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dimanche, 27 février 2011

James J. O'Meara on Henry James & H. P. Lovecraft

James O’Meara on Henry James & H. P. Lovecraft

The Lesson of the Monster; or, The Great, Good Thing on the Doorstep

James J. O'Meara

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

We’ve been very pleased by the response to our essay “The Eldritch Evola,” which was not only picked up by Greg Johnson (whose own Confessions of a Reluctant Hater is out and essential reading) for his estimable website Counter-Currents, but even managed to lurch upwards and lay a terrible, green claw on the bottom rung of the “Top Ten Most Visited Posts” there in January.

Coincidentally, we’ve been delving into the newer Penguin Portable Henry James, being a sucker for the Portables in general, and especially those in which a wise editor goes to the trouble of cutting apart a life’s work of legendary unreadability and stitching together a coherent, or at least assimilable, narrative, for the convenience of us amateurs, from Malcolm Cowley’s first, the legendary Portable Faulkner that rescued “Count No-Account,” as he was known among his homies, to the recent Portable Jack Kerouac epic saga recounted by Ann Charters.

The “new” Portable Henry James attempts something of the sort (as opposed to the older one, which was your basic collection) by recognizing the impossibility of even including large excerpts from the “major” works, and instead gives us some of the basic short works (Daisy Miller, Turn of the Screw, “The Jolly Corner,” etc.) and then hundreds of pages of travel pieces, criticism, letters, even parodies and tributes, as well a a list of bizarre names (Cockster? Dickwinter?) and above all, in a section called “Definition and Description,” little vignettes, often only a paragraph, exemplifying the Jamesian precision, a sort of anthology of epiphanies, the great memorable moments from “An Absolutely Unmarried Woman” to “An American Corrected on What Constitutes ‘the Self’” from the novels, and similar nonfiction moments from James’ travels, such as “The Individual Jew” to “New York Power” to “American Teeth” and “The Absence of Penetralia.”

The latter section in particular is part of a defense which the editor seems to feel needs to be mounted in his Introduction, of the Jamesian “difficult” prose style (as are the collection of tributes, including the surprising, to me at least, Ezra Pound).

I bring these two together because I could not help but think of ol’ Lovecraft himself in this context. Is Lovecraft not the corresponding Master of Bad Prose? As Edmund Wilson once quipped, the only horror in Lovecraft’s corpus was the author’s “bad taste and bad art.”

One can only imagine what James would have thought of Lovecraft, although we know, from excerpts here on Baudelaire and Hawthorne, what he thought of Poe, and more importantly, of those who were fans: “to take [Poe] with more than a certain degree of seriousness is to lack seriousness one’s self. An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection”; James may even have based the poet in “The Aspern Papers,” a meditation on America’s cultural wasteland, on Poe. However, his distaste is somewhat ambiguous, as compared with Baudelaire, Poe is “vastly the greater charlatan of the two, as well as the greater genius.”


For all his “better” taste and talent for reflection, it’s little realized today, as well, that James’s reputation went into steep decline after his death, and was only revived in the fifties, as part of a general reconsideration of 19th century American writers, like Melville, so that even James could be said to have, like Lovecraft, been forgotten after death except for a small coterie that eventually stage managed a revival years later.

Are James and Lovecraft as different as all that? One can’t help but notice, from the list above, that a surprising amount of James’s work, and among it the best, is in the ‘weird’ mode, and in precisely the same “long short story” form, “the dear, the blessed nouvelle,” in which Lovecraft himself hit his stride for his best and most famous work. (Both “Daisy Miller” and “At the Mountains of Madness” suffered the same fate: rejection by editors solely put off by their ‘excessive’ length for magazine publication.) The nouvelle of course accommodated James’ legendary prolixity.

The editor, John Auchard, puts James’s prolixity into the context of the 19th century ‘loss of faith.’ Art was intended to take the place of religion, principally by replacing the lost “next world” by an increased concentration on the minutia of this one. Experience might be finite, but it could still “burn with a hard, gem-like flame” as Pater famously counseled.

That counsel, of course, took place in the first, then self-suppressed, then retained afterword to his The Renaissance. René Guénon has in various places diagnosed this as the essential fraud of the Renaissance, the exchange of a vertical path to transcendence for a horizontal dissipation and dispersal among finite trivialities, usually hoked-up as “man discovered the vast extent of the world and himself,” blah blah blah. As Guénon points out, it’s a fool’s bargain, as the finite, no matter how extensive and intricate, is, compared to the infinite, precisely nothing.

Baron Evola, on the other hand, distinguishes several types of Man, and is willing to let some of them find their fulfillment in such worldliness. It is, however, unworthy of one type of Man: Aryan Man. See the chapter “Determination of the Vocations” in his The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts.

So the nouvelle length accumulation of detail and precision of judgment, in James, is intended to produce some kind of this-worldly ersatz transcendence. Was this perhaps the same intent in Lovecraft, the use of the nouvelle length tale to pile up detail until the mind breaks?

Lovecraft of course was also a thorough-going post-Renaissance materialist, a Cartesian mechanist with the best of them; when he finally got “The Call of Cthulhu” published, he advised his editor that:

Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. One must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all.

But as John Miller notes, this is exactly what is needed to produce the Lovecraft Effect:

That’s nihilism, of course, and we’re free to reject it. But there’s nothing creepier or more terrifying than the possibility that our lives are exercises in meaninglessness.

What is there to choose, between the unrealized but metaphysically certain nothingness of the Jamesian finite detail, and the all-too-obvious nothingness of Lovecraft’s worldview?

What separates James from Lovecraft and Evola is, along the lines of our previous effort, is precisely what T. S. Eliot, in praise of James (the essay is in the Portable too): “He has a mind so fine no idea could penetrate it.” Praise, note, and contrasted with the French, “the Home of Ideas,” and such Englishmen, or I guess pseudo-Englishmen, as Chesterton, “whose brain swarms with ideas” but cannot think, meaning, one gathers, stand apart with skepticism. One notes the Anglican Eliot seeming to flinch back, like a good English gentleman, from those dirty, unruly Frenchmen like Guénon, and such Englishmen who, like Chesterton, went “too far” and went and “turned Catholic” out of their love of “smells and bells.”

What Evola and Lovecraft had was precisely an Idea, the idea of Tradition; in Lovecraft’s case, a made-up, fictional one, but designed to have the same effect. But that’s the issue: when is Tradition only made up? For Evola and Guénon, the mind of Traditional Man is indeed not “fine” enough to evade penetration by the Idea; he is open to the transcendent, vertical dimension, which is realized in Intellectual Intuition.

I’ve suggested elsewhere that Intellectual Intuition, or what Evola calls his “Traditional Method” is usefully compared with what Spengler called, speaking of his own method, “physiognomic tact.” I wrote: “A couple years ago I found a passage in one of the few books on Spengler in English, by H. Stuart Hughes, where it seemed like he was actually giving a good explication of Guénon’s metaphysical (vs. systematic philosophy) method. I think it could apply to Evola’s method as well” Hughes writes:

Spengler rejected the whole idea of logical analysis. Such “systematic” practices apply only in the natural sciences. To penetrate below the surface of history, to understand at least partially the mysterious substructure of the past, a new method — that of “physiognomic tact”— is required.

This new method, “which few people can really master,” means “instinctively to see through the movement of events. It is what unites the born statesman and the true historian, despite all opposition between theory and practice.” [It takes from Goethe and Nietzsche] the injunction to “sense” the reality of human events rather than dissect them. In this new orientation, the historian ceases to be a scientist and becomes a poet. He gives up the fruitless quest for systematic understanding. . . . “The more historically men tried to think, the more they forgot that in this domain they ought not to think.” They failed to observe the most elementary rule of historical investigation: respect for the mystery of human destiny.

So causality/science, destiny/history. Rather than chains of reasoning and “facts” the historian employs his “tact” [really, a kind of Paterian "taste"] to “see” the big picture: how facts are composed into a destiny. Rather than compelling assent, the historian’s words are used to bring about a shared intuition.

I suppose Guénon and Co. would bristle at being lumped in with “poets” but I think the general point is helpful in understanding the “epistemology” of what Guénon is doing: not objective (but empty) fact-gathering but not merely aesthetic and “subjective” either, since metaphysically “seeing” the deeper connection can be “induced” by words and thus “shared.”

What Guénon, Evola, and Spengler seek to do deliberately, what Lovecraft did fictionally or even accidentally, what James’s mind was “too fine” to do at all, is to not see mere facts, or see a lot of them, or even see them very very intently, but to see through them and thus acquire metaphysical insight, and, through the method of obsessive accumulation of detail, share that insight by inducing it in others.


To do this one must be “penetrated” by the Idea, Guénon’s metaphysics, Evola’s historical cycles, Lovecraft’s Mythos, and allow it be be generated within oneself. Only then can you see.


“You are privileged to witness a great becoming. . . . Do you see? Do you see now?”

Speaking of “penetration,” one does note James’s obsession with “penetralia”; also one recalls the remarkable way Schuon brings out how in Christianity the Word is brought by Gabriel to Mary, who in mediaeval paintings is often shown with a stream of words penetrating her ear, thus conceiving virginally, while in Islam, Gabriel brings the Word to Muhammad, who recites (gives birth to) the Koran. Itself a wonderful example of the Traditional Method: moving freely among the material elements of various traditions to weave a pattern that re-creates an Idea in the mind of the listener. Do you see how Christianity and Islam relate? Do you see?

Finally, we should note that Lovecraft, for his own sake, did get in a preemptive shot at James:

In The Turn of the Screw, Henry James triumphs over his inevitable pomposity and prolixity sufficiently well to create a truly potent air of sinister menace; depicting the hideous influence of two dead and evil servants, Peter Quint and the governess, Miss Jessel, over a small boy and girl who had been under their care. James is perhaps too diffuse, too unctuously urbane, and too much addicted to subtleties of speech to realise fully all the wild and devastating horror in his situations; but for all that there is a rare and mounting tide of fright, culminating in the death of the little boy, which gives the novelette a permanent place in its special class.– Supernatural Horror in Literature, Chapter VIII.

Source: http://jamesjomeara.blogspot.com/

mercredi, 23 février 2011

"Le Camp des saints", une réalité en 2050?

 "Le camp des saints", une réalité en 2050?


Par Bruno de Cessole

Valeurs actuelles


Jean-Raspail-Le-camp-des-saints-couv-Edition-20111.jpgAssortie d'une préface inédite, la seconde réédition du roman prophétique de Jean Raspail s'inscrit au coeur des débats récents sur l'identité et le devenir de la France. 


Le 17 février 2001, un cargo vétuste s’échouait volontairement sur les rochers côtiers, non loin de Saint- Raphaël. À son bord, un millier d’immigrants kurdes, dont près de la moitié étaient des enfants. « Cette pointe rocheuse, écrit Jean Raspail au début de sa préface, faisait partie de mon paysage. Certes, ils n’étaient pas un million, ainsi que je les avais imaginés, à bord d’une armada hors d’âge, mais ils n’en avaient pas moins débarqué chez moi, en plein décor du Camp des saints, pour y jouer l’acte I. Le rapport radio de l’hélicoptère de la gendarmerie diffusé par l’AFP semble extrait, mot pour mot, des trois premiers paragraphes du livre. La presse souligna la coïncidence, laquelle apparut, à certains, et à moi, comme ne relevant pas du seul hasard. »


Dans le Critique en tant qu’artiste, Oscar Wilde avait soutenu et démontré, longtemps avant, que ce n’est pas la fiction qui imite la réalité, mais la réalité qui imite l’art. À preuve.


Depuis sa parution, en 1973, le Camp des saints n’a cessé de susciter la controverse et de conquérir de nouveaux lecteurs, de tous milieux, de toutes opinions, de tous âges, les un anonymes, les autres connus ou haut placés, de François Mitterrand à Raymond Barre, d’André Malraux à Maurice Schumann, de Robert Badinter à Jean Anouilh, de Jean-Pierre Chevènement à Lionel Jospin, d’Alfred Sauvy à Denis Olivennes et même de Samuel Huntington au président Ronald Reagan… Cette troisième édition élargira-t-elle encore son audience ? Tel est le souhait de l’auteur (lire notre entretien avec Jean Raspail), pour qui le livre n’a pas terminé sa mission : ouvrir les yeux des Français sur la désinformation qui gangrène la vie publique, désabuser les esprits crédules qui se sont laissé contaminer par un humanisme dévoyé. Et témoigner, bien sûr, pour la liberté de pensée et d’expression, qui, depuis trente-deux ans (loi Pleven), s’est singulièrement rétrécie.


À telle enseigne que ce roman, susceptible de poursuites judiciaires pour un minimum de 87 motifs, serait aujourd’hui impubliable en son état. Les lois n’étant pas encore rétroactives, Jean Raspail n’y a pas changé un iota. En revanche, il l’a fait précéder d’une longue préface (lire les extraits dans "Valeurs actuelles") qui, loin de tempérer le propos du livre, “aggrave son cas” en développant les conséquences probables de la situation exposée dans le roman.


L’intrigue est simple. Sur les côtes du midi de la France viennent s’échouer délibérément des centaines de navires en provenance du sous-continent indien. À leur bord, un million de déshérités fuyant la misère de leur pays d’origine, en quête de la Terre promise occidentale, de ses richesses gaspillées, de ses espaces sous-peuplés et de sa tradition d’hospitalité… Cette invasion pacifique, forte de sa faiblesse et de son nombre, a été encouragée et préparée par une poignée d’agitateurs : religieux idéalistes, philosophes athées, écrivains catholiques renégats, médecins missionnaires, moins animés par un humanisme perverti que par la mauvaise conscience occidentale, ce "sanglot de l’homme blanc" dénoncé naguère par Pascal Bruckner, le désir de repentance et, sur tout, le ressentiment, le nihilisme honteux du "dernier homme" jadis explicité par Nietzsche. Deux scènes primordiales du livre illustrent cette confrontation entre les ultimes et rares mainteneurs des va leurs occidentales et la troupe plus nombreuse des renégats.


En Inde, le consul de Belgique, qui a refusé d’augmenter les procédures d’adoption et qui, fidèle à ses convictions, mourra pour l’exemple en s’opposant symboliquement à la prise d’assaut des navires par la marée humaine, déclare à la poignée de manipulateurs occidentaux qui a mis en oeuvre cette immigration sauvage : « La pitié ! La déplorable, l’exécrable pitié, la haïssable pitié ! Vous l’appelez : charité, solidarité, conscience universelle, mais lorsque je vous regarde, je ne distingue en chacun de vous que le mépris de vous-mêmes et de ce que vous représentez. […] En pariant sur la sensibilité, que vous avez dévoyée, des braves gens de chez nous, en leur inculquant je ne sais quel remords pour plier la charité chrétienne à vos étranges volontés, en accablant nos classes moyennes prospères de complexes dégradants […], vous avez créé de toutes pièces au coeur de notre monde blanc un problème racial qui le détruira, et c’est là votre but. »


La seconde scène oppose un vieux professeur de français à la retraite, habitant un village de la côte, dans une maison appartenant à sa famille depuis trois siècles, et un jeune pillard européen venu accueillir sa famille d’élection : « Me voilà avec un million de frères, de sœurs, de pères, de mères et de fiancées. Je ferai un enfant à la première qui s’offrira, un enfant sombre, après quoi je ne me reconnaîtrai plus dans personne... » Au professeur qui s’efforce de comprendre ses motivations, il réplique : « Je vous hais. Et c’est chez vous que je conduirai les plus misérables, demain. Ils ne savent rien de ce que vous êtes, de ce que vous représentez. Votre univers n’a aucune signification pour eux. Ils ne chercheront pas à comprendre. […] Chacun de vos objets perdra le sens que vous lui attachiez, le beau ne sera plus le beau, l’utile deviendra dérisoire et l’inutile, absurde. Plus rien n’aura de valeur profonde. Cela va être formidable ! Foutez le camp ! »


Jean-Raspail-281p.jpgLe vieil homme rentre chez lui, en ressort avec un fusil et, avant de tirer sur l’intrus, justifie son acte : « Le monde qui est le mien ne vivra peut être pas au-delà de demain matin et j’ai l’intention de profiter intensément de ses derniers instants. […] Vous, vous n’êtes pas mon semblable. Vous êtes mon contraire. Je ne veux pas gâcher cette nuit essentielle en compagnie de mon contraire. Je vais donc vous tuer. » Un peu plus tard, le professeur rejoindra la dizaine de combattants qui auront choisi de renouveler Camerone et se feront tous enterrer sous les bombes d’une escadrille française, les plus hautes autorités du pays ayant capitulé devant l’invasion.


La véritable cible du livre : les “belles âmes” occidentales


Récit allégorique, « impétueux, furieux, tonique, presque joyeux dans sa détresse, mais sauvage, parfois brutal et révulsif » où il se tient des propos « consensuellement inadmissibles », de l’aveu de son auteur, le Camp des saints concentre en un jour un phénomène réparti sur des années. En aucune façon, cependant, il ne s’agit, comme de belles âmes l’ont clamé avec indignation, d’un livre raciste.


La véritable cible du roman, ce ne sont pas les hordes d’immigrants sauvages du tiers-monde, mais les élites, politiques, religieuses, médiatiques, intellectuelles, du pays qui, par lâcheté devant la faiblesse, trahissent leurs racines, leurs traditions et les valeurs de leur civilisation. En fourriers d’une apocalypse dont ils seront les premières victimes. Chantre des causes désespérées et des peuples en voie de disparition, comme son œuvre ultérieure en témoigne, Jean Raspail a, dans ce grand livre d’anticipation, incité non pas à la haine et à la discrimination, mais à la lucidité et au courage. Dans deux générations, on saura si la réalité avait imité la fiction.


Le Camp des saints, précédé de Big Other, de Jean Raspail, Robert Laffont, 392 pages, 22 €.


Source cliquez ici

samedi, 12 février 2011

Robert Brasillach au Théâtre du Nord Ouest (Paris)


mercredi, 09 février 2011

Ernst Jünger - Apostrophes 1981

Ernst Jünger - Apostrophes 1981

dimanche, 06 février 2011

Ernst Jünger in den Kreidegräben der Champagne

Ernst Jünger in den Kreidegräben der Champagne

mercredi, 02 février 2011

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters


Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Trevor LYNCH

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

Similar things happen in the United States too: an alienated, bookish radical right-winger takes up weight-lifting and martial arts, creates a private militia, dreams of overthrowing the government, then dies in a spectacular, suicidal, and apparently pointless confrontation with the state. In the United States, however, such people are easily dismissed as “kooks” and “losers.” However, when it happened in Japan, the protagonist, Yukio Mishima, was one of the nation’s most famous and respected novelists.

Director Paul Schrader’s 1985 movie, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, is an excellent introduction to Mishima’s life and work. It is by far the best movie about an artist I have ever seen. It is also surely the most sympathetic film portrayal of a figure who was essentially a fascist, maybe since Triumph of the Will.

Paul Schrader, of German Calvinist descent, is famous as the writer or co-writer of the screenplays of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Bringing Out the Dead. His other screenplays include Brian De Palma’s Obsession, Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, and his own American Gigolo. Other movies directed by Schrader include the remake of Cat People and the brilliant Auto Focus, a biopic about a very different sort of artist, Bob Crane. It is so creepy that I will never watch it again, even though it is a masterpiece.

Mishima, however, is Schrader’s best film. He also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Leonard. (The score, moreover, is the best thing ever written by Philip Glass.)

The narrative frame of the movie is Mishima’s last day, which is filmed in realistic color. The story of his life is told in black and white flashbacks, inter-cut with dramatizations of parts of three of Mishima’s novels, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House, and Runaway Horses, which are filmed on unrealistic stage sets in lavish Technicolor.

Yukio Mishima was a very, very, very sensitive child. Born Kimitake Hiraoke in 1925 to an upper middle class family with Samurai ancestry, he was taken from his mother by his grandmother, who kept him indoors, told him that he was physically fragile, prevented him from playing with other boys, and made him her factotum until she died when he was twelve. Then he returned to his parents.

Highly intelligent and convinced of his physical frailty, Mishima became bookish and introverted: a reader and a writer, a poet and a dreamer. He wrote his first short stories at age 12. Denied an outlet for healthy, boyish aggression, be became a masochist. He was also homosexual.

Imbued with Samurai tradition, he longed to fight in the Second World War and die for the emperor, but he was rejected as physically unfit for duty, a source of life-long self-reproach. He had a cold when he reported for his physical, and he later claimed that out of cowardice he exaggerated his symptoms so the doctor thought he had tuberculosis.

Mishima’s first book was published when he 19. He wrote at least 100 books—40 novels, 20 collections of short stories, 20 plays (including a screenplay and an opera libretto), and 20-odd book-length essays and collections of essays—before his death at age 45. He also dabbled in acting and directing.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Schrader’s dramatization of Mishima’s 1956 novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion focuses on the author’s Nietzschean exploration of the role of physiognomy and will to power in the origin of values. Nietzsche believed that all organisms have will to power, even sickly and botched ones. In the realm of values, will to power manifests itself particularly in a desire to think well of oneself. A healthy organism affirms itself by positing values that affirm its nature. The healthy affirm health, strength, beauty, and power. They despise the sickly, weak, and ugly.

But sickly organisms have will to power too. They affirm themselves by positing values based on their natures, values that cast them in a positive light and cast healthy organisms in a negative light. This is the origin of ascetic and “spiritual” values, as well as the Christian values of the Sermon on the Mount, which Nietzsche calls “slave morality.”

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is loosely based on the burning of the Reliquary (or Golden Pavilion) of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto by a deranged Buddhist acolyte in 1950. In Mishima’s story, the arson is committed by Mizoguchi, an acolyte afflicted with ugliness and a stutter. The acolyte recognizes the beauty of the Golden Pavilion, but also hates it, because its beauty magnifies his deformities.

Mizoguchi’s clubfooted friend Kashiwagi tries to teach Mizoguchi to use is disabilities to arouse women’s pity and exploit it to get sex. Kashiwagi can use his disability because he lacks pride and will to power. Mizoguchi, however, cannot enjoy beauty by means of self-abasement. He cannot own his imperfections. The vision of the Golden Pavilion prevents him. He can like himself only if the Golden Pavilion is destroyed, thus he sets it ablaze.

In Nietzsche’s terms, the destruction of the Golden Pavilion is an act of transvaluation. The beauty that oppresses Mizoguchi must be destroyed. For Nietzsche, this act of destruction serves to create a space for new values that will allow him to affirm his disability, just as the destruction of aristocratic values creates a space for slave morality.

Schrader includes this dramatization of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion to illustrate Mishima’s exploration of his own youthful nihilism. Short even by Japanese standards (5’1”), skinny, physically frail, Mishima envied and eroticized the bodies of healthier boys, an eroticism that Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask clearly indicates was tinged with masochistic self-hatred and sadistic fantasies of brutality and murder. (Mishima first became sexually aroused at a photograph of a painting of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian.)


The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, however, is a look backwards, at paths Mishima could understand but could not follow. Unlike Kashiwagi, Mishima could not own his physical imperfections. Unlike Mizoguchi, he could not annihilate the ideal of beauty to feel good about himself. This left Mishima with only one choice: to remake his body according to the ideal of physical beauty. Thus in 1955, Mishima started lifting weights, with impressive results. He also took up kendo and karate.

Mishima documented his physical transformation with a very un-Japanese exhibitionism. He posed frequently for photographers, producing a book, Ordeal by Roses (1963), in collaboration with photographer Eikoh Hosoe. Mishima also posed in Young Samurai: Bodybuilders of Japan and OTOKO: Photo Studies of the Young Japanese Male by Tamotsu Yatō. His acting work was also an extension of this exhibitionism, as was his dandyism. When he wasn’t posing nude or in a loincloth, his clothes were exclusively Western. He dressed up like James Bond and dressed down like James Dean.

In 1958, his body and self-confidence transformed, Mishima married Yoko Sugiyama. It was an arranged marriage. They had two children. (Among Mishima’s requirements for a wife was that she have no interest in his work and that she be shorter than him. As an indication of his social circles, Mishima had earlier considered Michiko Shōda as a possible bride. She went on to marry Crown Prince Akihito and is now Empress of Japan.)

In 1959, Mishima built a house in an entirely Western style. Following the Nietzschean principle that every authentic culture has an integrity and unity of style, Mishima rejected multiculturalism, including mixing Japanese and Western lifestyles. Since he could not live in an entirely Japanese house, he chose to live in an entirely Western one, where he could “sit on rococo furniture wearing Levis and an aloha shirt.”

Kyoko’s House

The second Mishima novel Schrader dramatizes is Kyoko’s House (1959), which cries out for an English translation. According to the literature, Kyoko’s House is an exploration of Mishima’s own psyche, aspects of which are concretized in the four main characters: a boxer, who represents Mishima’s new-found athleticism; a painter, who represents his creative side; a businessman, who lives an outwardly conventional life but rejects postwar Japanese society; and an actor, who represents his narcissism.

Schrader focuses only on the story of the actor, who takes up bodybuilding when humiliated by a gangster sent to intimidate his mother, who was in debt to loan-sharks. The moneylender turns out to be a woman. She offers to cancel the loan if the actor sells himself to her.

The narcissist, whose sense of reality is based on the impression he makes in the eyes of others, realizes that even his newly acquired muscles are not real to him. The realization comes when his lover, on a sadistic whim, cuts his skin with a razor. In physical pain, he finds a sense of reality otherwise unavailable due to his personality disorder. Their sexual relationship takes a sadomasochistic turn that culminates in a suicide pact—foreshadowing Mishima’s own end.

Having put so much of himself into Kyoko’s House, Mishima was deeply wounded by its commercial and critical failure. Schrader had first wanted to dramatize Mishima’s Forbidden Colors, his novel about Japan’s homosexual subculture, but Mishima’s widow refused permission. (She denied that Mishima had any homosexual proclivities.) But it is just as well. From what I can gather, Kyoko’s House is a far better novel than Forbidden Colors.

Schrader did not dramatize the story of the boxer in Kyoko’s House, but it also foreshadows Mishima’s life as well. After one of his hands is shattered in a fight, the boxer becomes involved in right-wing politics. Mishima makes it quite clear that the boxer’s political commitment is not based on ideology, but on a physically ruined man’s desire for an experience of self-transcendence and sublimity.

The businessman’s outlook is also important for understanding Mishima’s life and outlook. He thinks postwar Japan is a spiritual void in which prosperity, materialism, peace, and resolute amnesia about the war years have sapped life of authenticity, which requires that one face death, something that was omnipresent during the war.

Authenticity through awareness of death, pain as an encounter with reality, and right wing politics as a form of self-transcendence (or therapy): Kyoko’s House maps out the trajectory of the rest of Mishima’s life.

Mishima’s Political Turn

Mishima, like many Western right-wingers, saw tradition as a third way between capitalism and socialism, which are essentially identical in their materialistic ends and their scientific and technological means. He always had right-wing tendencies, but his writings in the 1940s and 1950s were absorbed (self-absorbed, truth be told) with personal moral and psychological issues.

Like many Japanese, however, Mishima became increasingly alarmed by the corruptions of postwar consumer society. He saw the Samurai tradition as an aristocratic alternative to massification, a spiritual alternative to materialism. He saw the Japanese military and the emperor as guardians of this tradition. But these guardians had already made too many compromises with modernity. Mishima was particularly critical of the emperor’s renunciation of divinity at the end of the Second World War. In his writings and actions in the last decade of his life, Mishima sought to call the emperor and the military back to their mission as guardians of Japanese tradition.

In the fall of 1960, Mishima wrote “Patriotism,” a short story about the aftermath of the “Ni Ni Roku Incident” of February 1936, an attempted coup d’état by junior officers of the Imperial Army who assassinated several political leaders. The officers wished the government to address widespread poverty caused by the world-wide Great Depression. The coup was cast as an attempt to restore the absolute power of the emperor, but he regarded it as a rebellion and ordered it crushed.

Mishima’s story focuses on Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama and his young wife, Reiko. The Lieutenant did not take part in the coup but was friends with the participants. He is ordered to help suppress it. Torn between loyalty to the emperor and loyalty to his friends, he chooses to commit suicide by self-disembowelment after a night of love-making. Reiko joins him in death.

Mishima published “Patriotism” in 1961. In 1965, he directed and starred in 28-minute film adaptation which he first released in France. The film of Patriotism is erotic, chilling, and cringe-inducingly graphic (people regularly fainted when they saw it in theaters). In retrospect, it seems like merely a rehearsal for Mishima’s eventual suicide. The music, fittingly, is the Liebestod (Love-Death) from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Mishima’s widow locked up the film after her husband’s death. After her death, it was released on DVD by the Criterion Collection. (Mishima also committed suicide on screen in Hideo Gosha’s 1969 film Tenchu!)

Schrader shows bits of the filming of Patriotism and also dramatizes a very similar episode from Runaway Horses (1969), the second volume of Mishima’s The Sea of Fertility quartet (1968–1970). The Sea of Fertility is a panorama of Japan’s traumatic crash course in modernization, spanning the years 1912 to 1975, narrating the life of Shigekuni Honda, who becomes a wealthy and widely-traveled jurist.

Runaway Horses, set in 1932–1933, is the story of Isao Iinuma, a right-wing student who seeks the alliance of the military to plot a rebellion in 1932. The goal is to topple capitalism and restore absolute Imperial rule by simultaneously assassinating the heads of industry and the government and torching the Bank of Japan. The plot is foiled, but when Isao is released from prison, he carries out his part of the mission anyway, assassinating his target. The assassination, of course, is politically futile, but Isao feels honor-bound to carry out his mission. He then commits hari-kiri.

Isao’s plot is clearly based on the Ni Ni Roku Incident of 1936. The novel also tells the story of the Samurai insurrection in Kunamoto in 1876. But it would be a mistake to conclude that Mishima put his hope in a successful military coup as the most likely path to a renewal of Japanese tradition. Mishima’s focus was on the ritual suicides of the defeated rebels.

