On Literature Today

On Literature Today

On Literature Today

On Literature Today

Excerpt

I have been asked to speak on the state of our literature today. We live in a very unhappy world at present, a time of great confusion, and the public has a right to expect from its poets and thinkers some light on the causes of our problems and the way to a better future. Few writers, I think, at present, are living up to these expecta­ tions. But still the belief in literature persists, be­ cause so many writers in the past have performed their true public function. "In literature alone," said Leopardi, "the regeneration of our country can have a substantial beginning." This may seem a large claim, and yet there is some truth in it, for, as Ibsen said, "Except as afterwards invented"-- invented, that is, by thinking minds--"the con­ scious guiding principle is never present in the general sentiment of the people." The world can only be changed by desires, but we are always de­ siring things, and only ideas can make desires ef­ fective; and so the minds that invent and express . . .

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