Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 222

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The Martinshof Story - A Philosophy of Happiness - Life Awareness - Maps & other Text series

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Sunday - Thursday, September 11 - 15 2011 (diary)

Emile Zola I am very sure that I have never read anything of Emile Zola before, but these past two weeks I went through a couple of his novels and short stories, including his first successful novel Thérèse Raquin which was published in 1867.

Zola has a fluent elegant style, typical of the "Naturalist movement" of which he was the most influential proponent. His writing has a much more contemporary feel than the English writers of his time, which even in the English translations comes clearly across.

In Thérèse Raquin the heroine has at one stage an affair with a man she meets in a small hotel in the Rue St. André des Arts, a narrow side street off the Boulevard St. Michel, and this tickles my fancy.

A good 90 years after Zola published this novel I too spent a couple of nights in a small hotel in that very street, not with a lover, but with three of my student friends after completing a 500 km tandem race from Leiden (our University town in Holland) to Paris in 1958.
Zola was renown for his painstaking research of all his writing. It is quite possible therefore that we stayed at the very same hotel where Zola had placed Thérèse for her affair.

A.N. Wilson writes in an Introductions to one of Zola's novels ("For a Night of Love", in 2002) :

In 1891 the publisher Macmillan asked Thomas Hardy to tone down a scene in Tess of the D'Urbervilles in which Angel Clare picks up the heroine in his arms and carries her over a ford. In the published version, to spare the blushes of readers, Tess is trundled over the stream in a wheelbarrow.

Zola meanwhile (from the 1860s onwards), had written a whole series of novels in which the sexual needs of his female characters were fully explored.

Two observations come to mind here.
Firstly (and I believe I have made this point before), one gets a much better insight into an author's work, when one understands and appreciates the social and cultural environment in which he was living, writing and fighting against at the time.

Secondly, although Zola's endeavours towards a more tolerant and free thinking social and moral society where well ahead of his English colleague in absolute terms, they both were pushing against the boundaries of their respective environments which (in my view) was a major contributing factor to the quality and historic endurance of their work.   What I am trying to say here is that all creativity needs a cause, a reason or a purpose to be meaningful.

With Jaap van der Goes on our way to Paris, 1958 Although both Hardy's and Zola's social frontiers have long since been overrun, the artistic quality and value of their work will live on in history, for it was created for a clear purpose.
There is a distinct correlation with the process of evolution here. Every second of time evolution creates countless new variations in all living species. But only those that contribute or enhance the specie's sustainability or improved adaptability to the prevailing environment survive.

Creative art is subject to a similar process. It must have a clear social or cultural purpose, otherwise it will not last.

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Friday - Tuesday, September 16 - 20 2011 (diary)

With Chris Kelsey, Bougainville 1978 So are we wasting our time being involved in art when only the best and meaningful will last in the long run?
Of course not. To paint, make music or write a book is most beneficial for the artist him or herself. It is a way of self expression on a different, perhaps deeper level and through that process a road to deeper self discovery.
The impetus for this to occur is typically around our 40s when job and family pressures are starting to easy and we start looking around for something "meaningful" to engage in.

In my case (at that point in my life) I turned to music, and with a vengeance. Six years of solid practice and "bloody hard yakka" (? as they say in Australia) which were most satisfactory.
Interestingly I gradually moved from playing music to teaching it. Partly because of my move away from Adelaide to the then village-beach-rural environment of the Sunshine Coast.
But mostly because I am an out and out mind person : I love to analyse. I was good at that in Geology and I am good at that in music, bridge or anything else I get involved in.   I have an urge to influence people in a positive way : to inform, enlighten, make them understand, make them think.

During the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century artists were breaking down social and moral boundaries, moving away from traditional art forms which were descriptive, predictable, ornamental, to new impressionist, abstract and surrealistic perspectives and insights. But that has been done now and art has moved into an open space looking for a new direction, and in my view has not found one yet.

Now THAT is sending a message 

! At the recent World art exhibition in Venice (I was watching on TV last night) we are confronted by a US army tank, lying upside down with a live runner running (while remaining stationary) over the rotating track. Elsewhere (in the Australian pavilion) a simple purple coloured brick is lying on a wooden table top on trestles. Meaningful ???
The hoy polloy of the art world is talking up all this shit. But who we really need is that little boy from the fairy tale who tells us "Look, the Emperor is wearing no clothes!"

But "fair enough" (another favourite Australian expression) art is looking for new directions. And as far as I can see they have as yet not found it, although (I believe) the new frontiers ahead of us to conquer are very clear : ignorance and selfish materialism!

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