Thursday, April 2, 2020

Erich Auerbach on the Realism of Zola's Germinal

This is an excerpt from Chapter 19 of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: Representation of Reality in Western Literature, where he discusses the development of Realism in the context of Germinal, probably the most famous and highly regarded of all of Zola's novels. (Auerbach quotes the original text in French as well, I have omitted it here)


Emile Zola is twenty years younger than the generation of Flaubert and the Goncourts. There are connections between him and them; he is influenced by them; he stands on their shoulders; he has a great deal in common with them. He too would seem not to have been free from neurasthenia, but through his family background he is poorer in money, tradition, fastidiousness of sentiment. He stands out boldly from among the group of the aesthetic realists. We will again cite a text, to bring out this point as clearly as possible. We have chosen a passage from Germinal (1888), the novel which describes life in a coal-mining region of Northern France. It is the end of the second chapter of part 3. It is kermess time, a Sunday night in July. The workmen of the place have spent the afternoon going from one bar to another, drinking, bowling, looking at all sorts of shows. The day ends climactically with a ball, the bal du Bon-Joyeux, at the estaminet of the fat, fiftyish, but still lusty widow Désir. The ball has been going on for several hours; even the older women are coming to it now, bringing their small children.

(It was ten o’clock before anyone left. Women kept arriving, to find and take away their men; bands of children followed at their heels; and the mothers no longer troubled about appearances, took out long blond breasts like bags of oats, smeared their fat-cheeked babies with milk; while the children who could already walk, gorged with beer and on all fours under the tables, relieved themselves without shame. It was a rising sea of beer, Widow Désir’s casks broached, beer swelling out bellies, flowing from all sides, from noses, from eyes, and from elsewhere. People swelled up so, in the press, that everyone had a shoulder or a knee digging into his neighbor, all were made cheerful, at ease, by feeling one another’s elbows in this way. A continuous laugh kept mouths open, gaping to the ears. It was as hot as an oven, everyone was roasting, all made themselves comfortable, their flesh exposed, gilded in the thick smoke of the pipes; and the only difficulty was to move, a girl got up from time to time, went to the back, near the pump, tucked up her skirts, then returned. Under the garlands of colored paper the dancers no longer saw each other, they were sweating so—which encouraged the pit-boys to knock over the haulage-girls by promiscuous thrusts of their haunches. But when a strapping girl fell with a man on top of her, the cornet covered their fall with its furious sounds, the swing of feet rolled them, as if the dance had collapsed on them.
Someone passing by told Pierron that his daughter Lydie was sleeping at the door, across the sidewalk. She had swallowed her share of the stolen bottle, she was drunk, and he had to carry her in his arms, while Jeanlin and Bébert, more resistant, followed him at a distance, finding it very funny. This was the signal for departure, the families left the Bon-Joyeux, the Maheus and the Levaques decided to return to the mining village. At that moment, Père Bonnemort and old Mouque also left Montsou, both with the same sleep-walking gait, stubbornly maintaining the silence of their memories. And they all went home together, for the last time they passed through the carnival, the solidifying pans of fried stuff, the bars from which the last mugs were pouring in streams, even to the middle of the road. There was still a storm threatening, laughter rose as soon as they had left the lighted houses to lose themselves in the dark countryside. A hot breath poured from the ripe wheat, many children must have been conceived that night. When they reached the village, they felt let down. Neither the Levaques nor the Maheus supped with appetite, and the latter fell asleep finishing their morning boiled beef.
Etienne had taken Chaval to drink some more at Rasseneur’s.
“I’m on!” said Chaval, when his comrade had explained the matter of the reserve fund to him. “Shake! You’re all right!”
A touch of drunkenness made Etienne’s eyes flame. He cried, “Yes, let’s be together… As for me, I tell you, for justice I would give everything, drink and women. There’s only one thing that warms my heart, it’s the idea that we are going to get rid of the bosses.”)

