The title of this node, "art is the axe for the frozen sea within us" is, I believe, an attempt to represent a sentence originally written by Franz Kafka. The actual text of Kafka's sentence refers to books, and not to art in general. The quote, in translation, is this:
"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us."
The sentence was written by Kafka in an epistle
to Oskar Pollak
dated January 27th, 1904. The phrase has been quoted by a variety of authors from a variety of disciplines. Perhaps most famous is the quote by Anne Sexton
on page 48 of The Complete Poems
, from her 1962 collection All My Pretty Ones
. It is also quoted by Cherrie Moraga
at page 174 of her Loving in the War Years
. The famous French feminist Helene Cixous
makes use of this quote on page 17 of her beautiful Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing
as well as in other places in her texts. Here is the complete text from Kafka's letter:
"Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it ? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we loved ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any presence, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe."