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Hell is not other people

Posted August. 11, 2021 07:32,   

Updated August. 11, 2021 07:32


There are authors who try to look at the bright side of the world by some means or another. Some authors try to pay more attention to the bright side even by misinterpreting words of other authors. Polish poet Adam Zagajewski who died in March was one of them.

He misinterprets Jean-Paul Sartre. More specifically, he misinterprets the famous line “Hell is other people” from Sartre’s play “No Exit.” A man and two women appear in the play. They are already dead. The popular belief on the earth is that hell is filled with torture and hellfire for sinners, but there is only one room in hell. The condition is that they should stay in that room together for eternity. There is no private place to hide, and their past and thoughts are stripped naked to the skin. They become each other’s prisoner with their stare at each other. The line “Hell is other people” appears here. According to Sartre, “Hell is other people when relations are distorted and ruined.” It is not misanthropism.

But Zagajewski reverses Sartre’s line in the poem “The Beauty Created by Others.” “Only in the beauty created/by others is there consolation,/ in the music of others and in others’ poems./ Only others save us,/ even though solitude tastes like/opium. The others are not hell.” The poet cuts out the context of Sartre’s line and reverses it. Of course, the poet’s words are not wrong. We are consoled by music and poems created by other people when we grow weary of the world from time to time. There is no way that he didn’t know about what the line implicated, but he believed that looking at the bright side of the world was more important than the original meaning. Art is often a product of intentional misinterpretation.