The passage is one of those which, when Zola’s work first appeared during the last thirty years of the past century, aroused disgust and horror, but also, on the part of a not inconsiderable minority, great admiration. Many of his novels attained high sales figures immediately upon publication, and a strong movement set in for and against the justification of this kind of art. A reader who, knowing nothing of all this, should read nothing of Zola’s except the first paragraph of the passage cited above, could believe for a moment that he had before him a literary form of the coarse realism which is so well known from the Flemish and especially the Dutch painting of the seventeenth century. He might take it as nothing but a lower-class orgy of dancing and drinking, of the kind to be found or imagined in Rubens or Jordaens, in Brouwer or Ostade. To be sure, these are not peasants drinking and dancing but factory workers; and there is also a difference in the effect produced, in that the especially brutal details impress us, for the length of time it takes to utter them or read them, as more disagreeable and painful than they would as elements in a painting. But these are not basic differences. We might add that Zola apparently attributed great importance to the purely sensory aspects of his “literary portrait” of a mob orgy, that in this paragraph his genius reveals a decidedly pictorial vein, for example in his details of flesh painting (… les mères … sortaient des mamelles longues et blondes comme des sacs d’avoine …; and later… la chair dehors, dorée dans l’épaisse fumée des pipes). The flowing beer, the haze of sweat, the grinning and wide-open mouths likewise become visual impressions; acoustic and other sensory effects are also produced. In short, for a moment we might be tempted to think that what is set before us is nothing but an unusually robust action on the lowest level of style, sheer rowdyism. Especially the last part of the paragraph, the furious blowing of cornets and the ferocious dancing which muffles and swallows up the fall of one couple, supplies the orgiastic note which such farcical creations require.

But all that alone would not have caused so much excitement among Zola’s contemporaries. Among his enemies, who worked themselves into a fury over what they called the repulsiveness, the filth, and the obscenity of his art, there were doubtless many who accepted the grotesque or comic realism of earlier epochs, even in its crudest or most indecent representations, with equanimity and even with delight. What excited them so was rather the fact that Zola by no means put forth his art as “of the low style,” still less as comic. Almost every line he wrote showed that all this was meant in the highest degree seriously and morally; that the sum total of it was not a pastime or an artistic parlor game but the true portrait of contemporary society as he—Zola—saw it and as the public was being urged in his works to see it too.

This could hardly be surmised from the first paragraph of our text taken by itself. The one aspect of it which could give us pause is the matter-of-factness of the presentation. It is almost like a procès-verbal; despite the sensory immediacy it achieves, there is a certain dryness, excessive clarity, almost inhumanity in it. This is not the style of a writer who aims at nothing but comic or grotesque effects. The first sentence—Jusqu’à dix heures, on resta—would be inconceivable in a grotesque mob orgy. Why are we told of the end of the orgy at the start? For a purely amusing or grotesque purpose, that would be much too sobering. And why such an early hour? What sort of an orgy is it which reaches its end so early? The coal-miners have to be out of bed early on Monday morning, some of them at four o’clock. … And once we have paused, there are many other things that strike us. An orgy, even among the lowest classes, calls for plenty. And plenty there is, but it is poor and frugal—nothing but beer. The whole thing shows how desolate and miserable the joys of these people are.

The real purport of the passage grows clearer in the second paragraph, which describes the various participants’ departure and home-going. The daughter of the miner Pierron, Lydie, is found in the street outside the estaminet, asleep and very drunk. Lydie is a girl of twelve who has spent the evening running around with two neighborhood boys of the same age, Jeanlin and Bébert. The three of them already work as haulers in the mine. They are prematurely depraved children, especially the wily and vicious Jeanlin. This time he has talked the other two into stealing a bottle of gin from one of the kermess stalls. They have emptied it together, but the girl’s share proved too much for her. Now she is being carried home by her father. The two boys follow at a distance, trouvant cela très farce. … Meanwhile the Maheu and Levaque families, who are neighbors, are getting ready to leave. They are joined by two old, worn-out pitmen, Bonnemort and Mouque, who have spent the day together as they usually do. They are hardly sixty years old but they are already the last of their generation—used up and apathetic and no longer employable in the mine except with the horses. During their free hours they stay together constantly, almost without talking. Now once again they drag themselves through the ebbing bustle of the kermess in the direction of the village where they all live. As soon as they get beyond the rows of lighted houses to where the open countryside begins, laughter rises, a hot vapor flows from the darkness of the ripe fields: many children are being begotten that night. Finally they arrive at their hut where, already half asleep, they eat the left-overs of their noonday meal.

