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the central rite of a cult, by which a defined group makes its autocritique, its confession of fear that life

cannot be made intelligible, and


enacts the suicide in shadows which it will notneed notmake in
substance.
Evidently, underlying a cinema of this kind is a fundamental jadedness
and lack of energy. It seeks to evoke a state of mind, a quality of feeling,
which is saturated in intellectuality but does not give its material any
intelligible structure. It is this basic lack of orientation which allows
Malle to oscillate so violently between the hyper-intellectual and the
vulgar. His next film, Viva Maria, starring Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne
Moreau, promises to be yet another tightrope-walk. Doubtless, it will
be both a commercial success and a strong contender for a Golden Lion.
But it will probably do little to solve the problems which beset Malle
and the rapidly dissipating nouvelle vague. It is not only fresh ideas about
cinema which are now needed, but fresh ideas about society, about
people, about the world. A new cinema demands a new anthropology.

Socialism and Literature

Jorge Semprun

Jorge Semprun is a Spaniard who fled to France as a Republican refugee in


1936. He fought with the French Resistance and was imprisoned in Auschwitz.
In 1963, living in Paris, he was awarded the Prix Formentor for his novel,
The Long Voyage, which was published in English in the following year. The
text printed below was delivered as a speech at a recent literary conference in
Paris.
What is literature capable of? No sooner is the question asked, than I
seem to hear a whispered susurrus from voices deep in the warmth of
literary circles: authoritarian voices speakingoften with authority
in the name of a valid, strong and rich literature. A quite simple answer
ends the debate before it has begun: literature is capable of nothing.
Listen to Pasternak, who speaks with authority. One day, according to
Yevtushenko who tells the story, a worker said to Pasternak: Lead us
towards the truth. Pasternak replied: What a strange idea! I have never
aspired to lead anyone anywhere. A poet is like a tree whose leaves
rustle in the wind; he has no power to lead anyone . . .
Pasternak was either too modest, or too proud. In either case, he was
unaware of himself. For his intention was always, at the very least, to
lead men towards themselves. The power of his poetry was immense.
His literary power perhaps lay precisely in the fact that he refused to
make concessions to political powerto that form of circumstantial
political power that was Stalinism.
Listen to Robbe-Grillet. In an essay written in 1957, he declared: No
matter what his political convictions, or his personal militancy, the
artist cannot reduce his art to a means in the service of a causeeven
the most justifiable and exalting causewhich transcends it. The artist
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puts nothing above his workand he soon perceives that he can only
create for nothing. There are two ideas in this passage. They seem to
derive from each other, but in reality they cancel each other out and
return us to the confusion of a poetic rustling of leaves. There is first
of all the idea that art cannot be utilitarian, that it is not a means. This an
entirely correct idea, which echoes one of the themes of Marxs
thought. The writer. Marx wrote, in no way considers his work as a
means. His work is an end in itself. It is so far from being a means for
the writer himself and for others that he is ready to sacrifice his existence
to its existence when the need arises. . .
But from this immaculate premise, Robbe-Grillet deduces an indefensible conclusion: that the artist creates for nothing. This is a purely
theoretical conclusion, which his own work contradicts at every step.
For as a form of literary investigation and reality, the nouveau roman is
moving and developing, and this is a good thing for us all. Because for
a Marxist critic all research is valuable a priori. Freedom of investigation
including investigations that may appear to lead to a dead end, is one of
the conditions of a true cultural lifea life that is organically linked to
the whole of society. It is especially necessary in those socialist rgimes
that are founded, for historical and therefore transitory reasons, on a
single-party system. This research can only be formal. The content is
not a matter of research: it is imposed on us. Either by the world or by
our ideas, our personal obsessions about the world.
However, for Marxism, a critique of the utilitarian conception of arta
critique which is essential, especially within Marxism itselfdoes not
lead to gratuitousness. It leads to a quite different perspective. Such a
perspective must start from the fact that Marxism is not only a theory, a
critique, a method. It has also given birth to a certain form of society,
to a specific type of political power. These are historical realities that no
one, least of all Marxists, can overlook. This means that one cannot
talk about literature from the innocence of pure Marxist thought: the
often terrible weight of a certain historical practice precludes this
innocence. Thus, first of all, one must examine the relationship of
literature to socialist power.
What Marxist attitude is the most valuable in considering that past of
the socialist movement whichsimplifying somewhat, but so as to be
clearly understoodI shall call Stalinism? It seems to me that the crucial
need is for a consciousness of our own responsibility for the past, or if you
prefer, of our co-responsibility. Real or pretended lack of knowledge
justifies nothing, and serves no purpose. There is always a way of
knowing, or at least of questioning. We have too frequently denounced
the attitudes of people of good conscience and bad faith who were
unaware of the extermination of the Jews and of colonial wars, for us
to be able to claim any excuses for ourselves.
Even without knowing, without really knowing, we remain co-responsible, because this past is ours and nothing can change it. We cannot
refuse this past. We can only deny it in the present, that is to say,
understand it through and through in order to destroy what remains of
it, in order to create a future which will be radically different.
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We need, in other words, to have an active, not a hapless, consciousness


