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A Dictatorship of Destruction: Musings on Kay Dick's "They"

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

The late German writer, W. G. Sebald, in his non-fiction work, On the Natural History of Destruction, describes the catastrophic crisis of war as demanding a wholesale "annihilation of the enemy with his dwellings, his history, and his natural environment as can be achieved." In "the face of total destruction," he asks, what happens to the writers? What becomes of literature in a catastrophe?

The catastrophe of tyranny's impact on the work of artists is a feature of the late Toni Morrison's work. The "historical suppression of writers," she writes in "Peril," The Source of Self-Regard, is the "harbinger of the steady peeling away of additional rights and liberties that will follow." Artists unsettle the political as well as the cultural and social atmosphere, Morrison adds. Against the human tendency to authoritarian rule and the practice to impose draconian policies, artists "can disturb the social oppression that functions like a coma on the population, a coma despots call peace."

Specifically, writers, Morrison continues, speaks truth about the face of trauma visited on people. "Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so cruel, that unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination." Eyewitnesses to trauma, writers produce vehicles for the memory of resistance against the forgetfulness of collective amnesia.


War is peace!

I tend to read articles with the words, "You Should Read-- Or "Why You Should Read-- in the title. I spent decades trying to convince students in my literature classes on why they should read such and such a writer. Or just read literature, period! After I read Lucy Scholes' "Why We Should All Be Reading English Novelist Kay Dick," in LitHub 's February 1, 2022, issue, I ordered my copy of They, A Sequence of Unease.

They, written in 1977, demands to be read more than once. I read it twice. So far. But it's a book, like that of George Orwell's Ninety Eighty-Four (1984), that should be read again and again, whenever a tyrannical ideology takes hold and demands submission. They is eerie in ways that Orwell's book isn't. Anymore. Somehow you know, if you are an adult reader, that certain aspects of the world presented to the reader in 1984 has long been a reality. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s to recognize just about any speech from the mouths of politicians in Chicago as doublespeak!

The lie becomes a reality in 1984 . In They, on the other hand, we live in the aftermath of a catastrophe. The gullibility of citizens results in an order opposed to history. The past is dead. Destroyed. One mind at a time.

The last resisters are the artists.

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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