A wolfish observation | Daily News

A wolfish observation

Leonard Woolf, in his Beginning Again, wrote something. That was published in Ceylon Press News of May-June 1969. This publication is now defunct. What he wrote was on mental dangers in journalism. He identifies two.

The first is 'most virulent among editors’. He adds: "It creates a kaleidoscopic, chaotic, perpetual motion rhythm of the mind. As soon as you have produced one number of your paper, you have to begin thinking of and planning the next."

What is striking in Woolf’s observation is his candid statement: “Nearly all good editors, like the owners, become megalomaniacs and suffer from the hallucination that they control and exercise great power. The hallucination of power corrupts s efficiently as power.”

The second is ‘occupational disease of journalism'. It is connected with the first. It affects not merely editors, what you write or a paper you write for a moment.'

He clearly distinguishes literature from journalism. "There is, however, writing which is quite different from this: Serious literature or the art of literature. Literature may be a novel or a poem. It is incompatible with journalese.”

It may be recalled that Leonard Wolfe was the literary editor of the Nation newspaper in London. In the early part of the last century, he served as a British Civil Servant in colonial Sri Lanka.

He wrote a novel called Village in the Jungle on Baddegama in the far southern Lanka. This novel has earned the plaudits of local critics as the best novel in English on Sri Lankan life. The novel is translated into Sinhala too. The late Lester James Peries directed a film called Baddegama in Sinhala based on this novel.

His wife, Virginia Woolf, was a prominent woman novelist in early 20th century using the technique of Stream of Consciousness.


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