The Way of the Samurai

Japan had 300 years of peace under the Tokugawa Shogunate. Conflict had been outlawed; history in the Hegelian sense had been ended. Yet the arts and culture flourished, and the Japanese had not been reduced to a mass of dehumanized and degraded producer-consumers. The cause of this was the persistence of the Samurai ethic.

The Samurai, of course, like all aristocrats, prefer death to dishonor, and when prevented from demonstrating this on the battlefield, they demonstrated it instead through ritual suicide. They also demonstrated their contempt of material necessity through the cultivation of luxury and refinement. The cultural supremacy of the ideal of the honor suicide served as a bulwark protecting high culture against degeneration into bourgeois consumer culture, which springs from an opposing hierarchy of values that prizes life, comfort, and security over honor.

Mishima’s cultural-political project makes the most sense if we view it not as an attempt to return to militarism, but as an attempt to uphold or revive the Samurai ethic in postwar Japan so that it could play the same conservative role as it did under the 300-year peace of the Shogunate. (Mishima’s outlook would then be very similar to that of Alexandre Kojève, who in his Introduction to the Reading of Hegel claimed that Japan under the Shogunate showed how we might retain our humanity at the end of history through an aristocratic culture that rested on the cultural ideal of a “purely gratuitous suicide.”)

Mishima produced a spate of political books and essays in the 1960s, most of which have remained untranslated. Two of the most important, however, are available in English. In 1967, Mishima published The Way of the Samurai, his commentary on the Hagakure (literally, In the Shadow of the Leaves), a handbook authored by the 18th-century Samurai Tsunetomo Yamamoto. In 1968, Mishima published Sun and Steel, an autobiographical essay about bodybuilding, martial arts, and the relationship of thought and action which also discusses ritual suicide. (In 1968, Mishima also published a play, My Friend Hitler, about the Röhm purge of 1934. He was coy about his true feelings toward Hitler. In truth, he was more a Mussolini man.)

Mishima the Activist

But Mishima did more than write about action. He acted. In 1967, Mishima enlisted in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) and underwent basic training. In 1968, Mishima formed the Tatenokai (Shield Society—Mishima was pleased that the English initials were SS), a private militia composed primarily of right-wing university students who studied martial arts and swore to protect Japanese tradition against the forces of modernization, left or right.

In 1968 and 1969, when leftist student agitators had the universities in chaos, Mishima participated in debates and teach-ins, criticizing Marxism and arguing that Japanese nationalism, symbolized by loyalty to the Emperor, should come before all other political commitments.

On November 25, 1970, after a year of planning, Mishima and four members of the Shield Society visited the Icigaya Barracks of the Japanese Self-Defense force and took the commander hostage. Mishima demanded that the troops be assembled so he could address them. He had alerted the press in advance. He stepped out onto a balcony in his uniform to harangue the assembled troops, calling them to reject American imposed materialism and to return to the role of guardians of Japanese tradition.


The speech was largely drowned out by circling helicopters, and the soldiers jeered. Mishima returned to the commander’s office, where he and one of his followers, Masakatsu Morita, committed seppuku, a ritual suicide involving self-disembowelment with a dagger followed by decapitation with a sword wielded by one’s second.

Mishima’s stunt is often referred to as a “coup-attempt,” but this is stupid. Mishima had been talking about, writing about, rehearsing, and preparing for suicide for years. He had no intention of surviving, much less taking power. His death was an attempt to inspire a revival of Samurai tradition. In Samurai fashion, he wanted a death that mattered, a death of his choosing, a death that he staged with consummate dramatic skill.

Mishima also wished to avoid the decay of old age. Having come to physical health so late in life, he had no intention of experiencing its progressive loss. (His last novel, The Decay of the Angel, paints a very bleak portrait of old age.)

Schrader’s depiction of Mishima’s suicide is far less graphic than Patriotism but every bit as powerful. He saves the climaxes of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House, and Runaway Horses to the very end, inter-cutting them with Mishima’s own suicide, to shattering effect.

This is a great movie, which will leave a lasting impression.

Mishima’s Legacy

In the end, though, what did Mishima’s death mean? What did it matter? What did it accomplish?

It would be all too easy to dismiss Mishima as a neurotic and a narcissist who engaged in politics as a kind of therapy. Right wing politics is crawling with such people (none of them with Mishima’s talents, unfortunately), and we would be better off without them. If a white equivalent of Mishima wished to write for Counter-Currents/North American New Right, we would welcome his work (as we would welcome translations of Mishima’s works!). But we would also keep him at arm’s length. Such people should be locked in a room with a computer and fed through a slot in the door. They should not be put in positions of trust and responsibility.

But Mishima is safely dead, and the meaning of his death cannot be measured in terms of crass political “deliverables.” Indeed, it is a repudiation of the whole calculus of interests that lies at the foundation of modern politics.

Modern politics is based on the idea that a long and comfortable life is the highest value, to be purchased even at the price of our dignity. Aristocratic politics is based on the idea that honor is the highest value, to be purchased even at the price of our lives.

The spiritual aristocrat, therefore, must be ready to die; he must conquer his fear of death; he even must come to love death, for his ability to choose death before dishonor is what raises him above being a mere clever animal. It is what makes him a free man, a natural master rather than a natural slave. It is ultimately the foundation of all forms of higher culture, which involve the rejection or subordination and stylization of merely animal desire.

A natural slave is someone who is willing to give up his honor to save his life. Thus modern politics, which exalts the long and prosperous life as the highest value, is a form of spiritual slavery, even if the external controls are merely soft commercial and political incentives rather than chains and cages.

Thus Mishima’s eroticization of death is not a mental illness needing medication. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima became free to lead his life, to take risks other men would not have taken. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima could preserve his honor from the compromises of commerce and politics and the ravages of old age. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima entered into the realm of freedom that is the basis of all high culture. By ceasing to fear death, Mishima struck a death-blow at the foundations of the modern world.

In my review of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I argued that the Joker is Hollywood’s image of a man who is totally free from modern society because he has fundamentally rejected its ruling values—by overcoming the fear of death. An army of such men could bring down the modern world.

Well, Yukio Mishima was a real example of such a man. And, as usual, the truth is stranger than fiction.


In my reviews of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I argued that somebody in Hollywood and the comic book/graphic novel industry must be reading up on Traditionalism, for the super-villains in these movies can be seen as Traditionalists. Since Traditionalism is the most fundamental rejection of the modern world, weaponized Traditionalists make the most dramatically potent foils for liberal, democratic, humanistic superheroes like Hellboy and Batman.

Well, shortly after I wrote that, Savitri Devi’s Impeachment of Man was ordered by someone at one of the major comics companies.

I can see it all now. Somewhere down the line, Hellboy will be squaring off against the Cat Lady of Calcutta and her fleet of Zündelsaucers, and Batman will face his new arch-nemesis . . . a five-foot Samurai with spindly legs in tights.

lundi, 31 janvier 2011

Céline, toujours...

Céline, toujours...

Le Magazine Littéraire du mois de février 2011 consacre son dossier à... Céline !

On y trouvera notamment des articles de David Alliot, d'Yves Pagès, de Maxime Rovere ou de Pascal Ifri, universitaire américain par ailleurs spécialiste de Rebatet.

On pourra aussi lire un entretien avec Céline datant de 1958 et consacré à Rabelais, ainsi qu'un chapitre non paru de Féérie pour une autre fois. 

Céline magazine littéraire.jpg

samedi, 29 janvier 2011

D. H. Lawrence on America

D. H. Lawrence on America


Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

LAW1.jpgI have contributed several essays to Counter-Currents dealing with D. H. Lawrence’s critique of modernity. Those essays might lead the reader to believe that Lawrence treats modernity as a universal ideology or worldview that could be found anywhere.

However, in many of his writings Lawrence treats modernity as, in effect, a spiritual disease that specifically afflicts white, northern Europeans. Everything I have said in other essays about the modern overemphasis on the “spiritual sympathetic centres” and how we starve the “lower centres” in favor of the upper, or how love and benevolence are our undoing, Lawrence usually frames in explicitly racial terms. Modernity, in other words, is the condition of white, Northern European peoples, the peoples who initiated modernity in the first place.

In a letter from October 8, 1924, when he was living in New Mexico, Lawrence writes: “I loathe winter. They gas about the Nordic races, over here, but I believe they’re dead, dead, dead. I hate all that comes from the north.” Like Nietzsche, Lawrence does not lament the “death” (or decline) of the Nordic races. He merely observes it. Nor, generally speaking, does he fall into the common error of romanticizing other races. (However, he does on occasion contrast “northern” to “southern” culture, usually to the detriment of the former.)

In Women in Love, Gerald Crich represents the white race in general; his life is an allegory of what Lawrence believes is wrong with the “northern people,” and his death symbolizes what Lawrence regarded as their degeneration. Early in the novel, Gudrun Brangwen reacts to him:

There was something northern about him that magnetised her. In his clear northern flesh and his fair hair was a glisten like sunshine refracted through crystals of ice. And he looked so new, unbroached, pure as an arctic thing. . . . “His totem is the wolf,” she repeated to herself.

Later in the novel, Birkin reflects on Gerald: “He was one of these strange white wonderful demons of the north, fulfilled in the destructive frost mystery. And was he fated to pass away in this knowledge, this one process of frost-knowledge, death by perfect cold?”

Like Gerald’s, the end of the white race shall be an ice death: a death brought about by cold ideals and abstractions; a cutting off from the source, from the life mystery. “The white races, having the Arctic north behind them, the vast abstraction of ice and snow, would fulfill a mystery of ice-destructive knowledge, snow-abstract annihilation.” It is a self-destruction, just as Gerald’s death is self-destruction.

The Great Death Continent

Though the process of snow-abstract annihilation began in Northern Europe, for Lawrence the “epicenter” of the process has shifted to North America. Lawrence’s most dramatic statement of this occurs in one of his last books, The Plumed Serpent, in a passage so important that I shall quote it at length:

Was that the clue to America, she sometimes wondered. Was it the great death-continent, the continent that destroyed again what the other continents had built up? The continent whose spirit of place fought purely to pick the eyes out of the face of God? Was that America? . . .

And did this account for the great drift to the New World, the drift of spent souls passing over to the side of godless democracy, energetic negation? The negation which is the life-breath of materialism.—And would the great negative pull of the Americas at last break the heart of the world? . . .

White men had had a soul, and lost it. The pivot of fire had been quenched in them, and their lives had started to spin in the reversed direction, widdershins [counterclockwise]. That reversed look which is in the eyes of so many white people, the look of nullity, and life wheeling in the reversed direction. Widdershins. . . .

And all the efforts of white men to bring the soul of the dark men of Mexico into final clenched being has resulted in nothing but the collapse of the white men. Against the soft, dark flow of the Indian the white man at last collapses, with his god and his energy he collapses. In attempting to convert the dark man to the white man’s way of life, the white man has fallen helplessly down the hole he wanted to fill up. Seeking to save another man’s soul, the white man lost his own, and collapsed upon himself.

There is much to digest in this passage. Lawrence is suggesting that America (by which he means North America, including Mexico and Canada) acts as a vast engine of negation, wiping away or adulterating all human characteristics and all human distinctions that are “natural,” and doing so in the name of the Ideals of democracy and materialism (i.e., commerce).

Second, Lawrence is suggesting that the soul of the “dark man” is fundamentally different from that of the white man (a point he makes again and again in the Mexican writings) and that the white man’s soul has not been shifted to the “upper centres,” or knocked widdershins and out of touch with the life mystery. Therefore, all the efforts by the white man to “civilize” the dark man are in vain and it is the latter that will in fact win the day, because in some primal sense he is “stronger.” America, in short, is the continent of nihilism; the lead actor in the final drama of white, western civilization, the Ragnarok.

One of Lawrence’s heresies is to believe in essential national and racial characters. Culture, for Lawrence, flows from natural differences between human beings—and this means that humans are not fundamentally malleable and interchangeable; certain cultures simply cannot be fitted to certain people. Nevertheless, Lawrence does not believe in any doctrine of racial superiority. (The references that Lawrence makes from time to time to an “Aryan race” and, more narrowly, to the “Nordic” type may raise eyebrows today, but such terminology was common for the time.)

The Studies in Classical American Literature

Much of Studies in Classical American Literature (1923) is devoted to developing these points. This book—one of Lawrence’s most entertaining—is misleadingly titled for it is really not so much about American literature as it is about America itself. Note that in the quote above from The Plumed Serpent Lawrence refers to America as the continent “whose spirit of place fought purely to pick the eyes out of the face of God.”

The first essay in Studies is entitled “The Spirit of Place,” Lawrence explains this term as follows:

Every continent has its own great spirit of place. Every people is polarized in some particular locality, which is home, the homeland. Different places on the face of the earth have different vital effluence, different vibration, different chemical exhalation, different polarity with different stars; call it what you like. But the spirit of place is a great reality.

America’s spirit of place, Lawrence tell us, is one which draws men who want to “get away” and to be masterless. It is the land of those drawn to a kind of negative freedom: not the freedom actually to be something, but, in essence, the freedom to not have to be anything at all, and especially not to be subject to another’s will. But as Hegel recognized this negative freedom—freedom to say no—does not translate into any positive sort of freedom at all. True freedom, Lawrence states, only comes about through finding something you “positively want to be.” Americans, on the other hand, “have always been shouting about the things they are not. Unless, of course, they are millionaires, made or in the making.”

The spirit of America, for Lawrence, thus begins to resemble very much the spirit of Gudrun Brangwen in Women in Love: negation; a fierce desire really to be nothing at all. This is American “freedom.” America is the land where the white race has gone to die, and to literally kill all its old forms: its traditions, customs, blood-ties, myths and folktales, morality, religion, high culture, even its memory of its past.

America is the land where men have come to free themselves of everything in life that is unchosen, especially when the unchosen is the natural. Again, there is a break from the primal self or true unconscious and a shift to life lived entirely from the Ideal “upper centres.” Lawrence writes, “The American has got to destroy. It is his destiny. It is his destiny to destroy the whole corpus of the white psyche, the white consciousness. And he’s got to do it secretly. As the growing of a dragon-fly inside a chrysalis or cocoon destroys the larva grub, secretly.”

The self-destruction of the white man takes place secretly, marching under the banner of the Ideal. America is the land where all the old forms are destroyed in the name of “Freedom,” “Democracy,” and, above all else, “Progress”:

Destroy! Destroy! Destroy! Hums the under-consciousness [of Americans]. Love and produce! Love and produce! cackles the upper-consciousness. And the world hears only the Love-and-produce cackle. Refuses to hear the hum of destruction underneath. Until such time as it will have to hear.

The cause of Liberty in Europe, Lawrence tells us, was something vital and life-giving. But he detects in American icons like Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson something strident, cold, and life-killing in their appeals to Democracy. American democracy, Lawrence claims, is at root a kind of “self-murder”; that is, when it is not “murdering somebody else.”

Lawrence’s analyses of American literature basically consist in showing how these American tendencies play themselves out in authors like Franklin, Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Whitman, and others. Whitman—an author with whom Lawrence had a love-hate relationship—gets by far the roughest treatment:

ONE DIRECTION! toots Walt in the car, whizzing along [in] it. . . .

ONE DIRECTION! whoops America, and sets off also in an automobile.

ALLNESS! shrieks Walt at a cross-road, going whizz over an unwary Red Indian.

ONE IDENTITY! chants democratic En Masse, pelting behind in motor-cars, oblivious of the corpses under the wheels.

law2.jpgIt is Lawrence’s analysis of Melville’s Moby Dick, however, that is perhaps his most incisive. He sees in this simple story an encapsulation of the American spirit, the American thanatos itself. Here is Lawrence summing up his interpretation:

What then is Moby Dick? He is the deepest blood-being of the white race; he is our deepest blood-nature.

And he is hunted, hunted, hunted by the maniacal fanaticism of our white mental consciousness. We want to hunt him down. To subject him to our will. And in this maniacal conscious hunt of ourselves we get dark races and pale to help us, red, yellow, and black, east and west, Quaker and fire-worshipper, we get them all to help us in this ghastly maniacal hunt which is our doom and our suicide.

The last phallic being of the white man. Hunted into the death of the upper consciousness and the ideal will. Our blood-self subjected to our will. Our blood-consciousness sapped by a parasitic mental or ideal consciousness.

When a people loses a sense of blood-relatedness, what basis is there for community? American community is not based on blood ties, shared history, shared religion, or shared culture: it is based on ideology. He who professes the American creed is an American—he who does not is an outcast.

The American creed is based principally on a belief in freedom, equality, and Progress. For Lawrence, the first of these is (in its American form) empty, and the other two are a lie. American equality is a lie because in fact people are not equal, and virtually everyone realizes this in their heart of hearts.

American ethics requires, however, that everyone pay lip service to the idea that no one is, or can be, fundamentally better than anyone else. This is one of the country’s core beliefs. In fact, Lawrence points out that this is so fundamental to being an American that Americans are terrified lest they somehow let on to their fellow countryman that they really don’t believe that everyone is equal, or that all opinions are equally valid and valuable. They are afraid of seeming “judgmental,” and they parrot an absurd relativism in order to be seen by others as “tolerant.” Lawrence writes of America, “I have never been in a country where the individual has such an abject fear of his fellow countrymen. Because, as I say, they are free to lynch the moment he shows he is not one of them.”

Essentially the same point was made by Alexis de Tocqueville. In his Democracy in America, Tocqueville includes a section titled “The Power Exercised by the Majority in America over Thought,” and writes as follows:

I know no country in which, speaking generally, there is less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America. . . . In America the majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it. . . . Before he goes into print, he believes he has supporters; but he feels that he has them no more once he stands revealed to all, for those who condemn him express their views loudly, while those who think as he does, but without his courage, retreat into silence as if ashamed of having told the truth. . . . Hence the majority lives in a state of perpetual self-adoration; only strangers or experience may be able to bring certain truths to the Americans’ attention. (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. George Lawrence [New York: Doubleday, 1969], 254–55)

A creedal state such as America is as intolerant as a creedal religion. A Jew who does not believe in the Exodus story does not cease thereby to be a Jew, since being Jewish is an ethnic as well as a religious identification. Similarly, Hinduism (another ethnic religion) tolerates and subsumes a vast number of doctrines and differences of emphasis. (It is even possible, in a certain sense, to be an atheist Hindu.) Christianity and Islam, however, are creedal religions and therefore much less tolerant of doctrinal deviations. One can stop being a Christian or a Muslim—immediately—by believing or not believing certain things.

America early on divided itself into ethnic communities—the English, the Germans, the Irish, etc. A genuine spirit of community existed within these groups, in virtue of their blood ties and shared history, culture, and religion. But gradually these communities mixed and lost their unique identities. The creed of “Americanism” was the only thing that then arose as something that was supposed to bind people together. But since Americanism consists mostly of the recognition of negative liberties, how effective could it be at creating community? The result is that Americans became increasingly alienated from each other.

In his Preface to Edward Dahlberg’s Bottom Dogs (1929) Lawrence speaks of the breakdown in America of “blood-sympathy” and argues that it is responsible for a seldom-discussed facet of the American character, one which Europeans find particularly strange and amusing: the American pre-occupation with hygiene and super-cleanliness:

Once the blood-sympathy breaks . . . human beings become secretly intensely repulsive to one another, physically, and sympathetic only mentally and spiritually. The secret physical repulsion between people is responsible for the perfection of American “plumbing,” American sanitation, and American kitchens, utterly white-enamelled and antiseptic. It is revealed in the awful advertisements such as those about “halitosis,” or bad breath. It is responsible for the American nausea at coughing, spitting, or any of those things. The American townships don’t mind hideous litter of tin cans and broken rubbish. But they go crazy at the sight of human excrement.

With the blood-sympathy broken, Americans seek as much as possible to isolate themselves from their fellow citizens, who they fear and find repulsive. In his essay “Men Must Work and Women as Well,” Lawrence writes presciently of how technology serves to abstract us from human relationships: “The film, the radio, the gramophone were all invented because physical effort and physical contact have become repulsive to us.”

The radio and the gramophone brought individuals and families indoors and isolated them in their individual dwellings. No longer did they sit on their front porches and converse with their neighbors. The rise of the automobile contributed to this as well. Front porches were built for the cleaner, slower paced horse-and-buggy days. Sitting on the front porch was no longer so attractive when it meant being subjected to the noise and exhaust of automobiles whizzing by. Architecture began to reflect this change in the early part of the twentieth century, with designs for new houses sometimes eliminating the front porch altogether, and often with entrances concealed from view.

In the early days of the radio and the gramophone, only some families owned them, and they would often invite the neighbors in to listen to the gramophone or to the radio. This was also the case in the early days of television. But as these technologies became cheaper, just about every family acquired them and instead of facilitating social interaction they came to positively inhibit it. One can see this same phenomenon playing itself out in an even more radical way in the age of personal computers. It is now quite common for many Americans to live almost completely isolated lives, interacting with others via the Internet and carrying on “virtual relationships.”

Progressively, the lives of Americans became denuded of most of the features that have made life worth living throughout human history: community, extended family relations, participation in rituals, customs, traditions, remembrance of the past through shared stories, and the transmission of folk wisdom through myths, fables, and songs. The lives of most Americans became entirely dominated by the concerns of what Hegel called bürgerliche Gesellschaft, or “bourgeois society”: the realm of commerce.

“Getting ahead” becomes the primary concern in life, and all else—all the products of High Culture and most of the simple pleasures of life—become distractions, impracticalities. In his essay “Europe v. America,” Lawrence writes that “the American grips himself, at the very sources of his consciousness, in a grip of care: and then, to so much of the rest of life, is indifferent. Whereas the European hasn’t got so much care in him, so he cares much more for life and living.”

This is the secret to much of the inadequacy that Americans still feel when in Europe or in European company. Partly it is the (usually correct) sense that Europeans are better educated. But it is also the sense that these people have mastered the art of life. Life for most Americans is a problem to be solved, something we will eventually be able to do better than the Old World, thanks to the marriage of commerce and science.

Hence the tendency of Americans to believe anything that is asserted by scientists and medical men, no matter how ridiculous and ill-founded, and to distrust all that comes from tradition and “the past.” As witness the bizarre American reliance on “self-help books” and “how-to” manuals, even on such subjects as making friends or raising children. Americans are aware that these things were done in the past, without manuals, but believe that “experts” can teach us how to do them better than they have ever been done before.

While we wait for science to tell us how to live, life slips by. As Lawrence writes in a letter, “They can’t trust life until they can control it. So much for them—cowards! You can have the Land of the Free, as much as I know of it.”

Perhaps Lawrence’s most eloquent and succinct summation of the difference between the New World and the Old comes is the following line from “Europe v. America”: “The Europeans still have a vague idea that the universe is greater than they are, and isn’t going to change very radically, not for all the telling of all men put together.”

With life narrowed to the concerns of “getting ahead,” and natural human sympathies submerged or obliterated, Americans began to see each other more and more merely as objects: as consumers, or competitors, or employees, or bosses, but seldom as flesh and blood human beings. Thus we find the terrible American record of exploitation of the workers; frauds committed against the consumers, often at the expense of their health or even their lives; the devastation of communities wrought by the dumping of industrial waste; and the dumping of armies of workers in massive “layoffs.”

Heidegger was right: in its disregard for human life, American capitalism reveals itself as metaphysically identical to communism. And like communism, it tramples human life in the name of Progress. In its paper-thin idealism, its inhumanity, its self-destructiveness, and in its uncertainty of exactly what it is or should be, America is Women in Love’s Gerald Crich made real on a vast scale. Or, rather, Gerald Crich—coupled with the nihilism of Gudrun Brangwen—is the spirit of America. (Remember, those two are a couple: they complement one another. See my essay on Women in Love.)

The spirit of America—at once nihilism and “benevolent” idealism—can be seen very clearly in how it has treated other peoples both on its own soil and abroad. Earlier we saw in The Plumed Serpent Lawrence commenting on the white man’s attempt to “civilize” the “dark men.” Why do Americans feel that they must bend others to their way of life? American universalism leads to the belief that inside every foreigner is an American just screaming to get out.

Americans are like fresh converts to a religion, who feel that they have to convert all their friends—subconsciously in order to reassure themselves that they have made a sound choice. Americans have given up so much that was once thought to be essential to life and to community—so they simply must be right; others must find their way the most desirable way. If they do not, then they are ignorant and don’t know what’s good for them; or their governments have prevented them from seeing the truth.

Americans have been converting foreigners into Americans for a long time now, through exporting their consumer culture (irresistibly appealing to the baser elements in all peoples), and through less peaceable means.

On their own soil, white Americans have also tried to convert the “dark man” to Americanism. In his essay “Certain Americans and an Englishman,”  Lawrence speaks of Americans trying to turn the Red Man into a “wage earner.” This can be done, up to a point, but at the price of the Red Man sacrificing his soul. But ultimately Lawrence believes there can be no true harmony between different races, because they are so different, and that the attempts of white men to create “multicultural societies” will end in the destruction of the whites (an outcome he does not particularly lament).

Writing of Hector St. John de Crèvecouer in Studies, Lawrence states that he only wanted to know the Red Man in his head, abstractly because “he must have suspected that the moment he saw as the savages saw, all his fraternity and equality would go up in smoke, and his ideal world of pure sweet goodness along with it.” Later on in Studies, Lawrence writes that “The Red Man and the White Man are not blood-brothers: even when they are most friendly. When they are most friendly, it is as a rule the one betraying his race-spirit to the other.”

Lawrence’s views on America are apocalyptic. He sees no hope for the country, and seems to believe that it will drag the rest of the white world down with it. What, then, are we to make of these extreme views? Much of what Lawrence has to say about the emptiness of American ideals, and the emptiness of American lives, presages arguments that would be made by numerous social critics years later, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. I am thinking of such writers as Erich Fromm, Wilhelm Reich, Christopher Lasch, and Daniel Bell. Much of what he has to say would strike any Leftist as uncontroversial.

But once again Lawrence shows himself to be a kind of political hybrid, for his remarks on race, his opposition to the ideal of equality, and his opposition to multiculturalism seem to put him, by today’s standards, on the extreme right. Of course, contrary to what many Leftists might think, simply to point this out does not serve to refute Lawrence. Nor is it entirely convincing to accuse him of inconsistency: perhaps it is today’s Leftists and Rightists who are confused. And there is some plausibility to this suggestion.

For example, leftists today advocate both multiculturalism and “diversity,” which they tend to equate. But it is hard to see how the latter can be preserved if the former is achieved. In other words, inevitably a multicultural society would lead to the blending of peoples and the blending and watering-down of cultures, thus potentially destroying diversity rather than maintaining it. Lawrence challenges us to critique our own views, and to question their consistency—and their sanity.

There is no easy, ready-to-hand answer to Lawrence’s charges—about America in particular, or modernity in general. They strike at the heart of what is believed by most people in the West today. Whatever else one may say about his views, it is striking how their capacity to shock and to challenge us has only increased over the years.

vendredi, 28 janvier 2011

D. H. Lawrence's "Women in Love": Anti-Modernism in Literature

D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love :
Anti-Modernism in Literature

Derek Hawthorne

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

L2.jpgD. H. Lawrence’s greatest novel is also his most anti-modern. Written between April and October of 1916 in Cornwall, during some of the darkest days of the First World War, Women in Love was conceived as a sequel to The Rainbow. (Both novels were brilliantly filmed by Ken Russell.) Women in Love continues the story of Ursula Brangwen’s life, and the fulfillment she finds in a love affair with Rupert Birkin (who does not figure in The Rainbow at all). This relationship is, in fact, paired with another: that of Gudrun, Ursula’s sister (a very minor character in The Rainbow), and Gerald Crich, Birkin’s best friend. The novel follows the course of both relationships.

The connection between the two novels seems a tenuous one at best, however, and one can read and appreciate Women in Love without any knowledge at all of The Rainbow. This has a great deal to do with the dramatic difference in tone between the two. In a letter, Lawrence described the relationship between the two novels as follows: “There is another novel, sequel to The Rainbow, called Women in Love . . . this actually does contain the results in one’s soul of the war; it is purely destructive, not like The Rainbow, destructive-consummating.”

Women in Love is indeed “purely destructive”: it is grimly apocalyptic and misanthropic. There is little sense of the presence of nature this time: the novel moves almost entirely within the conscious and (more importantly) subconscious minds of its four main characters. And the backdrop is the ugly, human–built mechanicalness of the industrialized Midlands. It is easy to attribute the change in tone between the two novels as due to Lawrence’s horror at the war (“The war finished me,” he later said).

But one must not lose sight of the fact that the two novels do, in fact, tell one continuous story, and that the switch in tone is appropriate to what the second half of the story depicts: the fragmentary lives of individuals struggling to find fulfillment in the modern world. In his “Foreword” to the novel Lawrence wrote that it “took its final shape in the midst of the period of war, though it does not concern the war itself. I should wish the time to remain unfixed, so that the bitterness of the war may be taken for granted in the characters.” For Lawrence, as for Heidegger, the war was ultimately just an inevitable extension of the industrial age itself.

At the beginning of the story, Birkin is involved in an unhappy love affair with Hermione Roddice, the daughter of an aristocrat and a thinly-disguised portrait of Lady Ottoline Morrell. Birkin is already acquainted with Ursula professionally, as he is the local school inspector and she the school mistress. After they are brought closer together and love begins to grow between them, Birkin abandons Hermione. The memorable episode that precipitates the final break between them involves Hermione trying to bludgeon him to death with a lapis lazuli paperweight.

However, Birkin’s relationship with Ursula is, from the first, difficult in its own way. Much of the reason has to do with Birkin’s misanthropy and Schopenhauerian pessimism. At some level, Ursula sympathizes with Birkin’s views, but she is put off by his extraordinary vehemence, and, more importantly, seems to feel that if he would admit his love for her and fully surrender himself to their relationship he would be freed from his all-consuming hatred of the world. She is carrying on with life, in spite of everything, and eventually she succeeds in drawing him back into life.

