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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To The University Students Of Pakistan By Zulfikar Ghose

The young writers’ acquaintance with literature, what little there is of it, has been in the classroom where the discussion centres upon socio-political ideas or an interpretation passionately argued in the jargon of some trendy French guru. Therefore, I say to you: your writing comes from your experience of the world and your special place in it; your experience comes to you through your senses and what your senses receive are not ideas but a complex perception of things; ideas are a function of language, not of reality, and when you create an interesting language to represent that reality then, and only then, you will have created interesting ideas. This has been said by many other writers, it is to them a self-evident truth.

It is not ideas, not merely the content, but style, what we call the writer’s unique voice when it uses language in a compellingly distinctive form, which generates the aesthetic bliss.

Your freedom to be an artist of whatever kind is a sacred principle which no one may challenge. Indeed, the quality of your work will bear a relationship with how deliberately, stubbornly and unwaveringly you resist ideological pressure and assert your freedom to serve no cause, to accept no censorship, but only to be yourself. Listen to what Chekhov said back in 1888:

‘I am not a liberal, not a conservative, not a gradualist, not a monk, not an indifferentist. I should like to be a free artist and nothing more…. I hate lying and violence, whatever form they take... stupidity and tyranny reign not in shopkeepers’ homes and in lock-ups alone: I see them in science, in literature… I regard trademarks and labels as prejudicial. My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and absolute freedom — freedom from force and falsehood, no matter how the last two manifest themselves.’


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