Thursday, 22 January 2009

Hans Urs von Balthasar on writing and living

The other day, a friend gave me a very charming little book by Hans Urs von Balthasar, My Work: In Retrospect (Ignatius, 1993). It includes some remarkable reflections on the processes of writing – including the following, on the gap between one’s life and one’s writing:

“It is not possible to make a clean separation between [writing and living]; a book must reflect much of the meaning that the writer seeks to give his own existence, even if this meaning is rather often stamped on the book against the direct will and supposition of the author…. Whoever has truly experienced this gives up the attempt to bring his literary work into harmony with his life; when he writes, he is ahead of himself in a dream of the totality in which he would like to give his fragments a sure home; then once more he limps along behind his own self, or even creeps backward and looks around, like Lot’s wife, into a beloved image of the past, an image that entices all the more magically since it is already ablaze. Who can keep up?” (pp. 17-18).

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