I want to tell you a story

Fiction is ‘magnificently useless’, but the act of creation and the pleasure of reading are incomparable human joys that we should savour.

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?

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.

These are just some of the intriguing ideas you will be reading in the  article attached below.  I am indepted to my colleague Paola, who coming across it, kindly thought of sharing it with us.  Thank you Paola!

Guess who the writer is!  That was not difficult, was it?  I would really appreciate if you responded to the article and expressed your ideas.  Do you agree or disagree with what the writer claims?  What does the main idea expounded in the article remind you of/make you think of?

I want to tell you a story

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42 risposte a I want to tell you a story

  1. anonimo scrive:

    I want to tell you my opinion.

    I think that art is useless for the improvement of humanity but is useful to avoid the involution of human being.

    Now I explain: Primo Levi‘s Se questo è un umo give us the opportunity to know what were the conditions they (not only Jewels) lived in the concentration camps.

    With this attestation nowadays we can: try to block a person that wants to do something like the deportation before he does it; make aware the new generations about the errors (better crimes against humanity) that a man had committed and hope for a better future without this kind of errors.


  2. anonimo scrive:

    Guarino Ilaria

    I think this article is a hymn to the letterature and to arts in all its forms.I really like the way the article was “marked” because i think sometimes there is no better waepon that provocation to arouse and catch people attention,curiosity,interest and wonder.In this piece Auster plays on the ambiguity.His speech swings continuously between the provocation and the truth, between thesis and antithesis.There are a lot of questions close to each other that pressing me a bit and makes me fell some way “tied” and they makes me think the text as a long speech of a lawyer.I found the paragraph in which there is the reference to Hitler and killers very provocative.I think Auster wanted to explain us that letterature and reading are open to all regardless the kind of person that you are or the action that has been committed.

    I totally agree when he claims that human beings need story.I think this is true.All of us need to hear or know a story.Most of the time we invent story by owrselves because we desperately need to know that somewhere we could create our own reality far different from the one we live in.

    I really like the very last quotation taken by this “Interview”.I can say that opens my mind!In fact I had never thought before reading this two lines that a writer through his books comunicates with his readers.

    “it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet one terms of absolute intimacy”. I think there are no better world to express the strenght the power and the greatness of writing.

  3. anonimo scrive:

    I really appreciated the last ideas expresses by Paul Auster in the article. Maybe I have never focused on that aspect, but he is right: when you read, you are sucked into the swirl of the story and you become part of it, so there is a link between the writer and the reader. But, if you do not like the story, you feel bored and disgusted and it could be that in the end you hate that book. That’s why this special relationship could be dangerous: it could lead you either to love the writer or to hate him with all your heart. People usually write in order to arrange their existence, to make order in their confused and irrational world. So, basically, art is useless for the others who cannot understand it, but it is good for the one who creates it. As Oscar Wild says, “Art for art sake”, and nothing more.

    Carolina Braghin

  4. anonimo scrive:

    Technology is increasing every day and the only universities which are considered seriously are scientific: process s killing imagination and it’s modifying our future. Imagination makes people free, it makes people able to invent new things, also the scientific world needs imagination. Humans have always tried to express themselves through writing in the attempt to disclose their inner universe, and the capability to be a good writer was considered one of the most important five centuries ago. When Copernico and other scientists tried to be listened without being murdered ,science had the possibility to grow and that gave the chance to other people to emerge. What was seen as a taboo became normal and in these days the situation is turning upside down. We are firstly human, and then scientists: the impulse to explain ourselves cannot be destroyed. Through art and books we can understand our society and its evolution and that’s :killing imagination is slaying our future. The last sentence of Auster’s article it’s taken from Wilde, and it reminds that nothing is useless :also if the majority thinks that something does not make improvements it is not said that it cannot be a great revolution for others.

    Perin Marco

  5. anonimo scrive:

    Well, I must say that this article is an emblem of literature, of writing. As Carolina pointed out, Oscar Wilde (but he is not the only; we can quote Montale) explains that art is for art: it has no ulterior motives or better, this is the authors’ opinion. Paul Auster speaks about the link between the writer and the reader, as a relationship between a mother, who tells a story, and his baby. I think that this is a beautiful metaphor to explains the concept that literature is for everybody, for all who wants to approach to it. However this quotation doesn’t say that everybody can write or understand a poem or a poetry, but it only claims that literature isn’t a thing for a few people.

    Then I don’t totally agree with the thought of an useless art. I mean that art can be used to catch, to signal the mistakes that an era did, to not repeat them in the future. Auster, even though he is ironic, mentions Hitler. Art can be useful to denounce and to report the crime against humanity: in Italian literature Ungaretti, for example, denounce, with his poetries, the consequences of the I World War. So we can say that art is useless if we compare it to the problems that there are in our country or to some situations that a person can live , but it is useful to admonish and warn the future generation and the people about some mistakes, problems or other things that a person should know. In this category we can quote “Man in the dark”, where Paul Auster speaks about the problems of Bush’s government and of Iraq War.

    Monica Santi

  6. anonimo scrive:

    I completely agree with the author: nothing is more useless then art.

    Art is an excellent hobby, it exercise our artistic talents, our sense of humour and our aesthetic sense; anyway, I don’t think living using art is a thing morally good. Who does it, is not to consider a dishonest person, the negligence is of the people that give too much importance to the art.

    It is important to notice, that art has always distinguished man from other animals. Besides art has been always inside men: cavemen used it to secure themselves a good hunt. I think that everyone has inside the same capacities than other, but only practice can reveal them. Who says “I cannot do nothing!”, is a person that has not found already his kind of art or is a lazy person. Certainly technology has changed art, now whoever can consider himself an artist, even though his capacities are moderate. For example, from the invention of the printing by Johann Gutenberg, each person could publish a book.

