Literature is a Weapon | Ash Sarkar meets Edouard Louis

25 thoughts on “Literature is a Weapon | Ash Sarkar meets Edouard Louis

  1. Ash I’ve just been watching Rick Harrison and Dennis Prager at the USA CPAC.
    Absolutely fantastic and inspiring you should watch it.
    Capitalism works and socialism doesn’t.

  2. Edouard Louis the distinction between exclusion and persecution is quite penetrating. You talk about “bodies”.

  3. In the kingdom of idealists the realist is the villain, the faithful will purge he faithless from utopia.

  4. I remember I hated my art teacher at school – she was very anti-scientific and from a privileged background. She used to latch onto to me because I was her star arts pupil. I was entered into competitions without my consent and offered an apprenticeship at the BBC without me even inquiring about it (as it wasn't even on my radar). Myself – I went to one of the worst schools in the country. Art was an escape for me – I was very autistic I guess in the way approached it. For me I guess art was about expressing things I felt unable to talk about. I really hated when I was younger the way my art teacher tried to get into my head. I think for me probably my sentiment was that you can't relax until you feel safe. It's like you are on this tight rope walk and you just have to concentrate on not falling off.

    I'm not an expert or anything. But I have done a lot of thinking about gender. I've come to the conclusion that a large part of "toxic masculinity" revolves around a denial of anxiety (which I guess relates to existential themes – which I am only just exploring… I mean yeh, Sartre was very favourable towards homosexuals wasn't he). As in men can't feel anxiety (the "freeze" response) as this is classed as something only women possess. For men the focus seems on "fight or flight" – as in you either fight or you are a coward.

    I think "anxiety" ("freezing") is something that is overlooked when compared with "fear" ("fight or flight"). btw – I am not even sure if such distinctions really exist in the first place. I am not sure whether or not how much "neuroscience" has been able to detach itself from ideology? Biologically speaking anxiety and fear are part of the same system in the brain (the "hypothalamic pituatary adrenal axis") – employing the "extended amygdala/bed nucleua of the stria terminalis" and "amygdala" in the "ventral" part fo the brain. I think maybe "existentialists" viewed anything we would now consider to be part of the "ventral stream" in the brain as being "essentialist" or "reactionary". While the existentialist tended to view "dorsal stream" activity more in a positive light – as this involved engagement with our external environment – i.e. that which exists. And also fear-based amygdala activity seems to be very phasic, short term, aggressive and very pattern oriented – so perhaps indicative of "rational" or "bad faith" responses. Though I am just speculating as I don't really know? Whereas "anxeity" seems something existentialists point to as a "mood" that can free us from the b*llocks of the everyday meaningless banter about who supports who on X-Factor – as the "extended amygdala" seems to have opposite characteristics to the "amygdala"… though like I said, I am not knowledgeable enough (or in the know enough – in the inner sanctum) to know what is real science and what is ideology when it comes to neuroscience. For example, it is claimed that – and a small number of observations would seem to suggest (though does not prove this) – the gender identity of transgender people is down to having an extended amygdala similar to that of the opposite sex to them assigned at birth (as supposedly, the central sub division of the bed nucleus of the stria termanalis in the extended amygdala is sexually dimorphic and the same size as that of the sex transgender people identify with – which I think as somethin gto do with the number of inhibitory neurons that reduce and anxiety response… i.e. males apparently have more inhibitory nuerons… but what of soldiers with PTSD and Anxiety coming back from war zones? What if the shoe was on the other foot in terms of physical power in the relationship between men and women?) – is the extended amygdala responsible for someone being transgender or is it some assumed attribute due to ideology about differences in anxiety between men and women?

    I think when you try to break out of the working class into the middle class. You are forced into becoming an existentialist (which I think gets confused with "autism" because of the similar amount of focus required on doing work to get yourself out of you social trap versus having a social life but being trapped in poverty…. and so probably requiring the devotion to similar areas of brian activity – i.e. of focusing on dorsal versus ventral activity) – otherwise you would never escape. Would would never free yourself from the fear of humiliation otherwise from your peers. But once you break out of the middle classes, you may have the false assumption that the middle classes will be existentialist like you (otherwise they would end up being the same as your working class peers in poverty surely?). Only when you reach the middle classes from a working class background do you realise that they have had to make no such sacrifice – existential attitudes are something they do not need to entertain due to their privilege.

  5. What Ed says here of not fitting in etc. That’s a normal feeling when someone migrates class. His children and his children’s children won’t feel it, as they’ll be fully ensconced in that world. And it works both ways as well when people fall down the social ladder. There is such a thing as working class snobbery and prejudice against middle class people.

  6. I've met Édouard personally at a bookshop in Lyon a few years ago and his writing has been with me ever since. He's given me a way to understand my own family in a way I deeply needed at that point in time. Thanks Ashe, it's such a pleasure to have two of my favourite people talk with each other in this way.

  7. Do think Ash slightly strawmans what those who take issue with identity driven politics say and think, but asides from that what a rich and interesting interview.

  8. Great talk here, and Louis appears to very much take up the resistant thread of French family writing from the 1990s … Much of the French intellectual establishment has tended to blame the temporal crisis on the extension of the right to speak of suffering during the same period to those of a darker complexion, rather than the culture crisis created by such gatekeeping gestures themselves. Good to see this being challenged as ever.

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