Saturday, December 10, 2005

Notes on Pinter's Lecture, part 1

Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize lecture is interesting in many ways. His politics are very straightforward, and it will no doubt be useful to both this and future generations to have such a stable reference for this point of view. (It is a remarkably committal account of the 'secret' history of imperial policy after the second world war.) But my concerns here are not directly political.

I found it interesting that Pinter opened his speech with a statement about the artist's free relationship to the truth, while at the same time granting the politician no such freedom.

In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

But surely a citizen must ask a good many questions and leave a good many other questions on the side.

In this blog I have been cultivating what I am starting to think of as a "modistic" approach to language. So, for example, I believe that there is scientific language and political language, philosophical language and poetical language, and that each of these have altogether different aims. Their "explorations" (investigations of linguistic experience) are different.

And here is where my concerns intersect with Pinter's. For, as I see it, truth is a concern of science and justice is a concern of politics; and I think politicians have as much reason as artists to claim that this specific concern justifies them in asserting that there is no such thing as truth or falsity in their business. We might say that they stand in a free relation to truth in their exploration of reality through politics; actually, I would say that politics explores ideality and this is why "truth" is an irrelevant category. But that last point is quibbling.

1 comment:

daisy said...

thank you for this. keep writing!