Winter 1967 • Vol. XXIX No. 1 NonfictionJanuary 1, 1967 |

The Writer and the Human Condition

One way out of the barren scientific world, Max Eastman wrote, "is to declare the parallel and equal rights of poetry." Not only has the poet or artist a right to his independent testimony, but that testimony will have a different quality and structure. It will have the quality of showing, not of reconciling, even though the longing for reconciliations of the contradictions of life and of the mind may be there. "One must always tell what one sees. Above all, which is more difficult, one must always see what one sees," Charles Péguy wrote. It is his "above all" which matters. However, no evidence about contemporary man's attitude to himself and to his cosmic status can be conclusive when drawn from literature and the arts only. There is always the question of how representative the writer or artist is. It is his status as reliable witness, rather than as unacknowledged legislator, which must be our concern. One might speak of the writer as the neurotically representative man. But

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