June 19, 2015

What is the writer's function in society?

And then all the stuff about the writer's function in society! That kind of thing can only be dealt with from some angle which is not personal; but the whole questionnaire starts with this twaddling emphasis on the personal, and, dear Lord God! what is any honest craftsman to make of the appalling bit of blah presented at the end as a formula on which one is asked to comment? A general answer to all this stuff about standing for this and aiming at that is simply "as the man so is the work". If the work is sincere it will reflect both the maker’s opinions and his character with a ruthless fidelity; but if he self-consciously tries to make it reflect the opinions for which he thinks "Art" ought to "stand", then it will reflect nothing but his own self-consciousness and insincerity. It does not matter to any soul alive what my personal aims or satisfactions are. If I am required to tell people what in general the writer's duty is I could put the thing into very few words: don't write unless you have something to say; construct your piece of work soundly; write English.
-- Dorothy L. Sayers, letter to Dr. E. V. Rieu, 21 April 1944.

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