During a conversation last week, I was reminded of this subject. For a long time I was fighting the struggle in university of trying to demonstrate to my professors how literature/film/theatre... the art, in general, are a direct link to past cultures, times, and places.
Everybody will remember the days in high school when you were trying to memorize facts in history class. When did the French Revolution begin? Why was it so important? Who was involved? But there is always something missing in the textbooks - and that is the essence of the time. When reading Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I already wrote about in a previous post, I was instantly drawn to the fact that his novel captured historical essence. Be it Kerouac, Kundera, or Kafka, each (gifted) author manages to draw the reader in to a world that cannot be experienced without their words.
A week or so later, when discussing different types of authors and their gifts with others - I found that each had one common characteristic. We came to the conclusion that every talented author holds the power of an age. By an age I do not mean simply a time period, or a time and place in history. An age signifies an experience, a memory, and a background to a person's life that becomes a part of their essence. The difference between people who hold the power of an age, and authors who hold the power of an age lies in their ability to manifest an essence into words.
Reading about the effects and difficulties that censorship in the Soviet Union brought can be insightful. But that line between facts and feelings becomes a blurred middle-ground - no man's land - when one reads about such things by those who carry the gift of translating an essence into a work of art.
A great book is an embodiment, the fine work of a gifted seamstress. A great book's parts have been sewn together meticulously, placed together to form a story - the experiences of this seamstress. But in the greatest works the thickest stitch lies between the heart and the mind of the body. All the others are reparations of what once was.