From the Other Side of a Page

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The poet is much more the one who inspires, than the one who is inspired.

―Paul Eluard

His mindset was quite ordinary for a genius. Pretty erudite, slightly crazy, somewhat eccentric he was, with an original view on many things and the courage to defend it. Like all other typical geniuses (from those of ancient times to his contemporaries), he stood out from the crowd and was destined to take his rightful place in a very long row of those whose biography would be read from the textbook pages and whose monuments would be put in the areas where they lived for at least a short period of time. He would be another person in the endless list of regular household names such as Dante, Caravaggio, and Handel — and nothing more. However, it seemed that the fact did not depress him a bit.

He wasn’t a prideful person by nature; moreover, he didn’t consider anyone worse than himself in principle, believing that people were given different types of thinking, gifts, and inclinations from above so that they could pursue various goals and objectives. Thus, it wasn’t necessary to bother about surpassing someone in one way or another; instead, it was worth trying to fulfill those goals and objectives for which certain prerequisites were given. It was also important to remember that any goal, in turn, wasn’t an end in itself, but a particular aspect in the fulfilment of the global goal — namely, serving the Creator. And since there was nothing good in man, beyond the qualities the Creator had intended for him to have (although their development required diligence on the part of man), then, in his thinking, feeling proud of one’s talents was equivalent of feeling proud of one’s eye color or the number of their ears.

The man had a waxed moustache and a lyric baritone voice: he often sang melodies from a low-grade vaudeville, which, for some reason, was dear to him. They were simple, but addictive and funny, and helped him to find inspiration when he needed to attune his working mood during creative breaks or the comprehension of works he had already written. With the same purpose, he, among other things, spent time with his crazy, hysterical Muse, whose body exuded the aroma of sweat mixed with cheap perfume.

However, sometimes, he could perform in full voice his favourite arias of Rigoletto or Conte di Luna from Giuseppe Verdi’s operas, but since not everyone around shared his musical tastes, it happened relatively rarely.

A mouse lived in his modest abode, and from time to time, the writer left pieces of free cheese at the small hole — without any mousetraps, it is important to note.

But most of his time, the man devoted himself to literary creation, guided by the principles of “not a day without a line,” “the best is the enemy of the good,” and “if you have nothing to write about, then write about your writer’s block at least.” Of course, in practice, these principles served more as motivation to work than some maxims interpreted verbatim: his imagination, knowledge, and experience allowed him to write about many things and, as a rule, he wrote many lines in a day.

His creative style, as well as choice of theme, was very unusual, so he had long been accustomed to critics’ attacks; at the same time, his writing was bold and had an undoubted right to exist. As a rule, all the critics’ imaginary contradictions were actually observed not in the text, but only in the minds of the readers, who unfairly transferred to the original author their attitude toward a certain group of creative people. In fact, they had nothing in common, and the author could be associated with them only by mistake.

The writer was repeatedly blamed for views and beliefs he didn’t share, although he never made statements or put forward some of the assertions that were attributed to him.

Mais c’est la vie, as the French say.

He wasn’t a bit worried about what people said. He had his views on life, religion, and creativity, and in general, never regarded these subjects as separate, in no way considering it possible and necessary to talk about one outside the context of the other. If every slander and reproof, verbal or written, could have prolonged his life, he would have lived to the end of time. However, he didn’t like idle debate or wasting his time trying to prove something to somebody — only if it was absolutely necessary. He quickly drew the lines in discussion, calling each thing by its right name in a proper tone. If circumstances demanded so, he correctly put people in their place not only with a word — though usually, words were quite enough. In communication, he immediately marked certain limits and bounds, not allowing anyone to overstep them.

He has never had “militant escapism”, or “deliberate contempt for reality”, as it seemed for some critics.

He highly respected and acknowledged the magnitude of talent and depth of cultural influence in many works. The contradiction between him and them was false — he didn’t oppose reality, he opposed the banality, routine, mediocrity and creative impotence.

After all, many of those who called themselves “realists” in fact replaced “the reality” with the seamy part of life description, trying to fill the pages of their novels with as many murderers, maniacs, fallen drunkards and inveterate prostitutes as possible. They believed that due to the abundance of vulgarity and dirt, their works were “closer to life”. Others, like those who proclaimed the so-called verismo manifesto, focused their creative work on a detailed description of peasants’ life or daily routine of the average man in the street.

In fact, all these trends multiplied the mediocre writing and in an artistic sense, could easily be called not even second-hand, but third-hand literature, ossified in static inertia and immersed in self-digging. The author didn’t think it had any relation to realism as a literary movement.

No doubt, the movement itself had a whole gallery of worthy works and even some perfect masterpieces of world literature, but essentially, it wasn’t closer to reality than any other group. And the author, who considered himself a realist too, didn’t pretend to have some true insight and presented to the public his subjective vision of this very reality, passed through the prism of personal attitude.

Naturally, world-view perspectives differed dramatically based on a person’s background — the one of a nightman and an opera singer, an atheist and a believer, a hard worker and a loafer, an intellectual and an ignoramus, a rich man and a beggar, a killer and a pacifist, a republican and a monarchist. People of different sex, culture and age also had their own views. Even the facts of everyday life differed: ones — for an ordinary avant-garde artist, for instance; others — for those who didn’t accept and, most importantly, didn’t want to accept any views from another angle.

Referring to the numerous works of world-renowned geniuses in various fields of art, one could easily find the examples of many beautiful creations that had a significant impact on the masses and great minds but still failed to fit a harsh evaluators’ Procrustean bed of ideological and aesthetic premises. All in all, many of these principles were not an inevitable certainty, but the result of an agreement in certain circles reached by a number of individuals over the years.

As followed from the most illustrative examples of sculpture and painting, the creation of an artwork identical to reality had no sense, since the banal prose of existence and the ordinariness of grey days already pursued everyone everywhere as a visual inevitability.

The greasy crust of applause had long been scraped off, revealing rusty rails, and along them, one after another, passed a single bundle of cars. They were jadedness, tedious formalism, creative laziness, lack of original ideas and presentation. This road led to a dead end.

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