    In my opinion, the right thing to do is continue to practice our art, finding a real job that permit to live; because art is certainly useless, but at the same time, it is the better men’s power.

    Nicola Truant

  7. anonimo scrive:

    Very nice article: I agree with most of the ideas exposed. I share Auster’s idea that art is what distinguishes human beings from animals. Human beings have always created pieces of art and they have to continue. Art distinguishes us even from machines: computers cannot write a poem, cannot create something that gives us a particular feeling and they cannot perceive any feeling expressed by a poem or a painting.

    Then, art is not useless, maybe less useful. Pratically, it is useless, on the contrary, it may provoke problems: libraries full of books and museums full of hidden paintings, because ther is no interest in showing them and, overall, no space, and obviouly nobody would ever waste them. But pshycologically, for our mind, art is not useless at all. It makes us feel better, it makes us forget our worries, it makes us happy, realising and enjoying it.

    As Monica says, then, there are some pieces of art that can teach something. Novels can teach history better than any school book, for example. And then poems, of course, and even paintings, or sculptures.

    Without art we would be working creatures, living in gray, squared houses, maybe enjoying just nature, that is not a product of a human mind, luckily.

    Pietro Perin

  8. anonimo scrive:

    Art is useless? Yes, yes, yes, yes. Art is fundamental? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

    A piece of art has the great power to reinforce you with new energy.

    For example, I have in my room a Matisse (not a real one, only a poster) and when I look at it I, somehow, get relaxed. Reading a good book or visiting an exhibition is taking time for you and chill out and this, in our schizophrenic world, is a precious gift.

    This make me think that art has to be nonsense (even for only a little), I think that art critics sometimes exaggerate with their mystic/fantasy/creative/hyperbolic comments on some works. What a pleasure look (read, taste, smell or touch) something beautiful, a pure instant of joy, and don’t think why. We have to start looking at a painting without trying to find out its “secrets” but appreciate it for the fact that it has hidden “secrets”.

    I don’t think that civically involved art has not a reason to be, but has a whole different impact on you. It touches our brains, but does not stimulate our feelings and instincts.

    Francesca Cazorzi

  9. anonimo scrive:

    I believe that art is the intellectual’s religion. Some artists think that they will be saved by their art, that they will be immortalized through their art, that they will live on through their art, but the truth of the matter is that art doesn’t really save you. Art it’s something that brings a great sense of excitement, stimulation and fulfillment to people who are sensitive and cultivated, but it doesn’t really save the artist. I mean, it doesn’t profit Shakespeare one dollar that his plays have lived on after him. He would have been better off if he were alive and the plays were forgotten. In this practical and materialistic sense art is surely useless. Otherwise I’m sure that art has something to say which cannot be expressed in words, something that silently touch our souls leaving a trace in this strange and undecipherable existence. I have thought a lot about the function of art and I came to the conclusion that writers write because they are driven to do so. I know that this doesn’t tell us very much, that it’s rather like saying that a horse is a horse because it’s not something else, but it’s all I am able to understand. Human beings are such complicated that they give me headache.

    After all, I personally quote Woody Allen’s words (words of a man that spent a life around “art” and “writing”): “I write and it’s great and I make up things and budgets don’t mean anything and time doesn’t mean anything, and it’s great”.

    Alessandro Piccin

  10. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Lorenzo, don’t you think that if art prevents the “downfall” of man, then it is useful for the improvment of mankind?

    Ilaria, you will soon appreciate the source of “sarcasm” and “wit” used by Wilde to wake people out of their complacecies.

    I was listening to the news report tonight, and a sociologist claimed that people who read are happier people. I totally agree with your view and this is the reason why I mentioned the peice of news above.

    I appreciate the fact that you read each other’s comments. That is a great sign of respect for your classmates’ ideas, of great maturity and a proof of a team spirit!

    Alessandro, if human beings give you a headache, does that mean you give yourself a headache too, or does it mean you are not a human being, but a semi-god or a god? I am joking around something that made me smile. It’s 11 pm, I am working for school and you have brightened up my evening! Thanks to all of you, my special students, or better “special students” since you are not MINE.

  11. anonimo scrive:

    I agree with Paul Auster: art is useless but is something that distinguishes human beings from other animals. We can see results of that from the prehistoric man to the modern one. I think this is not a disparaging way to refer to art because it is as useless as fundamental. When I read a book I escape from this world that sometimes disgust me to another that sometimes is better and sometimes not. I think that I am who I am also thanks book I’ve read during these years. Books are fundamental because make you reflect on problems, situations that maybe you don’t now before reading them. Art is the witness of the past, the present and the future. So it doesn’t matter if you can’t compare art to the work of plumber, or a doctor, or a railroad engineer. Art is the way you can express yourself, your feelings and without it the world would be worse than now, without colours and nuances.

    The last words of Auster’s article sum up his life and what he feels by writing, I think he is a lucky person because he can do what he really wants to do, because he can live thanks to his job, without being a commercial writer.

    Federica Battistin

  12. anonimo scrive:

    I really like this article. As Ilaria wrote, it seems to be watching a ping-pong match, thesis versus antithesis.

    To me every kind of arts is fundamental: literature, painting, dance, music, jewellery, fashion and even sport.

    In every art I can perceive the passion, the sacrifice, the will of carry on, the disillusion, the happiness, the sadness, and every single feeling the artist wants to communicate and share with common people.

    In my opinion artists have something that common people have not.

    I think it could be a kind of sensitiveness (neither in a positive nor in a negative connotation) or ability in understanding our world, in reasoning and in realizing concepts and projects.