Meanwhile two younger men have gone to another tavern. In general they are not on very good terms, because of a girl; but today they have something important to discuss. Etienne wants to win over Chaval for his plan of a workmen’s fund, so that their crew will not be without means when a strike is called. Chaval goes in on it. Warmed by their revolutionary hopes and some liquor, they forget their enmity (not for long, to be sure) and unite in their common hatred of the bourgeois.
Crude and miserable pleasures; early depravity and rapid wearing out of human material; a dissolute sex life, and a birth-rate too high for such living conditions, since intercourse is the only amusement that costs nothing; behind all this, at least among the most energetic and intelligent, revolutionary hatred on the verge of breaking out—these are the motifs of our text. They are unreservedly translated into sensory terms, with no hesitation before the most unambiguous words and the ugliest scenes. The art of style has wholly renounced producing pleasing effects in the conventional sense of the term. Instead it serves unpleasant, depressing, desolate truth. But this truth is at the same time a summons to action in terms of a social reform. It is no longer, as it still was with the Goncourts, a matter of the sensory fascination of ugliness; what we have here is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the core of the social problem of the age, the struggle between industrial capital and labor. The principle of l’art pour l’art has outlived its usefulness. It may be pointed out that Zola too felt and exploited the sensory power of suggestion of the ugly and the repulsive; it may even be held against him that his somewhat coarse-grained and powerful imagination led him to exaggerations, violent simplifications, and a far too materialistic psychology. But all that is not of decisive significance. Zola took the mixing of styles really seriously; he pushed on beyond the purely aesthetic realism of the preceding generation; he is one of the very few authors of the century who created their work out of the great problems of the age. In this respect only Balzac can be compared with him; but Balzac wrote at a time when much of what Zola saw had not yet developed or was not yet discernible. If Zola exaggerated, he did so in the direction which mattered; and if he had a predilection for the ugly, he used it most fruitfully. Even today, after half a century the last decades of which have brought us experiences such as Zola never dreamed of, Germinal is still a terrifying book. And even today it has lost none of its significance and indeed none of its timeliness. There are passages in it which deserve to become classic, which ought to be in anthologies, because they depict, with exemplary clarity and simplicity, the situation and the awakening of the fourth estate in an earlier phase of the same era of change in which we now find ourselves. I am thinking for example of the evening conversation at the miner Maheu’s, in the third chapter of part 3. The theme is first the crowded living conditions in the small houses of the village, their deleterious effects upon health and morals; and then the passage continues as follows:

(“Sure!” Maheu would answer, “if we had more money, we’d have things easier … Just the same, it’s perfectly true that living on top of each other is no good for anybody. That always ends with the men drunk and the girls knocked up.”
And the family would start from there, each saying his word, while the kerosene of the lamp fouled the air, already reeking with fried onion. No, indeed, life was not amusing. You toiled like beasts at work which was the punishment of criminals in earlier days, you lost your hide at it more often than your turn came, and all that and not even have meat on your table at night. Of course you had your rations after all, but so little, just enough to keep you suffering without dying, crushed under debts, persecuted as if you stole your bread. When Sunday came you slept from exhaustion. The only pleasures were to get drunk or make your wife a child; and even at that, beer gave you too big a belly, and the child, later on, said to hell with you. No, no, there was nothing amusing about it.
Then his wife would put in her word.
“The bad thing, I say, is when you tell yourself that it can’t change… When you’re young, you imagine that happiness will come, you hope for things; and then, it’s always trouble beginning over again, you get caught in it… As for me, I don’t wish anyone any harm, but there are times when this injustice sickens me.”
There would be a silence, all would breathe heavily for a moment, in the vague uneasiness of that closed horizon. Only old Bonnemort, if he were present, would open surprised eyes, for in his day people didn’t get into a fuss like this: you were born in coal, you hammered away at the vein, without asking for anything more; whereas today, there was a wind blowing which made coal-miners ambitious.
“Never belittle anything,” he would murmur. “A good mug is a good mug… The bosses are often lice; but there’ll always be bosses, won’t there? No use breaking your brains thinking about it.”
At once Etienne would become animated. What! the workman forbidden to think! Why, it was just because the workman was thinking these days, that things would soon change …)

