“Life is short, art is eternal,” the ancient Romans said. This expression means that the values embodied in works of art are eternal and do not lose their significance. Looking at the great architectural structures of the past, you are convinced that this saying is absolutely true. But what about the works of verbal art?
English writer and playwright William Somerset Maugham once noticed that the eternity of any literary work is measured several centuries. For example, the average modern reader is hard pressed to read the wonderful, full of evil satire and tart humor novel by Francois Rabelais “Gargantua and Pantagruel”, which just a few centuries ago was a bestseller, like “Harry Potter” now. However, do not go for such distant examples. The novel “Eugene Onegin”, formerly super popular in the first quarter of the 19th century, has now become a teaching material for literature lessons, and few adults reread it. What, it turns
out, works of literature grow old faster than the ancient temples and statues?
The secret of the fragility of literary works is that the material from which they are created is short-lived, or rather, changeable. Language changes rapidly, absorbing new words and getting rid of old ones. The same process of mastering the new and rejecting the old occurs in the mind of the reader. However, such “obsolescence” and “renovation” can not be considered absolute, because there are literary works that will not lose their value for many more centuries.
“Eternal images” in fiction are few. Let’s call Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet, Don Quixote Serventes, Goethe’s Faust. And the truly “eternal themes” and even less: love, death, a feat in the name of humanity – that’s all, perhaps.
Works that have reflected “eternal themes” are destined for a long life. They continue to bother the minds, find more and more incarnations in drama, fine arts, music. Let us recall the milestones on the path of “eternal” literary
Engravings by Gustave Dore, illustrating Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”.
Opera “Faust” by Charles Gounod, where the same story is used as in Goethe’s “Faust”.
The ballet “Don Quixote” by Ludwig Minkus, based on the novel of the same name by Cervantes.
The setting of the Sheskpirian “Hamlet” by Meyerhold’s theater, as well as the adaptation of the famous tragedy by the Russian director Kozintsev.
And these are just a few examples of how masters of art master the legacy of the literature of the past.
Apparently, continuity is what makes literary works eternal. The language of fiction changes, the writers of every era bring their own prose, drama and poetry, but the themes and images born of the genius of the great masters of the past remain eternal.
It turns out that the “eternal” themes and images are already comprehensively developed? Are today not creating works that will eventually become classics, will they enter the “golden fund” of world culture? In fact, “eternal themes” are eternal because they do not have time. And today, literary works are created that deserve to remain in the centuries. Life is short, art is eternal, and they can not exist without each other.