    Quoting from the text: “Some like to think that a keen appreciation of art can actually make us better people – more just, more moral, more sensitive, more understanding. Perhaps that is true – in certain rare, isolated cases. But let us not forget that Hitler started out in life as an artist.”

    I disagree with this quotation. I do not think arts make us better people.

    It changes our way of thinking and acting, but it could be in a good or in a bad way.

    I am thinking about Hitler. He did awful thinks, barbarism, cruelties, destructions and so on. But I think it is really impressive and “magnificent” the way he was able to create and realize his project of devastation [by saying that I do not want to justify him and his actions].

    Art is not useless, without art this world would be incredibly apathetic and bereft of spur. And it is really sad to think about our world in this way.

    Eugenia Minini

  13. anonimo scrive:

    This is the very first piece of writing I read by Paul Auster. Last september when our teacher told us the name of the author that would have come this year to Dedica, I immidiately started to surf the Internet in order to find out who this man was. And so I found this acceptance speech that he held on october 2006 for the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters, Spain’s premier literary honour. I found and I still find this speech enlightening, really deep and fascinating. Strange for me to say, I must admit that I’ve read it lots of times I think. Out of what I know about Paul Auster, in my opinion this speech contains “the best of Paul Auster”, for the language used and for the messages he gives. As he yesterday said (“I don’t think anybody choose to become a writer. You are chosen.”) for him writing is a physical need, it is an impulse that comes from inside him and can’t be stopped. This need “to make,create,invent” can be related with the need that a person fells when she/he reads a book. Both of them are human impulses, they concern our inner sphere and they can only be “tamed” with art, be it music, literature… If we compare art with “the work of a plumber or a doctor” and we see it from from that point of view, “art is useless”, as “a book has never put food in the stomach of a hungry child or prevented a bomb from falling”, but art is a magnificent food for our brain, our heart, our sensibility, and as far as literature is concern, it feeds our “universal craving for stories”. I think that from the first man who drew the first picture in a cave, this human impulse to create and the pleasure or listening/reading stories has always remained and will always remain in us because it’s essentially part of us.

    Chiara Pinardi

  14. anonimo scrive:

    I would like to start sharing my opinion from a quotation taken from the article: “to do something for the pleasure and beauty of doing it”. None of the things we do are useless; reading, writing, singing, dancing, are our passion and hobbies. We cannot compare them with jobs, such as a plumber, a lawyer, a carpenter, a doctor. I have always thought that people need a job in their life only to survive, because of the consumeristic society we are living that cannot leave you enough space to express yourself; it seems people are growing up with a chocking idea of job, that only means: earning money. This is not what is claimed in the quotation, everybody should do things for the pleasure of doing them, not only because they feel it compulsory. And this is in this very moment that we feel the need of doing something else, that unnecessarily is useful. We need to express our feelings, our thoughts, our passions. Reading and writing, dancing and singing are more important than anything else. When we write or dance we are expressing ourselves, we can also say: we are that novels or that ballet, because they are ‘fruit’ of ourselves. We need this form of entertainment, this way out of reality. So, according to what I’ve just said and to what Auster said in this article about fiction and the need of children, but even adults, of reading or listening to a story, I really disagree with who has said that ‘fiction is useless’. It has a deep meaning for a writer and even for the reader, they “collaborate”, “talk together”, how if they were one in front of the other; “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.” I’m really impressed by this quotation, positively I would add; while I’m reading a book I seem to be not only the main character of the story, but also in directly contact with the writer’s thoughts, with what he/she wants to communicate to me and when I read, I think and when I think, I feel the need to express my opinion, in this way I create a sort of imaginary/virtual dialogue between me and the writer. Human beings need to express their thoughts, to entertain relations with each other, it is something inborn in them and when they cannot talk to somebody, they start reading, dancing, singing, writing and painting, with the unintentional purpose of creating the relation they are missing.

    Carla Cipolla

  15. anonimo scrive:

    Arnoldi Martina

    I agree with Paul Auster’s thought.I think listening to something or read something you have different emotions and I would like to say that read gives me feelings that anything else can give me.A baby can listen to a story for hours but can he/she sits in front of the television for hours?yes,he/she can but it’s not so healthy!I will always repeat that I love read and that unfortunately in this very moment I haven’t time.I have already make a list of books I will love to read when the school will be finished.I have always a questions in my mind:how can I know all writers?It’s impossible.For example I know Paul Auster only thanks of Dedica and our area di progetto.I love read Auster’s books and I think there are lots of writers that I would love read but maybe I don’t even know the existence of.Maybe I should go in a bookshop and have a look.The chance will bring me to buy a book and I will love or hate it.I also think that the document I have just now read,is a wonderful “love declaration” that Paul Auster makes to his job!!

  16. anonimo scrive:

    I really appreciated what Paul Auster says at the beginning of the article. He is a “strange” writer but I like this: he claims, here, that he does not know why he does what he does, but he does. Many people would think that he is a little bit “crazy” but if he would not said these things, he would not been Paul Auster! Lots of his novels, for example, have not got an end, but this way of writing, of talking, of “thinking”, is typical of Paul Auster. I think that it is interesting because he does not want to impose us his thoughts but he lets these things lie over to let us continuing them, he wants that we use our imagination in order to end a story as we want, it is up to us to understand these things in a negative or positive way. In this article, the writer does a kind of criticism to his job. It is a little bit strange that a person criticizes his/her job but here, Paul Auster considers his job in a positive but also in a negative way: on one hand he says that “art is useless” (in this case he talkes about writing novels, but also dancing, playing an instruments, every kind of art), “at least when compared to the work of a plumber, or a doctor”. This is true, because a book cannot save the life of somebody from a war, for example, but also a novel, or a dance, is not a practical job as the doctor who helps people’s life, it is a job which is made by people only for the pure pleasure of doing it. On the other hand, Paul Auster says that art is “useful”, because “people need stories” and he cannot imagines a world without stories. In this case he supports his job because this kind of art, as writing books-novels, are useful for people, so then, they can “escape” from the real world and get into a fantastic world where they can use their imagination forgetting their problems. I totally agree with what Paul Auster says in this article, and I also think that books are important for what I have just written above, this year I have discovered the pleasure of reading books ( even if we have to read them for school ), because before going bed, I “fall” into another world and I completely forget my problems.

