Humans have seen the ‘evolution’ in expressing the meanings and the imaginations. The long drawn progress/gradualism in the formation of codes from Mesopatiamian cuneiforms to the now updated scripts. This giant leap in writing has seen the ‘marked’ shifts in the medium and structure of writing from the typewriter to the digital page on a screen. The question that echoes here is “Has this transformation from the physical association of typing a word and stroking a key to invent a word made any difference?” The ‘changes’ and questions that arise in this process take us to the undeniable fact that one thing that remains ‘constant’ in this progression is ‘The Writer’. Writer is like a script (of a language) itself, no matter what happens, he/she keeps on adding to the knowledge, feelings, betrayals and voices of the region and the people therein. Writers are the vanguards of the language, culture, art and whatever you relate in defining the identity of a region, he/she personifies and wordifies it perfectly. As Ondaatje says ‘As a writer, one is busy with archaeology’
Writer is the medium, the bridge that lets the emotions, history, polity and mostly the least discerned subterranean psychologies of the ‘region’ and people to bind and connect. Think of any writer and try to analyse the sentences and the dripping and reverberating voices and ghosts that appear on the page and get re-incarnated. Writers are the creators of a ‘representation/character’ that infuse life to the dead/killed voice and suffering/happiness enabling the same ‘character’ to talk, walk and feel. Writers are the ambassadors of the consciousness both universal and social. During these pandemic times Camus, Chekov, Shakespeare etc. were sought, why? They had documented and ‘characterised’ the situational perception and the resulting fallout of the ‘event’ which rhymed with present circumstances. They transcend the time-space continuum and that’s why Whitehead called all the European philosophical writing ‘a series of footnote to Plato’ for its relevance and impact.
What’s to write anything, it takes one to own typewriter and bleed as Hemingway would call it and then a word comes into being. Whenever I have profiled any thinker, there has been the unusual ephiphanic ‘moment’ wherein I feel the time-travel to that ‘time’. While writing about Gödel I could hear and feel the ‘iconoclastic perspective and eccentricity of the genius in the air’ and his historic strolls with Einstein, I felt entangled into that ‘event’ invoking Einstein’s ‘spooky at a distance’ line. We are into the times now when we re-write more and write less which in a way has been plagued with the temptations to copy the ideas and sometimes the whole plot as well. Have you ever thought how a sentence or a word you read is invented sometimes it takes days to find a word for completing a sentence. This process is same like our emotions ‘uncontrolled and fleeting within fractions of a second’. Imagine writing about this ‘chaotic and knotted affair’. Since the post-industrial age we have developed a tendency to praise a master than a labourer who is behind the wheels. Similarly the labour and the ‘struggle’ that a writer wades through often go unnoticed.
Writer takes the multiple roles in a single flick of ‘imaginative dives’, he is a painter crafting both realistic an abstract ‘realties’ into a canvas that takes the reader to the ‘immediacy’ of the personal and political con/sub/pre(text).Writer wears the hat of a surgeon dissecting the layers and joints of any ‘situation’ within the ‘ecosystem of a spatial and temporal’ relevance. Think of any role and dexterity that any craft needs, writer turns into a wizard knowing all the spells for creating the ‘magic of words’. Wait! this is not an example of magical realism.
Writers mostly have been surrounded by the climate of ‘control’ as they always break through the frontiers of ‘moderation’ for they know not the abridging of a completeness. They have been the brilliant illustration of threading and weaving through the existing ‘routines’ of the society from a single layer. You have everything in Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’, the political, social and economic suffering the community goes through from a single strand of a ‘connective and coherent storyline’. Dostoevsky dips through the dark silhouettes our souls have and charts through the subconscious and repressed angst that festers in our innards. What we see is less than what we do not see. The realm of ‘unseen’ and surreal ‘field’ from the nether and ether of cosmos some writers sometimes blink through that. Take a line from any classical Joyceian stories to the all-pervasive Hallajian (An’al Haq) exhortation which forms the ‘zenith of soul’s expression’ without any veil to filter through. If world is a story, writers are the story tellers of it. Writers construct the hope, light and purpose in their unique exposition of ‘producing a work’ that freezes the time and acts as sort of chronicling the ‘vagaries of human nature’.
In this post-media age and what Umberto Eco calls ‘invasion of idiots’ on the regressive and misuse of social media ‘space’ there is a markedly little distinction in bracketing the ‘category’ of writers. Social media has almost thinned out the criterion of professional/personal binary. The creativity and art of writing too has been contaminated with most of the people masquerading as writers though being ‘ersatz’. It becomes hard to sift through the dirt that has accumulated in the ‘muddled’ echo chambers of the social media platforms.
The question has always been ringing in and around the jargon of judging the writers as in which writer is relevant and whom to cancel out. Considering examples from the so called popular ‘writers’ Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker. Their works have been in the best selling spree with most of their work falling in the category of emboldening ‘racial thesis’ and ‘masculine hegemony’. Pankaj Mishra in his seminal piece in New York Review of Books dissected the intrinsic tendency of both these ‘cult’ thinkers including Joseph Campbell on the archetypal and traditional masculine ‘image’ of man as the ‘maker of fate’. On the other side of the same society there is a visible difference on the positioning of ‘other’ breed of writers who ‘write’ the anguish and sighs of the oppressed as Marx would call it. The polarity is visible. You cannot take the political out of an individual and social life of a person/writer; it always rebounds and boomerangs into our ‘everyday’ repository of language. A recent example of this polarity can be gauged from the fact that you introduce Chetan Bhagat into the textbooks and take down the ideas of Arundhati Roy from the same frame of ‘pedagogical structure ’. This utterly traduces the motives and aspirations of any society in having the pleasures and blessings of a ‘good literature’ motivating and maturing our understanding of the human values. A writer who is scared to aware people what they don’t want to ear has landed in the wrong trade. There is a widespread phenomenon of self-censorship which seeps in through the ‘fear’ and that turns out to be more devious than the state-driven one because it throttles one’s space for ‘writing’ things down which requires an unencumbered mind. This turns him/her into the lifeless ‘being’ then.
Writers write the emotions of a place and ‘placelessness’ like Ondaatje narrating the ‘remains’ of the sorrows and Mohammad Darwesh pining for a land that was taken away .We are in the times when we need to understand and value the work of a writer when most of the ‘writing’ is being appropriated for the wheeling’s and dealings of the modern day ‘Emperor’. As George Packer of the Atlantic says “Meanwhile, whatever the vagaries of our moment, the writer’s job will always remain the same: to master the rigors of the craft; to embrace complexity while holding fast to simple principles; to stand alone if need be: to tell the truth” The writer can diagnose the past and retell the shadows of the coming times. Keep the Writer relevant and let the stories make you breathe the fresh air even if there is not.
Mir Sajad is Researcher Department of Geography and Regional Development, University of Kashmir