This is not meant to be a specific conversation, but only an example, one of the many conversations which arise night after night at the Maheu’s under the influence of their tenant Etienne Lantier. Hence too the imperfect tense. The slow transition from torpid resignation to conscious awareness of one’s own situation, the budding of hopes and plans, the various attitudes of different generations; then too the somber poverty and the reeking atmosphere of the room, the densely packed bodies, the simple appositeness of the speeches: all this together gives a typical picture of labor during the early socialist epoch, and surely no one today will seriously attempt to deny that the subject has world-historical importance. What level of style should be ascribed to such a text? There is here, beyond all doubt, great historical tragedy, a mixture of humile and sublime in which, because of the content, the latter prevails. Statements like Maheu’s (si l’on avait plus d’argent on aurait plus d’aise—or, Ça finit toujours par des hommes soûls et par des filles pleines), not to mention his wife’s, have come to be part of the great style. A far cry from Boileau, who could imagine the people only as grimacing grotesquely in the lowest farce. Zola knows how these people thought and talked. He also knows every detail of the technical side of mining; he knows the psychology of the various classes of workers and of the administration, the functioning of the central management, the competition between the capitalist groups, the cooperation of the interests of capital with the government, the army. But he did not confine himself to writing novels about industrial workers. His purpose was to comprise—as Balzac had done, but much more methodically and painstakingly—the whole life of the period (the Second Empire): the people of Paris, the rural population, the theater, the department stores, the stock exchange, and very much more besides. He made himself an expert in all fields; everywhere he penetrated into social structure and technology. An unimaginable amount of intelligence and labor went into the Rougon-Macquart. Today we are surfeited with such impressions; Zola has had many successors, and scenes similar to that at Maheu’s could be found in any piece of modern reporting. But Zola was the first, and his work is full of pictures of a similar kind and a similar value. Did anyone before him see a tenement house as he did in the second chapter of l’Assommoir? Hardly! And the picture he gives of it is not even seen from his point of view; it is the impression received by a young washerwomen who has recently come to Paris to live and who is waiting at the entrance. These pages too I should call classic. The errors in Zola’s anthropological conception and the limits of his genius are patent; but they do not impair his artistic, ethical, and especially his historical importance, and I am inclined to think that his stature will increase as we attain distance from his age and its problems—the more so because he was the last of the great French realists. Even during the last decade of his life the “anti-naturalist” reaction was becoming very strong; and besides, there was no one left to vie with him in working capacity, in mastery of the life of the time, in determination and courage.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Some comments on Zola's Pessimism after reading The Masterpiece

Here is an excerpt from Zola's The Masterpiece. This is from the very last pages of the novel and it in a way serves as a conclusive summary of the problems and overall worldview evoked in the novel. These lines are spoken by Sandoz, Zola's alter-ego in the novel. (Sandoz gets all the best lines in the novel though Claude is the main hero and we get to know his thoughts only through a mode of free indirect discourse.)

It was inevitable. All our activity, our boastfulness about our knowledge was bound to lead us back again to doubt. The present century has cast so much light on so many things, but it was bound to end under the threat of another wave of darkness. … And that is the root of our troubles. We have been promised too much and led to expect too much, including the conquest and the explanation of everything; and now we’ve grown impatient. We’re surprised things don’t move more quickly. We’re resentful because, in a matter of a hundred years, science hasn’t given us absolute certitude and perfect happiness. Why then continue, we ask, since we shall never know everything and our bread will always be bitter? The century has been a failure. Hearts are tortured with pessimism and brains clouded with mysticism for, try as we may to put imagination to flight with the cold light of science, we have the supernatural once more in arms against us and the whole world of legend in revolt, bent on enslaving us again in our moment of fatigue and uncertainty. … I’m no more sure of things than anyone else; my mind, too, is divided. But I do think that this last shattering upheaval of our old religious fears was only to be expected. We are not an end; we are a transition, the beginning only of something new. … And it’s that sets my mind at rest, and somehow encourages me: to know we are moving towards rationality and the firm foundations that only science can give.
Zola is often criticized for being a pessimist, not an ordinary pessimist but a more dogmatic and recalcitrant pessimist, even going so far as to deliberately structure his novels in order to prove this pessimistic thesis, the idea that men are not some "metaphysical marionettes" gifted with a divine or mystical free will but "physiological men" who are subject to laws of nature (pre-eminently, heredity) and the vicissitudes of their environment. (This is also something that Marxist critics like Georg Lukacs dislike in Zola, because it questions the innate humanism of Marxist philosophy)

