Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Outsider

I decided to read this book after I heard that the amazing Jordanian sculptor and poet, Mona Saudi, cited it as a major influence on her as a young artist. The author, Colin Wilson (whose book The Occult I found tedious and devoid of insight) was the original 'angry young man' who produced this beautifully written work of critical and philosophical thought at the age of 24. Can't say it did much for me, particularly his opinions on Herman Hesse, one of my favourite writers. You can see Wilson's block. He names and describes a type among artists - 'the outsider' - who seeks the meaning and purpose of life, attempting to answer the crucial question 'how should we live our lives?'. No doubt considering himself one of this type, he recognises their plight, yet as soon as he finds someone who has an answer, i.e. Hesse, he dismisses the answer as romantic nonsence. Wilson simply cannot deal with mystic or spiritual reality. Notable is the fact he does not even mention Hesse's Journey to the East. Also he says no human has achieved self-realisation - now that's a Western blind spot! Even back in 1956, the Buddha was known and Buddhism itself names many realised human beings. My final complaint, of course, is that he seems to be unaware that there ever existed a writer who was a woman! Immediately coming to mind are Emily Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Isak Dinesen, and Doris Lessing, all fitting the outsider description. What we need are a few more angry young women! So, my opinion on this book: worth a quick perusal for its historical value but otherwise of no great interest.

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