“Literalism – the limiting tendency to thinking literally – has become the greatest disease of our time. The first symptom of it is the inability to understand the metaphor, second the pauperization of the sense of humor. It is accompanied by a tendency to make harsh, hasty judgments. It doesn’t tolerate ambiguity, doesn’t understand irony, and finally – brings back dogmatism and fundamentalism.
Literalism understands neither literature nor art, and is ready to sue authors for insulting its feelings. The literalist, in his handicap, falls into emotional turmoil, unable to put what he experiences in a broader, deeper context.
Literalism compromises religion because it treats revealed truths one-dimensional, without being aware of their contextual nature. Literalism destroys the sense of beauty. These prevent the creation of an attentive and in-depth vision of the world. Its greatest sin is intolerance. Literalism is treating everything that deviates from the somewhere-once-adopted norm as morally wrong, sinful, deserving condemnation, and even punishment. Thus, literalism closes the horizons. Shuts down people’s minds.
A person suffering from literalism sees everything isolated, without contexts and relations. Unfortunately for himself and others, he loses the sense of synthesis, which is necessary to experience the world in a full and multidimensional manner. In the world full of signs, meaning and fanaticism, we rarely experience the state of ‘either/or’ …”
This is my translation of a fragment of Olga’s Tokarczuk speech at Maria Janion funeral. Rest in peace.