Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"To make you see ..."

He was before all things the artist and his chief message to mankind is set at the head of this chapter ... "It is above all things to make you see. ..." Seeing is believing for all the doubters of this planet, from Thomas to the end: if you can make humanity see the very few simple things upon which this temporal world rests you will make mankind believe such eternal truths as are universal . . .

That message, that above all things, the province of the written art is above all things to make you see, was given before we met; it was because the same belief was previously and so profoundly held by the writer [by FMF] that we could work for so long together. We had the same aims and we had all the time the same aims. Our attributes were no doubt different. The writer knew more about words but Conrad had certainly an infinitely greater hold over the architectonics of the novel, over the way a story should be built up so that its interest progresses and grows up to the last word.
-- Joseph Conrad: A Personal Memoir, by Ford Madox Ford
Although not precisely on the same level of "visual brilliance" as Fifth Queen, for the writer (and especially for a writer who has ever loved Conrad), this is a very valuable -- and brilliant -- book.

I first ran across a reference to this memoir in the same book by Geoff Bocca that led me to Kinglake's History of the Crimean War (Down to the Death of Lord Raglan) -- a book that not only "taught Churchill to write" (and by which -- according to Bocca -- an intelligent man could not fail immediately to be fascinated, no matter to which page he might  open any of the eight or nine volumes) but that also will greatly enhance any intelligent person's understanding of that vast and eternally troublesome area of Asian hinterland we like to call "The Middle East."

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