    Santarossa Barbara

  17. anonimo scrive:

    Art expresses thoughts, ideas and above all feelings. An artist can be a painter, a sculptor, a writer, a dancer…they all create masterpieces in which they confer their soul…but an artist can also be a common person who makes something that he/she likes with a huge passion in doing it, with constancy and making sacrifices just to reach his/her purpose. I mean…a work of art is the result of lots of things, in the background there is a big labour in which the artist, endowed with talent, passion, determination, imagination and devotion, exposes himself in all his sides.

    As Paul Auster said Art is useless compared to the work of a plumber or a doctor and I think it is right, it does not help people or save lives as a doctor do in the literal meaning, but Art is gifted with another kind of power…Art works with the spirituality of human beings. Lots of people live for it. They spend all their life making things concerning with art and they always stake their ability and their feelings. For them it is something essential, they feel a sort of special boost to do that and to create something with their mind and their heart. Art is a kind of means useful to transfer to the readers and to the observers of a work all the emotions that the artist has felt in creating it.

    If you see Art in a superficial way you can say it is useless but if you deeply reflect on it you will notice that all what encircled you is something artistic…a world without Art would be nothing!

    Art creates great works but I would like to say that art itself is a masterpiece!

    Marson Chiara

  18. anonimo scrive:

    I think art is not useless,and his affirmations were a sort of provoking sentenses to make us think about our life without art. I think we need art. Otherwise,why should man has continued to do it from time immemorial?Personally I need art. I am always attracted from art expecialy from painting and music. This is a way of being immortal. Create thing that in time will be conserved from future generation, as something so beautiful that can’t be lost. The sense I feel when I listen to some classic music or when I watch a paint of a great artist is a feeling I cannot compare with anything else and I think I can’t live knowing it couldn’t be possible anymore for me to admire such things. Art is not useless…I deny it absolutely. I think I need art sometimes to feel alive.

    erica turbian

  19. anonimo scrive:

    Auster is not certainly the only one that thinks that art is useless or it exists for its own sake, but he envelop this theme with precision and clarity. I was quite surprised that an author that exalt chance and chaos writes that being a writer is the only thing he could ever do in his life, as it was a finalistic and pre-determinated aim of existence.

    However this “maniphesto” of Auster’s conception of art is an incredible example of lucid analysis of the modern condition of literature, that admits weak points but reminds that books are written not for the writer or the reader but for the pleasure of both, and that the action of writing is never a way to make money but firstly a action of creation that is generated from the author’s mind.

    Damiano Verardo

  20. anonimo scrive:

    well, when Paul Auster asks himself :” What purpose does art, in particular the art of fiction, serve in what we call the real world?” i think that this question has not an answer because is the same thing if i am asking my self ” what purpose does sport in the world?” they are just passions that sometimes become bigger than all the other things and overcames also ideals that someone could have.i don’t absolutely want to condamned this thing because i don’t think that is something wrong. i desagree with Paul Auster when he says that ” The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice.” because i don’ t see my passion like something that i have to do but like something that i cannot live without.so I don’ think that art is useless but is just an incredible passion that someone could have and that just few people could understand.

  21. anonimo scrive:


  22. anonimo scrive:

    I think the idea expressed by Paul Auster is brilliant!! Art is useless, actually… But human beings continue “using” it because art is, first of all, for art’s sake, as Oscar Wilde used to believe. Great! This passage really explains the author’s view and convinction about his work…

    The main idea expounded in the article remind me of my childwood… I was always impatient to read fables or to be sang some ninnananna… My favourite book was “I quindici”, the second one or the third one… I don’t remember exactly… So, I must find some time to look for it! I’d really like to read some fables again, even if I’m 18 now!

    Then Auster makes me think of the identification with some characters I felt while reading some books… Sometimes you find a part of yourself expressed in a book, perhaps a part you would like to be and you’re not, or a part you would like to highlight, and you can’t…

    So, art is useless, but is one of the means men can use to fill their emptyness… Because no one is complete, in my opinion.

    Giulia Marcassa

  23. anonimo scrive:

    I’ve already heard something like this.. 🙂 ..and for the second time, I think that only a man who deeply loves his work (and the readers) can say those words. However, I absolutely agree with him in everything he says, especially in the fact that “we all need stories”. Starting from childhood’s fables and finishing with elderly people’s magazines or films, stories are parts of us, otherwise we would feel alone. Children especially need stories in order to learn to speak or to have a slight idea of what love, good, friendship and other important values are. So I think of art as a “magnificent uselessness” just because of it’s indirect way of helping people (and the writer himself), compared to what the doctor, the plumber or the lawyer do. In my opinion, writers are special people, they were born for that reason, and even though some have less success than others, doesn’t matter, true writers will carry on writing “till the day they stop breathing” their purpose is to make us think, to give us questions and (why not?) to improve our vocabulary! 🙂

    And what about music? I think music is the highest example of “magnificent uselessness”. Musicians work hard (as all artists do) in order to leave something in us. Songs are a “passive” way for listeners to FEEL: you could be happy, sad (sometimes I even cry) and if it is not a contemporary song, you start linking it to your memory.. and cry again! :).

