November 20, 2011

Words from Yann Martel.

Yann Martel's website is no longer live BUT you can buy the book

I found his last letter particularly appropriate considering the recent top stories making news across North America

"What I’ve been trying to do in this long epistolary dead-end with you, beyond the plying of irony, is to make the following point: that the books available in bookstores and libraries throughout Canada, that the exhibits to be seen in this nation’s galleries and museums, that the movies coming out of this country, that the plays and dance pieces seen on its stages, that the music heard in its concert venues, be they bars or orchestra halls, that the clothes that come from our designers, the cuisine from our best restaurants, and so on and so forth with every creative act of Canadians, that all these cultural manifestations are not mere entertainment, something to pass the time and relax the mind after the “serious” business of the day is over with, the earning of money—no, no, no. In fact, these manifestations are the various elements that add up to the sum total of Canadian civilization. Take these away and nothing worthwhile remains of Canadian civilization. Corporations come and go, leaving hardly any trace, while art endures.

Yet it is corporations and their voracious demands that regulate our lives nowadays, far more than theatres, bookstores and museums. Why is that? Why is it that people work so crazily hard these days, at the expense of family, health, and happiness? Have we not perhaps forgotten that work is a means to an end, that we work so that we might live, and not the other way round?  We’ve become slaves to our work and have forgotten that it’s in moments of leisure and stillness, when we’re free from working with a hoe or at a keyboard, that we can contemplate life and become fully ourselves. We work, work, work, but what mark do we leave, what point do we make? People who are too beholden to work become like erasers: as they move forward, they leave in their wake no trace of themselves. And so that has been the point of my fruitless book-gifting to you: to raise my voice against Canada becoming a nation of erasers." - Yann Martel