The Black Notebook
Yet I am incapable of writing the only kind of novel which interests me: a book powered with an intellectual or moral passion strong enough to create order, to create a new way of looking at life. It is because I am too diffused. I have decided never to write another novel. I have fifty ‘subjects’ I could write about; and they would be competent enough. If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that competent and informative novels will continue to pour from the publishing houses. I have only one, and the least important, of the qualities necessary to write at all, and that is curiosity. It is the curiosity of the journalist. I suffer torments of dissatisfaction and incompletion because of my inability to enter those areas of life my way of living, education, sex, politics, class bar me from. It is the malady of some of the best people of this time; some can stand the pressure of it; others crack under it; it is a new sensibility, a half-unconscious attempt towards a new imaginative comprehension. But it is fatal to art. I am interested only in stretching myself, in living as fully as I can. When I said that to Mother Sugar she replied with the small nod of satisfaction people use for these resounding truths, that the artist writes out of an incapacity to live. I remember the nausea I felt when she said it; I feel the reluctance of disgust now when I write it: it is because this business about art and the artist has become so debased, the property of every sloppy-minded amateur that any person with a real connection with the arts wants to run a hundred miles at the sight of the small satisfied nod, the complacent smile. And besides, when a truth has been explored so thoroughly — this one has been the subject matter of art for this century, when it has become such a monster of a cliché, one begins to wonder, is it so finally true? And one begins to think of the phrases ‘incapacity to live’, ‘the artist’, etc., letting them echo and thin in one’s mind, fighting the sense of disgust and the stateness, as I tried to fight it that day sitting before Mother Sugar. But extraordinary how this old stuff issued so fresh and magisterial from the lips of psycho-analysis. Mother Sugar, who is nothing if not a cultivated woman, a European soaked in art, uttered commonplaces in her capacity as witch-doctor she would have been ashamed of if she were with friends and not in the consulting room. One level for life, another for the couch. I couldn’t stand it; that is, ultimately, what I couldn’t stand. Because it means one level of morality for life, and another for the sick. I know very well from what level in my self that novel, Frontiers of War, came from. I knew when I wrote it. I hated it then and I hate it now. Because that area in myself had become so powerful it threatened to swallow everything else, I went off to the witch-doctor, my soul in my hands. Yet the healer herself, when the word Art cropped up, smiled complacently; that sacred animal the artist justifies everything, everything he does is justified. The complacent smile, the tolerant nod, is not even confined to the cultivated healers, or the professors; it’s the property of the money-changers, the little jackals of the press, the enemy. When a film mogul wants to buy an artist — and the real reason why he seeks out the original talent and the spark of creativity is because he wants to destroy it, unconsciously that’s what he wants, to justify himself by destroying the real thing — he calls the victim an artist. You are an artist, of course … and the victim more often than not, smirks, and swallows his disgust.