There is no harm in not remembering who Ernest Pinard was and there is not much merit in doing so. Pinard became Minister of the Interior of the Second Empire, but ended up expelled from his party and left no other legacy than the prohibition for almost a century of seven of the best poems of The flowers of Evil. “What do works of art have to get into so much trouble?” Asks British philosopher and lawyer Anthony Julius in the latest issue of the magazine Liberties; to the half-dozen recent examples he draws on to demonstrate, as he claims, that we live in a time when “the wrong attention is paid to the work of art”, “the claims of art are not respected”, its “integrity “Neither creation and art is considered” nothing more than a merchandise, a political statement, an insult or a defamation “could be added others closer to the reader such as the condemnation of the organizer of the” Great Procession of the Holy Chumino Rebelde “, whose only crime consisted of the realistic representation of a vulva, the process to the satirical magazine Mongolia, the veto of the Catalan writer and translator Víctor Obiols by Amanda Gorman’s agents, about whom Nuria Barrios wrote brilliantly in this newspaper, and the endless and futile discussions on social networks, where it seems impossible to express himself in any sense without someone deciding that he is being offended. “Art draws considerable censorious energy right now,” says Julius. “There is no other discourse that appears in so many different censorship contexts [que parezcan contar] with so many justifications: national justification (art is tied to the prestige of a nation and cannot damage it), ruling class justification (works of art should not be allowed to generate conflict), religious justification (works do not should blaspheme or offend believers), capitalist justification (should not alienate consumers or harm the commercial interests of the company) ”.
An irrepressible force by majority seems to be, at bottom, undermining the distinction between author and work that Pinard unwittingly helped to establish with his crusade of 1857 against The flowers of Evil; What was opened when the French Justice rejected at least in part his complaint was a period of autonomy of the work of art that Theodor W. Adorno summarized in his Aesthetic theory by specifying that “works of art leave the empirical world and create another world with its own essence and opposed to the first”, a period during which, for example, only a profound ignorance of the simplest mechanisms of the work of art and fiction could lead someone to believe that Vladimir Nabokov it is Humbert Humbert, that Carolee Schneemann intended to insult her audience by employing the naked body in her artistic actions, that there would be some kind of merit in reading solo to women, solo to men, solo transgender authors, solo to authors of one race, etc., and / or that the artistic relevance of The bell jar It would not be in its condition of literary creation but in the fact that Sylvia Plath it really happened what is narrated in his book.
It seems clear that the establishment of new restrictions and insurmountable limits in the name of certain moral ideas not only means the end of the autonomy of art, but also the return to us, this time in the name of a plurality that is actually under attack, the kind of moral imperative that suffocated Baudelaire, who nowadays adopts the voice of those who accuse certain artists of “cultural appropriation”, demand quotas, believe or pretend to believe that some pigments violate other pigments in art museums, participate of digital lynchings in which the opinions and attitudes of the artists determine the supposed value of their work, impose the need for certain “sensitive readers” to exercise prior and consensual censorship on the texts; they demand, finally, that the artist speak since their identity (personal, national, gender, whatever), as if written production could only be tolerated as testimony. It goes without saying: the innovations introduced by authors such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, Bertolt Brecht, Susan Sontag and so many others in our way of conceiving the links between literature and society, between books and the world, To which we owe the most relevant literature of the last 150 years, they are incomprehensible for those who read from the new paradigm of sensitivity; If the works of Mieko Kawakami, Ottessa Moshfegh, Olivia Laing, Rachel Kushner and other authors of a literature proudly freed from the demands of “writing trauma” (in the words of Roxane Gay) do not have all the readers they deserve, it is, in that sense, because the narcissism of some authors and the infantilization of their readers are installing the ridiculous idea that literature would have something to do with healing and that its value would consist of the emotion it provokes, as dozens of others show. booktokers: For certain Tik-Tok prescribers, the best that can be said about a book is that it has moved to tears, and many are recorded crying to prove this point.
The “round numbers” that so irritate those of us, led by writer Enrique Vila-Matas, who advocate ending them tend to be of little use, since History only rarely offers the relief of a rhyme. Thus, the bicentennial of the birth of Baudelaire seems somewhat less relevant to address its validity as the 164 years that are celebrated from the trial of The flowers of Evil. If our world is still his this is largely because there seem to be more people at this time trying to become Pinard than Baudelaire and because “the most dangerous but most direct path” advocated by the author of The painter of modern life, that of a questioning of a restricted and suffocating morality without which the experiment of modernity would not have been possible, begins to be retraced in the name of the celebration of trauma, the main and often the only literary asset of certain writers.
A society whose members boast of the strength of their convictions but feel that they are threatened with every setback and a literary production focused on the expression of the pain and the tragedy of its creators, who resolutely rejects (and, paradoxically, in the name of empathy) the possibility that literature and art can account for the existence of the other and their ideas, leads us to change from transgression to trauma . And this not only marks the end of a period in which the questioning of aesthetic conventions (which are always a reflection of and are articulated in the social conventions, from which they emanate) made possible a society that recognized the existence of its minorities, kick-start the still incomplete project of women’s liberation and oppose a fairly solid front to the spread of hate speech. Who gains from the loss of these things? But the question of who loses is easier to answer: we all do it, not just those of us who are still interested in fiction and the potentialities of art.
Patrick Pron is a writer. His latest book is Bringing it all back home (Alfaguara).
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.