“…So much for insight. As for ‘words,’ I wonder if they really redeem our passions: is it not rather that they refrigerate them and put them in cold storage? Don’t you seriously think that there is a chilling, outrageous effrontery in the instant facile process by which literary language eliminates emotion? What does one do when one’s heart is too full, when some sweet or sublime experience has moved one too deeply? The answer is simple! Apply to a writer: the whole thing will be settled in a trice. He will analyze it all for you, formulate it, name it, express it and make it articulate, and so far as you are concerned the entire affair will be eliminated once and for all: he will have turned it for you into a matter of total indifference, and will not even expect you to thank him for doing so. But you will go home with your heart lightened, all warmth and mystery dispelled, wondering why on earth you were distraught with such delicious excitement only a moment ago. Can we seriously defend this vain coldhearted charlatan? Anything that has been expressed has thereby been eliminated–that is his creed. When the whole world has been expressed, it too will have been eliminated, redeemed, abolished.”
–from Thomas Mann’s short story “Tonio Kroger” (translated by David Luke)
Does literature spell out the mysteries of our lives so clearly that we are robbed of all passion and uncertainty? Can it be trusted to save the planet when really it makes us passive consumers? Does the fire die out as soon as we reach “The End”?