This article is from the archive of our partner .
Is great art simply about slowing down? The New Yorker's Shahnaz Habib relates an interesting exchange he witnessed last week:
The philosopher Simon Critchley spoke with the novelist Amit Chaudhuri. "Nothing happens in your work," Critchley said, a comment which, under the circumstances, was a compliment. While the rest of the country was in the final days of midterm frenzy, these two literally had nothing on their agenda.
Chaudhuri responded by quoting Auden: "Poetry is that which makes nothing happen."
Then of course Waiting for Godot is brought up, and Habib spells the common question: "Can we really tell stories in which nothing happens?" Habib is reminded of Kurt Vonnegut's idea about Hamlet: that the play "ends pretty much where it starts out," thus revealing truth, which is "so rarely" told. So here's Habib's extension of the principle:
Most of us are in the business of making things happen. Countries have to be rescued from financial crises, the hero has to find the ring, we have to complete our to-do lists. But this is what Vonnegut and Shakespeare and Satyajit Ray seem to have known: it is the moments in between, when nothing happens and we are fully alive to witness it, that truth happens.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.