A fellow blogger whom I requested for a review of my short story collection, The Nomad Learns Morality, turned down the request on the grounds that my stories were pessimistic. “Howsoever wrongs have been done in the past and howsoever bleak the present may be appearing, optimism needs to be preserved in one way or the other, that's what I feel,” he wrote to me.
It is almost impossible to come across such candidness in today’s world. I found my respect for this blogger friend increase manifold merely because he cared to express his opinion so frankly. That’s my pessimism and my realism. When I say “It is almost impossible to come across such candidness in today’s world”, I’m expressing my pessimism. But my respect for the friend’s candidness is my realism.
Is it the duty of a literary writer to preserve optimism? The lion’s share of the world’s best literature would be rendered trash if we answer in the affirmative. From the great Greek classics to the contemporary Nobel winners, great literature is not at all optimistic. Is the Ramayana optimistic? Is the Mahabharata?
“Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought,” wrote P B Shelley, the Romantic poet who is still taught in the world’s universities that teach English literature. While the Buddha suggested the Eightfold Path as a remedy for overcoming suffering, the literary writers discover the beauty in suffering. The Buddha was a greater pessimist than Shelley!
Literary writers don’t preach ethics and moral codes. They are not motivational gurus. They don’t create nursery rhyme heroes. They explore life as it is. They create narratives about life as they see and understand it. Is there any classical narrative that has not its moorings in sorrow? Is the literary re-creation of the sorrows of life pessimism?
PS. These are some thoughts that flashed through my mind as I read my friend’s response. I repeat that this is not an answer to him. I respect his right to his views and more I admire his candidness. But I thought it was important to explore my pessimism. At the same time, I hasten to clarify that I’m not claiming any literary merit for my stories by writing this. I’m nothing more than a blogger. I don’t even consider me a writer.