23rd May 2014
If there is one thing we know about the subconscious, it's that it doesn't lie. Why? Because you can only lie about what you have some control over. Lying is a form of control. Something else that doesn't lie is art, and by "art" I mean any product of human creativity, be it the written word or the visual arts, music etc. This doesn't mean you can't get false art, sentimental art, propaganda art, but none of that comes out of the true creative act. It comes from ideas. The true creative act is connected to the collective experience of humankind - it is subterranean and can't be manipulated.
So in any age you get the subterranean people, the artists. Sometimes they don't know they are that, but truth springs up through them anyway. And then the police of status quo move in and want to silence them. If you live in a police state, then they lock you up. If you live in a free state, they lock you up anyway, burn the books, try to pretend the voices aren't real.
Art has an unusual and direct line to truth, which is why art is suppressed in totalitarian regimes. Hierarchies come to power through devious means, not through truth but through a bank of non-truths. And so art is perceived as a threat.
Here's a list of just a few of the authors whose works have been burned: Voltaire, Goethe, Shaw, Joyce, DH Lawrence, Kazantzakis, Steinbeck, Rushdie, Vonnegut, Edna O'Brien, JK Rowling.
How deranged do you have to be to burn Harry Potter, and what would you think it might achieve? 450 Million copies sold in 73 languages - do you think it might be speaking to people? Do you think it might be giving voice to a much suppressed aspect of our human experience, that of wonder and magic? There's the truth. If you take 200,000 women and burn them, you might be able to sweep it under the carpet for a while, even centuries, but those voices are going to be heard. The truth will out. And the "out" is usually through art.
So it is a weighty thing this writing business. It's not just scribbling and conjuring pretty stories, though there's probably a place for that, too. It's about giving voice to long unheard songs with lyrics that speak the truth of our race. That's what it's about.
I'm not kidding.