Sweet illusion to those who think that a great artistic creation is the fruit of any divine illumination

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In The Philosophy of Composition, Edgar Allan Poe explains in detail his process of poetic creation, exemplifying through his best-known poem, the marvelous The Raven.

Without intending to summarize even more what is already extremely summarized in the few pages of the essay, let’s go to some interesting topics.

Poe begins:

I select “The Raven” as most generally known. …

Jude the Obscure exposes the entrails of this repugnant organization called society

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Jude the Obscure is Thomas Hardy’s latest novel. Received in hostility by the critics, some say that the epithets from “dirty” to “immoral” justified Hardy living little more than thirty years without publishing a new novel.

The fact is that Hardy abandoned the genre exactly after the publication of a masterpiece.

As for the criticism, Swift has well defined: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”.

And it is not possible today, far from the petty conveniences of Victorian society, not to classify…

Adams saw American skyscrapers doomed to become, one day, ruins of an ugly and false civilization

First, the teacher. Otto Maria Carpeaux’s words about Henry Adams, in my translation:

Finally, Henry Adams, the last, returns to his homeland, and no longer recognizes it, this country of uneducated millionaires and corrupt politicians who use democratic slogans to exploit the amorphous masses. Henry Adams’ first reaction was the novel Democracy, published anonymously; a pamphlet that could equally be interpreted as pre-Marxist or pre-Fascist. But Henry Adams was not and never will be a man of practical decisions. He is an observer. He wrote the history of the United States at the time of Jefferson and Madison, to discover…

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I am barely starting these lines and I know I will be short of words…

Don Quijote de la Mancha, classic of the classics, one of the greatest works of all universal literature, outstanding in all respects.

From all that I have read, two works have aroused in me something that I am incapable of describing, a feeling without a name, the impression of any kind of magic operating, as if they had been written by something different from a human being; they are Commedia, by Dante, and Don Quijote de la Mancha.

But why? Here is the fascinating…


The poet never sits concerned with the logical exposition of an idea or feeling

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In radical opposition to a non-fictional text in prose, whose object is usually rationality, lies poetry, whose purpose is often rewarded with incomprehension.

The poet never sits concerned with the logical exposition of an idea or feeling: what he seeks is the power of expression, the beauty. And it is better the poem whose meaning is suggested, — and not lucidly demonstrated, — making room for interpretation, in total opposition to the character of a scientific text.

Well. Edgar Allan Poe, in this essay entitled The Poetic Principle, discusses his conception of poetry. Let us comment on some passages:


Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev
Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev

It is said of Bazarov — the protagonist of Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev — the first nihilistic character in history.

The importance of this work, therefore, is immense.

Bazarov inaugurates in the literature the posture of denial to any kind of authority or moral principle.

Materialistic intellectual, he says that believes in nothing but agreeing with what can be scientifically proven through experience.

Religion, tradition, art… none of this has value: past generations are “cards out of deck” and “a good chemist is twenty times more useful than any poet”.

Bazarov’s psychology is interesting: although he denies everything…

The World as Will and Representation, by Schopenhauer
The World as Will and Representation, by Schopenhauer

I remember that as soon as I started to study philosophy, the name Schopenhauer became recurrent.

At first, I tried to study history of philosophy, from a comprehensive perspective, to make it possible for me to structure a long-term study plan in order to initiate direct contact with the works.

Whatever the source, authors always directed bitter and resentful words towards Schopenhauer, associating him with a radical pessimism, pointing the harmful bias of his work.

Shortly thereafter, I read one or two of his books. …

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The first time I read Crime and Punishment, it took me two days to finish the 590 pages of my edition.

It was unprecedented for me to read a book with such voracity.

I remember that on a rainy Saturday, I started reading around 4 p.m.; when the sun came at 6 a.m. on Sunday, I was still with the book in my hands.

Censored by the sun, I chose to sleep a few hours. When I woke up, I took the reading session that would shoot the book.

But why my delight? What is so special about this book?

Candide, or Optimism, by Voltaire
Candide, or Optimism, by Voltaire

Just as George Orwell’s Animal Farm is the best vaccine against communism, Voltaire’s Candide, or Optimism is the best vaccine against the risible contemporary notion of man’s self-reliance.

“You can get what you want,” “The world is a projection of your interior,” “Thinking positive is the key to success,” and many other contemporary jargons are easily overthrown by Voltaire’s derision.

And if we have today caveats as to the judgment of Leibniz’s philosophy made in Candide, due to the rediscovery of this philosopher already in the 19th century, Voltaire’s immortal work never loses its instructive value.

In short, Voltaire places…

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton

I feed my misanthropy of delicacies and she, in response, gets fat.

Then I completed another year, smiling, and this time with a Chesterton volume in my hands.


If I had read him at twenty, I might have idolized him…

But that is the way it is, and good thing it is!

Behold, looking at the pages of Orthodoxy, I get irritated. Then, however, I exalt myself.

And the summary of my judgment, after the calm of the reflections, is this: great reading! Because that is what great readings leave: strong impressions.

So we are going to dig into…

Luciano Duarte

I write about literature and philosophy | lucianoduarte.com

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