Written by Phillip Roth 1998
“Politics is the great generalizer,” Leo told me, “and literature the great particularizer, and not only are they in an inverse relationship to each other — they are in an antagonistic relationship. To politics, literature is decadent, soft, irrelevant, boring, wrongheaded, dull, something that makes no sense and that really oughtn’t to be. Why? Because the particularizing impulse is literature. How can you be an artist and renounce the nuance? But how can you be a politician and allow the nuance? As an artist the nuance is your task. Your task isnot to simplify. Even should you choose to write in the simplest way, à la Hemingway, the task remains to impart the nuance, to elucidate the complication, to imply the contradiction. Not to erase the contradiction, not to deny the contradiction, but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being. To allow for the chaos, to let it in. Youmust let it in. Otherwise you produce propaganda, if not for a political party, a political movement, then stupid propaganda for life itself — for life as it might itself prefer to be publicized.