Chapter 13: Session 13
The first book today is Irving Stone’s Lust for Life. It is a novel based on the life of Vincent van Gogh. Stone has done such a tremendous work that I don’t remember anybody else doing the same. Nobody has written so intimately about somebody else, as if he is writing from his very own being.
Lust for Life is not just a novel, it is a spiritual book. It is spiritual in my sense, because to me all dimensions of life have to be incorporated into a single synthesis; only then one is spiritual. The book is written so beautifully that the possibility that even Irving Stone will be able to transcend it is remote.
After that book he wrote many others, and my second book today is also by Irving Stone. I count it second because it is secondary, not of the quality of Lust for Life. It is The Agony and the Ecstasy, again based on another life in the same way. Perhaps Stone was thinking that he would be able to create another Lust for Life, but he failed. Although he failed, the book stands second - not to any other but to his own. There are hundreds of novels written on the lives of artists, poets, painters, but none of them reaches even to the height of the second book, what to say of the first. Both are beautiful, but the first is of transcendental beauty.
The second book is a little lower, but it is not the fault of Irving Stone. When you know that you have written a book like Lust for Life, the ordinary human instinct is to imitate oneself, to create something of the same order, but the moment you imitate it cannot be the same. When he wrote Lust he was not imitating, he was a virgin island. When he wrote The Agony and the Ecstasy he was imitating himself, and that is the worst imitation. Everybody does it in their own bathroom, looking in the mirror.. That’s what one feels about his second book. But I say even though it is only a reflection in the mirror, it reflects something of the real; hence I count it.
I was just asking Gudia whose life Irving Stone had written about in The Agony and the Ecstasy, because as far as I am concerned I have completely forgotten. That too is very rare; I don’t forget easily. I forgive easily but I don’t forget easily. Whose life did he write about, do you know, Devaraj? Was it Gauguin?
“It was Michelangelo, Osho.”
Michelangelo? A great life. Then Stone has missed much. If it had been Gauguin then it would have been okay, but if it is Michelangelo then I am sorry; even I cannot forgive him. But he writes beautifully. His prose is like poetry, although the second book is not of the same quality as Lust for Life. It cannot be for the simple reason that there has never been a man like Vincent van Gogh. That Dutch fellow was just inimitable! He stands alone. In the whole sky full of stars he shines alone, separately, uniquely in his own way. To write a great book on him is easy, and it would have been so on Michelangelo, but Stone was trying to imitate himself; hence he missed. Never be an imitator. Do not follow.not even yourself.