    –Maiutto Jessica—

  24. anonimo scrive:

    writing and all the arts are not useless at all. yes, a book doesn’t prevent a bullet to enter in a human body ( this happens only in films =P ) but can for exemple a railroad engeneering ( that doesn’t know anything about arts because he calls it useless) explains to the other how love, relationship, feelings are made of with the same power that the Arts use? i think honestly that perhaps without arts this engeneering wouln’t ever exist; books, films, paintings and even bedtime stories arouse our intellect, our ambitions, our dreams and perhaps with the right books some some powerfull men would have made better choiches. ( and at that point yes…books will prevent bombs =) ).

    this short passage makes me think about passions and hobbies: every human beings have a material corpse but somehow everyone has an impulse that pushes him to create, to invent, to share his feelings… i would call this impulse Art. it raises consiousness. dance, music, painture, but even walking or every passions better people. while i was reading i think about shopenheuer ( maybe am i crazy? XD) who said that music is the most vivid pulse of Will and it immmediadetly reachs human feelings.

    all the readers can understand how paul auster loves writing because of the tenderness he uses in this passage to explain his art, i really appreciate the words he adresses to all arts expecially to writing and reading.

    giacomin elena

  25. anonimo scrive:

    Does a lack of practical purpose mean that books and paintings and string quartets are simply a waste of our time? The answer is obviously negative. Art is useless in the sense that it do not provide for our livelihood, or for the survival of body, but since we are human beings, art is fundamental because it is a sort of mind lifeblood. Just think about how many different feelings and emotions art may arouse in us, whether it is a book, a music, a painting or a film, a landscape and so on: it is an impulse that set our imagination free. As mentioned in the article (and it seems somehow paradoxical), it is thinking about art uselessness that we understand the deep value of art: the more we think about its lack of practical purposes, the more we discover its importance.

    As for the last part of the article, I liked very much the idea that a novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader, and that it is the only place where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy, because it makes me think about the fact that, while reading a book, you feel part of the story, you feel as a “guardian” of a confidence, of a secret or a story, told by the characters themselves.

    However, I agree with Monica and Pietro, when they say that art can also teach: I think that reading a book, or, for example, studying literature and knowing the ideas of authors in the past, is something that allows us to mature and grow inwardly, to confront with our ideas and open ourselves to new ones.

    Federica Cozzarin

  26. anonimo scrive:

    For Paul Auster art is useless only if we consider the common sense of this word: directly usable to obtain or to do something. The utility of art is deeper and for this reason more important. The task of art is making us think and understand; it let us investigate the essence of things and to realize their beauty and importance. In these terms, art is in absolute the more important instrument to live in a good way, to be aware of our live, of beauty and ugliness of everything around us. Art let us see the beauty of a sunset, the smell of a flower; it let us feel the wind passing on our skin, but also it let us understand the society around us and make us be able to analyze in a critic way what we listen.


  27. anonimo scrive:

    I don’t think that art is useless, because it feeds our brain. It provides great examples of what we call beauty, which seems to have only a marginal role in the society. Beauty has a marginal role, we need only practical and useful things, we don’t have time to spend on art. But if we had, I think our life would be much better. Art could be useless, but a well-made movie or a good novel or a deep song can influence our behaviour and our vision of the world. After all, that doesn’t sounds to me such an useless effect. Art can soothe our tension or pain, art can be a friend for people who are alone. Even flowers don’t have a practical purpose, but their presence can give a sparkle of joy to the day of a sensitive person. Moreover Auster underlines the power of imagination, which we improve in our childhood. Now I must confess that my parents didn’t use to tell me bedtime stories: perhaps that’s why I found Auster’s works so hard to understand!

    I appreciate Auster’s opinion about novels: I’d never thought before to novel as a collaboration between writer and reader, that’s a way of making the reader more involved, and it is true: to solve Auster’s novels, you need to reflect, to give your personal interpretation. Therefore a novel becomes a conversation between people who will never know each other.

    federica zille

  28. anonimo scrive:

    *Mr Auster asks: “What purpose does art serve in what we call the real world?”…some people would answer “nothing, it’s a waste of time!” but in my opinion art has multiple meanings and purpose , and as well as I discover even more these world through what we do at school, throw what I read and I see I appreciate more and more these world. It’s amazing when I watch a canvas of a famous artist and I’ am able to step inside that picture, I can feel something flowing out that pictures; you watch a picture, there are colours , lines , maybe people or landscape, all is immovable but can move your feelings and your soul! This, is the magic of art for me! And the same things happens when I read a book! You go through all those words, signs on a white sheet of paper, but our brain can go beyond this visual data, al those words are put together and we can use freely our imagination and build up images , we can escape from the real world and live for a moment in another imaginary world. I agree with MartinaJ.. when she says that she loves reading but hasn’t enough time!! That’s true!!!!!!! I love reading too! I have a list of books that I want to read at the end of this school year too!!! Reading helps me to think to make my imagination work and bring me in other world! Maybe more wonderful that the one I live in, and if it is not, reading helps me to better understand the world in which I live! And make my brain learn to think and reason about what surround me! All arts are definitely one of the best way of personal growing!

    —Martina Nadal—

  29. anonimo scrive:

    Let me let you know that I love uselessness!! Except the manuals we use at school, how many books are useful? No one! That’s also one of the reason why we do not study them at school. A book is a form of art, it do not necessarily have a function or a moral (or immoral) teaching. “I don’t know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to do it” said Paul Auster and I completely agree with him. I ever draw something when I do not know what to do, well, if somebody will come to me and explain me that my drawings are just an inconscious feedback to my incompatibility to quiteness (I’ve just said the most stupid thing in my life but never mind, it’s just an example…), I would probably send him to hell end never draw again. I know, It’s a stupid example but it goes to the main point: sometimes we do some things (most of them unconsciously) that we just need to do, with no explications or motivations. There are just needs.