of our responsibility. We are responsible for this past because we
accept responsibility for the future, for the socialist revolution throughout the world. These are the kind of feelings evoked by reading A Day
in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, for example. Soljhenitsins book destroys
any possible innocence for my generation. We came back from Nazi
concentration camps, we were the just, the evil had been punished,
Justice and Reason returned with us. At the same moment, however,
some of our comradesperhaps even men we had known, with whom
we had shared our 15 grammes of black bread in the campswere being
sent to join Ivan Denisovitch somewhere in the extreme north, to build
a desolate socialist city whose uninhabited, concrete carcasses stretched
out like spectres over the snow. This novel ends innocence for anyone
who tries to livereally livewithin a Marxist vision of the world.
What remains is a heightened awareness of responsibility, not only for
the past, but for the present and the future as well. We are responsible
for Soljhenitsins voice. I give it only as an example, for it is not an
isolated voice, it is multiple, perhaps immensea voice which reminds
us that truth is always revolutionary. It depends on us that this voice
should never fall silent: if it ever should, we should cry out in its
silence.
This brings us to social realism, not that of Soljhenitsin, but of
Zhdanov. Because we must re-read Zhdanov. We must re-read him to
measure the distance that separated us from ourselves, which separated
Marxism from Marxism, its critical and revolutionary truth from its
bureaucratic carapace. For 20 years, from the First Congress of Soviet
Writers, in August 1934which ended the period of cultural research
and debate in the USSRa certain type of relationship prevailed between
authority and literature in the Soviet Union. It is impossible to analyse
this relationship in detail here, but its fundamental traits are simple
enough to define.
First of all, there was administrative direction of culture, by decree and
Resolution. As Zhdanov said in 1946, it was necessary to align all the
sectors of our work on the ideological front. The consequence was
that all cultural debate, all possibility of contestation, all ideological
struggle was suppressed. In brief, the opposite of Marxism. And the
opposite also of literature, which needs all these in order to live. We
cannot reassure ourselves by saying that all this was an accident which
sprang from the specific circumstances in the development of Soviet
society. The roots go deeper.
Read the report of Lin Mo-Han, one of the officials responsible for
culture in the Chinese Peoples Republic. It dates from 1961, and is
entitled: Let us raise still higher the banner of Mao Tse-Tungs
thought over literature and art. There are the same formulae, based on
the same quotations, the same conception of culture and of the role of
the party, the same anathemas against decadence, formalism, revisionism. And the same imperative conclusion: The present task for writers
and artists is to develop and create a socialist literature and art in conformity with the directives set out by comrade Mao Tse-Tung. All that
needs changing is a single name. In the transitional period opened by the
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Twentieth Party Congress, the relationship between power and culture


in the USSR has been marked by contradictory shifts: advance and retreat, empirical approaches and reprimands, brutal or paternalistic
interventions. But no coherent theory of culture, of the partys role in
this field, of the criteria of freedom for research, has been organically
developed. It is this theoretical work, however, which we most need;
without it, practice will be, and will remain, purely pragmatic.
The publication of a book like A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch
should not be imputed to the sole, praiseworthy initiative of one man
in power: it should be the spontaneous product of the whole of Soviet
cultural life. Correcting the excesses of the past cannot possibly satisfy
us. Enlightened despotismor more or less enlightened, depending on
those in poweris not enough. A developing socialist society demands
something more.
It is time to question, once and for all, the idea which has for so long
had currency and which Lin Mo-Han expressed succinctly in his report
when he said: Literature and art, which make up a part of the whole
revolutionary cause, must naturally accept the partys direction and
control. Gramsci replied to this in advance, from prison, when he
wrote: The politician exerts pressure to make of the art of his time a
given cultural world. This is a political activity, not an artistic critique.
If the cultural world for which we are struggling is a living and imperative reality, its expression will be irresistible. It will find its own
artists. If, in spite of political pressure, it does not find its own artists,
this means that we are dealing with a factitious cultural world, a postiche, a paper lucubration by mediocrities. . .
I quote Gramsci because in my view it is largely within the Gramscian
tradition that there is to be found the most coherent and valuable
elements of a Marxist theory of arta theory that finally ceases to
consider art simply as an ideological superstructure, and as a utilitarian
instrument.

Monk in the Sixties

Alan Becket

No living jazz musician has accomplished as much as Thelonious


Monk. His music transcends jazz, in a way which Charlie Parkers did
not. He must be reckoned as one of the most important musicians ever
to come out of America.
Monk is important in jazz as an improvisor and a composer. His improvisation is no way weird or esoteric, but develops logically from
his own premises. His harmonic and melodic vocabulary, now so well
known, is highly individual and has few antecedents in the work of
earlier musicians. As an improvisor, he has made two contributions of
prime importance. Firstly, his emphasis on melodic improvising
was the first step towards the movement away from chords that
musicians such as Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane have made.
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