The Paris Review

Daša Drndić’s ‘EEG’ and the Joys of Pessimism

Daša Drndić

The most convincing literary pessimists are superior stylists. They smooth their nihilistic impulses into pleasing shapes. Despair is largely inimical to art, while melancholy—its pensive, perfumed cousin—makes of the void something paradoxically seductive. I think of Albrecht Dürer’s with its horizon of bats and comets, its alchemical implements and carpenter’s tools laid in disarray. This extends, perhaps extends especially, to literary art. If the negative radiance of Giacomo Leopardi or Fernando Pessoa arises from a certain nihilism—that existence is evil, say, or without meaning—that message is nonetheless palliated by the intrinsic beauty of their craft. This is a kind of strategic enticement. If we are to follow the pessimistic artist

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