Posted by: gdevi | May 6, 2015

Another good semester

My world literature students are finishing up their final exam. I can tell it is a good exam; they are all so immersed in it. I looked at some of the returned exams; they have done well. I had given them an extra credit for 5 points to discuss any text they studied this semester as a representative text of world literature. I am impressed by their selections — ancient Egyptian poems, Dostoevsky, Lu Xun, Kafka, Roberto Bolano. I am in particular very pleased with their responses to Roberto Bolano and By Night in Chile. It is not an easy novel at all. They have done such a good job interpreting it. It is a beautiful novel; very important novel, and they have understood it so well. It is about a very corrupt priest in Chile who never did anything to help anyone but lived a partied life and who recognizes his horrible life coming to an end and on his deathbed writes this meandering confession asking for forgiveness–to nobody–because actually nobody is listening–but to his own younger self–his conscience–who accuses him of the corrupted life he has lived pleasing authority, dictators, destroying innocent people, and generally living a pretentious life as a poet and critic and being the life of the party. He misuses his art for the sake of all kinds of ugliness. It is about how we turn art and intellectual work into a fake, impotent activity in corrupt societies. Bolano is a fantastic writer and the students have really understood him. In general, it is hard for our young people to see a social or political level to literature, because in our great nation, with the exception of a few writers and intellectuals, literature and art have no social or political exigency or aura. Literature and art in our society are about sitting somewhere nicely with some liquor and talking about personal problems, lack of love or too much love, lack of sex or too much sex, and lack of money or too much money. It is all so banal. As Bob Dylan said, “sometimes it gets so hard to care/ it can’t be this way everywhere”. And of course, it is not. There are so many wonderful, meaningful things happening in life and literature and art. So it is always a learning curve for our students to read literature that has a diametrically different social and political flavor to it. Good work, kids. You did so well; I am very proud of you!

As usual, they have left me sweet little notes at the end of the exam–me too, dear students; take care, and keep in touch.

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