The character of Rupert Birkin is universally acknowledged to be a self-portrait of Lawrence, though it would be dangerous to assume that Lawrence has no critical distance from the character (or from himself, for that matter). Nevertheless, Birkin often speaks for Lawrence. Early in the novel Birkin declares that it would be much better if humanity “were just wiped out. Essentially they don’t exist, they aren’t there.” Later, in conversation with Ursula, Birkin declares:

“Humanity is a huge aggregate lie, and a huge lie is less than a small truth. Humanity is less, far less than the individual, because the individual may sometimes be capable of truth, and humanity is a tree of lies. And they say that love is the greatest thing: they persist in saying this, the foul liars, and just look at what they do! . . . It’s a lie to say that love is the greatest. . . . What people want is hate—hate and nothing but hate. And in the name of righteousness and love they get it. . . . If we want hate, let us have it—death, murder, torture, violent destruction—let us have it: but not in the name of love. But I abhor humanity, I wish it was swept away. It could go, and there would be no absolute loss, if every human being perished tomorrow. . . .”

“So you’d like everybody in the world destroyed?” said Ursula. . . .

“Yes truly. You yourself, don’t you find it a beautiful clean thought, a world empty of people, just uninterrupted grass, and a hare sitting up?”

The pleasant sincerity of his voice made Ursula pause to consider her own proposition. And it really was attractive: a clean, lovely, humanless world. It was the really desirable. Her heart hesitated and exulted. But still, she was dissatisfied with him.

If anything, in his own correspondence Lawrence goes further than Birkin. In a letter to his friend S. S. Koteliansky, dated September 4, 1916, while Lawrence was working on Women in Love, he declares:

I must say I hate mankind—talking of hatred, I have got a perfect androphobia. When I see people in the distance, walking along the path through the fields to Zennor, I want to crouch in the bushes and shoot them silently with invisible arrows of death. I think truly the only righteousness is the destruction of mankind, as in Sodom. . . . Oh, if one could but have a great box of insect powder, and shake it over them, in the heavens, and exterminate them. Only to clear and cleanse and purify the beautiful earth, and give room for some truth and pure living.

Where Women in Love is most interesting, however, is not in such outpourings of venom, but in Lawrence’s attempts to pinpoint why things have gone so disastrously wrong in the modern world. As have many other authors, Lawrence places a great deal of weight on the materialism and mechanism of industrialized modernity. Another, later, exchange between Birkin and Ursula is particularly revealing in this regard. The pair have just bought a chair at a flea market and Birkin states:

“When I see that clear, beautiful chair, and I think of England, even Jane Austen’s England—it had living thoughts to unfold even then, and pure happiness in unfolding them. And now, we can only fish among the rubbish-heaps for the remnants of their old expression. There is no production in us now, only sordid and foul mechanicalness.”

“It isn’t true,” cried Ursula, “Why must you always praise the past at the expense of the present? Really, I don’t think so much of Jane Austen’s England. It was materialistic enough, if you like—”

“It could afford to be materialistic,” said Birkin, “because it had the power to be something other—which we haven’t. We are materialistic because we haven’t the power to be anything else—try as we may, we can’t bring off anything but materialism: mechanism, the very soul of materialism.”

L1.jpgBut why did Jane Austen’s England have the power to be something else? And what else did it have the power to be? For the answers to these questions we must, in essence, look back to The Rainbow. Jane Austen’s England still preserved some connection to the land—a sense of belonging to nature. What England then had the “power to be” was nothing grand and idealistic: it had the power simply to be its natural self. The people of Jane Austen’s England made and enjoyed beautiful objects—but these objects were an ornament to a life lived in relative closeness to the earth.

In the industrialized world of 1916, however, objects are all that human beings have. The object of life itself becomes the production and acquisition of objects. This by itself cannot, of course, provide any sense of “meaning in life,” and to fill this void we have introduced idealism and given to our materialism a moral veneer: we are making Progress, alleviating hunger and disease and want, promoting equality, and in general perfecting ourselves and the world through the marriage of science and commerce.

Gerald Crich and the Mastery of Nature

In Women in Love the coupling of industrial materialism with idealism is personified by Birkin’s friend Gerald Crich, son of the local colliery owner. On the train together, the two men speak of the modern world: “So you really think things are very bad?” Gerald asks. “Completely bad,” Birkin responds. Throughout the novel, Gerald is drawn to Birkin, fascinated by the man and his notions—yet he is repelled by him at the same time, and frightened. He encourages Birkin to explain what he means, and Birkin obliges him:

“We are such dreary liars. Our idea is to lie to ourselves. We have an ideal of a perfect world, clean and straight and sufficient. So we cover the earth with foulness; life is a blotch of labour, like insects scurrying in filth, so that your collier can have a pianoforte in his parlour, and you can have a butler and a motor-car in your up-to-date house, and as a nation we can sport the Ritz, or the Empire, Gaby Deslys and the Sunday newspapers. It is very dreary.”

But Gerald responds that he thinks the pianoforte represents “a real desire for something higher” in the collier’s life.

“Higher!” cried Birkin. “Yes. Amazing heights of upright grandeur. It makes him so much higher in his neighboring collier’s eyes. He sees himself reflected in the neighboring opinion, like in a Brocken mist, several feet taller on the strength of the pianoforte, and he is satisfied. He lives for the sake of that Brocken spectre, the reflection of himself in the human opinion.”

Material things and the zeal for material things do not lift up the average man. They merely produce what Christopher Lasch aptly called “the culture of narcissism,” and what Wendell Berry has called a “consumptive culture.” One of the absurdities of modern life is the pretence that human beings who have been reduced to the level of mere consumers are somehow more “advanced” than their ancestors.

But aside from man the consumer, what of man the producer? After all, someone has to produce all those pianofortes. This is where men like Gerald come in. Birkin asks Gerald what he lives for. Gerald answers: “I suppose I live to work, to produce something, in so far as I am a purposive being. Apart from that, I live because I am living.” Ursula remarks to Gudrun that Gerald has “got go, anyhow” and Gudrun replies, “The unfortunate thing is, where does his go go to, what becomes of it?” Ursula suggests, jokingly, that it “goes in applying the latest appliances!” This remark, however, is truer than she supposes.

The most brilliantly-written chapter of Women in Love is “The Industrial Magnate,” in which Lawrence depicts Gerald’s mastery of the mine. Gerald spends the first few years of his adult life wandering aimlessly, but always in hearty, masculine fashion: living the wild life of a student, becoming a soldier, then an adventurer. Always with Gerald there was an overweening curiosity and a desire truly to master something—a desire which masks a real, inner feeling of helplessness and lostness. He finds his true calling in running the mine, for there he believes he has found the meaning of life:

Immediately he saw the firm, he realized what he could do. He had to fight with Matter, with the earth and the coal it enclosed. This was the sole idea, to turn upon the inanimate matter of the underground, and reduce it to his will. . . . There were two opposites, his will and the resistant Matter of the earth. . . . He had his life-work now, to extend over the earth a great and perfect system in which the will of man ran smooth and unthwarted timeless, a Godhead in process.

By writing “Matter” with a capital M, Lawrence underscores the fact that for Gerald the mine is important not in itself but for what it represents. Gerald sees himself not merely as a colliery owner, but as a titanic being: a participant in the long, historical process of man’s divinization through the conquest of nature, now coming to full consummation in the industrial age.

But where has he gotten such ideas? Lawrence tells us that Gerald “refused to go to Oxford, choosing a German university,” and that he “took hold of all kinds of sociological ideas, and ideas of reform.” It is plain that Gerald has been exposed to a great deal of German philosophy. In depicting Gerald’s outlook on life, Lawrence seems to be blending ideas and terminology from three German philosophers: Fichte, Hegel, and Nietzsche.

Fichte and the Mastery of Nature

Lawrence writes that through Gerald’s domination of his will (or his ideals) over Matter “there was perfection attained, the will of mankind was perfectly enacted; for was not mankind mystically contradistinguished against inanimate Matter, was not the history of mankind just the history of the conquest of the one by the other?” The philosophy this is closest to is that of Fichte, though Lawrence is probably thinking of Hegel.

Fichte believed, essentially, that an objective world—an other standing opposed to ego—existed merely as an instrument for the expression of human will. Nature, or what Lawrence here calls “Matter,” exists as something that must be overcome and transformed by human beings according to human ideals. In doing so, human beings realize themselves. All of human history for Fichte, indeed all of reality, is the unending imposition of the ideal on the real, or the transformation of material otherness into an image of human will.

Even though Fichte’s philosophy, at first glance, appears to be something novel, in fact in a sense it is (and was) nothing new at all: it is the underlying metaphysics of modernity laid bare. In the modern world, again, human beings essentially relate to nature as raw material that must be forced to fit human designs or interests—or at best as a mere background for human action. Further, time is conceived in linear fashion and history as a movement from darkness to light, from primitivism to progressivism.

The humanism of the Renaissance becomes, in the modern period, anthropocentrism. Man is a titanic being without any natural superior, whose vocation is to better the world and other men. It is pointless to ask when, exactly, these modern attitudes took hold. In part, they are an outgrowth of Christian monotheism, which taught the idea that the earth and all its contents has been given to man by God for his exclusive use.

Renaissance humanism, which was in many ways a kind of neo-pagan revolt against Christianity, celebrated the ideal of man as Magus, and as a kind of mini-God here on earth. In part, though these Renaissance ideas were bound up with the revival of Hermetic occultism, they paved the way for the scientific revolution represented by men such as Francis Bacon.

By that point in history, belief—real belief—in the God of monotheism was dying, at least among the intelligentsia, who veered more and more toward abstract conceptions of divinity which had little to do with human life. God, in other words, had become irrelevant and human beings found themselves alone in this world that had been given to them for their mastery, with nothing watching from above. It was only a matter of time before man would declare himself God, as Fichte virtually does.

Hegel’s Idealism

Hegel took over Fichte’s ideas and, among other things, amplified them with a theological interpretation. God, for Hegel, is pure self-related Idea which becomes real and concrete in the world through human self-awareness—a self-awareness achieved primarily through the analysis and mastery of nature, as well as through art, religion, and philosophy.

Although Hegel insisted that he had not meant to make man God, a great many of his followers and detractors saw that this is precisely what his philosophy had done. The “young Hegelian” Ludwig Feuerbach saw this and in his influential work The Essence of Christianity (1841) declared that God was, in fact, nothing but an ideal projection of human consciousness, a stand-in, in fact, for humanity itself.

The Hegelian (or, perhaps, young Hegelian) element in Gerald’s metaphysics comes in when Lawrence tells us that Gerald found his “eternal and his infinite” in the endless cycle of machine production. God, as Hegel learned from Aristotle, is an eternal act. The never-ending cycles of modern, industrial production—the apex of man’s mastery of nature—becomes, for Gerald, God incarnate: “the whole productive will of man was the Godhead.”

Nietzsche, Hegel, and the End of History

What seems Nietzschean here is simply the insistence on Will. In allowing himself to be used as an instrument of the “productive will of man” Gerald believes that he is aggrandizing his own personal power. However, as I noted earlier, in believing so Gerald is deceiving himself, and in the end “the God-motion, this productive repetition ad infinitum” simply burns him away in a cold fire. However, there is more to Gerald’s Nietzscheanism than this.

The relation of Nietzsche to Hegel is a complex one, but it can be boiled down in the following way. Hegel believed that in the modern period history had, in effect, ended. This assertion seems nonsensical if we make the mistake of confusing history with time. Of course, Hegel did not think time had stopped. He merely believed that the story of mankind had come to an end in the modern age, because it was in the modern, post-Christian age that mankind came to realize its true nature as radically self-determining (and other-determining, as well). With this realization of radical human freedom, and the realization that man actualizes God in the world, Hegel believed that essentially all the important questions and controversies of human history had been answered. The destiny of man was to live in more or less liberal societies, under more or less democratic states, and to practice more or less humanistic versions of Christianity. And in this condition mankind would continue to exist and prosper.

013019.jpgFor Nietzsche, on the other hand, the end of history meant the death of everything that ennobles the human race. Without anything to struggle over or to believe in so strongly that one would be willing to fight and die for it, humanity would sink to the level of what Nietzsche called the Last Man, Homo economicus: the man whose aspirations do not rise above material comfort, safety, and security. The only hope was the arrival of the Overman, who would create new values, new systems of belief, and initiate new conflicts among human beings. In short, the Overman would re-start history. Nietzsche’s writings, in their trenchant critique of all Western beliefs and values, can be seen as an attempt to actually hasten the collapse of the modern world and usher in the Overman.

Nietzsche’s Will to Power

Essentially, Gerald Crich represents the Nietzschean Overman—or at least someone who believes himself to be a Nietzschean Overman. Gerald, himself a “great blonde beast,” is riding the tiger by riding his employees, expressing his “will to power” through mastering the mines.  What Gerald doesn’t realize is that, in Nietzschean terms, he is merely, the instrument of will to power, expressing itself in the modern age as industrialism and mechanization. As Colin Milton has discussed at some length, this may actually indicate a confusion, or at least an inconsistency, in Lawrence’s understanding of Nietzsche.

Nietzsche is explicitly invoked in the novel when Ursula identifies Gerald with “Wille zur Macht.” The episode which prompts this comment from her is one of the most famous in the novel. In the chapter “Coal Dust,” Ursula and Gudrun go for a walk, but when they come to the railway crossing have to stop to wait for the colliery train to pass. As they stand there, Gerald Crich trots up riding a “red Arab mare.” The mare is frightened by the locomotive and moves away from it, but Gerald forces her back again and again, cutting into her flesh with his spurs. Ursula is horrified and cries “No—! No—! Let her go! Let her go, you fool, you fool—!” Gudrun, on the other hand, is fascinated by Gerald’s show of brute force over the mare and cries out only as he rides away, “I should think you’re proud.” As we shall see, Gudrun is Gerald’s counterpart, a portrait of the other, purely destructive side of modern will.

The episode with the mare is a good example of Lawrence’s sometimes obvious, but very effective symbolism. The mare represents nature—any and all natural beings—forced into submission before the designs and mechanisms of modernity. There is no other way to bring nature into accord with modern unnaturalism, other than by force and sheer bullying. And so later on Ursula refers to “Gerald Crich with his horse—a lust for bullying—a real Wille zur Macht—so base, so petty.”

In his essay “Blessed are the Powerful” Lawrence remarks, “A will-to-power seems to work out as bullying. And bullying is something despicable and detestable.” In short, in Women in Love Lawrence seems to understand Wille zur Macht as a kind a kind of egoistic self-aggrandizement. In fact, however, what Nietzsche teaches is the surrender to Wille zur Macht, as an impersonal force that expresses itself through us.

Interestingly, perhaps the clearest parallels to Gerald Crich’s philosophy of life, and Lawrence’s treatment of it, are two thinkers Lawrence knew nothing about when he wrote Women in Love: Oswald Spengler and Ernst Jünger, both of whom were strongly influenced by Nietzsche.

Spengler: Faustian Man and Technology

2235978055390419269357Pic.jpgSpengler’s major work Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West) was published in 1918, two years after Lawrence first began working on Women in Love. According to Spengler, “Faustian man” creates a human world of artifacts and schemes not out of any economic motivation but rather out of a sheer desire for mastery.

However, Spengler believed that in the modern world, at the very height of his technological prowess, Faustian man has begun to decline. In Mensche und Technik (Man and Technics, 1932) Spengler argued that technology had, in effect, taken on a life of its own. In building a technological world, humanity has been caught in the logic and the inevitable course of technology itself.

Technology rapidly becomes indispensable and human beings find themselves unable to do without it. Technological problems inevitably require technological solutions, and the sheer amount of gadgetry that the average human has to be conversant with grows exponentially. Technology comes to dominate the economy, so that most people find themselves not just being served by technology but working most of their lives for its advancement. In short, Faustian man, who had originally created the machines, now comes to be ruled by them.

Gerald certainly presents us with a vivid portrait of Spengler’s Faustian man. Lawrence does not explicitly make anything like Spengler’s argument concerning technology, but something like it lies beneath the surface of Women in Love and some of his other writings. Certainly Lawrence conveys the idea that Gerald foolishly believes himself to be master of the machines. Lawrence writes, “It was this inhuman principle in the mechanism he wanted to construct that inspired Gerald with an almost religious exaltation. He, the man, could interpose a perfect, changeless, godlike medium between himself and the Matter he had to subjugate.”

The medium Lawrence refers to is technology. “And Gerald was the God of the machine, Deus ex Machina.” In Man and Technics, Spengler writes: “To construct a world for himself, himself to be God—that was the Faustian inventor’s dream, from which henceforth arose all projects of the machines, which approached as closely as possible to the unachievable goal of perpetual motion.” Of course, what Gerald doesn’t realize is that he is Spengler’s Faustian man caught in the trap: servant of that which he had created.

Ernst Jünger and the Gestalt of the Worker

Ernst Jünger’s promethean, Nietzschean philosophy of technology comes uncannily close to Gerald’s own ideas. Jünger’s views were forged on the battlefields of World War I, at the very same time Lawrence was writing Women in Love. The war affected both men profoundly, but in profoundly different ways. As I have already mentioned, much of the misanthropy and apocalyptic quality of Women in Love is to be attributed to Lawrence’s horror of the war and what it had reduced men to. Jünger himself regarded the war as horrifying, and his memoir of his days as a soldier, In Stahlgewittern (The Storm of Steel, 1920), is as frightening and chastening an account of war as has ever been written. For Jünger, as for Lawrence (and, later, Heidegger) the war was essentially a technological phenomenon.

However, Jünger came to believe that technology—including the technology of war—was, in effect, a natural phenomenon: the product of some kind of primal, expressive force not unlike Schopenhauer’s Will or Nietzsche’s Will to Power. The very title In Stahlgewittern suggests this understanding of things. Michael E. Zimmerman writes in Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity:

On the field of battle, [Jünger] experienced himself at times as a cog in a gigantic technological movement. Yet, unexpectedly, by surrendering himself to this enormous process, he experienced an unparalleled personal elevation and intensity which he regarded as authentic individuation. Generalizing from this experience, he concluded that the best way for humanity to cope with the onslaught of technology was to embrace it wholeheartedly. (Zimmerman, 49)

In Der Arbeiter (The Worker, 1932) Jünger heralded the coming of what Zimmerman calls his “technological Overman.” The productive power underlying all of reality shall body itself forth in the “Gestalt of the worker,” who is essentially a steely-jawed soldier on perpetual march to the technological transformation and mastery of nature. Zimmerman writes how

Jünger asserted that in the nihilistic technological era, the ordinary worker either would learn to participate willingly as a mere cog in the technological order—or would perish. Only the higher types, the heroic worker-soldiers, would be capable of appreciating fully the world-creating, world-destroying technological-industrial firestorm. (Zimmerman, 54–55)

This passage rather uncannily brings to mind Lawrence’s description of the effect that Gerald’s managerial style has on his workers. This is a crucially important passage and I shall quote it at length:

But they submitted to it all. The joy went out of their lives, the hope seemed to perish as they became more and more mechanized. And yet they accepted the new conditions. They even got a further satisfaction out of them. At first they hated Gerald Crich, they swore to do something to him, to murder him. But as time went on, they accepted everything with some fatal satisfaction. Gerald was their high priest, he represented the religion they really felt. His father was forgotten already. There was a new world, a new order, strict, terrible, inhuman, but satisfying in its very destructiveness. The men were satisfied to belong to the great and wonderful machine, even whilst it destroyed them. It was what they wanted. It was the highest that man had produced, the most wonderful and superhuman. They were exalted by belonging to this great and superhuman system which was beyond feeling or reason, something really godlike. Their hearts died within them, but their souls were satisfied.

One can see here that Lawrence seems to accept the Spengler-Jünger thesis that there is an inexorable logic to the modern, technological society and that a fundamental change has come over humanity which makes it possible for men to become servants of the machine. The passage above continues, “It was what they wanted, Otherwise Gerald could never have done what he did.” Lawrence clearly believes that there is something inevitable about what human beings are becoming—but unlike Jünger he cannot embrace it. The Nietzschean-Jüngerian answer to modernity—to ride the tiger—is perhaps the best that one can do to harmonize oneself with the technological world and its apparent dehumanization. But Lawrence absolutely rejects it, and paints Gerald as a tragic, deluded figure. Why?  In answering this question, we confront Lawrence’s central objection to modernity.

History: Progressive of Cyclical?

women_in_love.jpgIn the deleted “Prologue” to Women In Love (which is interesting for a good many other reasons), Lawrence describes Birkin in the early days of his affair with Hermione as “a youth of twenty-one, holding forth against Nietzsche.” Yet when Lawrence introduces us to Birkin’s own views they seem strikingly Nietzschean. First, however, Lawrence describes how Birkin had studied education (and become a school inspector) under the influence of what seems unmistakably like a warmed-over Hegelianism:

He had made a passionate study of education, only to come, gradually, to the knowledge that education is nothing but the process of building up, gradually, a complete unit of consciousness. And each unit of consciousness is the living unit of that great social, religious, philosophic idea towards which mankind, like an organism seeking its final form, is laboriously growing.

But Birkin quickly becomes disillusioned with this vision, and responds to it in true Nietzschean fashion:

But if there be no great philosophic idea, if, for the time being, mankind, instead of going through a period of growth, is going through a corresponding process of decay and decomposition from some old, fulfilled, obsolete idea, then what is the good of educating? Decay and decomposition will take their own way. It is impossible to educate for this end, impossible to teach the world how to die away from its achieved, nullified form. The autumn must take place in every individual soul, as well as in all the people, all must die, individually and socially. But education is a process of striving to a new, unanimous being, a whole organic form. But when winter has set in, when the frosts are strangling the leaves off the trees and the birds are silent knots of darkness, how can there be a unanimous movement towards a whole summer of fluorescence? There can be none of this, only submission to the death of this nature, in the winter that has come upon mankind, and a cherishing of the unknown that is unknown for many a day yet, buds that may not open till a far off season comes, when the season of death has passed away.

What is Nietzschean here is Birkin’s conviction that he is living at the end of history—but, contra Hegel, it is a time of disintegration and decay. However, unlike Nietzsche and his followers (including Gerald), Lawrence and Birkin do not see any way to transmute this situation into something that becomes life-advancing. What Gerald cannot see, but Birkin and Lawrence clearly can, is that the submission of the miners to “the Gestalt of the worker” represents the first stage in the complete breakdown of the Western world. The same passage quoted earlier from “The Industrial Magnate” chapter continues:

[Gerald] was just ahead of [his workers] in giving them what they wanted, this participation in a great and perfect system that subjected life to pure mathematical principles. This was a sort of freedom, the sort they really wanted. It was the first great step in undoing, the first great phase of chaos, the substitution of the mechanical principle for the organic, the destruction of the organic purpose, the organic unity, and the subordination of every organic unit to the great mechanical purpose. It was pure organic disintegration and pure mechanical organisation. This is the first and finest state of chaos.

Submission to or mastery of the modern, technological world—whether that world represents an advance or a degeneration—is not the answer for Lawrence because he believes that true human fulfillment lies in submission to something higher, or perhaps deeper: the true unconscious. Gerald offers his miners a kind of “freedom,” but it is the illusory freedom of the mind and ego from the call of the natural self.

Essentially, for Lawrence, the modern world is characterized by the subordination of the organic to the mechanical; of the natural to the planned, automated, and “rational.” But in severing the tie to the organic and placing themselves in the service of the machine and the idea, human beings lose their fundamental being, and their sense of having a place in the cosmos.

The real problem with Nietzsche is that although he talks a great deal about the body and about “instincts,” everything for him is still, to borrow Lawrence’s language, “in the head.” In his Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche presents us with an attractive discussion of the healthy, “natural” morality of the master type, which values such things as health, strength, and beauty.

But Nietzsche’s own approach to morals amounts to a conscious and willful desire to relativize all values—to declare that there is no natural source, and no natural values. The Overman, in fact, gets to simply posit new values. This appears to be a purely intellectual, and largely arbitrary affair. The idea of “creating” values is psychologically implausible: how can anyone believe in, let alone fight for, values and ideals that they have consciously dreamed up?

The Impotent Übermensch

In his characterization of Gerald Crich, Lawrence gives us a realistic portrait of what would become of an “Overman” in real life. Keep in mind that it is Lawrence’s belief that when we abstract ourselves from the natural world, and from the promptings of the nature within us, we suffer and even, in a way, go mad. This is, in effect, what becomes of Gerald. In the concluding passages of the “Industrial Magnate” chapter Lawrence describes the psychological toll that mastery of Matter has taken on Gerald:

And once or twice lately, when he was alone in the evening and had nothing to do, he had suddenly stood up in terror, not knowing what he was. And he went to the mirror and looked long and closely at his own face, at his own eyes, seeking for something. He was afraid, in mortal dry fear, but he knew not what of. He looked at his own face. . . . He dared not touch it, for fear it should prove to be only a composition mask.

Inevitably, Gerald’s sense of dissociation displays itself in a sexual manner:

He had found his most satisfactory relief in women. . . . The devil of it was, it was so hard to keep up his interest in women nowadays. He didn’t care about them anymore. . . . No, women, in that sense, were useless to him any more. He felt that his mind needed acute stimulation, before he could be physically roused.

The clear suggestion is that Gerald is practically impotent. Like Clifford in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, whose impotence has a purely physical cause, Gerald is physically numb; he lives from the mind alone. Disconnected from his natural being, he no longer feels spontaneous, animal arousal for the opposite sex. He has become “re-wired,” so to speak, so that the route to the sexual center, in his case, is by way of the intellect; he can only become sexually aroused through his mind.

The irony here is that Gerald is portrayed throughout the novel as handsome, strong, and virile in both a physical and spiritual sense: he is a master of matter, and of women. In fact, however, both his physical and spiritual virility is mere appearance. He is master neither of himself nor of his world. Nor is he even master of his erection. On the other hand, Birkin, who is portrayed as physically weaker, is at least truly virile in a spiritual sense. This is the reason he manages to avoid becoming “absorbed” by Ursula.

lady_chatterley,1.jpgLawrence is famous for characterizing relations between the sexes as a battle, or, more accurately, a struggle unto death. In Women in Love, the two couples battle each other continuously, but most of the fighting is done by the women against the men. (The famous nude wrestling match between Gerald and Birkin is a purely honest, physical contest, whose only psychological undertones are homoerotic.)

Birkin compromises with Ursula in settling for love rather than something “higher.” But despite this he maintains his integrity and individuality. It is a difficult feat, and even at the novel’s end we see Ursula working to try and undermine his desire for another kind of love in his life: “Aren’t I enough for you?” she asks him.

Gerald, however, cannot pull it off. He lacks Birkin’s spiritual virility: his ability to maintain himself, inviolate, even in giving himself to a woman. Gurdrun’s onslaughts are much more destructive and insidious than Ursula’s, and in the end the “manly” Gerald is broken by them.

Gudrun Brangwen, the Modern Woman

Gerald Crich is only one half of Lawrence’s portrait of the “modern individual.” The other half is Gudrun Brangwen. Of course, Birkin and Ursula are modern individuals, though in a different sense. The latter couple are both seeking some fulfilling way to live in, or in spite of, the modern world. They (especially Birkin) have achieved some critical distance from it.

Gerald and Gudrun, however, are both creatures of modernity. Gerald has consciously embraced the modern rootless prometheanism; Gudrun unconsciously. Further, Gudrun is not simply a female version of Gerald. Her “modernity” consists in certain traits which complement those of Gerald. What complicates matters is that Ursula and Gudrun also represent, for Lawrence, the two halves of femininity, and not just modern femininity.

In the first chapter of the novel, Gudrun reacts with revulsion to one of the locals as she and Ursula walk through Beldover: “A sudden fierce anger swept over the girl, violent and murderous. She would have liked them all annihilated, cleared away, so that the world was left clear for her.” It is interesting to compare this with Birkin’s (and Lawrence’s) fantasies of annihilation. Birkin, the complete misanthrope, wants to wipe the earth clean of humanity, including himself, so that there is only “uninterrupted grass, and a hare sitting up.” In Gudrun’s fantasy, she is left sitting up and everyone else is wiped away.

This small detail gives us an important clue to Gudrun’s character, which is fundamentally egoistic. A thoroughgoing egoism is always nihilistic, for it wills that all limitation or opposition to the ego be cancelled. But even the mere existence of other human beings (or anything else, for that matter) constitutes a limitation on the ego.

Just as Lawrence does with Gerald, this “self-assertion” on Gudrun’s part is connected, by allusion, with Nietzsche. This time, however, the allusion is put into the mouth of the character herself in what seems on the surface like a purely innocent remark. Enjoying the snowy Tyrol, Gudrun exclaims, “Isn’t the snow wonderful! Do you notice how it exalts everything? It is simply marvellous. One really does feel übermenschlich—more than human.”

Like Gerald, Gudrun lives in a state of abstraction from the body and from nature. In sex she remains perfectly detached. Writing of the aftermath of Gudrun’s first sexual encounter with Gerald, Lawrence emphasizes again and again her full consciousness, while Gerald lays on top of her, asleep and satiated. He tells us “she lay fully conscious.” And: “Gudrun lay wide awake, destroyed into perfect consciousness.” And: “She was suspended in perfect consciousness—and of what was she conscious?” (He does not truly answer the question.)

Gudrun is revolted by the rhythms of nature and by natural objects—even though, ironically, it is small animals that she depicts in her sculpture (perhaps this is the only way she can encounter them, as things she molds and creates herself). Holding Winifred Crich’s pet rabbit Bismarck, who puts up quite a struggle, “Gudrun stood for a moment astounded by the thunderstorm that had sprung into being in her grip. Then her colour came up, a heavy rage came over her like a cloud. . . . Her heart was arrested with fury at the mindlessness and bestial stupidity of this struggle, her wrists were badly scored by the claws of the beast, a heavy cruelty welled up in her.”

