Archive for Yevgeny Zamyatin

Zamyatin Heresiarch

Posted in Writing with tags on February 8, 2012 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

True literature can exist only where it is created, not by diligent and trustworthy functionaries, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics.

Every artist of importance creates his own world, with its own laws — creates and shapes it in his own shape and image, and no one else’s. This is why it is difficult to fit the artist into a world that has already been created, a seven-day, fixed and solidified world: he will inevitably slip out of the set of laws and paragraphs, he will be a heretic.

To the feudal aristocracy and the aristocracy of the spirit, nobility derives from diametrically opposite sources. The glory of the feudal aristocrat is in being a link in the longest possible chain of ancestors. The glory of the aristocrat of the spirit is in having no ancestors — or having as few as possible. If an artist is his own ancestor, if he has only descendents, he enters history as a genius; if he has few ancestors, or is related to them distantly, he enters history as a talent.

Only lifeless mechanisms move along faultlessly straight lines and compass circles. In art the surest way to destroy is to canonize one given form and one philosophy: that which is canonized quickly dies of obesity, of entropy.

The flame will cool tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow…. But someone must see this already today, and speak heretically today about tomorrow. Heretics are the only (bitter) remedy against the entropy of human thought.

What we need in literature today are vast philosophic horizons… we need the most ultimate, the most fearsome, the most fearless “Why?” and “What next?”

Children are the boldest philosophers. They enter life naked, not covered by the smallest fig leaf of dogma, absolutes, creeds. This is why every question they ask is so absurdly naïve and so frighteningly complex. The new men entering life today are as naked and as fearless as children; and they, too, like children, like Schopenhauer, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, ask “Why?” and “What next?”

Let the answers be wrong, let the philosophy be mistaken — errors are more valuable than truths: truth is of the machine, error is alive; truth reassures, error disturbs.

There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times.

↑ Portrait of Yevgeny Zamyatin by Boris Kustodiev

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