An Israeli novelist reflects on what literature can accomplish

David Grossman in the New York Times Magazine:

Screenhunter_14_may_14_0138“To our joy or to our misery, the contingencies of reality have a great influence on what we write,” says Natalia Ginzburg in her book “It’s Hard to Talk About Yourself,” in the chapter in which she discusses her life and her writing in the wake of personal disaster.

It is hard to talk about yourself, and so before I describe my current writing experience, at this time in my life, I wish to make a few observations about the impact that a disaster, a traumatic situation, has on an entire society, an entire people. I immediately recall the words of the mouse in Kafka’s short story “A Little Fable.” The mouse who, as the trap closes on him, and the cat looms behind, says, “Alas . . . the world is growing narrower every day.”

Indeed, after many years of living in the extreme and violent reality of a political, military and religious conflict, I can report, sadly, that Kafka’s mouse was right: the world is, indeed, growing increasingly narrow, increasingly diminished, with every day that goes by. And I can also tell you about the void that is growing ever so slowly between the individual human being and the external, violent and chaotic situation within which he lives. The situation that dictates his life to him in each and every aspect.

More here.