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Old 11-19-2006   #11
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Re: Madness in Literature

One of my favorite books on madness is Madness and Modernism by Louis Sass. This book covers many of the authors mentioned above, including Kafka and Musil. A large section is on Musil's work A Man Wthout Qualities. Another chapter is devoted to Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber. I find this book captivating.

In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis by Philip K. Dick. PKD is an interesting case. His encounter with "God" is fascinating. He also thought he was being followed by "Men in black" - and he was! When the Freedom of Information Act declassified many government documents, it turns out the FBI was investigating and shadowing Dick. I think it had to do with his writings on drugs.

I haven't read much Dostoyevsky, probably because I don't agree with the philosophical/religious conclusions he came to, but have read a few of his works, including Notes from the Underground. I recently listened to the audio book Dostoyevsky in 90 Minutes and they pointed to his novel The Double as being a notable example of some form of madness. I can't remember exactly which.

I've read Nausea by Sartre. The lead character's perceptions definitely point to some form of madness. Quite a disorienting read.

I would also recommend the documentary In the Realms of the Unreal. It is an intersting account of the life and work of Henry Darger.
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Old 11-20-2006   #12
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Re: Madness in Literature

I can't believe Samuel Beckett hasn't been mentioned here yet. Maybe his seamless(ly) (unintentional?) humour saves him from many readers' minds. But for this reader, no one strikes a chord of the insane reaches one must go toward deeper understanding of the human condition than he. There is a book called The Insanity of Samuel Beckett's Art --




-- though I've not read it and cannot vouch for it. Anyone interested in being blown away by something quite updated from Waiting for Godot? Try reading Company. Absolutely one of the best books I've ever read. Slim volume...or find ot among two other like-styled prose works in Nohow On. The man's life was one of the more difficult I've read of; if he survived actualy insanity, he certainly was a genius through his art. I think him as important as TL, hands down.

"Think of it [Mr. Veech] -- wood waking up."
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Old 12-11-2006   #13
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Another major writer that no one has mentioned is Ryunosuke Akutagawa. His two stories, "In a Grove" and Rashamon" were used as the basis of the film also entitled "Rashamon." His mother went insane when he was a child and his father wasn't much help. Dad was a very flighty person so Ryunosuke was raised by his uncle's family.
He was unstable his whole life and suffered serious emotional problems during his last years. All of his works are unusual and his later works explore his mental problems. he eventually committed suicide at the age of 35. (I think)
The core of his work is a sense of cynicism and despair that became more pronounced the older he got. He was savage in his alanysis of Japanese life. (And all life, no doubt.) Needless to say, he is one of my favorite authors.

"A Mad World, MY Masters"
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Old 12-12-2006   #14
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Re: Madness in Literature

I haven't read the whole thread, so I don't know if it has been recommended already, but you should try "Memoirs of my Nervous Illness", by Daniel Paul Schreber, a German judge who was admitted in a mental asylum. The book is his journey into a horrid world that has gone into a "crisis" with God and how only he (Schreber) could save the world by becoming a woman.

I just started it and I'm not that far into the book.

Anyway, people die...
-Current 93


I am simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?
-Emil Cioran
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Old 12-16-2006   #15
eth
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I have been neglecting my own discussion. Apologies, but the outer world, with all its silly demands, has been very insistent lately.

I'm grateful for the steady stream of suggestions. I will get around to studying each of them sometime, somehow. Promise. Also, I may have worked out why this matters, and I shall post my Poetics of Projetion, or whatever it is, once I get it written down in a proper and understandable format. Las but not least: I really like your book, Lewis.