The mechanical succession of day after day revolts her. Very early in the novel she confesses to Ursula, “I get no feeling whatever from the thought of bearing children.” She looks at Ursula, who is clearly flustered by this, with a “mask-like expressionless face.” When Ursula, intimidated by her sister, stammers out a reply, “A hardness came over Gudrun’s face. She did not want to be too definite.” This desire to remain indefinite is essential to Gudrun’s character.

In fact, the essence of Gudrun is nothingness. In the first chapter, Lawrence tells us “there was a terrible void, a lack, a deficiency of being within her.” In conversation with Gerald, Birkin describes her as a “restless bird,” and says that “She drops her art if anything else catches her. Her contrariness prevents her from taking it seriously—she must never be too serious, she feels she might give herself away. And she won’t give herself away—she’s always on the defensive. That’s what I can’t stand about her type.” Gudrun’s “type” is the modern individual who cannot stand to be tied to anything, who is in constant flux, wary of anything that would compel her to make a commitment, whether to a relationship or a career, or whatever. Plato in the Republic essentially winds up describing this modern type when he attempts to characterize the sort of character produced by a democracy:

“Then,” [said Socrates], “he also lives along day by day, gratifying the desire that occurs to him, at one time drinking and listening to the flute, at another downing water and reducing; now practicing gymnastic, and again idling and neglecting everything; and sometimes spending his time as though he were occupied with philosophy. Often he engages in politics and, jumping up, says and does whatever chances to come to him; and if he ever admires any soldiers, he turns in that direction; and if it’s money-makers, in that one. And there is neither order nor necessity in his life, but calling this life sweet, free, and blessed, he follows it throughout.”

“You have,” [said Adeimantus], “described exactly the life of a man attached to the law of equality.”

Near the end of the novel, Lawrence tells us of Gudrun:

Her tomorrow was perfectly vague before her. This was what gave her pleasure. . . . Anything might come to pass on the morrow. And to-day was the white, snowy iridescent threshold of all possibility. All possibility—that was the charm to her, the lovely, iridescent, indefinite charm—pure illusion. All possibility—because death was inevitable, and nothing was possible but death.

She did not want things to materialize, to take any definite shape. She wanted, suddenly, at one moment of the journey tomorrow, to be wafted into an utterly new course, by some utterly unforeseen event, or motion.

amant-de-lady-chatterley-1981-aff-01-g.jpgWhen Gudrun is asked the question wohin? (where to?) Lawrence tells us that “She never wanted it answered.”

The quintessential modern individual does not, in fact, want to be anything at all, for to be something definite would close off other possibilities. And so the modern individual is always oriented toward the future, which contains all possibilities, rather than toward the present. In this respect, Gudrun’s character perfectly complements Gerald’s. Gerald has completely abstracted himself from the present by regarding everything else as “Matter” to be transformed according to his will.

This is, again, what Heidegger tells us is the modern perspective on nature. Because everything is merely raw material to be made over into something else, nothing is ever regarded as possessing a fixed identity. The essence of everything, really, is to become something else, something better. The being of things is thus something projected into the future; something that will be revealed at a later date, through human ingenuity. The result of this treatment of things as raw material is that it produces individuals who live for the future: for what will be, and for what they will be. This is how “abstraction” from the present occurs. A key ingredient in this, of course, is a kind of radical subjectivism and anthropocentrism: the being of things is something that will be created by human beings.

The modern world is therefore a world of individuals who are, mentally, quite literally elsewhere. On the one hand they are disconnected from the nature world (which to them is essentially “stuff”) and from their own nature, which they erroneously believe is something they can decide on or even re-make. They are disconnected, in fact, from presentness in general.

At one point Lawrence reveals to us that Gudrun suffers from the nagging feeling that she is merely an “onlooker” in life whereas her sister is a “partaker.” Indeed she is an onlooker and this is the key to her weird “consciousness” in the sex act. Gerald is an onlooker too, hence the sense of unreality he experiences when looking at himself in the mirror. They are both creatures of the mind, of idealism, and of futurity.

And this is truly the heart of Lawrence’s critique of modernity: that we have lost touch with the sense of being a part of nature, and of being in our bodies, in present time. The ultimate result of such abstraction from nature, the body, and the present is the destruction of nature, of any possibility of inner peace and fulfillment, and of community.

Both Gerald and Gudrun are fundamentally destructive, nihilating individuals, but of the two Gudrun represents destruction in its purest form. Gerald destroys in order to transform and, as we saw earlier, he believes himself to be an agent of history and of social reform. (Or, at least, this is the moral veneer he paints over his activities.) With Gudrun, there is not such self-justification. Of course, ultimately Gerald’s transformation of Matter is perfectly destructive, and so one can plausibly claim that in a sense Gudrun is the more honest of the two, though she is not self-aware in her destructiveness.

Gudrun represents the inner truth of Gerald’s prometheanism laid bare. This point is conveyed through the structure of Lawrence’s novel itself. Gudrun is a presence throughout the entire book, but by the last few chapters the story becomes focused very much on her. And it is in the last few chapters that the pure nihilism of her character is brought to the fore. At the same time, Gerald, who had earlier been a relatively strong figure, is reduced to inefficacy and becomes almost a shadowy presence. His physical death comes, in way, as merely an outward expression of an internal death that had already taken place in his soul.

Gudrun and Loerke

What seems to immediately precipitate Gerald’s suicide is that Gudrun gives every indication of leaving him for an artist named Loerke who she has met in the Tyrol. Loerke, better than Gerald, personifies Jünger’s promethean modernism. Loerke is a sculptor who shares with Gudrun and Ursula his plans for a granite frieze for a huge factory in Cologne. Churches, he tells the two sisters are “museum stuff,” and since the world is now dominated by industry, not religion, art should come together with industry to make the modern factory into a new Parthenon:

“And do you think then,” said Gudrun, “that art should serve industry?”

“Art should interpret industry as art once interpreted religion,” he said. . . .

“But is there nothing but work—mechanical work?” said Gudrun.

“Nothing but work!” he repeated, leaning forward, his eyes two darknesses, with needle-points of light. “No, it is nothing but this, serving a machine, or enjoying the motion of a machine—motion, that is all. . . .”

Loerke exhibits the same destructive, modern will we find in Gerald and Gudrun, but come to full consciousness of itself. This is what attracts Gudrun to Loerke. She has realized that Gerald is weak—he possesses the destructive will, but cannot own up to it; he must hide it under his idealism. Loerke has embraced the Will to Power without illusion:

To Gudrun, there was in Loerke the rock bottom of all life. Everybody else had their illusion, must have their illusion, their before and after. But he, with a perfect stoicism, did without any before and after, dispensed with all illusion. He did not deceive himself in the last issue. In the last issue he cared about nothing, he was troubled about nothing, he made not the slightest attempt to be at one with anything. He existed a pure, unconnected will, stoical and momentaneous. There was only his work.

Birkin describes him a bit later as “a gnawing little negation, gnawing at the roots of life.” Loerke is completely detached from nature and from the body. His sexuality is indeterminate. Though he has a male lover, he is drawn to Ursula. But he tells her that it wouldn’t matter to him if she were one hundred years old: all that matters is her mind.

The Gudrun-Gerald relationship plays itself out, and reaches its tragic end, in the Alps. The choice of locations is significant. Attentive readers of Lawrence’s fiction will note that he tends to depict his characters as either “watery” or “fiery.” In Women in Love Birkin and Ursula are the fiery pair, contrasted to Gudrun and Gerald, who are watery. Gerald meets his end in the novel when he commits suicide by wandering off into the snow and freezing to death. For Lawrence, this act represents Gerald quite literally “returning to his element.” Though Gudrun and Ursula are bound together by blood, the deeper bond is between Gudrun and Gerald, and it is metaphysical. They are the two aspects of the modern soul: one productive without a purpose; the other destructive, nihilating.

Ursula’s Primacy

In a sense it is strange to argue as I did earlier that Women in Love represents the continuation of Ursula’s story. For one thing, the novel seems to focus more directly on the Birkin-Gerald relationship. Further, Gudrun is actually a more vivid character than Ursula. Nevertheless, I would still argue that Ursula is the central character. She is the most “natural” of any major character in the novel; the least in conflict with herself.

We are made to feel closer to Birkin, as he is transparently Lawrence’s self-portrait. But Birkin is “abstracted” from life in his own way. He berates Hermione for having everything in her head and lacking real sensuosity. Yet so much of Birkin is theory and talk. He wants some kind of total, transformative experience that would give him a real sense of being alive—yet he wants to hold onto his ego boundaries. He wants love, but then again he doesn’t. He wants to give himself to Ursula, but not totally. Admirers of Lawrence the man often miss the rather obvious flaws in Birkin’s character, and are thus oblivious to how Lawrence may have achieved a critical distance from Birkin (and from himself).

In the end, Birkin’s “problems” are in large measure solved by the oldest means in the world: the force of natural love, and the institution of marriage. Up to a point (but only up to a point) Birkin simply surrenders his abstract ideas about relationships—about finding something “more” than love—and surrenders to Ursula. Ursula knows from deep within herself, the falsity of Birkin’s ideals. Through her he comes to know what Lawrence would call “the sweetness of accomplished marriage.” There is only one part of him that remains unfulfilled. But that is a subject for another essay . . .

jeudi, 27 janvier 2011

Louis-Ferdinand Céline: colloque international

Louis-Ferdinand Céline: colloque international à Paris les 4 et 5 février 2011
Nous vous annonçons l'organisation par la Bibliothèque du Centre Pompidou (www.bpi.fr) et André Derval (Société d'études céliniennes, IMEC) à Paris, d'un colloque international consacré à Céline. En voici le programme :

VENDREDI 4 février 2011
11h • Ouverture des deux journées
Par Patrick Bazin, directeur de la Bpi et André Derval, responsable des fonds d'édition et des réseaux documentaires à l'Institut mémoires de l'édition contemporaine (Imec) et responsable de fonds d'auteurs à la Société d’études céliniennes.

11h/13h • Dr Destouches et Mr Céline
Avec Isabelle Blondiaux, médecin, chercheur, Céline et la médecine - Gaël Richard,
chercheur, Les Traces d'une vie, recherches biographiques - Viviane Forrester, écrivain et
critique littéraire. Modérateur François Gibault, avocat, biographe.

14h30/18h • Controverses et reconnaissances internationales
Avec Christine Sautermeister, université de Hambourg, La redécouverte de Voyage au bout
de la nuit - Yoriko Sugiura, Université de Kobé, Céline au Japon : Oeuvres complètes et French Theory - Olga Chtcherbakova, École nationale supérieure, Paris, D'Elsa Triolet à Victor Erofeev : les avatars russes de Céline - Greg Hainge, Université Queensland, Céline chez les fils de la perfide Albion

"Céline et la critique "
Entretien avec Philippe Bordas, écrivain. Modérateur André Derval, Imec/Société d'études céliniennes

19h/20h30 • Spectacle
Faire danser les alligators sur la flûte de Pan, choix de correspondances établi par Émile
Brami, écrivain, interprété par Denis Lavant, acteur. Un spectacle écrit par Émile Brami d'après la correspondance de Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Scénographie et mise en scène Ivan Morane - production : Compagnie Ivan Morane, avec l'aimable autorisation de Mme Destouches, François Gibault et des Editions Gallimard.

SAMEDI 5 février 2011
14h/16h • Céline et l’histoire
Table ronde avec Jean-Pierre Martin, essayiste, Yves Pagès, écrivain/éditeur et Daniel Lindenberg, historien, entretien avec Delfeil de Ton, journaliste. Modératrice Marie Hartmann, université de Caen.

16h30 /17h30 • Un autre Céline
Avec Sonia Anton, université du Havre, L’Oeuvre épistolaire - Émile Brami, Céline au cinéma - Johanne Bénard, université de Kingston, Céline au théâtre - Tonia Tinsley, Université de Springfield (sous réserve) Céline et les gender studies. Modératrice Johanne Bénard, universitaire.

18h30/19h30 • Lectures
Lectures d’extraits de texte de Céline par Fabrice Luchini, comédien.


George Montandon et Louis-Ferdinand Céline

George Montandon et Louis-Ferdinand Céline


Ex.: http://lepetitcelinien.blogspot.com/

De l’admiration de la révolution bolchevique à l’adhésion totale à l’antisémitisme nazi: la dérive mortelle du Dr Montandon, Neuchâtelois, médecin à Renens, ami de Céline et ennemi juré de la «Gazette de Lausanne».

Vatslav Vorovsky est un bolchevique vétéran, vieil ami de Lénine. Il était souvent à Genève avec lui au début du XXe siècle pour fabriquer les journaux du parti. Quand il revient en Suisse, en 1923, c’est en tant que diplomate soviétique, pour participer à la conférence de Lausanne sur la question turque. Il est descendu avec sa délégation à l’Hôtel Cecil. Le soir du 9 mai, un homme s’avance vers sa table, au restaurant, sort un pistolet et l’abat. L’assassin, Maurice Conradi, dont la famille avait été spoliée en Russie où elle s’était établie, revendique haut et fort son crime. En automne pourtant, il est acquitté, sous les applaudissements du public. Son procès, tenu sans rire au Casino, s’est transformé en réquisitoire contre l’URSS.

Les bolcheviques n’ont plus beaucoup d’amis au bord du Léman. Sauf le Dr George Montandon, de Renens. Cité par la partie civile, le médecin, qui durant deux ans a parcouru la Russie ravagée de Vladivostok aux pays baltes, est venu dire que la «terreur blanche» était bien pire que la «terreur rouge». Il est rentré de Moscou avec de la sympathie pour le nouveau régime. La police de sûreté vaudoise pense même qu’il est au parti. Il écrit dans Clarté, la revue philocommuniste de Romain Rolland. Mais en même temps, le Dr Montandon collabore de longue date à la Gazette de Lausanne, dont il est par ailleurs actionnaire. La Gazette n’aime guère les rouges. S’ensuivent des tensions qui deviennent, l’année suivante, explosives. Le docteur veut la tête de Charles Burnier, le directeur du journal, et il ne lésine pas sur les moyens, publiant des pamphlets de plus en plus violents et insultants. Le dernier est intitulé «Burnier fumier», avec une illustration d’une belle grossièreté. Le directeur dépose plainte, le Tribunal fédéral s’en mêle, et George Montandon écope de dix jours de prison. Mais il triomphe: entre-temps, Charles Burnier a été viré. «Ma condamnation est un honneur, écrit-il. Je paie mon attitude de sympathie à la Révolution russe.» Pour échapper à l’arrestation, le docteur prend le bateau vers Thonon, puis émigre avec sa famille à Paris.

A-t-il de l’humour, cet homme à tête de croque-mort? Il est né en 1879 à Cortaillod, fils d’un industriel riche et influent, député au Grand Conseil neuchâtelois. Après sa médecine faite à Genève, Lausanne et Zurich, il se prend de passion pour l’ethnologie, va l’étudier à Londres et à Hambourg. En 1910, il est en Abyssinie, soigne le vieux roi Ménélik II avec qui Arthur Rimbaud trafiquait ses armes, parcourt le pays en tous sens au point qu’une montagne prend son nom, Toulou Montandon. La Gazette publie au retour les longs reportages du docteur aventurier.

Quand éclate la Grande Guerre, Montandon ferme son cabinet de Renens et s’engage pour deux ans dans un hôpital militaire français. Après la révolution d’Octobre, il récidive et convainc le CICR de lui confier une mission compliquée: organiser en pleine guerre civile, par Vladivostok, le rapatriement des prisonniers austro-hongrois dispersés en Sibérie centrale. De toute évidence, l’expédition lui plaît. Il a son train, qui va et vient dans la plaine infinie. A ses moments perdus, il fait un peu de recherche ethnographique, ramasse des arcs et des lances, mesure des crânes. Il côtoie les soudards blancs qui dans la neige se réchauffent à la vodka. Il s’arrête à Omsk chez un fromager suisse émigré qui voudrait «sortir de cette maison de fous». Il connaît des chefs bolcheviques, en particulier Boris Choumiatski, qui tente de contrôler pour Moscou les immensités sibériennes et dont Staline fera son tsar du cinéma, persécutant Eisenstein, avant de l’envoyer recevoir sa balle dans une cave. Il fréquente les hordes du baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, ce général balte qui tente de se tailler un empire militaro-mystique au cœur des ténèbres mongoles. Il est arrêté trois fois par la Tcheka, la dernière fois à Moscou, accusé d’espionnage et enfermé à la Loubianka où il entend les pires rumeurs, et les hurlements d’une femme.

Sorti de cette aventure, George Montandon en tire un livre, Deux ans chez Koltchak et chez les Bolcheviques. Drôle de bouquin, récit picaresque plein de détails ferroviaires et militaires, de rodomontades naïves dans une langue un peu surannée, mais dans lequel on découvre des fulgurances. Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, autre docteur, n’a encore rien écrit, mais on dirait parfois du Céline. Montandon parle de l’égalité obtenue «par libre consentement ou par contrainte» qu’il observe chez les Russes, et il s’exclame: «Le costume bourgeois: néant! L’allure digne et repue du bourgeois: renéant! L’orgueil bourgeois, la morgue bourgeoise – voici, voici l’essentiel – l’orgueil bourgeois, la morgue bourgeoise: néant de néant! Les jeux sont faits, rien ne va plus! En comparaison de notre moisissure, la démocratie américaine nous avait déjà montré quelque chose de remarquable, mais voici qui est beaucoup plus fort. Ici, si l’un a plus que l’autre […] il semble en avoir honte comme d’un vice. […] Aujourd’hui, en Russie prise dans son ensemble, l’orgueil de classe est évanoui, le monocle est tombé.»

La Gazette de Lausanne n’accepte pas de parler de Deux ans chez Kol­tchak. Mais George Montandon n’est plus là, il s’est vengé à sa manière, et maintenant, à Paris, il met le même entêtement qu’en Afrique ou en URSS à conquérir, cette fois, les sommets universitaires qu’on vient de lui refuser à Neuchâtel. Il côtoie la crème de l’ethnologie française, Marcel Mauss, Paul Rivet, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, s’en fait des amis, puis surtout des ennemis. Il obtient un poste, pas celui qu’il visait, en tire de la hargne. Il écrit, utilisant les observations accumulées dans ses voyages, alignant des types humains, les organisant en familles, les classant: «La race, les races». Il commence à parler un peu des juifs, qui sont avant tout «une raison sociale, et non une race uniforme». Dans le climat intellectuel de l’époque, ses écrits ne choquent pas. Il traite ensuite de «l’ethnie française», et ses écrits se durcissent. L’ancien admirateur de Lénine est désormais lu avec intérêt par les idéologues racistes allemands. Cette dérive intellectuelle l’amène finalement à rencontrer celui qui l’attendait, l’autre docteur: Céline. C’est en 1938. L’auteur du Voyage au bout de la nuit est tout occupé par ses pamphlets antisémites. Il s’inspire de Montandon dans Bagatelle pour un massacre, le cite dans L’Ecole des cadavres. Ils sont amis, jusqu’à la fin.

Quand l’armée allemande occupe la France, la haine antisémite du Neuchâtelois n’a plus de frein. Dans La France au travail, le nouveau nom donné à L’Humanité confisquée aux communistes, dont le rédacteur en chef est, sous le pseudonyme de Charles Dieudonné, le fasciste genevois Géo Oltramare, Montandon traite les juifs d’«ethnie putain» qui, «s’imposant aux Français: a) faisait bêler la paix, b) sabotait l’armement, c) et surtout dégoûtait la femme de la maternité grâce à sa presse avec ses rubriques quasi pornographiques, dirigées par des putains juives». Ailleurs, il promet aux belles actrices juives de les défigurer en leur coupant le nez.

Céline reconnaît chez le Suisse sa propre haine. Il envoie un mot de recommandation pour que son ami trouve un emploi dans l’administration des «questions juives»: «Parfait honnête homme, un peu suisse (comme J.J.), docteur en médecine (et autrefois un peu communiste), et par-dessus tout un grand savant.» Montandon obtient son emploi. Désormais, c’est lui qui établira pour le Commissariat général les certificats de non-appartenance à la race juive, qui offrent une protection à ceux qui peuvent se les payer, car les factures du docteur sont salées. Ce commerce macabre finit par indisposer Céline lui-même.

Le 3 août 1944, une camionnette s’arrête devant la villa au numéro 22 de la rue Louis-Guespin, à Clamart. Deux ou trois hommes en descendent. Ils sont armés. Marie Montandon, qui ouvre la porte, est criblée de balles. Les assaillants montent à l’étage, trouvent le docteur dans son lit, malade, et ouvrent le feu. Puis ils prennent la fuite. George Montandon n’est que blessé. Il appelle une ambulance qui le conduit à l’Hôpital Lariboisière, géré par l’armée allemande. Quelques jours plus tard, le conseiller du Commissariat général aux questions juives est emmené en Allemagne. Il meurt le 30 août, à Fulda.

Céline, qui soignait George Montandon, n’avait pas vu son ami depuis trois mois. En 1952, dans Féerie pour une autre fois, il a parlé de lui une dernière fois: «Il savait pas rire Montandon, il était gris de figure, de col, d’imperméable, de chaussures, tout… mais quel bel esprit! tout gris certes! pas une parole plus haut que l’autre! mais quelles précisions admirables! […] Bébert qu’est pourtant le malgracieux! le griffeur, le bouffeur fait chat!… il comprenait le «charme Montandon»…»

Le Temps, 6/1/2011


mercredi, 26 janvier 2011

Ma io, filosemita, celebro Céline


Ma io, filosemita, celebro Céline

di Guido Ceronetti

Fonte: Corriere della Sera [scheda fonte]

«La Francia sbaglia a cancellare l’omaggio, era l’occasione per analizzarlo»

D eploro fortemente che uno scrittore come Céline sia stato tolto dal calendario delle celebrazioni per il 2011 in Francia. Un ministro della Cultura, in qualsiasi governo francese, ha sufficiente autorità per resistere ad ogni gruppo privato di pressione, sia pure benemerito, come in questo caso. Céline non è un piccolo pesce; è uno dei massimi scrittori e testimoni del secolo. Il suo cinquantenario (morì nel 1961, a Meudon, in banlieue) non sarà ugualmente dimenticato. Si capisce: la Shoah è una ferita della storia dell’uomo che il tempo non può né deve sanare, e il grido di Rachele in Ramah seguita a irrorarla di lutto. Ma la paranoia antisemita di uno scrittore che non ha versato sangue di deportati va vista come una anomalia della psiche, un’ombra del Fato, il possesso di un demone incubo. Va analizzata come malattia e non elevata a colpa. «Ha una pallottola in testa» lo giustificava Lucette. Lui, l’episodio della Grande Guerra che l’aveva fatto congedare e medagliare in fretta, non l’aveva mai taciuto: l’agitava sempre, il suo congedo di invalido permanente per il settantacinque per cento: ma sopratutto a renderlo furiosamente antisemita era stata l’ossessione che gli ebrei — tutti, in massa, banchieri o straccioni — spingessero ad una nuova spaventosa guerra con la povera Germania, che fino a Hitler non pensava minimamente a difendersene. Nel Trentasette pubblicò il suo manufatto di deliri, Bagatelles pour un massacre, pestando perché la Francia non perdesse tempo a disfarsi dei suoi ebrei, a scrostarli dai muri, a cacciarli via «che non se ne parlasse più» : una scrittura così potente come la sua attirò come miele gli antidreyfusardi, senza guadagnargli le simpatie dei nazisti; per la Gestapo, Céline era più pazzo che utile. Anche come antisemita Céline fu un isolato: i comunisti lo esecrarono dopo Mea culpa, agli antisemiti bisognosi di «razzismo scientifico» o religioso, di motivazioni monotone e piatte, quel Vajont di metafore forsennate, che finivano in pura autodistruzione spense presto il favore iniziale; inoltre, incontenibile, sotto l’occhio dei tedeschi occupanti che rigettavano e temevano il suo zelo pacifista, picchiava pubblicamente anche contro la connerie aryenne (che renderei come fessaggine, stronzaggine ariana). Non furono le sciagurate metafore celiniane dei tre saggi antisemiti a riempire i treni dei deportati da sterminare: chi li avrà mai letti tra i burocrati di Vichy? In una guerra simile contro l’essenza umana (altro che «banalità del male» !) furono senza numero i paradossi tragici. Céline nel Semmelwei, nel Voyage, in Mort à crédit, nei suoi romanzi stilisticamente ultraviolenti del dopoguerra, nei suoi viaggi al seguito del governo collaborazionista in fuga a Sigmaringen, spinse fino all’indicibile l’espressione letteraria della pietà umana; fu un moderno, e rimane, incarnatore di Buddha, un angelo pieno di cicatrici, che sfoga una pena scespiriana. Aggiungi il suo lavoro fino all’ultimo giorno di strenuo medico dei poveri, che quasi mai si faceva pagare. Lucette, a Meudon, mi mostrò la poltrona dove Céline passava la notte di insonne a vita. Il paesaggio, dalla vetrata, erano le officine della Renault-Billancourt, una fumante galera umana, non scorgevi un albero. Di là gli cadevano gocce fisse di delirio, da scavare una pietra, sul cranio della pallottola di guerra, Erinne dettatrici di insulti feroci di satirico, di maniaco di persecuzione (motivato), di aperture denunciatrici di verità crudeli, di amore per la bellezza, di sorriso in travaglio. L’insonnia, alleata del Contrasto, violenta di chiaroscuro, è «madre di tutto» . Il secolo XX ci ha lasciato tre libri, generati direttamente da una interminabile sequela di calvari umani che ha appestato e stravolto la totalità del pianeta abitato o inabitato — e i tre grandi libri mi sono indicati essere i racconti e i diari ultimi di Kafka, i racconti della Kolyma di Varlam Šalamov, e il Voyage au bout de la nuit di Céline. Comparando l’antisemitismo ormai sciolto negli acidi del Tempo di Céline, e il disastro filosofico di Martin Heidegger quando fu pervaso, tra 1933 e 1935, per vanità universitaria, per credulità da debilità mentale (quantunque giovane), di zelo filonazista nascostamente antisemita— mi sarebbe più facile, dovessi fare il minosse e pronunciarmi su entrambi, mandare semiassolto (o del tutto) Céline, astenendomi dall’incolpare Heidegger esclusivamente per motivi di prescrizione. Un pensatore non aveva nessun diritto di degradarsi a quel modo. Il discorso di rettorato del filosofo di Friburgo è peggio, è più mendace, più corruttore, di Bagatelles pour un massacre. Tuttavia, se di valori si parla, Heidegger è Heidegger. Se di gloria letteraria si parla, Céline, riplasmatore del linguaggio, petite musique, affrescatore e medico delle miserie umane, è Céline. Ingiusto e ridicolo, cancellarlo dalle celebrazioni del 2011. Era un’occasione per comprendere, riscoprire, analizzare. L’odio, Spinoza dixit, non può mai essere buono.

Tante altre notizie su www.ariannaeditrice.it

Céline et la bêtise


Céline et la Bêtise


Claude Bourrinet

Ex: http://www.voxnr.com/


Bernanos, qui déplorait que Hitler eut déshonoré l’antisémitisme, mais gaulliste nonobstant, et même, si l’on veut « Juste », bien qu’avec la distance d’un océan, disait, sans doute avec raison, que la bêtise menait le monde. Ce dernier est bien trop vaste pour qu’on s’en fasse une idée bien précise, mais pour ce qui concerne la France, on ne risque guère de se tromper.

Comme le remarque le Figaro de ce jour, non sans un humour un peu décalé : « Le ministre de la Culture donne raison à Serge Klarsfeld… ». On ne manquera pas de s’étonner qu’un aussi emblématique représentant de la République, garant du patrimoine de la Nation, « donne raison » à un individu, au détriment d’une communauté dont il devrait placer au-dessus de tout l’intérêt. A moins qu’on se soit trompé justement de communauté… Mais au fond, on a vu récemment d’autres ministres, et même le Chef de l’Etat, sembler défendre des causes individuelles, parfois en changeant les lois, par exemple celle concernant les jeux en ligne.

On ne sera sans doute pas assez ingénu pour croire que Monsieur Mitterrand soit tombé en amour, comme disent nos amis anglais, pour l’ex soldat de Tsahal, ci-devant garde frontière (autrement dit gardien d’un ghetto où moisissent misérablement plus d’un million de femmes, d’enfants et d’hommes condamnés à boire de l’eau croupie), détenteur de la légion d’honneur, probablement pour avoir remplir son devoir sioniste, et subsidiairement mené son petit boulot d’inquisiteur et de censeur.

On se dit que l’intelligence eût consisté à faire le moins de bruit possible, à laisser passer les commémoration dont tout le monde se fout, quand bien même les faiseurs de discours feraient mine de ne pas s’en apercevoir, d’autant plus que l’anniversaire de la mort de Céline a lieu un premier juillet, au moment où la France vraie, corporelle et suante répète le grand exode estival vers un Sud qui a vocation, il faut le dire, à recevoir avec voracité la barbaque éreintée de nos compatriotes. A la limite, pour les quelques demi-savants titillés par une curiosité malsaine, on aurait pu asséner quelques bonnes vérités bienpensantes, histoire de faire diversion, en rappelant l’ignominie de Louis-Ferdinand, en condamnant sa logorrhée antisémite (bien que ces écrits-là fussent interdits de publication) ; et, plus intelligemment encore (on demande vraiment l’impossible !), il aurait été possible de souligner le caractère subversif de la prose célinienne, dont on a du mal à trouver l’équivalent dans la critique, pourtant maintenant bien conformiste, de la guerre, du colonialisme et du culte de l’agent.
Ah ! le culte de l’argent… Domaine risqué, s’il en est. C’est justement là où le bât blesserait. On procèderait presque à des amalgames répugnants. Honni soit qui mal y pense ! Et le Président Sarkozy, qui, pour l’argent, a les yeux de cette pauvre Chimène à qui ont prête beaucoup à des taux d’usurier, le prendrait pour lui.

