Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural by Guy Amirthanayagam

By Guy Amirthanayagam

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What gore! I still remember to this day the lawless Biddle Boys' escape from prison, how they shot down a guard, and how it took him at least five minutes of agonised orating before he died. When the curtain for that act came down, everybody was so enthusiastic because he had died so well that we demanded that he take several curtain-calls. And I still remember how in The Count of Monte Cristo the enormous rocks of the dungeon swayed, to an off-stage breeze that was not called for in the script.

Hemingway exploited the kill end of that spectrum. Orthodox religion stresses the sacrificial. Nietzsche's criticism of morals brought out the deviousness whereby vengeance can be manifested in the name ofjustice, an accountancy that Dante's rationale of the Inferno employs in its way. It is in keeping with the thought that, since God is just, he will sentence to the eternal tortures of damnation only those who deserve such punishment; since they are receiving the punishment they deserve, they deserve no pity.

Now, everything is done by machinery. I am not sure just how to gauge such things. But is it not possible that there is a fundamental difference of some sort between realism of poetic imitation and realism of the record? In any case, when trying to discern the reality that is explicitly or implicitly represented by literature's various brands of Realism, we have one major, purely literary, concern to deal with: namely, literary works are not designed for purely documentary purposes. Their primary source of appeal is not truth but verisimilitude.

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