... one of them understands, and suddenly it is raining flowers.
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Old 08-18-2009   #16
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Re: Madness in Literature

When I read the title of this thread, there were two works in literature that suddenly came to my mind: "the thought" by Leonid Andreyev, and "a plan for escape" by Adolfo Bioy Casares. What did Andreyev or Boy Casares know about madness? The answer is probably nothing, and this suggests me that madness is just a romantic word used in literature but doesn't reflect true madness. How many books did Nietzsche write after becoming mad? Or did he write his best works when he had a lucid mind? How many famous works in literature were actually written by "clinical proven" madmen? And not by professional writers imitating madness. Written by madmen, I mean. We usually hear the expression mad scientist, but how many true mad scientists are out there? Einstein, De Broglie, Schrodinger, seem to me quite normal. Then, is madness just a literary resource?

Something similar can be said about horror. Romantic word , right? Is there anyone on TLO that wants to experience real life horror? Perhaps one of those writers that so romantically speak about horror? I own a land, up north, lonely, miles away from any known town. Just come and see me, Iet me experiment on you, I'll show you true horror, afterwards you can write about that but not before. Otherwise, that horror that you so much write about is mere speculation. Horror, like madness, are just romantic words, and very few people truly know their meaning.

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Old 08-18-2009   #17
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Re: Madness in Literature

In the realm of crime fiction, Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me is not to be missed!

"What does it mean to be alive except to court disaster and suffering at every moment?"

Tibet: Carnivals?
Ligotti: Ceremonies for initiating children into the cult of the sinister.
Tibet: Gas stations?
Ligotti: Nothing to say about gas stations as such, although I've always responded to the smell of gasoline as if it were a kind of perfume.
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Old 08-18-2009   #18
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Re: Madness in Literature

I think Gerard de Nerval was a writer who can legitimately be considered clinically insane. It depends on what your definition of a real madman is though, I guess. If it is someone who is too insane to reflect on their experiences through writing, then that necessarily excludes all authors.

Nerval's book Aurelia seems authentic to me. Not only authentic in the sense that it seems like the experience he described in that book was a genuine case of madness rather than just literary pretention, but authentic in the sense that, mad or not, he seems to have truly experienced "the other world". I understand that in a sense, there is no other world because all things, no matter how weird, can still be considered part of this world, the only world, nature itself. I also understand that I might not be qualified to judge whether someone has truly experienced madness. It is possible that Nerval's experience was false, and that I think it was true because my understanding is also false.
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Old 08-18-2009   #19
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Re: Madness in Literature

Quote Originally Posted by Mr. D. View Post
Another major writer that no one has mentioned is Ryunosuke Akutagawa. His two stories, "In a Grove" and Rashamon" were used as the basis of the film also entitled "Rashamon." His mother went insane when he was a child and his father wasn't much help. Dad was a very flighty person so Ryunosuke was raised by his uncle's family.
He was unstable his whole life and suffered serious emotional problems during his last years. All of his works are unusual and his later works explore his mental problems. he eventually committed suicide at the age of 35. (I think)
The core of his work is a sense of cynicism and despair that became more pronounced the older he got. He was savage in his analysis of Japanese life. (And all life, no doubt.) Needless to say, he is one of my favorite authors.
I have spent the last few weeks immersed in the short stories of Akutagawa Ryunosuke (to use the Japanese order). A recent collection, published by Penguin Classics, features a number of stories which might interest Ligottians, including: "The Story of a Head That Fell Off," "The Writer's Craft," "Hell Screen," "Death Register," "The Life of a Stupid Man," "Green Onions," and "Spinning Gears." He is well worth seeking out.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 08-18-2009   #20
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Re: Madness in Literature

The subject of the romanticization of madness is something that I think is interesting and important, but I don't know if I am qualified to speak of it.

I know some people find the romanticization of madness obscene, having had experience with madness themselves, or having witnessed it in people close to them.

But it is not always a case of romanticization. I think it is possible to recognize that madness can be seriously horrific, something that is not to be toyed with or taken lightly in the least, but also acknowledge that it can show you things that are very important that you would not otherwise have known of.

I have known people who have experienced madness, seemingly far beyond anything I could claim to to have experienced, and even though they might honestly say that they wish they had never experienced it, they still explore it over and over again through writing and other forms of art.

And I have to admit there is a part of me that wishes I could see what they have seen.
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