Mais foin de pingrerie ! Pourquoi s’arrêter en si bon chemin ? Pourquoi ne pas vider nos librairies, nos bibliothèques, et accessoirement notre Panthéon, de quelques brebis galeuses des Lettres, qui s’en sont pris injustement au Peuple élu ? Exit donc Voltaire, Rousseau, Balzac, Maupassant, et d’autres, (sans parler de Valéry, de Gide …) qui ont commis un certain nombre de pages fort calomniatrices et, il faut le dire, affreusement caricaturales.

Et tant que nous y sommes, et, mon Dieu, pourquoi ne défendre qu’une seule communauté ? (on nous traiterait de raciste !), pourquoi ne pas interdire Rabelais, qui a ignominieusement caricaturé les Sorbonicards, en les présentant comme des ivrognes, Agrippa d’Aubigné, qui a éructé contre les papistes, Ronsard, qui a vomi contre les Protestants, Corneille, qui a, comme un vieux Turold, fait l’apothéose d’un tueur de Maures, Diderot, qui a calomnié les Jésuites du Paraguay, pourtant défenseurs des Indiens, etc. Et que penser de tous ces écrivains qui n’ont eu de mots assez durs contre la démocratie, le progrès, la modernité triomphante ? Preuve que, comme les chemins menant à Rome, le génie achoppe toujours devant la bêtise des hommes. Eternelle lutte !
Diable merci, nos Lettres ne manquent pas de fureur haineuse, et parfois, cela donne du talent.

Dans cinq cents ans peut-être, s’il est encore un monde et si notre langue française n’a pas disparu, malgré les efforts déployés par la nouvelle classe des Tartuffes, des béotiens et des cyniques apatrides, qui restera-t-il de nos grands artistes, quand Messieurs Mitterrand et Klarsfeld ne demeureront même pas dans la mémoire des vers de terre ? Nul doute que Louis-Ferdinand Céline trônera, aux côtés de ses illustres prédécesseurs, dont le géant Rabelais, et de toutes les gloires de notre Nation.

Montherlant - Céline: Match nul?

Montherlant - Céline: Match Nul?

par Alain JAMOT

Ex: http://lepetitcelinien.blogspot.com/

Vous avez vu Montherlant pour son élection (à l’Académie). Ça va bien pour lui, il doit être content. Lui c’est Chateaubriand qui le gêne.
Le drapé antique. Il n’y arrive pas, ça l’embête.”
(Céline, sur Montherlant)

C’est de la littérature, aussi artificielle et aussi désuète que celle de Paul Alexis ou de Paul Lombard, écrivain au style “artisse” de la fin du XIXème siècle, et qui ne sera plus lue dans cinquante ans.
(Montherlant, sur Céline) Dictionnaire Céline, Philippe Alméras.

Mettre en vis à vis, dans un article, Montherlant et Céline, c’est un peu fouiller l’arrière-boutique un tantinet poussiéreuse de la littérature de droite d’il y a bien longtemps, celle du siècle dernier. L’aristo et le prolo, le gars de Neuilly et celui de Courbevoie, l’attentiste et le collabo, le spécialiste de la posture et la brute incapable de masquer ses sentiments et ses haines… Ont-ils quelque chose de commun, ces deux-là, à part finalement le succès, les manuels de littérature et la couverture blanche de Gallimard ?

Quand j’ai découvert les deux coupables, il y a bien longtemps, alors que je sortais de l’enfance pour aborder les rivages un peu pénibles de l’adolescence, et que je ne connaissais de la littérature (en gros) que Bob Morane, Jules Vernes et Oui-Oui, je m’imaginais que j’allais tomber avec eux sur des types sulfureux, des serial-writers fascistoïdes, des nazillons graphomanes, des suppôts du Mal (c’est à peu près ainsi que mes profs de lettres seventies les présentaient, eux qui se délectaient de Barthes ou de Rouge, dans ma lointaine banlieue).

Eh ben non, c’était tout le contraire ! Montherlant et Céline, y faisaient rien qu’à raconter des histoires de losers, de célibataires, de grabataires, de nanas encore turlupinées par Jésus avant de prendre la position horizontale, des histoires de misère, de dispensaire, de tuberculeux crachant leurs derniers instants dans des taudis et des galetas insalubres ! Bonjour la douche froide ! C’était donc ça, les méchants écrivains fascistes ? Je me disais bien qu’ils avaient dû se calmer avec l’âge (pour rentrer dans la Pléiade, mieux vaut éviter de rewriter Mein Kampf ou Je suis partout), mais qu’en fouillant dans leur production des années d’avant-guerre, ce serait bien le diable si je ne trouvais pas des trucs croustillants… Rien, nada !

Avec eux (mais ça décrivait bien aussi Drieu La Rochelle), je découvrais que l’écrivain de droite était avant tout un triste sire, un scribe consciencieux du tragique de la déliquescence franchouille, de la décadence, du lent glissement de la patrie de Pagnol, du pastis et des charentaises vers le néant intergalactique de la fin de l’Histoire…

Point de militants nationalistes et mystiques dans leurs bouquins, oh non, pas de héros guerriers triomphants en route vers le Walhalla, non non, mais de pauvres hères au quintal, analysés, scrutés, quantifiés, dans leurs sinistres et pathétiques habitudes de cocus de l’Histoire… des types humains pas très loin des héros de polars qui déferleraient sur l’Hexagone deux ou trois décennies plus tard.

Mais comment tout cela avait-il pu commencer, et d’où leur venait alors cette réputation sulfureuse ? En fait, le truc à la base, qui les rapprochait, c’était quoi ? C’était la guerre, la vraie, la Grande Guerre, celle de 14.

La guerre, la vraie.
Quand elle arrive, nos deux pieds nickelés ne se dégonflent pas : Céline suit le 12e régiment de Cuirassiers où il s’est engagé en 1912, Montherlant arrive enfin à se faire incorporer en 17. Les deux sont blessés, et finissent comme auxiliaires, Céline à Londres, Montherlant en France, à l’État-Major.

Montherlant, complètement shooté à Barrès, voit des morts partout et commencera, avec La Relève du matin, à broder sur le thème du sacrifice qui ne sert à rien, du héros qui meurt pour sauver un monde qui n’en vaut pas la peine.

Céline hallucine pour sa part sur le massacre, la boucherie, tout ce qui ressemble à un képi lui file de l’urticaire et se découvre pacifiste.

La différence fondamentale entre eux deux se trouve déjà là, bien évidente : Montherlant suit la guerre par les journaux, assiste aux messes d’enterrement de ses potes de Sainte-Croix de Neuilly, intrigue pour enfin endosser un uniforme et se rendre utile. Et ne pas passer pour un lâche après… Céline, on ne lui demande pas son avis, allez hop le proldu, au front ! En première ligne ! Et il se bat, est blessé. Céline y va à fond, en prend plein la gueule, ne s’économise pas. Montherlant se balade en semi-touriste, malgré lui, s’engage du bout des lèvres. On retrouvera sans cesse cette opposition entre eux, dans leur vie, dans leurs livres, dans leur style.

Pour les deux hommes, c’est la douche écossaise, l’électrochoc qui les sort de la programmation sociale : et tous deux, après la guerre, vont aller découvrir le monde, car à quoi bon survivre au suicide de l’Europe si c’est pour rester enkystés dans la médiocrité ?

Voyages voyages…
Céline rame, se marie et décroche son doctorat de médecine, Montherlant compte les crânes à l’Ossuaire de Douaumont. Tout cela aura vite une fin : twenties encore remuantes, chacun va foutre le camp parce qu’il n’y a que ça à faire.

Montherlant racle les fonds de tiroirs de sa mamie et réussit à se faire publier à compte d’auteur, puis un éditeur le remarque : let’s go ! Le pognon semble arriver assez facilement, bref il se débrouille et en route : c’est le Sud, l’Espagne, l’Algérie. Loin, mais pas trop. Les colonies et les espingouins, on connaît, on prend pas trop de risque pour le rapatriement.

Pour l’illuminé de Courbevoie, c’est une autre chanson : dès 1916, l’Afrique, puis avec la SDN les États-Unis, Cuba, le Canada, l’Angleterre. Céline bosse, rencontre des gens, se tape des greluches, rumine, observe, commence à gueuler.

Mine de rien, les deux rigolos inventent à leur façon on the road again et Katmandou quarante ans avant les autres, et repèrent déjà que la France bat de l’aile, qu’elle ne se relèvera jamais plus du grand abattoir de 14, que les colonies sont un enfer pour les autochtones et les petits blancs.

En politique, y savent pas trop où ils en sont, mais ça commence déjà à mijoter tout autour d’eux : la peur du bolchevique mine la bourgeoisie européenne, le couteau entre les dents alimente les fantasmes des rentiers et des parlementaires.

Bref, c’est le générique d’Amicalement vôtre : Montherlant/Brett Sinclair se la coule douce, découvre le sport et l’ambiance mecs sur le stade, vit dans les quartiers bourgeois et publie déjà beaucoup ; Céline/Danny Wilde bourlingue, travaille, écrit une vague nouvelle et a définitivement cessé d’être un prolo. Tout les sépare, tout les éloigne l’un de l’autre. Et puis arrivent les années trente…

Les grandes manœuvres
Céline, toujours fauche-man, a repéré qu’Eugène Dabit cartonne avec Hôtel du Nord et s’imagine qu’on peut se faire des couilles en or en écrivant de la prose prolétaire : l’innocent ! Un vrai réflexe de midinette ! Résultat, il pond Voyage au bout de la nuit ! Et ne se rend même pas compte qu’il vient de violer la langue française et de créer une brèche dans le ronron académique.

Denoël chope l’ovni au vol juste devant Gallimard, et c’est l’entrée en fanfare : il rate le Goncourt de peu (mais reçoit le Renaudot), avec un premier roman qui deviendra l’un des plus célèbres livres français.

Il en prend déjà plein la gueule : quoi, pas de grandes périodes classiques, pas de beau style, mais des mots crados, de la misère et encore de la misère, du désespoir, des pauvres comme s’il en pleuvait, et pas de rédemption, pas de lendemains qui chantent ?

Céline s’en fout, touche du pognon, se balade, écrit beaucoup. Et, au fil des années, commence à déraper : il fréquente Léon Daudet, se grise de succès, se passionne pour la politique et l’hygiène sociale, se croit tout permis, prend un premier râteau avec Mort à crédit et publie en 1937 Bagatelles pour un massacre : quel con ! Il a déjà commis un premier pamphlet contre les cocos de retour d’une virée en URSS, sans grand retentissement. Mais là, il est servi : l’antisémitisme est à la mode, on en redemande, et ça va lui coûter sa crédibilité. Comment un type aussi intelligent, un écrivain aussi doué a-t-il pu se laisser embarquer dans ce délire quasi-psychiatrique, ces élucubrations racialistes à la mords-moi-le-nœud ? Gide le ridiculise dans la NRF. Il s’en moque, et l’année suivante, rebelote : L’Ecole des cadavres !

Fin des haricots : la malédiction Céline s’installe, Gringoire, Je suis partout, l’Action française applaudissent, la gauche rejette notre héros dans les ténèbres, et lui, of course, se radicalise. On ne parlera désormais plus que de cela pour l’éternité, de ces deux opuscules gueulards et maladroits même si le style atteint parfois des sommets, où la haine du Juif se mêle au pacifisme, la peur de la guerre à la haine du fric. Pour le beauf de base, l’affaire est entendue : Céline, c’est de la littérature antisémite, et qui se vend bien, en plus… En 1939, les deux pamphlets sont pourtant interdits.

Pendant ce temps-là, Montherlant arrête ses rêveries sur le sport et la morale antique, et décide de surfer sur la misère lui aussi, mais plutôt celle de sa classe avec Les Célibataires, où deux noblaillons dépensent des trésors d’imagination pour ne rien foutre et vivre leur vie de parasites sociaux. Carton ! Il décide alors d’explorer aussi la misère sexuelle, et pond quatre tomes des Jeunes filles, où un Casanova froussard et cultivé fait la leçon à une Solange encore travaillée par le catholicisme : re-carton. Pour l’époque, ça sent bon l’érotisme, la provoc, la petite culotte, le crucifix et les grandes envolées élitistes. Étrange mélange, mais blockbuster de l’édition, en un temps où les curés faisaient encore recette et ne jouaient pas devant des salles vides.

Montherlant s’en met plein les fouilles à son tour, publie de nombreux petits ouvrages à tirages limités (genre L’Eventail de fer) chez des éditeurs obscurs, et se fait encore plein de pognon dessus ! Il a tout compris du business littéraire, et ne prend pas de risques idiots comme Céline : il surfe sur les fantasmes de l’époque, s’invente un personnage de pacotille, mélange d’antique, de préfasciste et de conservateur mais s’arrête avant l’erreur fatale. Il sent son public, lui donne ce qu’il souhaite, et parfois écrit pour lui-même, dans de petits essais confidentiels.

Alors Montherlant poltron et Céline courageux ? Pas si simple… Montherlant avance masqué, ses journées sont souvent des journées composées exclusivement de drague et d’écriture, et il ne veut pas trop attirer l’attention sur le penchant qu’il partage avec André Gide. Il sait aussi que si la politique peut faire parler de vous et vous lancer, elle peut aussi vous griller à vie en cas de dérapage et vous tailler un costard dont vous ne parviendrez plus à vous défaire, ad vitam aeternam… Et puis, si Montherlant, comme tous les auteurs, est vaniteux et exhibitionniste, il connaît via sa famille les rouages du monde, il sait en jouer. Alors que Céline, gros balourd génial et emporté, s’étonne des retours de flammes et des cabales. Assoiffé de reconnaissance, artistique, sociale, Céline veut tout, les gonzesses, le pognon, les gros titres et les gros tirages tout en restant lui-même, et en se permettant de délirer si bon lui semble. Oh coco, ça marche pas comme ça, et les écrivains et la politique, ça colle rarement, ils se font avoir presque à chaque fois…

Montherlant, malgré ses airs de Grand d’Espagne, calcule tout, prévoit presque tout, et avouera même avoir préféré retourner à son écritoire le 6 février 1934 plutôt que d’aller voir où en était le match Camelots du Roy/Préfecture de Police !

À partir de 1940, leur différence fondamentale s’affirme encore davantage. Céline boit des coups avec Brasillach, sert la louche d’Otto Abetz (Montherlant… aussi), torche des articulets pronazis, s’inquiète des progrès de la Résistance et se fout de la gueule de Pétain.

Montherlant publie Le Solstice d’été, vision Collège Stanislas de la victoire d’Hitler, pontifie un max mais décline très astucieusement tout appel du pied trop pressant de la Révolution Nationale. Toujours la prudence…

À partir de la Libération, où Montherlant s’en sort après une bonne remontrance, il décide de se lancer dans le théâtre, l’opérette pied-noir revue façon Grand Siècle, et nous débite La Reine morte et Le Maître de Santiago ! Du beau boulot, du sublime au kilomètre, mais ça reste du toc, du chiqué, du bois peint, du faux marbre. Le militant de droite qui se pique de culture s’extasie, et s’en sert comme rempart contre Sartre et Ionesco. On a les émotions, et les références, qu’on peut…

Céline court sous les bombes avec le chat Bébert et sa dulcinée dans Berlin, claque du bec avec Le Vigan en Poméranie et finit dans une geôle au Danemark. Et à l’époque, le Danemark, c’est pas encore l’État providence, les blondes sublimes à la poitrine opulente et à la morale sexuelle élastique : point de porno, mais plutôt la grisaille, le froid, la faim, le protestantisme. L’horreur, quoi…

Céline dépérit, commence ses correspondances fleuves, et finit par rentrer en France sur une astuce légale. Le voilà parti pour la misère, encore et encore, la gueulante aigrie, la paranoïa comme raison d’être, les falzars tenus par des bouts de ficelle, la pleurnicherie incessante, le fantasme des Chinois déferlant sur l’Occident, l’Apocalypse à Meudon, le discours répétitif et saoulant d’un vieillard complètement largué et méchant comme une teigne, avec des grabataires comme clients de son cabinet médical et du bordel dans toute la maisonnée.

Il engueule Gaston Gallimard, pleure sans cesse pour un à-valoir ou une réédition pendant que ce dernier signe de confortables chèques à Montherlant, qui est quasiment sacré Trésor National Vivant et entre à l’Académie.

Alors ça finit comme un mélo : Céline meurt angoissé, aigri, cradingue sans jamais avoir triché. Et Montherlant se flingue douze ans après, ne supportant plus de devenir aveugle… et son masque se fendille définitivement.

Résultat des courses
Que reste-t-il aujourd’hui de tout cela ? Littérairement, Céline gagne haut la main. Avec Proust (et Joyce), il a propulsé l’écriture hors des remugles bourgeois et des ânonnements bécasses des profs de lettres. La littérature, avec lui, ça gueule, ça souffre, ça pète, ça picole, ça frôle les grands parcours Deleuze/Guattari : on se déterritorialise pour replanter sa casbah ailleurs, plus loin, toujours plus loin, on va de ligne de fuite en ligne de fuite, on s’immerge dans le devenir perpétuel, dans le devenir-animal, le devenir-Bébert, le devenir-totalitaire, on prend tous les risques, on explose la syntaxe, on déverse un proto-argot, on se ramasse, et on parvient même à faire sortir des écrasements historiques et sociaux des trésors de tendresse. Eh oui, comme tous les grands énervés, Céline sait aussi fondre de tendresse et d’amour pour sa meuf, son chat, ses amis, mais aussi ses pauvres, ses patients, ses prolos, ceux qui sentent la soupe, qui puent de la gueule, qui crèvent de la vérole, de la tuberculose ou du cancer, tous ceux pour qui le Front Populaire fut alors une miraculeuse épiphanie.

Céline écrivain de droite ? Oui, mais d’une droite métaphysique, ontologique, pour qui le surgissement de l’Être ne peut s’accompagner que d’un désespoir intégral et glaçant, d’une droite pour laquelle il n’y a pas de rédemption possible, et dont la parousie ne peut s’imaginer que comme une explosion vitaliste sans retour, un festival au lance-flammes…

Montherlant, lui, avec son beau style, ses gros tirages d’antan et ses postures agaçantes, était en fait un homme du passé. L’aboutissement plutôt que le commencement de quelque chose. Tout sonne un peu vieillot chez lui et surtout son style, un peu irréel, encore intéressant, parfois saisissant ou touchant, mais si loin, si loin… Montherlant héros d’une droite faussement moderne, qui se fait un film sur l’Ancien Régime, qui se prend le chou sur des arguties catholiques proprement inintelligibles aujourd’hui pour le Français moyen, ou qui ronchonne encore sur la perte de l’Algérie Française.

Montherlant qui a aussi sûrement agi pour la décrédibilisation de l’écrivain en tant qu’artiste et intellectuel utile et légitime à droite que Sartre et BHL à gauche, c’est dire !

Céline anticipe notre chaos quotidien, nous file une toolbox stylistique pour nous en sortir. Montherlant nous ouvre son musée, et nous explique que quand même, avant, c’était mieux…

Bukowski révérait Céline, et en fera un quasi-personnage dans son dernier roman.

Montherlant, même Le Figaro n’en parle plus !

Restent les livres, au-delà des hommes et des parcours. Mais combien les lisent encore vraiment, ces deux-là ?

surlering.fr, 27/10/2009.
Repris sur le site montherlant.be

lundi, 24 janvier 2011

Edernité d'Edern

Edernité d’Edern

Entretien avec François Bousquet

Ex: http://blogchocdumois.hautetfort.com/

jdh.jpgLa société du spectacle célèbre la mort de François Mitterrand. Nous, nous célébrons celle de Jean-Edern Hallier, mort le siècle dernier, un 12 janvier. C’était un spectacle à lui tout seul. Retour sur le dernier grand phénomène de cirque de la littérature française avec François Bousquet, auteur de Jean-Edern Hallier ou le narcissique parfait, paru aux éditions Albin Michel, et qui a eu la chance de travailler avec lui à l’époque du « Jean Edern’s club » sur Paris première, quand l’animateur jetait d’un geste augustéen les mauvais livres dont on l’inondait.

Dans Jean-Edern ou le narcissique parfait, vous vous attardez longuement sur les grands coups d’éclat de Jean-Edern…

Je n’ai jamais cessé d’être époustouflé par ses audaces, ses échecs, sa folie. Il avait repris à son compte la devise de Mick Jagger : Too much is never enough. Et on peut nous croire, trop, chez lui, n’était jamais assez. Il a repoussé les limites du ridicule au-delà de tout horizon. Réellement, il s’autorisait tout. Une sorte d’impudeur fondamentale, étrangère au caricatural, guidait sa vie. Les mécanismes d’autocensure, ce que la psychanalyse appelle le « Surmoi », le tribunal de la conscience, ne jouait jamais chez lui. C’était un grand accidenté des débuts de la vie. On l’avait accouché au forceps, en l’éborgnant. Né cyclope, avec un seul œil, il s’est de suite réfugié dans le pays enchanté des mythomanes. Les thèses de Mélanie Klein sur le traumatisme de l’accouchement trouvent ici le sujet expérimental rêvé. Ébréché à la naissance, Jean-Edern est devenu un clown cyclopéen, un valet de comédie, anormalement confiné, avec les moyens physiques d’un adulte, aux guerres de tranchées des halte-garderies et des jalousies de classe maternelle. Ce qui s’est traduit en 1975, à l’âge de trente-neuf ans, par un attentat au cocktail Molotov dans la cage d’escalier de Françoise Mallet-Joris, alors vice-présidente du Prix Goncourt, prix avec lequel Jean-Edern était (et sera toujours) fâché. On ne compte pas les colis piégés qu’il a envoyés à des confrères, à Jean Daniel, à Jean-François Revel, qui n’ont pas explosé. Ça n’a pas toujours été le cas. En 1982, il a fait plastiquer, pour liquider un contentieux « scolaire » très ancien, l’appartement de Régis Debray, rue de Seine. La moitié de l’immeuble a sauté. Il n’y a eu, pour seule victime, qu’un malheureux chien. La même année, il s’est lui-même enlevé pendant une semaine avant de prévenir l’AFP qu’on le relâchait. C’étaient les Pieds Nickelés à lui tout seul. Il avait de la nitroglycérine dans le sang et réglait ses conflits de jalousie à la dynamite. Nous, on envoie prosaïquement des lettres recommandées avec accusée réception, lui envoyait des pains de plastic. Il allait toujours trop loin. Il suffisait qu’on lui dise : ne le fais pas, pour qu’il le fasse. Dans ces conditions, ça finissait toujours par une convocation dans le bureau du juge, mais l’explication de texte était toujours fournie chez Bernard Pivot.

Plutôt qu’à la littérature, vous préférez le rattacher à une autre famille, celle des grands bouffons ?

On veut à tout prix faire de lui un écrivain, mais il y en a bien assez. Jean-Edern a d’ailleurs rapidement oublié la littérature. Cet oubli, c’était peut-être quelque chose de l’ordre de l’acte manqué. Peut-être sentait-il inconsciemment qu’il ne serait pas à la hauteur de cette assignation au génie et s’en est tenu à la promotion tonitruante de livres à peine achevés. La campagne publicitaire a été incomparable, le plan média invraisemblable, mais la qualité de l’œuvre inversement proportionnelle à l’intentionnalité et au projet de grandeur. C’était un mégalomane parfait, un euphorique dominé par les superlatifs. Le plus grand, le plus intelligent, le plus admirable. Il jouissait de lui sous le mode de l’auto-érotisme, en s’administrant quotidiennement des surdoses d’éloges qui auraient tué tout autre que lui. On n’a pas idée du narcissisme ni des mécanismes d’auto-divinisation si l’on n’a pas pratiqué quelque peu Jean-Edern. Il avait fini par penser qu’il était prédestiné de naissance au génie, ce qui lui économisait de toute évidence d’en devenir un.

Pour vous, ça n’est pas un problème…

Son génie était ailleurs. Il a su renouer avec une tradition tombée dans l’oubli, le carnavalesque médiéval, la comédie italienne, les valets de Molière, tout le cortège du monstrueux joyeux du Moyen Âge, avec sa cour des miracles, ses gargouilles, ses bossus. Le miracle, c’est qu’une société aussi normative et hygiénique que la nôtre ait laissé passer un tel Scapin, aussi expert que lui en larronnerie et fanfaronnade. C’était un personnage de BD qui aspirait à entrer à l’Académie, et dont la vie a fini par ressembler à une suite de faits-divers dans un décor de cartoons. Quoi qu’il fît, c’était drôle, à ses dépens et aux dépens des puissants. Tout était comique, rien n’était tragique. Pourquoi était-il réduit à la condition des bouffons, et pas à celle des rois ? Parce qu’il était boiteux, borgne, estropié, au même titre que les nains de cour qui fournissaient, jadis, les contingents de bouffons pour donner la réplique aux princes. Mais Jean-Edern était un bouffon royal. Mieux vaut être un bouffon royal qu’un monarque ridicule. Dans Dostoïevski, le bouffon se dégonfle et en appelle à la compassion du public en lui livrant son sentiment d’indignité. Il n’ose pas être pleinement un prince de la dérision alors qu’un Stavroguine par exemple assume parfaitement d’être un prince du mal. Si le bouffon pouvait se livrer sans réserve à la dérision, aucun pouvoir n’y résisterait, pas même celui d’un Stavroguine. Il arracherait son masque de gravité et de dignité à l’Homme. Malheureusement, les bouffons ignorent certaines des potentialités de leur art : ils ne sont dangereux que par intermittence. Mais alors quelle puissance de destruction !

C’est à vos yeux en tant que directeur de journal, à la tête de L’Idiot international, qu’il a donné le meilleur de lui-même ?

Jean-Edern faisait du journalisme sauvagement, en dehors de tout cadre légal, sans carte de presse. C’était un journaliste par accident, qui a su transformer le fortuit et l’accidentel en miracle permanent. Obsédé par les grandes aventures de la presse, il a créé un journal d’écrivains et d’incendiaires, pour aborder l’actualité de biais, par l’inactualité de la littérature, sous le mode du hooliganisme littéraire et de la rupture avec tous les conformismes. Il y est parvenu, pendant cinq ans, de 1989 à 1993. Tous ceux qui comptaient ou allaient compter sont alors passés par L’Idiot international. C’était l’équipe de France Espoir de la littérature, même s’il y avait quelques vétérans du Barreau et de l’Académie. L’Idiot a été une merveilleuse licence sur l’époque, un permis de tuer par le style, arraché par Jean-Edern au consensus journalistique.
Jean-Edern voulait sortir la littérature du ghetto littéraire. Il était exotérique, populiste, plébiscitaire, visait un public de cent mille personnes. Les petites salles ne retenaient pas son attention. Ce qu’il fallait à sa folie, c’était le Stade de France. Et il l’aurait rempli ! Seulement, refaire L’Idiot international aujourd’hui serait impossible. C’était un journal inimitable, inimitablement dirigé. Les conditions de l’époque et la vigilance des tribunaux interdisent la renaissance de ce type de presse. Il y a des polémistes, mais ils n’auront jamais le mégaphone de Jean-Edern ni sa capacité à médiatiser une intervention. La prise de parole, dans une société médiatiquement bloquée, passe par la provocation, praxis à double tranchant : d’un côté elle a un très fort coefficient de médiatisation et de l’autre elle est délégitimante. Elle vous retire tout de suite ce que vous avez arraché grâce à elle. Jean-Edern forçait les portes des grands médias grâce à sa popularité de clown, qui le protégeait tout en le déconsidérant, et inversement. Témoin douteux de la vérité, il était systématiquement récusé, en dépit des écoutes téléphoniques et des condamnations de justice. N’oublions pas qu’il a été l’homme le plus écouté de France et son journal le plus condamné. Mais à trop hurler au loup, c’est le loup qu’on croit.

Que dire de ce couple inattendu qu’il a formé avec François Mitterrand ? Le prince et son poète ? Ou plutôt devrions-nous dire le monarque et son bouffon ?

François Mitterrand était un voyeur. Ce n’est pas la première fois que le pouvoir appelle ce genre de perversion. C’est Mitterrand qui trichait, c’est Jean-Edern qui disait la vérité. Il ne faut pas renverser les rôles. Jean-Edern a indiscutablement mis en scène sa victimisation, mais on ne peut nier qu’il a bel et bien été persécuté par le pouvoir. Dans le cas de la cellule antiterroriste de l’Élysée, le président de la République a été pris d’une frénésie d’espionnage qui excède largement les capacités de nuisance de Jean-Edern et les nécessités de la surveillance. Les écoutes n’étaient pas seulement illégales, mais inutiles. Ce qui nous conduit logiquement à penser que Mitterrand y prenait un certain plaisir. En gourmet, il se délectait de son indiscrétion. Est-ce que Jean-Edern était un terroriste sérieux ? Non, assurément. Le terrorisme pose, lui aussi, la question de l’autorité. Jean-Edern était un amateur, discrédité d’avance, et dont la cause était beaucoup moins politique qu’infantile. C’était au fond du terrorisme passionnel. À eux deux, ils forment le couple du voyeur et de l’exhibitionniste, du prince et du bouffon, du gendarme et du voleur. Peut-être fallait-il, en ces temps d’ennui, de normalisation et de conformisme, un David comique pour terrasser un Goliath compassé.

Que pensez-vous des spéculations autour de sa mort, assassinat ou non ?

C’est le type même de la thèse qui n’aurait jamais dû quitter son rang d’hypothèse. Jean-Edern est mort d’un arrêt cardiaque, usé qu’il était d’excès tabagiques et alcooliques. Il a eu un cancer, fait des infarctus, des gardes à vue et même une parodie de funérailles nationales au Panthéon avec la complicité de Léon Zitrone. L’idée, farfelue, d’un « contrat » lancé contre lui a été relayée par la partie folklorique de son entourage, autant de cryptomanes et de conspirationnistes éminemment sympathiques, mais qui s’enflamment à tout bout de champ et font ressurgir, au moindre indice, le secret de l’Atlantide englouti. C’est difficile de les suivre. Si on avait dû tuer Jean-Edern, on l’aurait fait plus tôt. Tel n’a pas été le cas. Son « assassinat manqué » n’est donc pas venu couronner une carrière d’opposant, ni faire du « martyr ridicule », comme les appelait Léon Cladel, un héros de la liberté. Ce que Jean-Edern n’était pas. Héros, il l’était, oui, mais du médiatique.

