history is a tragic farce

A fascinating podcast from the Guardian’s Culture Vulture blog.. John Banville, winner of last year’s Booker prize with The Sea, which he describes as a transition novel from the first-person narrative he has been, in his own words, stuck in since the mid-80s, and invokes the spirit of Bart Simpson, briefly, and Henry James in more detail [among others] – he sees himself writing in the Jamesian tradition – talking to John Mullan about literary style, the role of the artist in society and, in relation to The Untouchable, Anthony Blunt.He has a some interesting comments on history in general, and particularly the 20th Century – a tragic farce – during which “people with noble conceptions of themselves making terrible, terrible mistakes”.. to which he adds –

“All that art can do is to say – ‘Look, this is how things are’

You may pretend to yourself, in order to live, we may pretend to ourselves this is how things are.. but it’s not how things are.”

and later, still on his view of art..

“It’s superb.. but it is human. It’s not transcendant, it’s not better than we are. It is the best we can do, but it’s not better than we are. It’s not going to make us better, it is not going to civilise us.. art has never done that”