What is Literature

“…all literature is civic action: Because it is memory. All literature preserves something which otherwise would die away with the flesh and bones of the writer. Reading is reclaiming the right to this human immortality, because the memory of writing is all-encompassing and limitless. … Our books are accounts of our histories: Of our epiphanies and our atrocities. In that sense all literature is testimonial. But among the testimonies are reflections on those epiphanies and atrocities, words that offer the epiphanies for others to share, and words that surround and denounce the atrocities so that they are not allowed to take place in silence. They are reminders of better things, of hope and consolation and compassion, and hold the implication that of these too, we are all of us capable. Not all of these we achieve, and none of these we achieve all the time. But literature reminds us that they are there, these human qualities, following our horrors as certainly as birth succeeds death. They too define us…

Of course, literature may not be able to save anyone from injustice, or from the temptations of greed, or the miseries of power. But something about it must be perilously effective if every dictator, every totalitarian government, every threatened official tries to do away with it, by burning books, by banning books, by censoring books, by taxing books, by paying mere lip-service to the cause of literacy, by insinuating that reading is an elitist activity. …

Every day, somewhere in the world, someone attempts (sometimes successfully) to stifle a book which plainly or obscurely sounds a warning. And again and again, empires fall and literature continues. Ultimately, the imaginary places writers and their readers invent  — in the etymological sense of “to come upon,” “to discover” — persist at all because they are simply that which we should call reality, because they are the real world revealed under its true name. The rest, as we should have realized by now, is merely shadow without substance, the stuff of nightmares, and will vanish without a trace in the morning.”

More: http://www.salon.com/2012/06/08/is_there_any_reason_to_read/singleton/

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