    Auster would probably never written his novels with this “unconsciousness”, maybe he could have written fables or simply nothing if he had knew. The beautiful thing of it is that you do things (without understanding them) without realize that they could be extraordinary.

    Auster ever said that the feels really disappointed when he finishes a book; he wants to throw it away just because he doesn’t like it. He starts realizing that is a good novel only after few month (when people bought it).

    It happens also with my drawings. For example, I made a drawing for the Dedica project. I really enjoyed working on it, on my own alone in my room. But when I finished it I was really frustrated: I thought I had never seen a drawing worse than mine. It was my mum that convinced me to bring you my work, I didn’t wanted to. I think that this is also caused by fear. I think Paul is a smart man that has the capability of value his works but he is ever worried about possible consequences of his publications. That’s normal, that’s common life. Just stupid people never be afraid.

    Elena Poles

  30. MicheleDB scrive:

    No doubt before reading this article, the author is certainly Paul.

    I really appreciate the theme Auster deals with. Everything is explained very clearly and with efficacy even if there is a unique sentence where the author’s message is not unambiguous. The passage is “I would argue that it is the very uselessness of art that fives it its value”, now I would ask to Auster what does he intend saying that. I know that probably is a sort of catchy sentence but, according to me, this is the key point to understand the first part of the text.

    I cannot love art only for its uselessness, I see in it feeling that I cannot found anywhere. The value I give to art and, above all, to music, come from the sensation I feel: in the sinuous sounds I hear or in the color shacked on a canvas to create a work of art.

    Concerning the second part of this article, it will be natural, for everybody, to recall past times when, as Paul Auster written, we lay on the bad, waiting to sleep while one of our parents were telling another novel. You cannot be in disaccord with this, everyone in his youth was interested in fantastic world crammed full of our more intense desire and fear. Novels are the easiest and closer mean to enter a world and a time, unobtainable in the reality but constantly present in the mind of a child.

  31. anonimo scrive:

    I have read the whole article, in which I have found some new ideas and cues for thinking. i was not surprised to read that the author was Paul Auster himself because the article was written in his own style. waht about uselessness? some people think that art is not useful, but i can’t say for me is the same: when i read a book,(for me

    reading is something that really engages) an excerpt, or an article, I always find a teaching that I do my. For example studying italian literature, if the author is really interesting or intriguing, I analyse his ideas and I choose those most appropriate for me. for me we can’t say in absolute that art is useless because it transmits emotions, images, fragments of life of the artist, but may also be fragments of your life.

    Art has always been inherent in humans since ancient times, and therefore it must have a function, a role in the psyche. However several forms of art are useless because of the author have no intention to trasmit anything.

    Otherwise if Art did not exist we wouldn’t live in the world we know, but in a bare planet without color, without facets and fantasy.

    Matteo Cervesato.

  32. anonimo scrive:

    I really appreciated all the ideas expresses by Paul Auster in the article. Some people think that a book(a piece of art) can make us more sensitive and understanding. For Paul Auster this is true, but only for rare cases. He quotes that Hitler started out in life as an artist,tyrants and dictators read novels and killers also read novels:for Paul Auster art is useless! The effort and the long hours of practice and disclipline of a pianist or a dancer are useless.

    I love also the last few lines. I agree with Paul Auster that every novel has a connection between the writer and the reader. I like the image that two strangers can meet in the world of books with a total intimacy.


  33. anonimo scrive:

    Mr Paul Auster is right .Art and fiction do not have a practical pur pose.they do not stop a bullet from enetring a murder victim’s body.

    They do not prevent a bomb from falling on innocent civilians in the midst of war.they do not put food in the stomach of a hungry child.Unfortubately they do not have the power of diong that.

    But art is not useless.it is the expression of the irrational and the emotional part of our essence,”art is what distinguishes us from other creatures”,art is a means to elevate our mind and our soul to higher levels,artists’ creations nourish our souls they make us what we are..human beings.

    Iot is the free expression of feelings,thoughts opinions,view of the world.It is an inborn need that we can’t send to sleep.

    AS Paul Auster wrote in his article,since we were children,we have had the need to encounter art,even in the most simple form,the fairy tale,that has the power of estranging ourselves from reality ad bringing us in a new world.Moreover the child can face his inner torments and darkest fear in a perfectly safe and protected environments,then we grow older we become adults and we stiil need to savour stories,our phantasy and imagination need to be satisfied as weel.

    What if art was erased from the face of the earth?human beings would become like robots,they would use only their physical part.What about our heart?we have feelings,emotions sesations,they have to be nourished by art.

    Moreover art has the great power and responsibility to sensitize and inform people about important issues.for example guernica,the famous painting by picazzo shows the cruelty and britality of the war,it convinces people that war is a huge mistake that must not be fought ever again.

    Montrasio Valentina

  34. anonimo scrive:

    It would be obvious to talk about all the problems and injustices of the world that, according to many people, art does not help to fight; and so for many of us art is useless. A novel or a good painting really can not help nobody, only the one who sells them or who writes them, because in most of the cases he becomes rich. It is anyway true that, compared to the work of eminent scientists, medical luminaries, volunteers who help people in distress, art is something totally devoid of meaning and absolutely unnecessary. A speech of this kind completely destroys even the greatest masterpieces of literature, of painting and music. But when we are in front of something great, like the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, or Dante’s “Divina Commedia”, these statements collapse as easily as a house of cards whipped by the wind.

    The definition of art is that: a human activity that produces objects, writing, or behavior that then must face reactions or aesthetic judgments. That is, art is work, art is no mere exercise in style but is part of one of the most important human expressions: the result of the work of intellectual faculties. Art as human expression is then synthesis of the mind and the soul of the artist, even if it can not be done without certain technical requirements and studies. It is therefore an expression of freedom, democracy, but it is also a witness of historical periods and cultural influences. It is an universal message.

