Confessions of a European Intellectual

Confessions of a European Intellectual

Confessions of a European Intellectual

Confessions of a European Intellectual

Excerpt

Setting out to write what my American friends with their charming and somewhat contagious enthusiasm insist on calling my autobiography, I am not yielding to an irresistible inner urge to speak about myself. I passed beyond this adolescent tendency thirty years ago, when I was twenty. I have missed the chance to write, as a talented author ten years younger than I has done, my first autobiography at twentythree and a second one at forty, thus establishing a sort of regular habit. I have missed the chance to be an author at all because I was born unmistakably an editor and a critic -- which I have been for the greater part of my life.

This profession or vocation presupposes an intellectual and psychological attitude exactly opposed to that of the author. It presupposes a certain inner detachment from oneself, a more outspoken interest in reading than in writing; the tendency to listen, to observe and to understand rather than to express oneself.

The editor possesses indirect productivity in getting other people to write, in stimulating and developing the talents of others rather than his own. His attitude is that of the critic -- who, to quote Paul ValUéry, must understand the work of art better than the artist himself does. It is quite obvious that the creative process of the artist would be destroyed by a clear intellectual analysis of its unconscious and subconscious elements. If you know and understand too precisely how the work of art is produced, you become unable to produce it; the centipede, when asked with which foot he started to walk, became paralyzed.

In his unselfish, almost religious devotion to the idea of esthetic perfection, the editor and critic may try to reach the total self-abnegation of the saint. But we know that this seemingly altruistic attitude is an expression not always of humility but rather of sublime pride and of a spiritual will to power.

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