Friday, February 11, 2005

After the Fall

I wish I had more time to dwell on the sad news of Arthur Miller's passing. His was a rare and brilliant mind, and his plays had such depth and surprise that I read them over and over and over again, each time with renewed awe. His body of work reads like a torrid love affair with mankind; his cast characters may be pathetic and vulnerable dreamers or cruel and damaged or wise and helplessly weak, and every one of them fully and tragically and triumphantly human.

There was a passage in Reading Lolita in Tehran when an Iranian student muses that nobody who read literature could ever become a totalitarian or support a totalitarian regime, because literature teaches us about shades and gradations and all the complexities of humanity that a totalitarian ideology must ignore.

I like to think of Arthur Miller in that sense: on the front lines in the battle against simplistic thinking, dehumanizing judgments, against the temptation to turn man into a walking embodiment of some ideology rather than the jumble of nerves and contradictions and mixed motivations and irrationality that makes him a wonder.


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