Jean-Edern aurait-il tout sacrifié à la célébrité ?

Tout est vain, comme dit l’Ecclésiaste, et singulièrement notre société du spectacle. Mais la télévision était une tentation trop grande pour Jean-Edern et tenait du pacte faustien mal interprété. Comme il visait la plus forte Unité de bruit médiatique, il s’agitait sans arrêt pour passer au « Vingt Heures » ou du moins figurer en bonne place dans le journal, sous n’importe quelle rubrique, dans la page économie, people ou faits-divers. La France entière devait le voir. C’était vital pour lui. Quand il a été animateur, le problème s’est résolu de lui-même : il est entré dans la boîte. Quoique inactuel, c’est un héros de notre temps. Il est très difficile de survivre à l’incinération télévisuelle. La société du spectacle fait une consommation effrénée de héros provisoires, d’histrions jetables et autres chanteurs d’un soir. Jean-Edern a malgré tout survécu à sa disparition médiatique. L’historien des trente dernières années du XXe siècle sera surpris de retrouver son nom partout, en politique, en littérature, à la télévision, au tribunal. Moteur hybride, il fonctionnait à n’importe quoi, pourvu que ça le conduise à la seule Terre promise qui compte : la télévision. Premier Prix au Concours Lépine de l’entrisme télévisuel… et du sortisme, parce qu’on le chassait au moins aussi souvent qu’on le recevait. Il avait même le projet de faire le Paris-Dakar avec le capitaine Barril. Quel attelage ! Manquait un dromadaire. Il appartient à l’histoire poétique du charlatanisme. Proto-héros précaire et clinquant, il aurait trouvé naturellement sa place dans un film d’Emir Kusturica, avec Maradona, Richard Virenque et Rossinante. Comment ne pas tomber amoureux d’un pareil équipage ! C’est peut-être l’équation secrète du quichottisme.

Alors que reste-t-il de lui ?

Jean-Edern se présentait à nous sur une scène de théâtre, sur des tréteaux, en clown débridé et fraternel. Notre relation à lui était celle de spectateurs médusés. Ce n’était pas un maître, il ne dispensait aucun enseignement. Il vivait en perpétuelle insécurité narcissique, entouré d’une nuée de jeunes gens émerveillés par sa folie et son abandon à la parole et à l’admiration des autres. Je trouve que dans cette lutte poétique que mènent les délicats contre la classe prédominante des vulgaires, il n’était pas le moins beau. Albatros baudelairien qui n’est pas près d’être surpassé, j’ai voulu lui rendre hommage, sans occulter l’envers du décor.
Jean-Edern nous rappelle qu’il peut y avoir de l’excellence ailleurs que dans le cursus honorum balisé de l’écrivain classique, qui fait des livres et des colloques, en suivant la flèche de la littérature. En tant que calamité sociale, il relevait de la piraterie, du picaresque et du vaudeville. Il faut être aveugle et insensible pour ne pas deviner là un potentiel poétique exceptionnel et inédit. À un certain niveau, l’escroquerie s’apparente à une œuvre d’art et le bateleur télévisuel à un djinn plus féerique que médiatique. Ça ne me dérange absolument pas que Jean-Edern n’ait été que ce qu’il était, puisqu’il l’était par privilège poétique et décret divin. C’était un poète monté sur un clown, et qui se jetait pour finir dans le vide. Ses ennemis se refusent à l’admettre par principe, mais c’était beau à voir.

François Bousquet, Jean-Edern Hallier ou le narcissique parfait, Albin Michel, 140 p., 13€.
Frédéric Hallier, Denis Gombert et François Bousquet, « L’Idiot international », une anthologie, Albin Michel, 232 p., 25€

dimanche, 23 janvier 2011

Il pugilato visto da Jack London

Il pugilato visto da Jack London

di Michele De Feudis

Fonte: secolo d'italia

jack-london.jpg«E mentre la moglie si stringeva a lui, Tom King cercò di ridere di cuore. Lanciò uno sguardo alla stanza nuda, alle spalle di lei: era tutto quel che possedeva al mondo, più un affitto arretrato, una moglie, due bambini. E ora stava per lasciare tutto e uscir fuori, nella notte, in cerca di cibo per la sua femmina e i suoi cuccioli, non come un operaio moderno che si reca alla macchina, ma nel vecchio modo primigenio, eroico, animale: combattendo per il cibo».
Il pugilato raccontato da Jack London, con raffinate pennellate, intrise di richiami a suggestioni politiche e sociali, consente di riscoprire l'anima popolare e autentica della "noble art". La classica faccia da pugile (pp. 117, euro 10, Mattioli 1885) è una chicca per appassionati del mondo dei guantoni ma allo stesso tempo costituisce una lettura essenziale per comprendere le ragioni profonde che sottendono lo spirito di sacrificio e l'agonismo di un atleta. E tra queste c'è anche la fame, o la fuga dalla indigenza o dall'emarginazione, caratteristiche che delineano assonanze tra le biografie di campioni del calcio come l'argentino Diego Armando Maradona con Antonio Cassano, ed emerge dalle storie complicate e piene di colpi di scena tipici di anime fragili. Basterebbe osservare le immagini arcaiche del ritorno alle radici praticato dal brasiliano Adriano, attaccante finora senza fortuna nella Roma, quando ritorna nelle favelas in cui è cresciuto. Questa carica dirompente assurge ad archetipo proprio nell'austero mondo del pugilato, nel quale domina la legge del sacrificio e degli allenamenti inflessibili; dove Iron Mike, al secolo Mike Tyson, si è costruito la fama di picchiatore in un quartiere malfamato della Grande Mela, Brownsville, mettendo al tappeto a soli undici anni un ragazzo più grande, reo di aver staccato la testa ad un povero piccione...
London fu l'apripista di una serie di autori che erano stati pugili-dilettanti, da Ernest Hemingway a Norman Mailer fino a F.X. Toole, che ha scritto Million Dollar Baby, da cui Clint Eastwood ha poi tratto la sceneggiatura dell'omonimo e riuscitissimo film (nel 2004).
L'opera dello scrittore vagabondo americano raccoglie due brevi storie di boxe, La bistecca e Il messicano, narrazioni sorprendenti per l'umanità non artificiale che sottende gli incontri sul ring, i ritratti delle anime dei combattenti appaiono a tutto tondo, con le pulsioni più animali legate all'istinto di sopravvivenza e le serenità di riconoscere il valore dell'avversario, vincente o perdente che sia, alla fine della dura contesa. London, romanziere dallo stile di vita bohèmien, era stato in gioventù un pugile dilettante, poi pregevole cronista di sport. La penna era arrivata dopo aver tentato fortuna nei più svariati ambiti lavorativi: era stato strillone di giornali, cacciatore di foche, corrispondente di guerra, agente assicurativo, contadino e cercatore d'oro. Ne La bistecca l'anziano pugile Tom King è costretto per sbarcare il lunario a sfidare il giovane Sandel. Vorrebbe alimentarsi come si deve durante gli allenamenti, ma non ha denaro, i bottegai non gli fanno più credito mentre avrebbe desiderato addentare una fetta di carne: il denaro come variabile nelle dinamiche di classe diventa rivelatore delle venature socialisteggianti di London. Le medesime coordinate appaiono ancora più evidenti ne Il messicano, dove è l'ansia rivoluzionaria a spingere lo smilzo Rivera sul ring: deve reperire cinquemila dollari per acquistare fucili, indispensabili alla lotta armata. Il miraggio della conquista di una lauta borsa contro un avversario di grido, Danny Ward, appare l'unico mezzo per assicurarsi le risorse economiche necessarie alla Giunta rivoluzionaria. «Le ginocchia gli tremavano, ansimava per lo sfinimento. Davanti ai suoi occhi, tra nausea e vertigini, le facce odiate ondeggiavano avanti ed indietro. Allora ricordò che ogni faccia era un fucile. E i fucili adesso erano i suoi. La Rivoluzione poteva andare avanti».
championnat-de-boxe.jpgRoberto Perrone, scrittore e firma del Corriere della Sera ha definito così il pugilato: «Non si tratta solo di darsi cazzotti. E' una metafora della vita. Devi ballare e menare, essere leggero nei movimenti e pesante nel pugno. Devi scappare ma anche avere coraggio. Hai paura e non ce l'hai. Mi sa tanto di vita vera, di palestre di periferia. Spesso, a guardare certi pugili che vengono da paesi dell'Est o del Sud del mondo, mi rendo conto che è ancora il solo modo per dare alla propria vita una certa dignità. Questo è tragico e al tempo stesso sublime". Tutto questo si ritrova nelle pagine dedicate a questa disciplina dall'autore de Il richiamo della foresta, come spiega Mario Maffi: «Ora, proprio nella capacità di superare le contraddizioni individuali e di andare oltre le dinamiche isolate, personali o collettive, di un momento, di un tempo o di un luogo, per restituirci invece, potentemente e limpidamente, istantanee e affreschi di tensioni sociali e culturali diffuse e ricoorenti, proprio qui risiede il continuo fascino della scrittura di London. Perché, in fondo e ancora una volta, come succede nelle narrazioni mitiche e leggendarie, e con tante opere di quell'epoca convulsa, "de te fabula narratur": è di te (è di noi) che si parla in queste storie».


Tante altre notizie su www.ariannaeditrice.it

Jack London: The Protean Writer Who Mixed Racism with Socialism

The Protean writer who mixed racism with socialism : Jack London


Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

jack_london.jpg“There never was a good biography of a good novelist,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed. “He is too many people, if he’s any good.” This dictum holds particularly true in the case of Jack London (1876–1916). For biographers and critics as well, he is the most elusive of subjects. As a person, as a writer, and most of all as a man of ideas, he continually takes on different and sharply contrasting forms.

For nearly half of his short, turbulent and adventurous life he was a member of the Socialist Party. He wrote books and articles championing Socialist principles. He liked to end his letters with “Yours for the revolution.” Twice he ran as a Socialist for mayor of his hometown Oakland (he came nowhere near victory). Once, when serving as president of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, he spoke with menacing rhetoric of an imminent violent revolution at Harvard and Yale. Long revered as a patron saint of the left, he was for years the most widely read American author in the Soviet Union.

His best-known Socialist work is The Iron Heel (1907). Set in a future America, the novel expounds Marxist theory and vividly portrays the bloody suppression of a workers’ revolt by a Bilderbergerish cabal of plutocrats called the Oligarchy. Predictably, Iiberal-minority critics praise the book as a prophetic vision of the evils of twentieth-century fascism. Just as predictably, they deplore the shadowy presence of London the hereditarian. To him the book’s slum proletarians, “the people of the abyss,” are “the refuse and the scum of life,” a stock irredeemably inferior to the plutocrats and the Socialist elite who are the heroes and heroines of the novel.

London was usually much more explicit about the genetic coloring of his Socialism. He once horrified some fellow party members by declaring: “What the Devil! I am first of all a white man and only then a Socialist!” And he wrote a friend, “Socialism is not an ideal system devised for the happiness of all men. It is devised so as to give more strength to [Northern European] races so that they may survive and inherit the earth to the extinction of the lesser, weaker races.”

London became a Socialist because first-hand experience — he once worked 14-hour days in a cannery for ten cents an hour — had made him an enemy of economic injustice. But Socialist theory was just one of the three strong intellectual currents of the time that shaped his world view and found expression in his writing. He was also drawn, by his instinctive belief in the primacy of the self, to the ideas of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Max Stirner. The third, probably the most profound influence on his thinking, was Darwinism and Herbert Spencer’s application of it to philosophy and ethics. This doctrine was for London an essential key to the pattern of existence.

The contradictions’ between such divergent sources, writes London’s most recent biographer, Andrew Sinclair (Jack, 1977), “suited his divided nature. . . .  Jack was most a Socialist when he was depressed. . . . When he felt confident, he decided that the survival of the self and the race determined all human behavior.”

We cannot judge to what extent it is fair to describe London’s thinking in terms of manic-depressive psychology. But it is certainly true that throughout his work the writer gravitates from one theoretical matrix to another. For example, in describing his own climb to eminence, either in autobiography or in thinly disguised fiction (notably in the 1909 novel Martin Eden), he casts himself variously as a social underdog victimized by class barriers, as a man of indomitable will, and as a biological specimen superbly fitted for survival.

However he depicted it, his rise was an impressive story. He fought his way up from poverty, educated himself, served a grueling literary apprenticeship, and virtually by main force became a popular, well-paid and influential writer. Glorying in his hard-won status, he established himself in baronial (and un-Socialist) fashion on a sprawling California ranch and labored to maintain his lifestyle by grinding out an average of three books a year.

By instinct and by conviction, London was a literary naturalist-one of a new breed of writers who focused on the harsh, deterministic forces shaping nature and human society. Working at the top of his form, he had an enormous gift for graphically dramatizing primal conflict, and several of his books are classics of their kind. The most famous of these are two novels: The Call of the Wild (1903), in which the canine hero, Buck, learns “the law of the club and fang” in the Yukon; and The Sea-Wolf (1904), a complex and compelling portrait of a sealer captain who is a proto-superman.

Unfortunately, London is not at his best when he makes racial themes central in his fiction. The material, like most of his work, has raw power and vitality. But the modern reader will also find it full of operatic melodrama, stereotyped characters, and Kiplingesque assumptions about the imperial mission of the Anglo-Saxons. (Kipling was a major influence on London’s style and many of his attitudes.)

However, one of London’s themes, racial displacement, is more relevant now than when he wrote. It is the theme of his novel The Valley of the Moon (1913), a sympathetic study of poor, landless Anglo-Saxon Americans in California. They have lost the land to exploiters of their own kind, to more energetic immigrants, and through their own improvidence. They are “the white folks that failed.” Their salvation, London says, lies in returning

with new dedication to the land that is their birthright. His prescription, simplistic as it is, merits respect as a pioneering attempt. And we should note that it has been followed in recent years by a small but significant number of Majority members, people who for various reasons have gone back to the land to start over again.

The innate superiority of Anglo Saxon stock to all others is an article of faith in The Valley of the Moon and in London’s work generally. He was himself of Welsh descent on his mother’s side, English on the side of his presumptive father, a vagabond jack of-all-trades who never married London’s mother and never admitted his paternity.

Racial displacement on a larger scale is foreseen in The Mutiny of the Elsinore (1914). The hero-narrator, obviously London’s persona, is a playwright on an ocean voyage whose atavistic instincts help him crush a mutiny of his genetic inferiors But even as he exults in his victory, he judges it as all for naught in the long historical pull; and throughout the novel he delivers twilight-of-the-gods valedictories to his own kind, the blond, “white-skinned, blue-eyed Aryan.” Born to roam over the world and govern and command it, the paleface Aryan “perishes because of the too-white light he encounters” The brunette races “will inherit the earth, not because of their capacity for mastery and government, but because of their skin-pigmentation which enables their tissues to resist the ravages of the sun.”

This strange hypothesis the writer got from The Effects of Tropical Light on White Men, a book by a Major Woodruff. It was a theory which had been made horribly real for London by the nightmarish skin disease he had contracted on a cruise in the Solomon Islands.

London’s racial pessimism was reinforced by the decline in his fortunes in the last years of his life and by World War I, which he viewed as an orgy of racial fratricide But the writer who once had a heroine make the sensible observation that “white men shouldn’t go around killing each other” was outvoted by the inveterate Anglo-Saxon, and he became an advocate of American intervention on the side of England against Germany (One reason he left the SociaIist Party in 1916 was to protest its neutralist position. Another was his growing dissatisfaction with its dogma. “Liberty, freedom, and independence,” he wrote in his letter of resignation, “are royal things that cannot be presented to, nor thrust upon, races or classes.”)

Given to treating his increasing numbers of ailments, including alcoholism, with morphine and arsenic compounds, he died in 1916 of a self-administered drug overdose. Whether it was accidental or deliberate has never been determined

It is easy enough in retrospect to point out the flaws in London’s racial thinking. But the point to be stressed is that he knew, through his instinct and reason, how primary a factor race is, and he is one of the very few writers in this century who deals forthrightly with the fundamental role of racial dynamics m human affairs.

Like Proteus, London assumes different forms the Darwinian, the Socialist, the self-styled Nietzschean “blond beast,” the man of letters, the man of action, the “sailor on horseback” of his projected autobiography, and the major American author He is also reminiscent of the sea god in that he was something of a prophet. For example, the writer of such works as The Call of the Wild can be considered, to use biographer Sinclair’s words, “the prophet of the correspondences between beasts and men,” and a forerunner of Lorenz and E. O. Wilson.

Sinclair goes on to observe that London’s varied prophetic gifts make him “curiously modern as a thinker, despite the dark corridors of his racial beliefs.” Those of us who have made empirical journeys through our own “dark corridors,” will conclude that in this territory too London IS “curiously modern” and prophetic.

Instauration, vol. 3, no. 8 (June 1978), 5, 17, online: http://www.instaurationonline.com/pdf-files/Instauration-...

samedi, 22 janvier 2011

Katerine Mabire: la littérature, une école de vie

Katerine Mabire: la littérature, une école de vie

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Le Bulletin célinien n°326

Le Bulletin célinien n°326 - Janvier 2011

Vient de paraître : Le Bulletin célinien n°326.
Au sommaire :

Marc Laudelout : Bloc-notes
Henri Godard : Doit-on, peut-on célébrer Céline ?
Gaël Richard : Le procès de Céline
M. L. : Un auteur et son éditeur
Benoît Le Roux : Les derniers mots de Brasillach sur Céline
Laurie Viala : Illustrer Céline (II)
M. L. : De Céline à Braibant
Matthias Gadret & Marc Laudelout : 2010, (autre) année célinienne
Jean-Paul Angelelli : « Petrouchka » d’Albert Paraz
S. G. : Une interprétation intimiste de « Mort à crédit »
M. L. : La correspondance de Céline à Bente Johansen
M. L. : Céline sur tous les fronts

Le numéro 6€
Par chèque à l'ordre de Marc Laudelout à :
Le Bulletin célinien

BP 70
B1000 Bruxelles 22



C’est en 1981, année du vingtième anniversaire de la mort de Céline, que débuta la petite aventure du Bulletin célinien. Lequel a donc aujourd’hui trente ans ¹. Bien des ouvrages sont annoncés pour cette année du cinquantenaire. Le plus consistant sera assurément le volume D’un Céline l’autre (plus d’un millier de pages) rassemblant les témoignages de ses contemporains. Plus décisif pour la connaissance de l’écrivain, ce Dictionnaire de la correspondance de Céline tant attendu. Et, pour les célinomanes, cette bibliographie, Tout sur Céline, recensant ce qui s’est écrit et dit sur l’écrivain depuis la parution de « Voyage au bout de la nuit » ². Pas moins de trois colloques sont prévus en 2011. Le premier, « Céline, réprouvé et classique », aura lieu début février au Centre Pompidou, à Paris ³.

Un récent séjour à Paris m’a permis de faire la connaissance de Matthias Gadret, webmestre du blog « Le Petit Célinien », qui réalise, comme les abonnés internautes le savent, un travail précieux. La rencontre fut d’autant plus agréable qu’elle se fit en compagnie du cher Claude Dubois, premier éditeur de Céline en verve et indéfectible amoureux de Paris 4. Celui d’antan surtout. Dans la préface de son anthologie (1972), il dénonçait « l’expropriation hors capitale du menu peuple, les gros coups de l’immobilier, la destruction systématique de Paris village, Belleville, Grenelle, Ménilmuche… la restauration d’un “Marais” pour richards, et l’invasion massive de la Grand’Ville par l’étranger, provinciaux et autres... ». Ce fut un plaisir de présenter l’un à l’autre ces deux céliniens de génération différente. Séduit par le parler populaire, Matthias est également un lecteur enthousiaste d’Audiard et de Boudard. C’est dire s’il se révéla un auditeur attentif de Claude Dubois évoquant ses innombrables heures passées au Balajo ou celles en compagnie d’Alphonse et de Gen Paul qu’il a tous deux bien connus.


1. Un n° 0 parut en 1981, suivi de quatre numéros l’année suivante. Le BC devint mensuel à partir de 1982. http://louisferdinandceline.free.fr
2. David Alliot, D’un Céline l’autre, Robert Laffont, coll. « Bouquins » (préface de François Gibault) ; Jean-Paul Louis, Éric Mazet et Gaël Richard, Dictionnaire de la correspondance de Céline, Du Lérot ; Alain de Benoist, Arina Istratova et Marc Laudelout, Tout sur Céline (Bibliographie – Filmographie – Phonographie – Internet), Le Bulletin célinien.
3. Colloque « Céline, réprouvé et classique », organisé par la BPI et la SEC, les vendredi 4 et samedi 5 février.
Thèmes annoncés : 1) Journée du 4 février, Dr Destouches et Mr Céline : « Céline et la médecine » par Isabelle Blondiaux ; « Les Traces d’une vie (recherches biographiques) » par Gaël Richard – Controverses et reconnaissances internationales : « La redécouverte de Voyage au bout de la nuit » par Christine Sautermeister ; « Céline au Japon : Œuvres complètes et French Theory » par Yoriko Sugiura ; « D’Elsa Triolet à Victor Erofeev : les avatars russes de Céline » par Olga Chtcherbakova ; « Céline chez les fils de la perfide Albion » par Greg Hainge – Céline et la critique : « Entretien avec Philippe Bordas, écrivain » — 2) Journée du 5 février, Céline et l’histoire : Table ronde avec Jean-Pierre Martin, Yves Pagès, Daniel Lindenberg et Delfeil de Ton ; Un autre Céline : « L’Œuvre épistolaire » par Sonia Anton ; « Céline au cinéma » par Émile Brami ; « Céline au théâtre » par Johanne Bénard ; « Céline et les gender studies » par Tonia Tinsley. Une partie théâtrale est également prévue le vendredi : « Faire danser les alligators sur la flûte de Pan », choix de correspondances établi par Émile Brami et interprété par Denis Lavant, ainsi que le samedi : lecture d’extraits de textes de Céline par Fabrice Luchini.
Signalons que, pour le cinquantenaire de sa mort, Céline est mentionné dans la rubrique « Célébrations nationales en 2011 » de Culture Communication, le magazine du Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication (déc. 2010-janv. 2011). À cette occasion, Henri Godard a écrit un texte figurant sur le site officiel « Archives de France » que nous reproduisons à la page suivante. D’ores et déjà, l’année 2011 s’annonce fertile pour les céliniens (voir p. 23)
4. Sur le blog, on peut désormais voir le documentaire « Paris vu sous 7 angles », présenté par Claude Dubois et dans lequel il évoque le Montmartre de Céline, Gen Paul et Marcel Aymé. Réalisation : Fabrice Allouche. Production : TV Only. NRJ Paris (2008).

lundi, 17 janvier 2011

Bernard Lugan salue Vladimir Volkoff

Bernard Lugan salue

Vladimir Volkoff

dimanche, 16 janvier 2011

D. H. Lawrence's Critique of Modernity

D. H. Lawrence’s Critique of Modernity,
Part 1


Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

d-h-lawrence.jpg1. The Genealogy of Modernity


The entire corpus of D. H. Lawrence’s writing is devoted to addressing the problem of life in the modern world, and his view of modernity was extraordinarily negative. Consider the following striking image Lawrence provides us with in his essay “The Novel and the Feelings”:

Supposing all horses were suddenly rendered masterless, what would they do? They would run wild. But supposing they were left still shut in their fields, paddocks, corrals, stables, what would they do? They would go insane. And that is precisely man’s predicament. He is tamed. There are no untamed to give the commands and the direction. Yet he is shut up within all his barbed wire fences. He can only go insane, degenerate.

According to Lawrence, we have created a human world for ourselves: a world of concrete and ideals, and have excluded nature. What does it mean to say that we have become “tamed”? It means that we have lost our wildness; our connection to the natural self, or the true unconscious. We have “corralled” ourselves; imprisoned ourselves in this tame, human, “ideal” world voluntarily. When Lawrence remarks that there are no “untamed to give the commands and the direction” he means that we have lost touch with the true unconscious, the untamed source within us, from which “natural man” draws his guidance. We can only go insane – in the sense that we lose our grip on reality, our orientation to the greater universe. We become degenerate through losing everything great in life, all aspiration, all spirit, and become instead Nietzsche’s “Last Man”: a creature whose concerns never rise above the level of comfort and security, and who lives from distraction to distraction, trying never to reflect upon the emptiness within him.

Though it all we reassure ourselves with the thought that “Progress” is being made. Lawrence offers the following amusing description of Modern Progress in Fantasia of the Unconscious:

“Onward, Christian soldiers, towards the great terminus where bottles of sterilized milk for the babies are delivered at the bedroom windows by noiseless aeroplanes each morn, where the science of dentistry is so perfect that teeth are implanted in a man’s mouth without his knowing it, where twilight sleep is so delicious that every woman longs for her next confinement, and where nobody ever has to do anything except turn a handle now and then in a spirit of universal love–” That is the forward direction of the English-speaking race.

Much of Lawrence’s critique of modernity is simply devoted to pointing out the folly of our devotion to abstract ideals. But Lawrence was not merely a gadfly – he was a (literary) revolutionary. He believed that the existing social order was not salvageable and that it would have to be utterly and completely destroyed:

It is no use trying merely to modify present forms. The whole great form of our era will have to go. And nothing will really send it down but the new shoots of life springing up and slowly bursting the foundations. And one can do nothing but fight tooth and nail to defend the new shoots of life from being crushed out, and let them grow. We can’t make life. We can but fight for the life that grows in us.

In order to fully understand Lawrence’s critique of modernity one must understand how he believes that modernity has come about. In a number of his works, Lawrence tries to work out a philosophy of history that would shed light on the mechanisms of historical change. In Movements in European History (1919) and elsewhere Lawrence develops a theory of history founded on a metaphysics derived from Empedocles. The twin principles that govern all of human life, and all human history are, according to Empedocles and Lawrence, Love and Strife. The forces are, respectively, attractive and repulsive. The first tends toward unity, the second toward disintegration or apartness. In the language Lawrence employs, the lives of human beings are governed by “sympathetic” and “voluntary” impulses, on both individual and global levels. In the modern West, due primarily to the influence of Christianity, there has been an overemphasis on the sympathetic, unitive, and “feminine” element. When an imbalance in the two forces occurs, whether in an individual psyche or in history, a swing to the other pole will occur. Thus, modern individuals have swung to the voluntary pole. Ironically, however, they have vented their aggressive willfulness through fanatical devotion to a secularized version of the ideals implicit in “sympathetic” Christianity: liberty, equality, fraternity, and, most pernicious of all, universal love.

In Apocalypse, much of which is devoted to a critique of Christian values, Lawrence refers to Lenin, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson as “evil saints.” These are men who aimed to advance the “noble” ideals of modernity regardless of the cost in human lives. He tells us elsewhere that “What has ruined Europe, but especially northern Europe, is this very ‘pure idea.’ Would to God the ‘Ideal’ had never been invented. But now it’s got its claws in us, and we must struggle free. The beast we have to fight and to kill is the Ideal. It is the worm, the foul serpent of our epoch, in whose coils we are strangled.”

The secularization of Christian ideals, and their transformation into “isms” such as socialism, communism, liberalism, and multiculturalism is a manifestation of a deeper process, however. It is the process by which the intellect comes to usurp all else in the soul. The complex and often beautiful mythology of Judaism and Christianity, which operates on a visceral level, is replaced by the abstract ideologies of men like Hegel and Marx. This simply reflects the modern shift away from “mythopoetic thought” to a form of rationalism which seeks to do away with myth and to make everything explicit and transparent by means of “the concept.” Lawrence understands this cultural shift in actual physiological terms, as a shift from a life lived in contact with the “lower centers” of the body to one which operates exclusively from the “upper centers.” (He also understands the aforementioned “sympathetic” and “voluntary” forces as grounded in human physiology.)

Lawrence states in Fantasia, “We have almost poisoned the mass of humanity to death with understanding. The period of actual death and race-extermination is not far off.” Yet, underneath our intellectualism and devotion to ideals, in the deeper recesses of the body, nothing has changed. Lawrence writes, “What really torments civilized people is that they are full of feelings they know nothing about; they can’t realize them, they can’t fulfill them, they can’t live them.” These feelings may be sexual. They may be moral sentiments, such as archaic stirrings of the sense of honor. Or they may be religious: an inchoate yearning for the lost gods. Modern society gives us no one way to make sense out of many of these feelings, especially the religious ones. And others it positively condemns. Yet the feelings remain, and the feelings are very often—indeed, almost always—against the ideals. In our society, these feelings stir most strongly in children. But children are soon “put right” by an educational system that forces them, as Lawrence puts it, into “mental consciousness.” They are forced to suppress their heretical feelings, and are fed full of the Ideal.

We imagine that we live in a golden age of Progress, but Lawrence dismisses it as wholly false:

Everything is counterfeit: counterfeit complexion, counterfeit jewels, counterfeit elegance, counterfeit charm, counterfeit endearment, counterfeit passion, counterfeit culture, counterfeit love of Blake, or of The Bridge of San Luis Rey, or Picasso, or the latest film-star. Counterfeit sorrows and counterfeit delights, counterfeit woes and moans, counterfeit ecstasies, and, under all, a hard, hard realization that we live by money, and money alone: and a terrible luring fear of nervous collapse, collapse.