    In Middle Age arts were all human abilities; during the Renaissance came the concept of art as a human activity to create beauty: the greatest artists of that period are so unique personalities that they were elected as teachers and guides of the whole humanity.

    Is art really useless? It allows you to see, understand, interpret something of the world around us without rationality and your personal view; it represents an eternal fragment, an indelible mark of a character who really had something to say and share. Paintings, written pages, poems, novels and melodies are there, firm, eternal and impassive. And their impassivity witnesses something, they want not to let die concepts, human feelings and impulses, not to let History die, to understand how the past has been, our origins as well as our achievements and mistakes. Buildings and sculptures, with their aisles and their eyes of stone, are there with a message in every fiber, rock or fragment.

    What Auster wants to say in these words is to give practical meaning to these theories. It is the quintessence of Art, the realization of the author’s target: to make people know, to talk of himself with the most varied and diverse humanity. A novel is that: a conversation about the author himself and his ideas, a multiple, infinite conversation, a fine and stimulating psychological game between the author and the readers. In a world that needs to read, to confront directly and not through a web cam or a computer screen, where the role of dreams is becoming fundamental to continue to live, to remain human, you must have Art, and not to downplay or destroy it with silly or unfounded accusations. Art is representation of Life, and if Art will cease to exist, that day Mankind will not exist anymore.

    Raggiotto Francesco

  35. anonimo scrive:

    Do you imagine a world without music? I’m not able to. I think that music playes a very important role in everyone’s life. Do you imagine a world without books? I don’t. I read your posts, and I saw that a huge number of us loves reading. Do you imagine a world without paintings, sculptures, sports, and so on? It would be awful. So, why say that art is useless? I completely disagree. Every form of art has its own deep meaning, it is the result of our ideas, the expression of our way of thinking. An artist is someone special, he is not a common person. He is able to express his ideas in another forms, not only by speaking, but through a painting or a song or an invented story (as we saw in ‘Man In The Dark’). ‘Art is what distinguishes us from other creatures’. This sentence is the confirmation that art is not useless. If we created something like that, it means that it has a deep deep meaning, that we as human beings cannot explain.

    Jana Stefani

  36. anonimo scrive:

    I really appreciate thoughts expressed by Auster in his article.

    Also Montale says that poetry is useless, but it’s indispensable to have free time to spent useless activities like art!

    I think that art is useless, as Auster says, “has never put food in the stomach of a hungry child, has never stopped a bullet from entering a murder victim’s body, has never prevented a bomb from falling on innocent civilians in the midst of war”.

    But I think that art help people to feel better. I don’t know how to explain this idea. Through art you can express and realize yourself. Art is a way to escape from reality, from our dark world, from our monotonous society. But…very often happens that a thing that make us happy or help us to survive drive us in a dipendence’s road and this could be dangerous. Art becomes drug. We can see people who spent all their life to find themself, neglecting their family, job and themself; because they continue to try to find their soul’s essence through art, neglecting their body and mind falling in depression. Mr. Silente in Harry Potter’s film says: “you haven’t to escape in dreams forgetting to live!”

    Art is art when people try to find a way to be happy, to be satisfied and to permit to other to share emotions and thoughts. “This need to make, to create, to invent is, no doubt, a fundamental human impulse”.Everyone has own art. Auster’s art is writing. My art is music. I can’t imagine my life without music. Is everywhere. If happens that I don’t sing, it’s a bad day. I always sing and if I play the piano and I’m not able to perform a passage, i’m angry with myself. I have no words to explain what i think or what i feel, in fact i need the music to survive and explain myself. In need to escape from reality for some moments…also through magic story. When i was a child i loved fairy tales, but I admit that i love them more now: because help me to don’t cry, to don’t explode. For me, fairy tales are like music. If you enter in my bedroom you can see everywhere fairies and CD…everything is connected with fantasy…a world where world doesn’t exists.

    So..i think that art is useless…but it’s really important to survive in this world..! 🙂

    Laura S. (a little fair 🙂 )

  37. anonimo scrive:

    I think art is useful. Every kind of art can be fundamental for someone. There are person who lives for painting, for dancing, for reading, for writing, for acting, for singing etc…I really like dancing.

    Music for me is something important because when I listen to the music I forget everything and everyone. When I had suffer for something the only way to relax and to not thing to my problem,

    I turn on the music…Art is life….And whatever we done and whatever we see in not superficial, is not useless .All is useful to develop as human being and as person.

    This article is clearly a provoking and a rhetorical text. What the writer things is the opposite ideas that he explains in this article.

    Denise Martin

  38. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    I can see that it is obvious to most of you that when Paul Auster claims that art is “useless” he is using provocation around which he then makes his point. His argumentation is favour of art would not have been as affective if he had not used provocation or paradox.

    Federica, thanks to his words. Let’s learn from Paul Auster: fight to do what you are meant to do, he a writer, me a teacher, and you. What? Would would you like to be? You are a gifted person, special in her sensitivity (everybody can see that from the things you wrote in this blog). Go for your way, or as Sinatra would say “do it your own way”. 😉 By “it” (for malicious readers, I mean “life”, “existence”, “work”).

