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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review8 min read
The Hidden Origins of Mankind
In his monthly column, Conspiracy, Rich Cohen gets to the bottom of it all.  There is a movie that came out decades ago. I saw it in a theater in Paris as part of a Robert Mitchum festival, which, as luck had it, was playing in a small theater acros
The Paris Review8 min read
How to Stop Crying
José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior, Saudade (Longing) (detail), 1899, oil on canvas, 77 1/2″ x 40″. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. A kitchen is the best—I mean the saddest—room for tears. A bedroom is too easy, a bathroom too private, a living room
The Paris Review1 min read
You Used to Tell Stories
“There was a time when drawing and writing were not separated for you. In fact, our ability to write could only come from our willingness and inclination to draw.” So begins Making Comics, the latest book from the artist and writer Lynda Barry, who’s