Paul Auster on why he writes

In Paul Auster’s acceptance speech for Spain’s Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters, the author expresses one of my favorite themes–that art and literature and writing are at once useless and redemptive, important and inconsequential, and above all, inevtiable.

This need to make, to create, to invent is, no doubt, a fundamental human impulse. But to what end? What purpose does art, in particular the art of fiction, serve in what we call the real world? None that I can think of – at least not in any practical sense. A book has never put food in the stomach of a hungry child. A book has never stopped a bullet from entering a murder victim’s body. A book has never prevented a bomb from falling on innocent civilians in the midst of war.

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In other words, art is useless, at least when compared, say, to the work of a plumber, or a doctor, or a railroad engineer. But is uselessness a bad thing? Does a lack of practical purpose mean that books and paintings and string quartets are simply a waste of our time? Many people think so. But I would argue that it is the very uselessness of art that gives it its value and that the making of art is what distinguishes us from all other creatures who inhabit this planet, that it is, essentially, what defines us as human beings.

I cannot agree more with Auster’s conclusion to his speech:

I have spent my life in conversations with people I have never seen, with people I will never know and I hope to continue until the day I stop breathing.

It’s the only job I’ve ever wanted.

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