Hello everybody, as you might have noticed I just replied an ask from sainte-ann about the reason behind Kane’s suicide.
I recieved a message from triplea85 and with their permission I am reproducing it here. I am doing this mainly to clarify my response to sainte-ann, but also because I find it to be quite an interesting subject for debate and I would love to get some feedback from all of you!
Oh man. I have to say that I think the manner in which any given person chooses to engage with a work they like is always up to them, but I couldn’t disagree with your points about not gaining anything from looking into an author’s life more. As a writer, I have to say that my personal life and experiences influence my work a great deal. As much as I think my life is boring or a story not worth telling at the end of the day, and as much as I might not want anyone to ever write a bio about me, I know that I am who I am because of the things I’ve gone through and I write what I write for the same reason. I don’t think anyone can answer the question of why she took her own life as that person asked you, but I certainly think a much deeper understanding, if not an appreciation, of some of the subtleties in her work could easily be found if that information were attainable. And as a studier/lover of literature, I have to say I don’t think a full grasp of anyone’s work can be had without delving into at least a little of their bio and background. But that’s just me.
And my reply was:
I don’t think we entirely disagree about this. I do think that a certain appreciation of an author’s life helps in the understanding of a text, and I don’t think that I take an approach that completely blocks out the personal life of an author, but I do like to see a text for what the text can give me first, and I don’t entirely like to interpret it as it was “meant” to be interpreted, I like to interpret texts for myself and certainly I do like to put them in their context and in perspective afterwards, but what I do not like is to only see them through the lense of personal experience. Am I making sense? That was my point in answering that question. I love Sarah Kane more than I have ever loved any other author, of course I am interested in her and her personna, I am interested in what she studied, what she thought, what she lived and what she experienced (for instance, I am obsessed with what drove her to write each of her plays, I keep re-reading interviews with her to see what triggered a certain sentence, et cetera) but I don’t like to read her work a 100% conditioned by that knowledge. And I guess that goes with everybody else. Do I find it significant that she killed herself? Yes, very much. But do I find it conditioning of her work? No. I guess that my problem comes because I see it as crossing a line. I find it all perfect to want to find out the outline of somebody’s life. To want to know what she did, what she loved, who she hated, et cetera, to want to know whether she died in an accident or killed herself is okay as well. But to go as far as to know why she killed herself, especially when doing a little bit of research it is obvious she was depressed and suicidal most of her life, and especially as most of her work is sadly self-explanatory, I find it would give absolutely nothing to me. I suppose that knowing that the pain she refers to in her work eventually drove her to death is enough for my reading of her plays. I guess I have enough knowing that what drove her to suicide was that she was unhappy, I don’t need to know where her unhappiness came from because I think that everybody is entitled to their own pain and I have enough knowing what I already know about her and her pain.
I really understand what you mean, because I consider myself a writer as well, and I find that my writing is very much affected by what I read, what I experience, what I feel. That is impossible to resist. I think everybody takes a different approach to literature, and with the years I have learnt that I like to make a text mine and then if I am really interested in it, I like to go further. For instance, I always skip introductions in novels. If I really like the novel, I read it after I finish reading it. Generally, if I really like a novel I will want to go further, but I prefer to form my own opinions first. Sometimes I don’t have the interest in finding out about an author’s context, sometimes I will. But, what I guess I’m trying to get at, is that, to me, personally, there is a line as for how far I like to go in such knowledge. I am aware not everybody draws the line at the same place, and I think that’s wonderful, everybody should experience literature how they choose to.
*As our conversation continues triplea85 mentioned they disagreed with my referring to Kane’s work as “sadly self-explanatory” and I do want to clarify I’m referring to 4.48 Psychosis. I believe Kane’s work is truly complex and mostly inaccessible, deciphering it is part of what truly drawns me to her work, but I do believe that in 4.48 Psychosis, she put her life-experience and that it is her voice what is being put out there, and I have always had a hard time finding any other reading for that play. I am not saying I consider it a “suicide note” at all, I am only saying I do consider it to be quite honest and blunt about her views on life, living, death and dying.
Please, feel free to jump into the discussion!