Is there any mortal that exists in this world who is spared by tragedy?
What would be the sane choice of an emotionally devastated reader in the need of catharsis?
A skin-deep comedy or a relatable tragedy?
We read what resonates with our state of mind, gives validation to our emotions, elevates our intellect, invokes empathy and ultimately puts us at peace with our emotions. Comedy is not an answer to most of these. It exists only in the spur of the moment. We read the humorous account, we laugh and then we turn the page. Everything wanes the next moment.
So comedy or tragedy what touches the heart?
From the days of Aristotle and Shakespeare to our modern world, the language of pathos is used to shake the collective conscience of the audience and ultimately to strengthen the moral fabric of society.
And it works like that.
When I compare the perusal moments when I was reading Me before you, a romantic tragedy and The Rosie Project, a romantic comedy, the difference was stark. In the former case, I experience a kaleidoscope of emotions, I see the world through the eyes of a paralyzed man who choose death over life, and then through a lover’s eye who is on the verge of losing her love. Also, I see inside myself how I take my full functioning body for granted. By the time I reach the end of the book, there was a growing sense of gratitude in me and valued my relationships more. While in the latter case, I was merely a laidback reader amusing myself with the plot to reach the predictable end.
Tragedy is embedded in some phases of almost everyone’s life. And through books, we can find a voice for our deep down tragedies, which can stir our emotions, soften our hearts and bring us closer to each other.
*The above post was my contribution to the Costa debate for Emirates Literature Festival in 2020.*