A Simple Lesson of Humbert Humbert

April 29, 2011

[T]he artist in me has been given the upper hand over the gentleman.

And it always should. Art, true Art anyways, is by definition honest. The work put forward in the creation of Art is not in the realm of what is said–what is to be said is obvious, simple; what is to be said is what must be said–but instead the work comes in determining how to say it. The Artist puts his effort in to making a statement that puts the Truth which lies at the core of his work on display, able to be understood by any who wish to take part in the work. The question of Art is that of how to demonstrate a Truth.

On the other hand, the Gentleman works to put on airs. The Gentleman traffics in lies. The act of polite platitudes and affected mannerisms which are the core of the Gentleman’s training are obviously not truth procedures, but it goes further: they mask any difficult Truth. The Gentleman’s process is the reverse of the Artist’s. The Artist finds a Truth and his work is to display it–the reaction it garners is the consequence of his creative process. But the Gentleman decides upon a feeling which he wishes to create in others and works to bring that feeling out, for all to feel it, whether it stems from truth or falsehood. The reaction comes first, and truth or lie is merely a coincidental consequence. One piece of Art can be responded to in infinite ways, depending upon how the audience reacts to its Truth. But the Gentleman, when successful, limits his audience (and his act is one of performance) to a singular response.

Humbert Humbert may be a pervert, but I’d rather an honest pervert than a polite Gentleman (at least when it comes to admitting his nature) . The Gentleman is an obstacle on the path to understanding and creating Truth. And the artistic process, whenever one wishes to create understanding, must rule over that of the Gentleman. Humbert, the quoted man, spoke these words about the method he took while writing his confession. But in order to confess at all, one must not be a Gentleman.