Second Thoughts: Reflections on Literature and on Life

Second Thoughts: Reflections on Literature and on Life

Second Thoughts: Reflections on Literature and on Life

Second Thoughts: Reflections on Literature and on Life

Excerpt

During the summer of '39, when Paris was in a tumult of public tension, a Cézanne exhibit at the Orangerie acquired, by force of contrast, a special significance. I was troubled and divided in mind whenever I went to see it, but each time I came away with a renewed conviction that the artist's vocation springs fundamentally from his selflessness. And Cézanne reminded me that the more people surrender to violent partisanship the more they need the disinterested detachment of a few men.

It is a wonderful thing that Montaigne should have meditated on man and the human condition in the midst of the darkest of religious wars. The bloody horror of that conflict fortified him in his mission as observer and witness. He was the one attentive reporter in a country gone mad: "Others mold man," he wrote, "but I set him forth." He never claimed for a moment . . .

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