Sartre, Joaquin, Mishima and a bunch of others

Has not updated for more or less a month. Let me catch up.

“Hello there.”

I enjoyed Sartre’s Existentialism and Human Emotions. Here Satre defended his existentialist philosophy against accusations by certain Christian and communist critics. He stressed that existentialist philosophy is not a philosophy of fatalism (as the Christians claim) and a philosophy of quietism (as per the communists) but rather, an acceptance of the unbearable weight of existence and the ethical duty to act despite this. To quote him at length:

Actually, things will be as man will have decided they are to be. Does that mean that I should abandon myself to quietism? No. First, I should involve myself; then, act on the old saw, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Nor does it mean that I shouldn’t belong to a party, but rather that I shall have no illusion and shall do what I can… Quietism is the attitude of the people who say, “Let others do what I can’t do.” The doctrine I am presenting here is the very opposite of quietism, since it declares, “There is no reality except in action.” (31-32)

By the way, an idiot who borrowed this book before me ripped an entire section of about 10 pages. The section he ripped was titled “The Desire to be God.” Interesting title. I searched the net for the article to complete the experience. Crazy stuff.

While Sartre’s arguments are solid, his notion of the ‘complete freedom of human’ does not sit well comfortably with me. Sartre argues that wo/man’s destiny rests entirely on his/her hands; circumstances cannot be blamed for the outcome of one’s life. Really? Are they not mutually correlated? Is the nature of action not partially shaped by the circumstances of acting?

Moving on, I was shocked that I enjoyed Nick Joaquin’s The Woman Who Had Two Navels. I found it initially boring (notwithstanding of course the masterful writing Lolo Nick displayed). However, towards the end the different layers of the novel began to show their intricate patterns. E. San Juan made an interesting analysis of this one on his book Towards a People’s Literature, criticizing in a nutshell Joaquin’s almost puritanical moralizing, stating further that it was “a tour de force of the existentialist thriller.” He was also speaking of a ‘melodramatic excess forced by the contrapuntal or fugal technique of the artist.’ Man, why so serious? I also found it dramatic,  but I believe it was part of the book’s intents. And I found the novel generally affecting regardless of that contrapuntal thing. Hehe.

This was a long time ago, but I thoroughly enjoyed Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavillion. I also liked Saramago’s The Double, but not much, as almost ¾ of the book is a humdrum exercise on building tension. The book requires infinite patience. I was disappointed by Eros Atalia’s Ligo Na U, Lapit na Me,  not for its use of Bob  Ong-ish language, or even the writing, both of which I found okay, but the novel’s content itself. I believe it was meant for popular consumption, probably for witticistic entertainment. Suggested if you wanted to rest your brain a little. Am also disappointed by Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right, a short and concise defense of Marxism which degenerated into an unsatisfying hodgepodge of strawman fallacies, unconvincing rhetoric, and a crassly understated dismissal of the important historical experiences of international socialism, particularly those of Soviet Russia and Maoist China.


2 thoughts on “Sartre, Joaquin, Mishima and a bunch of others”

  1. Let Eagleton dabble in his “marxist” literary criticism and he ends up fine. His politics, however, is Trotskyite and not firmly linked to any real movement. So it is expected. I also went over that “defense” before and found it wanting. 🙂

  2. Man, I’m getting this idea that the most popular ‘marxist’ intellectuals, especially in the west, are very good comedians. I really liked Eagleton’s style of writing, but content is lacking. Is this why Marxist theory has always been considered a harmless joke by the intellectual elite? Just a thought.

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