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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 99 | volume  | November-December, 2014



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 99November-December, 2014
Essays

The Need for a National Writer?

A Reflection on America’s Literary Culture


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p. 1
Sonja Srinivasan

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The Need for a National Writer?
     A Reflection on America’s Literary Culture

In many countries, we might find an individual who represents the collective conscious or Zeitgeist of the nation. This person is a national figure, a symbol, an icon who is a great source of pride for her/his people. This person is a writer who serves a purpose that is different than what many writers do here in the United States. The role of these iconic writers is to voice an opinion of the masses, articulate the ideas of the whole, rather than to write stories of dysfunctional relationships, romance, or barely-disguised memoirs that are popular in the United States. Sometimes the writer is not currently living, but rather a long-revered figure in the nation's history. This writer’s works are read and studied at school or at university; s/he is immortalized in a statue in a great public square or in a museum; or, s/he is a heroic figure that dares to speak out against the authorities----and sadly pays the price.
      
    Very often these writers are not the product of a literature department nor do they hold a degree in creative writing. They may not draw upon conventional fiction writing techniques, and they probably have not attended book discussion groups in the American sense (where a book is selected and then discussed at a chosen location), though they have most likely sat for hours on end in cafes discussing literature and their favorite writers and philosophers with their peers. Very often, these writers are individuals who have been involved in fields outside literature----politics, diplomacy, labor, comparative linguistics, philosophy, journalism, activism, medicine, et cetera. Vaclav Havel, is just one such example: a renowned playwright who was politically active, he peacefully led the Velvet Revolution that separated the Czech Republic and Slovakia when he was President. Octavio Paz was a Mexican diplomat who served in India (his marvelous In Light of India serves as a testament to his time there). And the heroic Chokri Belaid who led the Arab Spring movement in Tunisia before his untimely death was a lawyer and a poet.
      
    Often, the work of these writers takes on a political tone or is highly allegorical. I once had the opportunity to see the renowned Salman Rushdie give a talk; what impressed me most was the clear aim of his art to serve as the intersection






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