In the eyes of modern people, however, it is very often nature itself that seems counterfeit or, at least unreal. Lawrence believes that in modernity nature is essentially seen as raw material to be made over into the products of human design. This point was famously made by Heidegger in his essay “The Question Concerning Technology.” Heidegger argues that in the modern period, as a result of the advancement and proliferation of technology, the being of the natural world has revealed itself to humankind in a manner that is vastly different from how it revealed itself to our ancestors. It has become for us the “standing reserve” (Bestand). Heidegger writes:

The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit. The field that the peasant formerly cultivated and set in order appears differently than it did when to set in order meant to take care of and to maintain. The work of the peasant does not challenge the soil of the field. In the sowing of the grain it places the seed in the keeping of the forces of growth and watches over its increase. But meanwhile [in the modern period] even the cultivation of the field has come under the grip of another kind of setting-in-order, which sets upon nature. It sets upon it in the sense of challenging it. Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry. Air is now set upon to yield nitrogen, the earth to yield ore, ore to yield uranium, for example; uranium is set upon to yield atomic energy, which can be released either for destruction or for peaceful use. (Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt [New York: Harper and Row], 14–15.)

In a similar vein Lawrence writes, “To the vast public, the autumn morning is only a sort of stage background against which they can display their own mechanical importance.” In his essay “Aristocracy,” Lawrence speaks in general of how modern man has lost the connection to nature, and of how we have lost the connection to “Amon, the great ram” in particular. “To you, he is mutton. Your wonderful perspicacity relates you to him just that far. But any farther, he is—well, wool.” (This promethean perspective on nature—the perspective that sees nature as “standing reserve”—is perfectly exemplified in the character of Gerald Crich in Lawrence’s greatest novel, Women in Love.)

Nature seems unreal to moderns because to them it is unfinished: it waits upon us to put our stamp upon it; to “make it into something.” Natural objects always therefore have the status of mere potentials: potentials for being made over, improved upon, or re-used or re-arranged in some fashion. At root, this is because the modern consciousness is radically future oriented. The past, for moderns, is something that has been gotten beyond, and is well lost. Only the future matters, and the future promises to carry on the march of progress; to be cleaner, faster, and smarter. Everything has its true being, therefore in the future. Everything—including ourselves—is always what it is going to be. The being of things is always promissory.

Modern people live in reaction against the past, and in anticipation of the future. What drops out is the present. Hence, the notorious inability of modern people to appreciate what is present at hand, or to recognize when enough is enough. Lawrence writes in an essay, “Why do modern people almost invariably ignore the things that are actually present to them?” He goes on to speak of an elderly tourist he encountered who left England “to find mountains, lakes, scythe-mowers, and cherry trees,” and asks “Why isn’t she content to be where she is?”

Lawrence’s answer to all of this will be unsurprising at this point. He wants us to somehow re-connect with those primal feelings and impulses that modernity requires us to suppress. The Fall of Man had nothing to do with sex; on the contrary God was on the side of sex. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit they became creatures of the “upper centres”; self-aware and self-conscious. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked” (Genesis 3:6). In Lawrence’s words, the Fall did not arise “till man felt himself apart, as an apart, fragmentary, unfinished thing.” Somewhere along the way, we reached a point where we came to see ourselves as on the earth, but not of it. At one point, Lawrence refers to modern people as “parasites on the body of earth.”

He writes in “A propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover,”

Oh, what a catastrophe for man when he cut himself off from the rhythm of the year, from his unison with the sun and the earth. . . . This is what is the matter with us. We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the Tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table.

But how exactly are we to go about connecting with our primal instincts, and to the earth? This is the central problem for Lawrence, and his writings explore different ideas about how to accomplish it. Of course, one approach might be purely negative or critical. It might consist in a ruthless critique of everything that is, and everything that we are, until we get to that within us which is “natural.” This is indeed one of Lawrence’s approaches, and I am exploring it in this essay. It consists, in essence, of a kind of emptying or burning away. It is the alchemical nigredo, in which some lowly stuff (in this case, us) is burned and purified; made ready for transformation into something of a higher or better sort. Lawrence’s approach to modernity is certainly destructive, but it is not purely destructive.

Lawrence reminds us of Nietzsche, going around philosophizing with a hammer. His attitude in Women in Love seems, at least on the surface, particularly Nietzschean (a point to which I shall return later). But Lawrence’s position seems to evolve over time into a version of the nostalgia Nietzsche rejected. It is a nostalgia for something like the consciousness of the “Master” type Nietzsche discussed in On The Genealogy of Morals. At times Lawrence seems clearly to yearn for a return to something like a pre-modern pagan mentality. This element in his makeup becomes more pronounced over time, culminating in his “Mexican” works, The Plumed Serpent (1926) and Mornings in Mexico (1927).

There is a major problem with such a position, however. Doesn’t our ability to understand and to critique our own history mean that we have advanced beyond the position of our ancestors? We might yearn to return to paganism, but we have lost pagan innocence. And the more we believe we have understood paganism, the further we are removed from the life of an actual pagan. In other words, Nietzsche was right. Yet the Nietzschean alternative, the literal creation of “new values” by an Overman is unnatural: it is yet another manifestation of the modern dislocation from the earth and from the body. The current values are dead all right, but Lawrence believes they were laid over top of our suppressed natural values, which must now be unearthed. But how? And how can we “go back” while preserving what we have gained in going forward, even if the going forward was into degeneration? I believe these questions get to the heart of Lawrence’s concerns about modernity, and finding an answer to it.

D. H. Lawrence’s Critique of Modernity,
Part 2

5041.jpgLawrence encountered the effects of modernity—especially the Industrial Revolution—directly in his native Midlands. He saw how if affected people, generally for the worse. Again and again he sets his stories against the backdrop of the collieries. He saw the miners become increasingly dehumanized. Working in the earth, they become cut off from it and from themselves. They lived, but they did not flourish. Lawrence’s remarks about the Industrial Revolution, capitalism, and the condition of the miners put him quite close to the thought of Marx and other socialist writers. In fact, it would not be at all unreasonable to claim Lawrence as a kind of socialist. However, as we shall see, few socialists would wish to do so!

Though The Rainbow can hardly be thought of as a novel about the Industrial Revolution, nevertheless that is its backdrop. The novel is the saga of several generations of an English family, the Brangwens, following them from the pre-industrial to the industrial age. A pastoral mood dominates throughout most of the work, and one feels a vivid sense of connection to nature and to place. Little of great significance really happens to the Brangwen family until one gets to the present day, and the story of Ursula Brangwen. Up to that point their lives are as cyclical and as repetitive as the seasons, but what we feel in reading about them is great peace, not boredom. As the narrative moves into the thick of the industrial age, it becomes populated with characters— Ursula among them—who have lost the sense of connection to the soil and to traditional culture that was the mainstay of their forebears’ existence. Ursula and her lover, Skrebensky, are lost souls, in search of some connection somewhere. Skrebensky betrays the search, and flees from Ursula. (Ursula continues it, though we must read the novel’s sequel, Women in Love, to see where it takes her.)

In his essay “Nottingham and the Mining Countryside,” Lawrence writes,

In my father’s generation, with the old wild England behind them, and the lack of education, the man was not beaten down. But in my generation, the boys I went to school with, colliers now, have all been beaten down, what with the din-din-dinning of Board Schools, books, cinemas, clergymen, the whole national and human consciousness hammering on the fact of material prosperity above all things.

How were these mean beaten down? Lawrence answers in the same essay that “the industrial problem arises from the base forcing of all human energy into a competition of mere acquisition.” Human concerns, in other words, are narrowed to economics.

It is unsurprising to see people concerned solely with making a living if they face starvation. But, for Lawrence, what is queer about modern Europeans—including the working classes—is that actual starvation is seldom a danger for any man, yet they behave as if it is. Indeed, he begins his lengthy philosophical essay “The Education of the People” with exactly this issue: “Curious that when the toothless old sphinx croaks ‘How are you going to get your living?’ our knees give way beneath us. . . . The fear of penury is very curious, in our age. In really poor ages men did not fear penury. They didn’t care. But we are abjectly terrified of it. Why?” Whoever has wits (and guts), Lawrence points out, doesn’t starve, nor does he care about starving. But today the only thing that seems to really move people is a threat to their safety and security. We are all, it seems, Nietzsche’s Last Man.

Lawrence’s analysis of what has “beaten down” modern working men places him close to Karl Marx. Clearly, Lawrence believes that modern workers exist in the condition Marx referred to as “wage slavery.” Under capitalism, it becomes less and less feasible to be self-sustaining or self-employed and workers must sell their labor to bosses, who pay the workers only a fraction of the profit produced by their hard work. Although workers are de jure free to leave their jobs, they are de facto enslaved because the same conditions of economic exploitation will be found on the next job, and the next. In his essay “Is England Still a Man’s Country?” Lawrence writes “The insuperable difficulty to modern man is economic bondage. Slavery!” Lawrence would probably also have found Marx’s theory of “alienation” under capitalism quite congenial. (That theory is to be found in the so-called “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” of 1844, which were not published until 1932.)  Lawrence would probably have agreed with Marx’s idea that capitalist relations of production alienate us from our “species being” by making it nearly impossible for us to realize ourselves and find fulfillment through work.

We know that Lawrence went through a period in his youth when he certainly thought of his himself as a socialist. In 1905, Lawrence met Alice Dax, a socialist and early feminist. Dax introduced him to a circle of socialist thinkers active in the Midlands, and also to her book collection, which included works by authors like John Ruskin, William Morris, and Edward Carpenter. Later, of course, Lawrence would make the acquaintance of an even more eminent group of “progressive” thinkers, including Bertrand Russell. On February 12, 1915 Lawrence wrote to Russell:

We must provide another standard than the pecuniary standard, to measure all daily life by. We must be free of the economic question. Economic life must be the means to actual life. . . . There must be a revolution in the state. . . . The land, the industries, the means of communication and the public amusements shall all be nationalized. Every man shall have his wage till the day of his death, whether he work or not, so long as he works when he is fit. Every woman shall have her wage till the day of her death, whether she works or not, so long as she works when she is fit—keeps her house or rears her children.

Then, and only then, shall we be able to begin living.

Throughout his career, Lawrence would again and again toy with the sort of thing he proposes here: a political solution to the problem of modernity. Ultimately, as we shall see, he came to completely reject the final assertion quoted above: that only when the right political action has been taken can we “begin living.” Ultimately, Lawrence realized that politics is not the answer; that the hope lies in the very personal quest of private individuals. (But more on this later.)

Lawrence’s “socialism” was always of the utopian variety, never the “scientific” sort advanced by Marxists. In so far as there are affinities with Marx’s thought, they are affinities—as I have already pointed out—with the early, “humanistic” Marx, not the Marx of Das Kapital. In addition, Lawrence eventually came to combine socialist ideas with a form of elitism, and an emphasis on ties to blood and soil. This, as many others have pointed out, puts him closer to fascism and national socialism than to Marx or to the left-wing progressives of Alice Dax’s circle. (However, Lawrence’s occasional flashes of Luddism and his vigorous critique of modern science distance him from both the Communists and the Nazis.)

Lawrence agrees with the Marxists in deploring the perniciousness of class warfare under capitalism. However, he rejects the Marxist (and, for that matter, national socialist) ideal of the “classless society.” For Lawrence, the problem with modern, industrial civilization is not that it has classes, but that the classes have lost the ability to relate to each other in a healthy way. In “A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover” he writes, “Class-hate and class-consciousness are only a sign that the old togetherness, the old blood-warmth has collapsed, and every man is really aware of himself in apartness. Then we have these hostile groupings of men for the sake of opposition, strife. Civil strife becomes a necessary condition of self-assertion.” For Lawrence, true community depends upon shared blood ties, shared history, and closeness to the soil. In traditional, aristocratic societies relations between the classes were never so bad as they are under capitalism, for all individuals felt a kinship for one another based on an intuition of ethnic and cultural ties. But in the modern period, our awareness of these ties has been destroyed by what Lawrence calls in the same essay “individualism,” by which he means something like “atomization.” People have lost the common tie to the earth; they have forgotten their history and their folk culture. They exist in a state of apartness and mutual distrust. Industrialization and wage slavery have exacerbated this condition, pitting the new classes of bosses and workers, bourgeoisie and proletariat, against each other. The irresponsible exploitation of the earth, and of human beings, by business is only possible because these ties have been broken. This breakdown was furthered by industrialization and capitalism, but the deeper cause is what we have seen Lawrence denouncing as “idealism”: the tendency to live according to mental conceptions, ideals, and grand designs, rather than according to our “natural” and intuitive blood-consciousness, and blood-warmth.

In a late essay, “Men Must Work and Women as Well,” Lawrence writes,

Now we see the trend of our civilization, in terms of human feeing and human relation. It is, and there is no denying it, towards a greater and greater abstraction from the physical, towards a further and further physical separateness between men and women, and between individual and individual. . . . Recoil, recoil, recoil. Revulsion, revulsion, revulsion. Repulsion, repulsion, repulsion. This is the rhythm that underlies our social activity, everywhere, with regard to physical existence.

Lawrence rejects the ideal of the classless society, but he also rejects class division as it has been hitherto established in history. And he rejects traditional, hereditary aristocracy in favor of a quasi-Nietzschean “aristocracy of the spirit.” However, like much else in his social thought, Lawrence leaves it completely vague how such an aristocracy could be established and maintained. He certainly objects to the plight of the proletarians, but unlike the Marxists he does not romanticize them. In fact, Lawrence argues that in modern society virtually everyone has become “proletarian,” or proletarianized. In John Thomas and Lady Jane (the second of three versions of the novel that would become Lady Chatterley’s Lover) Connie Chatterley hears the following from the musician Archie Blood:

The proletariat is a state of mind, it’s not really a class at all. You’re proletarian when you are cold like a crab, greedy like a crab, lustful with the rickety egoism of a crab, and shambling like a crab. The people in this house are all proletarian. The Duchess of Toadstool is an arch proletarian. . . . The proletarian haves against the proletarian have-nots will destroy the human world entirely.

In other words, capitalism has turned us all into people whose lives revolve around work and money, through which we hope to gain greater security and greater buying power. When not working, we engage in various forms of mindless indulgence. It is the sort of life which (via the character of “Walter Morel”) he depicts his father living in Sons and Lovers: a day spent in the pit, followed by an evening getting drunk and stumbling home.

Essentially, the aim of communism is to do precisely what capitalism has already accomplished in a much more sinister way: to make everyone proletarian. The communists just sought to erase the distinction between the proletarian haves and have-nots. And this brings us back to Heidegger. One of Heidegger’s more notorious claims was that capitalist and communist societies were “metaphysically identical.” In Introduction to Metaphysics Heidegger states, “Europe lies in the pincers between Russia and America, which are metaphysically the same, namely in regard to their world-character and their relation to the spirit.” Both are fundamentally materialist in their orientation: in both social systems human concerns do not rise, and are not supposed to rise, above the level of material comfort and security. Both deny the higher needs of the human spirit: communism explicitly, capitalism implicitly (and far more insidiously). In his essay “Democracy” Lawrence speaks of how in modern, democratic societies the “Average Man” is exalted above all: “Please keep out all Spiritual and Mystical needs. They have nothing to do with the average.”

Early in life, Lawrence had half-idealized the “working men” (or the miners, at least) as more in touch with their chthonic, primal feelings. Lawrence came to realize that this was an illusion. In “Democracy” he asserts that the working men are “even more grossly abstracted” from the physical. But why? Here we encounter an aspect of Lawrence’s socialism that situates him far away from Marx, but close to William Morris and the socialists of the “arts and crafts movement.” The working man is abstracted from the physical because he has been beaten down by ugliness.

Now though perhaps nobody knew it, it was ugliness which really betrayed the spirit of man, in the nineteenth century. The great crime which the moneyed classes and promoters of industry committed in the palmy Victorian days was the condemning of the workers to ugliness, ugliness, ugliness: meanness and formless and ugly surroundings, ugly ideals, ugly religion, ugly hope, ugly love, ugly clothes, ugly furniture, ugly houses, ugly relationship between workers and employers. The human soul needs actual beauty even more than bread.

How does one square this thesis about the debilitating effects of ugliness with Lawrence’s claim that it is “idealism” that is the culprit here, “beating down” the working man and everyone else? The two claims are not mutually exclusive. Ugliness is a consequence of idealism: where the Ideal is all important, “aesthetic concerns” will be denigrated. This was very obviously a feature of communist societies such as the Soviet Union, where Lenin explicitly declared such concerns “momentary interests.” Westerners living in capitalist societies were always quick to point out the ugly, utilitarian quality of Soviet life—while being generally blind to it in their own countries. The typical American capitalist attitude is that unless something makes a profit it is valueless. What good is beauty, poetry, or good food—unless they can be sold on a mass scale? Since human life cannot be entirely free of these things, capitalism finds an indirect way of justifying them. The sight of beauty “relaxes” us. Reading poetry “lowers the heart rate.” Good food is a “reward for a hard day’s work.” In short, the fine and noble is not beautiful and useless at all—because it can make better, healthier, longer-lived workers of us! But the claim that the fine and noble could have any intrinsic value apart from its relation to work simply doesn’t get a hearing.

American education reflects this prejudice and students follow along like good proletarians in training, objecting to “useless” classes on literature, history, and art. All of this may make it seem like the capitalist attitude is not idealistic at all but cynically “practical.” This is not the case, however, for the ugliness and barrenness of life under capitalism is seen as part of the march of Progress. Like a disciple of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Lawrence suggests that beauty is the key to solving the “industrial problem”:

If they had made big, substantial houses, in apartments of five or six rooms, and with handsome entrances. If above all, they had encouraged song and dancing—for the miners still sang and danced—and provided handsome space for these. If only they had encouraged some form of beauty in dress, some form of beauty in interior life—furniture, decoration. If they had given prizes for the handsomest chair or table, the loveliest scarf, the most charming room that men or women could make! If only they had done this, there would never have been an industrial problem. The industrial problem arises from the base forcing of all human energy into a competition of mere acquisition.

In the essay “Red Trousers” he playfully suggests that “If a dozen men would stroll down the Strand and Piccadilly tomorrow, wearing tight scarlet trousers fitting the leg, gay little orange-brown jackets and bright green hats, then the revolution against dullness which we need so much would have begun.”

Of course, such suggestions may seem highly romantic, and unrealistic, but there is nevertheless a great deal that is right about them. The essays from which the above two quotes were taken were written in the period 1928–1930. They reflect the fact that Lawrence never entirely gave up on his early “utopian socialist” sentiments. He simply became a good deal wiser about the prospects for translating them into reality. His early naïveté is perfectly reflected in the finale of The Rainbow, in which Ursula Brangwen looks down upon the ugliness of the mining countryside, only to see a rainbow rising above it: “She saw in the rainbow the earth’s new architecture, the old, brittle corruption of houses and factories swept away, the world built up in a living fabric of Truth, fitting to the over-arching heaven.” The First World War destroyed Lawrence’s naïve hopes that the modern world might be cleansed and redeemed, at least through some kind of social reform. His next novel, Women in Love, would be a complete repudiation of the optimism with which The Rainbow ends. My next essay will be devoted to an analysis of Women in Love as anti-modern novel.

samedi, 15 janvier 2011

George Steiner's "The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H."

George Steiner’s
The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H.

Jonathan BOWDEN

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com/

George Steiner
The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999

steiner.jpgGeorge Steiner’s novella, The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H., was published about three decades back and encodes a large number of the author’s non-fiction books which were released beforehand. This is especially pertinent to the analysis published in In Bluebeard’s Castle, for instance.

For our purposes in this review, the dramatic or theatrical presentation of Steiner’s brief work is almost as important as the text itself. It was dramatized (the only one of the Professor’s works to be treated in this way) by the socialist playwright Christopher Hampton and, on a personal note, I actually saw it in 1981–82.

The drama starred Alec McCowen as Adolf Hitler in a production which lasted around an hour and a half. He was later awarded the Evening Standard theater award for his riveting performance — particularly his oracular testimony or speech at the play’s close. The critical record suggests that it was performed at the Mermaid Theatre, but I seem to recall seeing it at the Riverside studios in west London. I went with a girl that I was rather keen on at the time, but she was nauseated by the whole thing and fell asleep.

To cut to the chase: I believe that this is largely a work by and about George Steiner rather than the personalities or historical personages with whom he deals. Steiner is an “ultra-civilized” liberal, a polyglot, and an Encyclopaedist who has made a personal or subjective religion out of Western high culture. His play — and the short novel which gave it birth — are his attempts to deal with the fact that no matter how knowledgeable or assimilated he becomes he always remains an outsider . . . an Ashkenazic amongst Gentiles.

What differentiates Steiner from most of his group is that he has not chosen to identify himself with the major pathways that various vanguards usually choose. Not for him, in other words, the ways of commerce, gross materialist accumulation or gain; militant leftism or anti-system revolt; or active and intentional Zionism.

The elements in the play which appear shocking, “transgressive,” non-humanitarian, anti-Zionist, and even “self-hating” in Jewish terms, are quite understandable when you reckon on Steiner’s own sensibility. A pure intellectual who incarnates the mind-body split, Steiner actively dislikes Israel, Ashkenazic enthusiasm, and the normalcy, almost semi-Gentile qualities, of nationalism and group adherence. Like an ultra-liberal in the West, an active vision of Hell would be national service in the armed forces — that is, having to endure the relative crudity, non-sophistication, and “political incorrectness” of all and sundry. Steiner, in other words, wishes to assimilate on his own terms — most of which are basically specific to himself.

His culture is actually quite a small sliver of land that articulates the integrative energies of mid-European Jews from around 1880 to 1940. For him, authors like Karl Kraus, Kafka, and Paul Celan are European culture tout court. Likewise, a special endorsement will always be given to those superior Gentiles and cultural creators (Goethe, Tolstoy, Beethoven, and so forth) who make ready the path of assimilation through humane artistry.

In a manner which is typical of the radical liberals who dominate the cultural space in the West today, Steiner is truly horrified by Man’s brutality, ferocity, hatred, and capacity for endless sadism. A keen dualist, many of Steiner’s books contain long, anguished discourses about the Marquis de Sade, for example. De Sade, in gigantic works of megalomania like The 120 Days of Sodom, is rarely pithy or gnomic. But one of his remarks bears recording: when he declares that civilisation is an exercise in cruelty which has been tempered by disquiet. Steiner’s whole career is a protest against this assertion; yet, as a liberal pessimist, he doubtless secretly agrees with it.

To return to the play proper, however . . . the whole point of the narrative is to prepare for the enormous speech by the McCowan figure at the piece’s end. It is relatively typical for a creator like Steiner that he loves to hate Hitler and, in all honesty, his view of the German dictator is very similar to that of Norman Mailer in his last published novel shortly before his death. Both of them see Hitler as not a man at all but a force, a hypostatization, a recognition of the absence of the real — even an incarnation of terror, implacability, and death.

In this regard, but in no other, they actually engage in transgression and cross over to the other side . . . if only momentarily. Neither of these mild apostates can really be accused of shoah revisionism or its historical counterpart — by dint of identifying with the discourse of Harry Elmer Barnes. Not one bit of it . . . but they do, luridly, hesitantly, mesmerically (even lambently) become cultural revisionists just for a moment before snapping back into their a priori positions. This would amount to a post-existential and “left” conservative in Mailer’s case; a pained, enervated, diaphanous and painfully raw (or thin-skinned) “rootless cosmopolitan” in Steiner’s.

The piece itself, The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H., is essentially front-end loaded. It only really exists as a prop or attainment for Hitler’s great speech at the end. Some of the work’s Zionist or Ashkenazic critics who said that it was poorly constructed or slightly slung together actually have a point — yet what they miss is the deux ex machina moment. This amounts to the aporia in language — the moment of apocalypse at the finale — when a demi-god of inversion (literally an Anti-Christ) is permitted to orate. Steiner was classically educated by his father to a very high level . . . it has to be admitted. But one of his mental conceits is that Greek tragedy, even genuine tragedy without the Grecian overlay, is impossible at this time. He wrote an entire early book called The Death of Tragedy which is essentially on this theme. Nonetheless, I believe in delving a little bit deeper here.

The book itself is a bit of a rag-bag, primarily due to the fact that everything is fed towards (rather impatiently) getting to the end. This is the moment of high Greek drama, the play within the play which signifies the instant when the trial of Hitler begins, and that essentially resembles a playlet within a play. The main purpose of a narrative which runs for a hundred pages or so is to get all of the important characters on stage. Some of this is uneasily handled, and a good deal of it reads like some middle-brow thriller writers from the ’sixties and ’seventies, such as Hammond Innes or Aleister MacClean.

The dramatis personae are Emmanuel Lieber, the Nazi hunter and instigator of events, Simeon (the presiding judge at Hitler’s mock-trial) and search-party leader, as well as a young Israelite Isaac Ansell (who represents the post-war generation); and Elie Barach, an Orthodox Jew whose faith is disturbed by Benasseraf’s dream. He is the holy fool of the group — the Fool or Tom o’ Bedlam figure, if you like. For Benasseraf is mildly mentally ill, suffers flash-backs, and casts an alternative light on things. He even serves the dissentient role of an esoteric Hitlerist — albeit in reverse order.

There are two Gentile characters (other than Hitler). These are John Asher (who is half-Jewish); and who Steiner basically considers to be Gentile. Like all radical liberals, Steiner is overly-drawn to the other. He evinces quite a lot of sympathy for this character and possibly identifies with him. Asher is fascinated by the whole affair, but not pruriently. He suffers from no metaphysical lusts. The other Gentile is Teku, a Latino Indian or an indigenous South American . . . he is probably conceived as a largely silent witness to the trial, an incarnation of Mankind looking on.

As I say, the real purpose of the narration is to get these characters together so that the trial can occur. The elderly figure of Hitler (played by McCowan) has no real role until the trial sequence commences. When this happens he brushes aside any rudimentary defence apparatus provided by the “court” and represents himself. The whole point of the novella is really this trial.

The Hitler figure defends himself with vigor and urgency, irrespective of the fact that it’s obviously not a real court case. The point here is philosophical, semi-religious, and higher in tone or intent. The whole event is primarily metaphysical in aspect — and Hitler defends himself metaphysically. Once Hitler emerges in Steiner’s sequence, and despite his great age, he effortlessly dominates the scenario and virtually all the other characters lose their reality.

Hitler is really conceived of as being intimately connected to the Jewish destiny, so much so that he appears to be a part of their very development. To Steiner, he is no longer a man but an anti-god; a personal Satan not for mankind at large like the devil in Christianity or Islam. No. He is an Israelite devil; a Loki, a sprite of destruction — almost the pagan anti-god for one particular people, namely his own.

Throughout all of this we have to remember that Steiner is an uneasy co-optee; he doesn’t really identify with his people that much . . . like most liberals. He admires the “hard” jews and Israelis in his plot device — the men who have hunted down the Great Beast (666) — but he doesn’t really share their passions. Unlike all of them (to varying degrees) he is not a nationalist; he strives not to allow himself group emotions.

Nonetheless, a peculiar thing occurs during Hitler’s great speech (performed by McCowan) and which is quite reminiscent of the Bailiff’s endless oratory in The Childermass (a novel by Wyndham Lewis which I have reviewed elsewhere on this site). The leftist and Zionist critics who loathed this short book (as well as the play that came out of it via Hampton’s redaction) do have a point. Hitler is the genius; they are underlings. Like the malevolent Anglo-Irish landowner, Pozzo, in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, he has the power. Steiner knows this, wills it. and lets it happen. At the deepest possible level, so to say, Steiner is a masochist who worships and adores Hitler as a negative god, albeit filtered and sublimated through aesthetic inversions (the catalog of which is multiple). In this moment of post-Christianity, he is truly a Satanist.

The arguments which Steiner/Hitler uses are less important than the way it is delivered. Hitler is not a man but a force; a diabolical instantiation; the encomium of the Word turned around. He is an avatar; an Odin in a rival religion to the one which Steiner was brought up in (Judaism) and has rejected subsequently. Like most academics with tenure, he’s an Enlightenment man now.

It has to be said that in McCowan’s dark threnody one comes close to a species of black metal or cacophonic white power music — of a sort that Professor Goodrick-Clarke tabulated, with little overt criticism, in Black Sun. Steiner agrees — in a fragmentary moment or a semiotic register — with everything that Savitri Devi has ever said about the Führer, but he does so as an instant of nausea and ontological victimhood. Albeit raised to a high artistic level, it is a cosmicism whereby the liberal-minded victim of a street mugging forgives his attacker, even thinks it was justified.

None of the arguments the Hitler character uses are original; moral and historical relativism; together with the fact that many Orthodox Rabbis believe Hitler to have been part of God’s plan — i.e., to whip the chosen people for transgressing from the divine path of allegedly being Man’s beacon. A role which involves waiting for the coming of Jehovah and his messiah . . . Might Hitler have been him — in the way that a sect like Jews for Jesus believe that Christians have a point?

Steiner leaves these questions unanswered, but to my mind this secularist sees Hitler as a savage god — much like Stasinopolous’ view of Picasso, but more importantly. The only way out of Steiner’s dilemma is to attempt a caveat — and Nietzsche comes to his aid here. For in a pagan (Gentile) world Steiner believes that Jews are being punished for inventing conscience. This, although complicated, and passim. Nietzsche’s Geneaology of Morals, is Nietzsche’s understanding of anti-semitism as a metaphysical postulate. Didn’t he partly reject Christianity as the judaicisation of European gentility?

In any event, Steiner achieves an artistic madness here — in his own terms — that reminds one of Hans Prinzhorn’s Art of the Insane. Where, following on from the manner of Kafka in Metamorphosis, the mild-mannered insurance salesman, Gregor, transforms into a gigantic cockroach overnight. It is the ultimate Hieronymous Bosch morphology or curdling, and at the end of the rival novella the roach-man just dies. He lowers his head plus mandibles (so to speak) for the last time and gradually his epidermis or shell gets closer and closer to the carpet. Finally, he expires — all passion spent. It is the post-facticity of degeneration; the world-weariness, sadness in the face of Man’s nature, and masochism which lurks at Humanism’s heart. It, to switch one’s foray into entomology, involves the endless circling of a moth around the candle-flame which will devour it.

