Struggling with Art: A Reading Response to “This is Not the End of the Book”

In reading Eco and Carriére’s This is not the end of the book I was struck by many aspects of the text. The authors throw out various tidbits of information, or ask extremely intriguing questions and then immediately move on. A few ideas in the text could have books of their own. The idea that struck me was the discussion of great artists and how they came to be in their own time, and why the art came about at such a time. The authors ask why “not a single book published in France between 1800 and 1814 – the zenith of Napoleon’s power – is still read today,” (105). The two ultimately come to the conclusion that “as power fades, some art forms are given a boost, and some not,” (105). Additionally, they propose, “when the state is in crisis… then art is free to say what it has to say.” I think this gives rise to two ideas. That one, art is controlled by the powers that be to certain extents, and two that only through struggle does art become memorable. A modern example through author J.K. Rowling comes to mind. With Harry Potter she tapped into the seemingly endless fear the English have about absolute evil power coming to destroy everything good, (their experiences in both World War’s are probably the reason for this). The art mirrored the struggle, and showed characters overcoming insurmountable odds. Her second book, (which I will admit, I have not read, based on the reviews), is about an election in a small town, where no massive struggle is presented. There’s a reason one of the books is a multi-format billion dollar enterprise, and one is a much less read critical dud. Eco and Carriére once again show why books need to last, not only because of their technology, (i.e., the way they’re constructed), but their content as well. When someone is creating art merely for monetary gain, or for political reasons, it becomes “flat and lifeless,” (105). This brings to mind a few questions: what motivates great art? Can great art be achieved without struggle/suffering? What constitutes “great art”?

Work Cited

Carrière, Jean-Claude, Umberto Eco, and Jean-Philippe De. Tonnac. This Is Not the End of the Book: A Conversation. London: Harvill Secker, 2011. Print.

 

 

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