That means order is made chaotic in a seeming way, while subtle systematisations disturb and even destroy identities. It goes far beyond the imagination. If the First and Second World Wars were overtly evident in their brutality and force and violence, since then the destructive forces have become invisible, and therefore all the better in penetrating the psyche of a person so as to destroy whatever resistance there moves. Guns and battles flare up only at a far distance, a fake one on the film screen, while the real battles are heavily psychologically launched and their ability to disguise themselves much more effective then the jealous mother-in-law of snow-white when she came as an old woman to offer to that beautiful girl an apple she had poisoned beforehand. That mutation or transformation was still something a reading child could by all perplexity comprehend. That is no longer the case in a literature going completely the wrong direction: that of a resurrection of identities living in the past, of wishing to enter the political debate as innocent bystanders while giving the media, or the world all the blame. Thus, in the end it is still a question of political responsibility of the writer: what does it take not to listen to voices which ought to be heard and are not because of the futile forms of destructions. Over and beyond that breeds the paradise of cynicism.


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