    Eugenia, I think artists feel the urge to express their own sensitivity, they feel the urge to put in their form of art (be it literature or sculture or whatever) what life, existence stirs inside them. I also think that they go for it, whereas most of us are scared of expressing our own form of art, perhaps we are not strong enough to be ourselves. You mention fashion as a form of art (and I agree): how many young people do not wear the clothes they really want because they fear not belonging to a specific group? They conform to the “canon” just because they are not strong enough. This does not mean, however, that there is no form of art inside them. I think it is just a matter of strength, determination, self-confidence and coincidence (carpe diem). Then on top of this, I would write in capital letters SACRIFICE. All artists sacrifice their life for art. They work really hard, they work for their art, they are their art. If you think about Paul Auster, he himself pointed out that he spends most of his days in his study room, trying to write. As you point out Hitler was determined to do what he did, he dedicated all his life to his “unmentionable” and “terrifying”, if not “perverted” mission. That teachers us that there is “good” art and “bad” art? I think so, in the sense that art comes from human beings and we are both good and evil, so being art the reflection of humanity, how could it be otherwise?

  39. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Martina, it is impossible to know all writers, especially because there are so many. However, it is also true that some writers fall withing what I would define as “a literary elite”, writers we need to read (no necessarily appreciate and fall in love with) to appreciate certain (artistic, intellectual, human, political, ethical) trends in literature. As you point out, going to a good bookshop (not supermarkets or commercial bookshops), browsing around, asking for tips (a good bookshop owner or a good librarian will certainly be of help) will help you understand who the great literary hits are. Of course, then there is your personal taste. Then, as you pointed out, there is Dedica and Pordenonelegge. These literature festivals are meant to promote reading so they certainly invite the general public to take into consideration certain good writers/literary figures/thinkers.

    Barbara, as I think you grasped yourself, Paul Auster initially says that art is useless to question the concept that people tend to have of what is “useful” and “useless”. If “useful” implies saving lives, feeding people, etc. then art is “useless”, but if “useful” means feeding the soul, prodding emotions, sparkling ideas, promoting thinking, etc. then art is “useful”.

    Chiara thanks for your quotation “art itself is a masterpiece/a form of art”.

    As Erica points out, I would say that gifted souls need art to feel alive!

    Damiano’s “art as an act of creation” is worth considering. As to the contradiction between “coincidence” and “being a writer” you point out, I do not see it as something paradoxical. Auster himself said that he did not choose to be a writer, he could not choose, it was imposed upon him, it was an urge that came from inside (isn’t this chance?)

    Giulia, I thought “i Quindici” belonged to my generation, not yours!. My favourite encyclopaedia. I still have it and I would never part, it meant so much in my childhood too. 🙂

    Francesco, thanks for your post, I liked it. Your English is getting more and more to the point. Keep writing, boy. You are doing a good job.

    Elena, the very moment we do things that make us feel good with ourselves (in your case drawing), then I do not think we should explain why the do them. It is self-evident: we do things that give us pleasure.

    Francesco, beautiful post, really well-written. I agree with you when you state, in the end, that art will exist as long as man is on the face of this planet.

    Jana, I think we cannot be as super as human beings to think that art belongs to the human sphere only. I think there is art in nature too. A beehive, isn’t it a form of art? The sounds made by certain species of animals for courtship or mating, isn’t it a form of art? The different patterns we find of different kinds of leaves, for example. I think that human beings rely much on nature to create their own art.

    Laura, fairy tales are a good expression of human hopes, fears and desires. I love them too.

    Denise, you got the point!

  40. anonimo scrive:


    Yes! It is certain that art does not give you a piece of bread or a cup of milk, but it gives you something to think, something that is so abstract that caches your mind and brings you away. There are so many forms of arts like music, painting, sculpture, dance but no one of these create something to eat or drink. Art is so un-material that is a sort of colored scene that pins down your mind ( only the “rational part”, of course ) and leaves at your body a sensation of freedom and independence from any necessity.

    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.

  41. anonimo scrive:

    Art isn’t useless. Art is the most useful thing human beings have ever invented. It’s more useful than a plumber or a lawyer. Art makes humans terribly happy or desperated, Art can create feelings and shake them as a mixer. When we feel sad and hopeless we can find pleasure in Art because we need it. As schopenhauer said art is our path towards the freedom from the life, the routine and the will that push us to live. I love Art because it brings my cares, my doubts, my bad feelings and throw away them making me feel as in a swirl of feelings and emotions. Art can stop the time, how can I say that Art is useless? Is there any other thing or creation that can stop the time and make me forget of the rest? I don’t believe so. Art is life, as the very Paul auster writes: “That is because human beings need stories. They need them almost as desperately as they need food and however the stories might be presented – whether on a printed page or on a television screen – it would be impossible to imagine life without them.”

    I think that he really doesn’t think that Art is useless if he writes it. An artist knows it: what is more beautiful than a thing that make you cry of sadness when you are happy, and make you laugh when you are desperate?

    I want to add a Schopenhauer’s quotation, it’s in italian but I like it very much, I hope it will be apreciated.

    “L’arte si deve necessariamente considerare come il grado più alto, come l’evoluzione più perfetta di quanto esiste; ci offre infatti essenzialmente la stessa cosa che il mondo visibile; ma più concentrata, più perfetta, con scelta e con riflessione: possiamo quindi, nel vero senso della parola, chiamarla il fiore della vita. Se il mondo come rappresentazione non è che volontà divenuta visibile, l’arte è precisamente tale visibilità resa più chiara; la camera oscura che abbraccia meglio e con una sola occhiata; è lo spettacolo nello spettacolo, la scena nella scena.”

    Giulia Raineri

  42. anonimo scrive:

    Yes, I understand your point of view, but I think that in nature plants, insects and animals in general do such things for a practical purpose: a bee builds its hive in that particular way because it needs such a shape to produce honey. A leafe has that peculiar pattern to catch better the rays of the sun. Instead human beings preduce something that often hasn’t got a practical function: we do it only because we want to express ourselves; the object has a meaning in itself, it hasn’t got a secondary purpose. As O. Wilde taught us, art exists for its own sake as art (‘art for art’s sake’).

    Jana Stefani