dasa bausova – ART

Disturbing the Peace

27.08.2010 (4:58 pm) – Filed under: literature ::

Václav Havel,  Disturbing the Peace pg 193

Another thing I should mention here is an interest in language. I’m interested in its ambivalence, its abuse; I’m interested in language as something that fashions life, destinies, and worlds; language as the most important skill; language as ritual and magic charm; the word as a carrier of dramatic movement, as something that legitimizes, as a way of self-affirmation and self-projection. I am interested in clichés and their meaning in a world where verbal evaluation, inclusion in a phraseological context, linguistic interpretation are often more important than reality itself, and “real reality” merely derives from clichés. Someone wrote that the main hero of The Garden Party is the cliché. The cliché organizes life; it expropriates people’s identity; it becomes ruler, defense lawyer, judge, and the law. I enjoy writing rhetorical speeches in which nonsense is defended with crystal-clear logic. I enjoy writing monologues in which pure truths are expressed with veracity and subtlety, truths which are pure lies from beginning to end. Even more, I enjoy writing speeches that balance on a knife’s edge; the audience members identify with the truths expressed in them, yet they sense a scarcely perceptible tinge of mendacity, given the situation and context, and they become uneasy, wondering how it was all meant. In Temptation, for example, Foustka expounds his opinions on the basic questions of being to Marketa, and in doing so he tells her things that are almost identical to what I believe myself and what, in similar words and in all seriousness, I have said elsewhere, such as in my letters from prison, or in this conversation. At the same time, there is something subtly false in what Foustka says. He says it—and this is something we should not miss—partly because he is trying to get Marketa to fall in love with him, and he succeeds. So he is, be it ever so subtly, abusing his own truth, one that he has, by honorable means, arrived at himself.

But is it still truth, then? Isn’t just such a subtle abuse of the truth, and of language, the real beginning of Foustka’s misery, and of the misery of the world we live in? The audience should not be entirely clear about these things; the ambivalence should disquiet them, all the more so because from their own experience—that is, if they are men—they would know that we are often at our most eloquent in formulating important truths when we set out to charm women with them. I remember when The Memorandum was being performed. The main character, in his final speech, defends his own moral degradation by appealing to the general absurdity of the world and to alienation, which he expressed in the then freshly rediscovered jargon of existentialism. Someone asked me how I’d really meant it—that is, whether I’d seriously meant to defend his moral degradation, or whether I had intended, by making fun of that kind of talk to distance myself from modern philosophy’s revival of Marxism. The person concerned was upset, and I couldn’t have asked for a better response. A cliché is always a cliché; there are no “progressive” clichés or “reactionary” clichés; the more “progressive” a phrase is, the less it appears to be a cliché, the more it interests me.