Saturday, January 15, 2011

On power and conventionally lying

I came some time ago to think of despair and victimization as being at the service of the ruling class and the whole social edifice. It is the way in which imagination and intelligence eliminate themselves from the contest for power. Not that they are rivals for the same power. There is a difference. But [...] the only power they do exercise freely, without interference, is the power to despair. That is the monochromatic madness. Having myself felt it, known it, bathed in it, my native and temperamental impulse is to return to sanity in the form of laughter. This is not an affirmative policy. Nor do I expect anything but a disfigured success. But there are other powers from which we have abdicated - powers of gratification, of beauty and strength. When we agree they are gone forever some of us at least are shamefully lying. In my first two books I so agreed, shamefully. Then I realized I was merely doing another conventional thing. Conventionally lying.

-- Saul Bellow, ca. 1961, Letters

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