Just to give a perspective to this debate about pessimism, here is an excerpt from an essay by Henry James, where he advises young novelists to avoid the dogma of either pessimism or optimism and instead be true to Life (available here, emphasis mine)
This freedom is a splendid privilege, and the first lesson of the young novelist is to learn to be worthy of it. “Enjoy it as it deserves,” I should say to him; “take possession of it, explore it to its utmost extent, publish it, rejoice in it. All life belongs to you, and do not listen either to those who would shut you up into corners of it and tell you that it is only here and there that art inhabits, or to those who would persuade you that this heavenly messenger wings her way outside of life altogether, breathing a superfine air, and turning away her head from the truth of things. There is no impression of life, no manner of seeing it and feeling it, to which the plan of the novelist may not offer a place; you have only to remember that talents so dissimilar as those of Alexandre Dumas and Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Gustave Flaubert have worked in this field with equal glory. Do not think too much about optimism and pessimism; try and catch the colour of life itself. In France to-day we see a prodigious effort (that of Emile Zola, to whose solid and serious work no explorer of the capacity of the novel can allude without respect), we see an extraordinary effort vitiated by a spirit of pessimism on a narrow basis. M. Zola is magnificent, but he strikes an English reader as ignorant; he has an air of working in the dark; if he had as much light as energy, his results would be of the highest value. As for the aberrations of a shallow optimism, the ground (of English fiction especially) is strewn with their brittle particles as with broken glass. If you must indulge in conclusions, let them have the taste of a wide knowledge. Remember that your first duty is to be as complete as possible—to make as perfect a work. Be generous and delicate and pursue the prize. 
But like in the excerpt from The Masterpiece posted above, Zola's pessimism is not as simple and straightforward as it seems. Zola is relentless in his focus on decadence and degeneration but his intellect rebels against it. Zola's was a case of pessimism of the will and the optimism of the intellect. Zola was writing his Rougon-Macquant novels when these theories were in the air in France, so to speak. For example, see Max Nordau's Degeneration, published contemporaneously with Zola's novels, a book which had a dark afterlife in the Nazi Germany where degenerate art took on a different meaning. (Ironically, Nordau, a Jewish physician himself, thought of growing anti-semitism itself as a mark of decadence and degeneracy, for example in the context of Wagner).

Many of Zola's own disciples, most famously Maupassant and Huysmans, and later other leading lights of the literary decadent movement in France, not as well-known outside France, abandoned Zola's "optimism of the intelllect" and gave in whole-heartedly to the pessimism of the will and even eventually to nihilism. Schopenhauer was one of the leading intellectual figures for these writers, and his theories became very popular, specially as the general cultural mood in France soured after the catastrophic defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. The debacle seemed to prove to these writers that French race was indeed weak and degenerate, and deserved the punishment it got in the war. Zola tackles these themes in the context of the war in his novel La Débâcle, where one of his heroes Maurice is said to have learned these pessimistic theories in the intellectual circles of Paris, and is seen to be obsessed with the idea of Life itself as a form of War (in the Darwinian sense), a war in which weak and degenerate are routed and which then paves way for a much healthier society and race. This view also had dark aftereffects later in the context of first world war, where many French intellectuals (even including giants like Bergson) turned warmongers and justified war in these pseudo-mystical terms based on the philosophy of vitalism. I had touched upon some of these themes in my earlier blog on La Débâcle.

In The Masterpiece, Zola tackles the problem of artistic decadence head-on. Like in the excerpt quoted at the top, Zola seems to suggest that the upsurge of decadence was itself a form of reaction, a reaction of romanticism and mysticism against the onward march of science, reason and progress. This romanticism not only affect one's view of world but the very idea of an artist. This reaction and in turn Claude, the artist figure, is a transitional figure, an inherited weak character, whose tragic spiritual weakness, leads him to succumb to this reaction and eventually leads to his tragic downfall.

Ironically, Zola himself is often grouped together with the decadent writers or at least is accused of paving the way for literary decadence (often by Marxist critics like Lukacs). A careful reading of The Masterpiece will serve to dispel these criticisms as it shows Zola was more interested in portrayal of decadence instead of its justification, a form of cultural "diagnosis" so to say. Like all great artists he gives all different sides of the "debate" an equal say in the novel, sometimes like Milton with Satan and Dostoevsky with Ivan Karamazov, he may even paint the other side in stronger terms so that the eventual "message" or the conclusion of work can get skewed against what he originally intended. So in The Masterpiece Claude ultimately turns out to be a tragic-heroic character, a sort of last gasp of the romantic ideal of art and artist.

I feel The Masterpiece is a very important work in Zola's oeuvre, even though in purely stylistic terms it is nowhere near his masterpieces like L'Assmmoir or Germinal, because it serves as self-reflexive statement of purpose or intent on behalf of Zola and it shows that his artistry was much more complex than what many of his own manifestos and pamphlets about "naturalism" or "experimental novel" seem to suggest. I have seen many readers are put off by some of the comments in those pamphlets which often reek of most basic and even a vulgar form of scientism, materialism and determinism, and they never to actually read his works and even when they do, they do it with that bias already gleaned from reading those manifestos. One should instead read this novel to get a good hold of Zola's artistic ambition and what he thought of the place of art in society and what its relationship with life and the real world was, and how that relationship was changing with the advent of science.

