Every literature has its own characteristics and elements that are necessary to compose a complete artistic work. Many scholars have defined literature as “creativity in one word”, and literature in its general sense is “a creative intellectual product that constitutes of its old and modern intellectual and linguistic civilisation and is a mirror reflecting its culture and society”. We do not know past ages and societies except through literature, whether it is poetry or prose, or even a story and other art of literature, as it is a mirror for all ages and societies. The importance of literature lies in preserving these societies and their identity and heritage and making them remembered. Without literature we would not have known writers and poets of the ancient ages, and the life they lived in their times. Literature was given great attention by society because it had an impact on the soul, but in our era it is met with indifference.
At the outset, it is better to point out that literature is nothing but an expression of reality in aesthetic ways that depend on language. By reality I mean society with its cultural, economic and political components, movements and conflicts, natural environment, its mountains, rivers, plains, valleys and various geographical phenomena, and man and his mind with which he struggles in terms of desires and fears, fantasies and ideas, which all reflect in his behaviour and activities. Undoubtedly, the importance of literature is related to all these elements. Literature increases our understanding of society, its concerns and aspirations; this helps decision makers to solve its problems and plan for its future. It also informs about what previous civilisations and nations were like, for example, classical literature, which provides us lot of information about life in that era. Information can be acquired about the social, political, economic, religious conditions of a society by reading the poetry, novels, stories of its writers. Literature has also importance and utility in knowing many places and cultures, which increases our knowledge of human behaviour.
The means of literature is language, the carrier of a society’s heritage and its intellectual, literary and scientific achievements. Literature is an arduous and difficult task for those whom God Almighty has not granted the gift of writing and the gift of perceiving the depths of what is around them, of seeing the truth of life without embellishment, without complacency and without equivocation, its bitter or sweet truth, and the reality of human beings in it, whether in their nobility or in their decadence. A true writer does not search for happiness in life, but searches for the truth. Perhaps for this reason, literature appears to be one of the richest human arts, because it bears all that intellectual and human heritage for a group of people called as writers and seekers of truth.
Literature is mixing the details of real life with delicate and deep human feelings, departing from what is familiar in feeling and thought to what is unfamiliar and unusual. Whether sad or happy, calm or angry, a writer writes so that he can feel the beauty manifested in letters and lines. Literature is the highest level of humanity because it does not talk about material or money, as it does not seek to reap wealth or material accumulation.
The greatest freedom that man enjoys is the freedom to speak about himself through literature. The true writer is not the master of others but the master of himself, because he knows what he wants in his life. Literature and its creativity, its beauty, its release gives man invisible wings to move to other worlds, beyond the world of matter and the world of tradition. The true writer is the vigilant spirit, observing and always alert to pain and suffering.
We are living in a society that is moving away from literature in its inclinations, culture and vision of life, to a society that is gradually sinking into the materiality and dryness of life. The grave mistake is to believe that literature is a luxury that we can abandon or possess. Humans live under an umbrella of feelings, so it is only feelings that distinguish between humans according to interest and need, according to what should be and what should not be. In literature, the writer is stripped of all his personal qualities and becomes a universal human figure who can live in any society with the same values and the same suffering.
Adolescents who live in difficult life circumstances have found through literature a vision of life and hope for the future, and many of them have been able to find their values of life. It seems that literature has contributed to shaping the construction of man in every age, but the imbalance occurs when it becomes an obsolete thing that is not relevant to the contemporary world. When the space shrinks to describe feelings and technology takes over, the depth of ideas and the level of creativity also decline.
Also, not to forget the role of the Ministry of Education in marginalising literature in its curriculum and limiting it to particles that do not sing anything to the reader. Literary clubs have a role in the way literature suffers from apathy.
In the end, it can be said, that literature has a great impact on people’s lives. It is a source of pleasure and benefit, and motivates one to take a stance, as it expands experience and helps to understand life, nature and society as well as ourselves. That is why people, especially students, should practice in the various arts of literature such as poetry, story, play, novel and essay, and read literary books. Such concerns will prevent them from falling into violence, and being characterised by harshness and cruelty. The function of literature, with its intellectual and aesthetic values, is to guide man to walk the path of intellectual and emotional transcendence.
The writer is a research scholar at the Department of Arabic, BGSB University, Rajouri. [email protected]