P.S. Zola's most sustained engagement with Schopenhauerian ideas and its critique is in his novel La Joie de Vivre (a recent English translation is titled The Bright Side of Life). It is not very well known and doesn't seem to be very widely read in English but it is one of my personal favourites of his novels. It is one of the most powerful evocations of the struggle between the two forces of optimism and pessimism about the nature of life that takes place in one's soul that I have ever read.

वेब परिणाम

all the dreadful, appalling morass of trifles that mires our lives

A short excerpt from Gogol's Dead Souls, to celebrate his birthday today. In the second paragraph one also gets a sense of the true nature of his literary project (This is from the beginning of the chapter 7 of the novel, translated by Robert Maguire)

Happy the wayfarer who, after a long and tedious journey, with its cold spells, slush, mud, groggy stationmasters, clanging bells, repairs, wrangles, coachmen, blacksmiths and scoundrels of every stripe encountered along the road, spies at length the familiar roof and the lights as they rush to meet him, and before him will appear the familiar rooms, the joyous cries of the servants as they run forth to greet him, the noise and scamper of the children and the soft, soothing talk broken by ardent kisses that have the power to blot from memory all that is sad. Happy the family man who has such a nook, but woe to the bachelor! 
Happy the writer who, after ignoring characters that are boring, repulsive, astounding in their sad actuality, gravitates towards characters that manifest the high dignity of man, who, out of the great maelstrom of images that whirl about him daily, has chosen only the few exceptions, who not once has altered the elevated pitch of his lyre, has not descended from his height to the level of his poor, insignificant brethren, and, without touching the earth, has given himself, all of him, over to his own images, which are exalted and removed far from it. Twice enviable is his splendid lot: he stands among them as if in his own family, and meanwhile, his fame spreads wide and clamorous. He has beclouded people’s eyes with intoxicating incense, he has flattered them wondrously, concealing what is sad in life, showing them man in all his splendour. All clap their hands and hasten after him, and rush to follow his triumphal chariot. A great universal poet they dub him, one who soars high above all the other geniuses of the world as an eagle soars above other high-flying birds. At the mere mention of his name, ardent young hearts are seized with trembling, responsive tears glisten in every eye. For strength he has no equal – he is a god! But such is not the lot, and different is the fate of the writer who has made bold to summon forth everything that at every moment lies before the eyes and is not perceived by indifferent eyes, all the dreadful, appalling morass of trifles that mires our lives, all that lies deep inside the cold, fragmented, quotidian characters with which our earthly, at times bitter and tedious, path swarms, and who with the robust strength of an implacable chisel has made bold to set them forth in full and bright relief for all the people to see! It is not for him to reap the plaudits of all the people, not for him to behold the grateful tears and unanimous enthusiasm of the souls that have been stirred by him; it is not to him that a sixteen-year-old girl will fly, head awhirl and hero-worshipful; not for him to lose himself in the sweet enchantment of sounds plucked forth by him alone; not, in fine, for him to escape the judgement of the time, the false, unfeeling judgement of the time, which will brand as worthless and base the creations cherished by him, will assign him an ignoble corner in the ranks of those writers who offend humanity, will attach to him the qualities of the heroes depicted by none but himself, will take from him his heart and soul and the divine flame of talent. For the judgement of the time does not acknowledge that equally wondrous are the lenses that survey suns and those that convey the movements of imperceptible insects; for the judgement of the time does not acknowledge that much spiritual depth is needed to illumine a picture drawn from ignoble life and elevate it into a pearl of creation; for the judgement of the time does not acknowledge that lofty enraptured laughter is worthy of taking its place beside the lofty lyrical impulse and that a whole abyss lies between it and the posturings of a clown in a fair-booth! This the judgement of the time does not acknowledge, and will turn it all to the reproach and ridicule of the unacknowledged writer; without due portion, without response, without sympathy, like a homeless wayfarer, he will remain alone in mid-road. Harsh is his chosen course, and bitterly will he feel his solitude.
And for a long time yet to come I am destined by a wondrous power to walk hand in hand with my strange heroes, to survey the whole of life in all the vastness of its onward rush, to survey it through laughter visible to the world and tears invisible and unknown to it! And distant as yet is that time when through a different font the awesome blizzard of inspiration will gush from a head invested in sacred horror and effulgence, and people will harken, in confused trepidation, to the majestic thunder of other speeches…