Professor Steiner seeks cessation; a Heideggerian full-stop: he wishes to flop down and worship the Black Sun.

Pierre Gripari, portrait de l'écrivain en joyeux pessimiste


Pierre Gripari, portrait de l'écrivain en joyeux pessimiste

par Anne Martin-Conrad

(Infréquentables, 8)

Ex: http://stalker.hautetfort.com/

Vous avez dit «infréquentable» ? Oui, bien sûr, et heureusement ! Où serait la grandeur d’un écrivain qui plairait à tout le monde ?
Gripari est né en 1925, mort en 1990 : le calcul est vite fait et vous m’avouerez qu’être fréquentable en ce siècle ce serait plutôt inquiétant. Ils sont d’ailleurs nombreux ceux qui ont été couverts d’honneurs et sur lesquels la pierre du tombeau s’est refermée lourdement : on n’en parle plus, on ne les lit plus. Il est vrai qu’on inventait alors l’intellectuel, qui devait se confondre avec l’écrivain… Peine perdue, leur compte est bon, les hommes, les idées, passent, les œuvres resteront.
Les nuages noirs qui menaçaient toute entreprise littéraire, toute réflexion à cette époque, c’était le communisme et la psychanalyse : il n’y avait pas d’autre grille de lecture. Hélas, à peine en a-t-on fini avec celles-là que d’autres se précipitent à l’horizon : la même quantité de bêtise et de conformisme pèse toujours sur le monde, sous une forme ou sous une autre. Aujourd’hui, les droits de l’homme et les bons sentiments continuent de semer la mort à tous les points cardinaux : fuyons les amoureux de l’humanité.
Des vertus requises pour réussir dans le monde littéraire de ces temps de misère, Gripari n’en avait aucune. La souplesse qui fait les carrières, la flatterie qui ménage les puissants, le dossier de subvention glissé au bon moment au bon endroit, sur le bureau qui l’attend ce n’est pas que Gripari se le refusait, c’est qu’il n’en avait aucune notion !
Dans le livre d’entretiens, Gripari mode d’emploi, son ami Alain Paucard lui dit : «Ça commence par un malentendu, ça se poursuit par un purgatoire, et ça finit par une réhabilitation !» Faut-il vraiment le souhaiter ? S’il s’agit de consensus, non : une œuvre digne de ce nom doit rester au-dessus de tout, en quelque manière infréquentable.
Comme dirait une femme célèbre, et largement surestimée, «on ne naît pas infréquentable, on le devient !» Mais la vie est une sorte de lutte entre un individu et le monde qui l’accueille : il naît avec quelques atouts, un noyau dur, il les confronte avec ce qui l’entoure, puis, un jour, c’est la bataille en rase campagne. Il faut conquérir l’univers… c’est un corps à corps dont il sort, éventuellement, mais rarement, une œuvre.
Gripari aimait ce thème, il le décline dans tous ses romans, Pierrot la Lune, Gripotard, Branchu, dans ses contes aussi, Le Prince Pipo, Jean-Yves sont des enfants de Wilhelm Meister. Et il ne s’agit pas de grandir pour se perdre dans la masse, mais pour accomplir une vocation, quel qu’en soit le prix. Il faut apprendre à désespérer de bonne heure, mais la mélancolie contemplative n’est pas pour lui et sa profession de foi, souvent répétée est : «la tête qui dit non, le cœur qui dit oui.»
Les années d’apprentissage de Pierre Gripari forment un socle fragile qui prépare le terrain pour une vie difficile : un père arrivé de Grèce et fraîchement naturalisé, une mère normande que l’ambition déçue amène à prendre un amant, puis à noyer le chagrin qui s’ensuit dans les alcools forts. Elle en meurt en 1941. Le père est tué sur une route de Touraine par un mitraillage allié en 1944… Les astrologues disent doctement que Gripari avait Mars dans son ciel.
Les années 40 avaient amené la famille Gripari dans un village des bords de la Loire, Saint-Dyé, et Pierre s’y retrouve seul avec son jeune frère… Ce village existe, j’y suis allée dans les années 90 : on se souvient des Gripari. Ils étaient scandaleux, infréquentables, déjà… Et Pierre qui n’aimait pas les filles ! C’est le comble.
gripari2.jpgCe jeune homme qui a fait de bonnes études, interrompues par les événements, travaille comme dactylo chez le notaire, s’emploie l’été chez un cultivateur, joue du piano le samedi soir dans les bals. Bref, il n’y a rien à lui reprocher, mais, tout de même, il n’est pas comme tout le monde : on le lui fait savoir. Pourtant, il est communiste, selon l’air du temps, mais à sa façon sans doute.
Il écrit, mais personne ne le sait. La vie est un théâtre, dit Shakespeare, et Gripari entre déjà dans son rôle : il imagine une correspondance qui s’adresse à un inconnu rêvé et qui est signée Alceste… Grande solitude, sentiment d’exil.
Au cours de son enfance mouvementée, il avait eu recours aux livres, ceux des autres : «J’ai parlé autre part de l’émerveillement, du sentiment de fraternité joyeuse qu’ont éveillé en moi, lorsque j’étais enfant, des livres comme Croc-Blanc ou David Copperfield. J’ai retrouvé cela depuis avec Homère, Tolstoï, Gogol, Kipling, Céline… Ce qu’ils m’ont apporté n’était pas quelque chose d’accessoire, ce n’était pas du luxe, ni du superflu. C’était, c’est au contraire quelque chose d’essentiel, de vital.» Il se considère comme un héritier, à lui maintenant d’écrire, envers et contre tout.
«Je pars à l’armée en 46 avec la carte du Parti dans la poche, je la fous en l’air après avoir lu Kravtchenko, je reviens à Paris en 49, sur mes vieilles positions sceptiques, épicuriennes et pessimistes […] déclassé total, je me retrouve au milieu de gens dont la mentalité m’est totalement étrangère, snobé par mes anciens amis […] dans le quartier, au bureau, les seules personnes qui m’intéressent sont des communistes, et je reviens tout doucement à eux.»
Il travaille à la Mobil Oil, apprend le russe aux cours du soir de France URSS, tout naturellement, puisqu’il aime les livres, il exerce les fonctions de bibliothécaire pour le compte de la CGT… C’est là que les choses se gâtent : au lieu de recommander la littérature soviétique, il conseille Gogol ! Scandale… Sans compter qu’au syndicat, on n’aime pas beaucoup les «pédés».
Dans les années 50, à l’occasion d’un voyage en train vers la Grèce, où il rencontre sa famille paternelle, il traverse la Yougoslavie, voit le communisme de l’intérieur et en sort définitivement, guéri de toute espérance dans quelque système que ce soit, sur la terre comme au ciel.
Son expérience, du communisme et de ses avatars lui sera une source abondante d’inspiration… Cela nous vaut quelques nouvelles jubilatoires et le personnage émouvant de Socrate-Marie Gripotard.
Vers la fin des années cinquante, il cesse de jeter ses carnets, ses essais… Il écrit, pour le théâtre, et son premier roman, Pierrot la Lune. Et là commence sa brillante carrière d’infréquentable, en tant qu’écrivain… D’abord, il y évoque, avec une sincérité qui n’était pas de bon aloi à l’époque, son homosexualité. O, rien de scandaleux, pas de descriptions scabreuses, plutôt le trouble et la difficulté qu’il y a à le vivre. Au pire, c’était tout de même immoral, au mieux, c’était gênant… personne ne s’y retrouvait, ni les censeurs, ni les intéressés eux-mêmes.
Le récit de cette jeunesse se situait dans les années quarante… le sujet était délicat et les opinions bien tranchées. Lui raconte ce qu’il a vu, avec étonnement, avec le souci de la vérité, d’évoquer la complexité de la situation. Rien pour arranger les choses ! Dans l’après guerre, on s’installait dans le noir et blanc et nous y sommes toujours, il faut bien le dire.
Ce manuscrit se retrouva sur le bureau de Roland Laudenbach à La Table Ronde, dûment recommandé par Michel Déon qui avait été séduit par Lieutenant Tenant
gripari 4.jpgLieutenant Tenant est la première pièce jouée, en 1962… Une critique flatteuse de Jean-Jacques Gautier l’avait lancée et un reportage photo dans Paris-Match avait précipité Pierre sous les feux de la rampe (le système a parfois des faiblesses et laisse passer… Il ne peut pas tout contrôler, aussi rigide qu’il soit). Et voici que tout se gâte : après quelques semaines, le producteur trouve que la pièce est trop courte et lui demande d’ajouter une scène. Pierre refuse (on reconnaît là sa propension à être infréquentable !) Il n’a pas de vanité d’auteur, mais beaucoup d’orgueil et ne supportera jamais qu’on touche à ce qu’il écrit. Qu’à cela ne tienne, le producteur fait écrire la scène par un autre… ce que Pierre n’accepte pas, évidemment.
Cet acte de rébellion arrête net sa carrière d’auteur dramatique, et le malentendu n’est pas seulement économique et médiatique : «Ceux qui attendaient une pochade antimilitariste furent déçus. Les habitués du boulevard trouvèrent les scènes philosophiques trop lourdes. Les staliniens (russes ou chinois) du théâtre «engagé» tiquèrent devant les allusions aux Tatars de Crimée qui furent massacrés, sur l’ordre de Staline, à la libération du territoire. Et le public de l’avant-garde qui a mauvaise conscience dès qu’il ne s’ennuie pas, trouva la pièce légère.»
Il aggrave son cas en refusant de signer le fameux Manifeste des 121… Pour lui, l’Algérie sera algérienne, c’est inévitable, mais ce n’est pas une raison pour trahir les Français installés là-bas depuis des générations et à qui on a promis... Il est remarquable de voir que la plupart des thèmes qui l’ont diabolisé et qui donnaient lieu à des conflits sanglants, n’ont plus de sens aujourd’hui ! Comme la querelle du Filioque et celle des Iconoclastes, ils ne sont plus que matière d’Histoire.
Plus jamais il ne sera joué ailleurs que dans les cafés-théâtres. Pas de subventions pour lui, pas de metteur en scène qui s’y risque… Sauf Guy Moign qui créera une compagnie et montera ses textes chaque fois qu’il le pourra, mais pour qui jamais les grandes salles ne s’ouvriront.
Gripari avait écrit des contes pour la jeunesse. Il était sous contrat avec La Table ronde, l’éditeur de l’Algérie Française, qui publiait aussi des romans, mais des livres pour enfants… jamais. Les célèbres Contes de la rue Broca parurent en 1967 : un beau volume de la collection Vermillon… sans images, diffusé comme les pamphlets politiques qui faisaient la renommée de l’éditeur. Aucun succès ! Chute dans un gouffre sans fond…
C’est Jean-Pierre Rudin, libraire à Nice, qui, au début des années 70 entreprit une croisade, vendit deux mille exemplaires à lui tout seul, par la persuasion ou la terreur… Le contact était établi, hors des fameux «circuits» et les enfants le plébiscitèrent. Depuis, les Contes de la rue Broca ont refait le chemin à l’envers, investi les écoles, les bibliothèques, le ministère de l’Education nationale lui-même… Là, les choses se gâtent, car tout le monde s’en saisit et les «adapte». Une notion très dangereuse… Qui lit Perrault dans la merveilleuse version originale des Contes de ma Mère l’Oye ? Même chose pour les contes de Gripari. Lui qui travaillait scrupuleusement le rythme, le choix des mots, se voit souvent attaqué par toute sorte de prédateurs-adaptateurs et autres simplificateurs : c’est la rançon du succès.

Je disais bien qu’être trop fréquentable, c’est un autre genre de malédiction ! Mais rassurons-nous, c’est la seule partie de son œuvre qui trouve grâce aux yeux du monde tel qu’il est.
À la fin de ces années 60, les malentendus étaient donc déjà bien installés. Comme il est passé du communisme à la fréquentation d’un milieu de droite, à cause de son éditeur, et qu’il s’y est fait des amis, c’est un traître de la pire espèce. Ou bien, comme un esprit libre est vraiment infréquentable dans tous les mondes possibles, cela arrange le milieu littéraire, théâtral, journalistique de le cataloguer ainsi. En fait, Gripari n’est pas un idéologue, c’est un moraliste, il le dit, l’écrit et le montre : «Moi, je suis un individualiste discipliné, qui paie ses impôts, jette ses papiers dans les corbeilles, afin que l’État lui foute la paix sur tout le reste.»
C’est à ce moment-là que je l’ai connu. Il était solide comme un roc : il écrivait et tout le reste était secondaire. C’était sa force. Pour se loger et se nourrir (très mal !) il continuait de faire des petits travaux de bureau qui l’occupaient à mi-temps et lui laissaient la tête libre. Vivant comme un moine, il n’était embarrassé de rien : pas de voiture, pas de télé, pas de radio, même pas de livres ou presque, car il en achetait quelquefois qu’il donnait aussitôt lecture faite. Quand ses amis, cherchant à l’aider, lui offraient un objet quelconque ou un vêtement, il remerciait gentiment et s’en débarrassait immédiatement, trouvant toujours plus pauvre ou plus intéressé que lui.
gripari5.jpgCet état de pauvreté consenti lui donnait une apparence un peu particulière qui le rendait encore infréquentable à une autre échelle : celle des relations sociales. Il allait en sandales, à grandes enjambées, le pantalon attaché avec une ficelle, un «anorak» informe jeté sur les épaules. Le luxe qu’il s’accordait, dès qu’il le pouvait, c’était l’opéra, un lieu où il faisait certainement sensation, mais quant au répertoire il le connaissait certainement mieux que la plupart des spectateurs qu’il y côtoyait.
Mais c’était un si joyeux compagnon, si cultivé, si drôle, si original qu’il était souvent invité à dîner. Il se mettait à table avec grand appétit, riait à gorge déployée, racontait une histoire aux enfants, flattait les animaux de la maison, et si par hasard il y avait un piano, il jouait des rengaines (son répertoire de pianiste de bal) entrecoupées de leitmotive des opéras de Wagner. Après quoi, tout le monde faisait silence et il nous lisait un texte fraîchement écrit.
En 1969, La Table ronde renonce à publier cet auteur par trop atypique… Dans les deux années qui suivent, il sera refusé par dix-sept éditeurs. Ne nous privons pas d’en faire la liste : Gallimard, Flammarion, Albin Michel, Bourgois, Julliard, Le Seuil, Belfond, José Corti, Balland, Fayard, Denoël, Laffont, Grasset, Losfeld, Stock, Mercure de France, Marabout… Il est à noter que parmi eux, il en est de grands et qui ont du flair : il est à craindre que les refus émanèrent de lecteurs plus soucieux du politiquement correct que de la valeur littéraire.
On les comprend, je veux dire qu’on comprend leur prudence, ils avaient une mission : faire tenir debout l’aveuglement idéologique sous toutes ses formes, soutenir coûte que coûte le progrès, le féminisme, la psychanalyse, la décolonisation, mai 68, Mao… C’est que Gripari n’y allait pas par quatre chemins. «Il ne faut jamais faire de concession, les concessions, c’est comme le crime : ça ne paye pas», disait-il et il savait bien qu’il n’avait plus rien à perdre… «Si ces cons-là n’en veulent pas, (il parlait de ses manuscrits), ils peuvent m’étouffer, me faire crever, d’accord, mais ce sera tant pis pour eux d’abord. C’était quand même tragique, parce que, quand on n’est pas publié, on est moins motivé à écrire. On a beau dire, quand le débouché n’existe pas… Je me suis vraiment senti menacé d’asphyxie, de mort lente, d’assassinat». Cette douloureuse expérience nous vaut une description à la manière de Balzac du milieu éditorial dans Histoire de Prose. Il était catalogué : mécréant, fasciste, provocateur. Le pire, le plus insupportable est qu’il n’attaquait pas de front, il n’opposait pas une idée à une autre, il détournait tout en ironie, en rêve, en drôlerie.
Il ne disait pas «Dieu n’existe pas !», il disait «On ne sait pas pourquoi les hommes ont tant besoin de son existence !» Dieu est le personnage principal de l’œuvre de Gripari. Il est partout, dans les romans, les nouvelles, les poèmes, de même que Jésus, la Vierge et le Saint-Esprit., A tel point que dans les pays très catholiques, comme l’Espagne ou la Hongrie, on n’a pas souhaité publier le Petit Jéhovah ou le Gentil petit diable.
L’Histoire du méchant Dieu, son exégèse biblique à lui, a de quoi énerver le chrétien sincère ou pratiquant, ou tout simplement l’amoureux de juste mesure, mais L’Évangile du Rien, une anthologie de textes sacrés ou mystiques est un très beau livre, une sorte de bible nihiliste. La fin, la disparition des dieux dans son roman posthume, Monoméron, dont c’est le sujet, arrache des larmes au matérialiste le plus endurci.
Il aimait la Bible, comme il aimait les poèmes homériques. L’Éternel le fascinait, alors que, pour lui, le Jésus des Évangiles était «un personnage littéraire peu crédible»… Et si vous êtes intrigués par des personnages tels que le nain Dieu, le géant Jésus, Sainte Épicure et la déesse Bonne Mère, les clés sont dans le roman Le Conte de Paris. L’un de ses amis, religieux traditionaliste notoire, officiant à Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet, pouvait dire avec humour mais non sans vérité : «Si Dieu n’existait pas, je me demande ce qu’il aurait raconté !».
Il n’en ratait pas une : dans les années 70, Bettelheim avait décrété que les contes de fées n’étaient pas démocratiques et qu’il ne fallait plus de rois, ni de princesses. Gripari ignorait l’oukase et continuait d’en écrire. C’est sans doute cet épisode auquel il avait été confronté qui lui donna l’idée de Patrouille du Conte. Une patrouille doit moraliser les contes : le loup ne peut plus manger la grand mère, l’ogre doit opter pour un régime végétarien… Heureusement, l’entreprise tourne mal et les contes retrouvent la délicieuse cruauté qui réjouit les enfants et nous laisse à tous d’excellents souvenirs.
Il avait pris le pli du paradoxe, du pas de côté, tout lui était bon pour renverser les situations et les fameuses «valeurs». Malgré son goût des hommes, Gripari n’avait rien d’un misogyne. Il était simplement irrité et amusé par les slogans féministes. Il leur préférait la franche et joyeuse guerre des sexes et son Roman Branchu illustre le sujet avec allégresse. Ses histoires ne se terminent jamais par un mariage heureux et il y a peu de femmes, sauf les déesses mères, dans son œuvre : «L’amour fin en soi, l’amour fou, l’amour sauveur du monde m’inspirent la même méfiance, la même gaieté amère, la même agressivité goguenarde que la joie du martyre.» Lisez que, même si on remplace la femme par un homme, la question de fond est que, pour accomplir une œuvre, il faut s’y engager, il faut être seul et libre de toute pesanteur affective ou matérielle.
gripari7.jpgTout cela ne fait pas un gros dossier de presse ! Et quand un journaliste aventureux chronique les Contes, encore aujourd’hui, il ne manque pas de prendre les précautions d’usage, disant que son œuvre pour adultes sent le soufre. Le jour où Jacques Chancel l’invita pour la célèbre émission Radioscopie, en 1979, il fut rappelé à l’ordre par la LICA… Gripari s’était livré à quelque plaisanterie saugrenue sur le racisme !
Les dix dernières années de sa vie, il participa à une émission de radio qui consistait en des exercices littéraires dans le style de l’Oulipo. Il y était très apprécié des auditeurs, car, non seulement, il excellait dans ces jeux «de potache, de matheux en goguette», disait-il, mais il était très drôle et apportait une animation très personnelle… Là aussi, rien n’arrêtait une boutade ou une plaisanterie de telle sorte que le producteur de l’émission nourrissait à chaque enregistrement de légitimes inquiétudes.
En 1975, Grasset Jeunesse commence à publier tout ce qu’il écrit pour les enfants, réédite en albums très bien illustrés par Lapointe les Contes de la rue Broca et les Contes de la Folie-Méricourt. Dans le courant des années 80, il pourra vivre de sa plume… toujours comme un ascète, mais en tous cas, libre de son temps.
À auteur infréquentable, éditeurs infréquentables, en tous cas hors du système éditorial, commercial, médiatique : enfin, il les rencontre ! D’abord en 1972, Robert Morel, chrétien de gauche, installé dans les Hautes Alpes, qui laissera un catalogue de livres reliés, très originaux, publiera Les Rêveries d’un Martien en exil (des nouvelles), et Gueule d’Aminche (un polar méditerranéen inspiré de l’épopée de Gilgamesh) puis s’empressera de faire faillite.

Enfin, en 1974, il rencontre Vladimir Dimitrijevic, le fondateur de L’Âge d’Homme, l’éditeur des dissidents russes, qui deviendra son ami. Désormais, tout ce qu’il écrit sera édité : poésie, théâtre, romans, essais, nouvelles…
Gripari est mort jeune, je veux dire qu’il avait encore des histoires à raconter et en ce XXIe siècle déjà bien engagé, il est toujours un auteur inconnu. Ceux qui l’ont rencontré, qui l’ont lu, qui ont parlé avec lui, l’ont trouvé très fréquentable, amical, généreux, courtois et bienveillant.
Rue de la Folie Méricourt, sa dernière adresse, il déjeunait «en dessous» de sa chambre, chez Dany. C’était une gargote où il y avait encore des habitués ronds de serviette, employés, ouvriers, artisans qui travaillaient dans le quartier. Certains jours, il y avait les déménageurs qui sont immortalisés dans l’un de ses contes… Le chien dormait sous le bar, le saucisson beurre, les harengs à l’huile et les plats en sauce étaient promptement dévorés. Et c’était un spectacle réjouissant de voir Pierre Gripari causant avec tout le monde, racontant, riant, chantant, commentant les nouvelles et les résultats sportifs. Ici, son élégance toute personnelle ne choquait personne. Non, il n’était pas du tout infréquentable,
«Il faut des malheurs pour que naissent et s’épanouissent les héros» dit le poète. Pierre Gripari a connu l’adversité, l’injustice et l’incompréhension. Jamais il ne s’est incliné, jamais il n’a remis en question l’idée qu’il se faisait de la grandeur de son métier : écrivain, raconteur d’histoires.

C’est la Mort, la Faucheuse, qui l’a trouvé très fréquentable, et un peu trop tôt.

On est complice de ce qui arrive, Gripari marchait joyeusement dans les flaques en ayant la tête levée vers les étoiles.

Heureusement il a rencontré ses frères, lecteurs, éditeur.

Anne Martin-Conrad, née en 1941, autodidacte, a eu de nombreuses activités professionnelles, parmi lesquelles celles de journaliste et libraire. Elle a accueilli Pierre Gripari dans sa librairie-théâtre en 1967 et a fait partie de son cercle d'amis jusqu'à sa mort, puis elle a animé l'Association des Amis de Pierre Gripari pendant dix ans. Elle a publié un Dossier H aux éditions L'Âge d'Homme et un Gripari dans la collection Qui suis-je ? (en collaboration avec Jacques Marlaud) chez Pardès en 2010.

vendredi, 14 janvier 2011

Conférence de Pierre Vial sur Henri Vincenot

Conférence de Pierre Vial sur Henri Vincenot

La metafisica de "L'Operaio" di Ernst Jünger

La metafisica de "L’operaio" di Ernst Jünger


Ex: http://www.centrostudilaruna.it/

Il progresso tecnico che ancora alla fine dell’800 sembrava condurre l’uomo ad un mondo più giusto e libero dal dolore, pareva mostrare, all’alba del secolo ventesimo, il suo terribile volto di Giano. Gli sfaceli della guerra e la povertà da essa cagionata producevano quelle ingiustizie che, nell’ottica marxista, e ben presto nazionalista e “fascista”, erano il prodromo, per certi versi contraddittorio, all’avvento della “rivoluzione”, fosse questa intesa come un ribaltamento dei rapporti di proprietà o come uno scardinamento del mondo liberale e borghese in previsione della costruzione di una comunità organica. Si iniziò a leggere la tecnica come il segno, se non la causa, della decadenza morale dell’uomo che preludeva al crepuscolo del mondo occidentale o almeno alla sua inevitabile “Krisis”. E’ assai in generale questa la cornice storica e sociale all’interno della quale l’allora celebre scrittore di guerra e giornalista politico Ernst Jünger pubblica, nel 1932, il saggio filosofico e metapolitico Der Arbeiter, Herrschaft und Gestalt (1).

Nelle pagine che seguono cercherò, da un lato, di evidenziare la portata propriamente metafisica del saggio esaminando la metafisica delle forme che ne costituisce l’impianto; dall’altra, avrò modo di rilevare come Ernst Jünger ne L’operaio non abbia l’intenzione di criticare la classe borghese per rinsaldarne, attraverso un artificio ideale, il potere; al contrario, secondo i miei studi, egli mette sotto accusa il borghese e il suo potere volendo, almeno teoricamente, contribuire alla costruzione di un modello metapolitico che, già a partire dai presupposti, si distingua nettamente sia dal liberalcapitalismo che dal collettivismo.

1. Forma e Tipo

Sfogliando L’operaio si ha la sensazione che temi di varia natura siano talmente e finemente interconnessi che appaia assai arduo procedere ad una de-composizione funzionale alla comprensione dei presupposti. Ad una lettura più attenta si “vede” invece perfettamente ciò che, nell’intento dell’acuto “sismografo”, si cela sotto la multiforme matassa. E’ utile a questo punto procedere alla illustrazione di quelli che mi sono sembrati i fondamenti metafisici del saggio del ’32.

Secondo Jünger esisterebbe un “solco” ineffabile definito di sovente eterno e immobile, di cui ogni forma (Gestalt) sarebbe il modo temporale. La Forma è una irradiazione (Strahlung) dell’Indistinto eterno ed immoto, è il modo tramite cui l’essenza numinosa della forma si fa tempo (2); la forma è un tutto che non si riduce alla somma delle sue parti (3). Ciò fa pensare che l’essenza della Gestalt non nasca e non muoia con gli elementi che ne garantiscono l’epifania, anche se il rapporto tra la forma e il suo evento è pressoché necessario (4). L’uomo non ha la possibilità di rappresentare la forma nella sua essenza, non la può cioè porre davanti a sé come un oggetto materiale o spirituale per poi misurarla razionalmente (5). Essa, in sé, è come l’Uno di Plotino (6). Ma l’uomo può “avvicinarsi” (7) alla forma vivendola, cioè incarnandola. Vivere la forma significa dis-porsi alla sovraindividualità che è la modalità grazie a cui la forma si appresta a dominare globalmente. L’uomo travalica la propria individualità facendo spazio al dipanarsi della forma, tras-formandosi in Tipo. La Forma si manifesta infatti nel tipo. Essa è il sigillo, dice Jünger, rispetto al tipo che è l’impronta (8).

Se la forma nelle sue vestigia mortali è una declinazione dell’eternità, il tipo deve, a mio avviso, essere considerato come la guisa temporale della forma. Esso infatti, in un certo senso, attualizza il Destino della Forma. Tale Destino, come suggerito dal titolo de L’operaio, è il Dominio della Forma. Un Dominio che, lo si diceva, non è parziale, che cioè non si espande in un solo piano della realtà, ma a livello del pensare, del sentire e del volere oltre che nello spazio tramite la tecnica e la distruzione che essa comporta. Nello scritto del 1963 Typus, Name, Gestalt si legge che “Tipo” è più di “individuo” nella stessa misura in cui è meno di “forma” (9).

La forma è più vicina all’Indistinto; il tipo, irradiazione della Forma, valicata l’individualità, spalanca le porte all’impersonalità. Questo discorso appare fin qui assai astratto. Per comprendere come effettivamente l’uomo, facendosi Tipo, possa rispecchiare totalmente la forma, è necessario riflettere sul linguaggio della manifestazione della forma. L’uomo infatti si fa tipo (forma nel tempo) praticando, in certo qual modo essendo, il linguaggio della forma. Divenendo tipo, e cioè qualcosa che supera gli esclusivi interessi della propria isolata individualità, si pro-pone al servizio dell’espansione totale della forma. Ora, a parere di Jünger, il linguaggio che la forma, tramite l’uomo, parla nell’epoca della “riproducibilità tecnica” (10) è naturalmente proprio quello della tecnica. Nel periodo de L’operaio la tecnica è un ingranaggio di questo sistema metafisico. Solamente tramite la tecnica infatti la forma può dominare in tutto il mondo. La tecnica è, in altri termini, il modo più efficace tramite cui la Forma può dominare totalmente.

2. L’elementare

Prima di procedere all’analisi del nesso che fonde inestricabilmente, nel pensiero di Jünger, la tecnica alla forma, è bene riflettere su un altro tema che è parimenti inserito nell’impianto metafisico di cui si discute. Mi riferisco alla nozione di “elementare” che, almeno in parte, costituisce uno degli argomenti più “attuali” del pensiero di Jünger (11). Ne L’operaio l’elementare è, da un certo punto di vista, una forza imperitura, sempre uguale a se stessa, ma imprevedibile, poco misurabile, refrattaria al calcolo della ragione strumentale, malamente oggettivizzabile; è dunque un’energia primordiale che non si riduce né all’uomo né alle sue leggi, morali o scientifiche che siano. L’elementare agisce sia come irrefrenabile forza naturale (inumana potenza dei quattro elementi naturali), sia nell’uomo come moto profondo dell’anima impossibile da ponderare, razionalizzare, cattivizzare. Secondo Jünger l’energia del cosmo è sempre uguale a se stessa. Risulta allora perfettamente inutile, anzi assai pericoloso, relegare nell’irrazionale le energie elementari che, in un modo o nell’altro, necessariamente troveranno una valvola di sfogo. Più vengono contratte, più aumenta la loro carica esplosiva, dirompente, agli occhi dell’uomo, terribile. Il borghese porterebbe avanti proprio questo tentativo: piegherebbe l’elementare all’assurdo o, al massimo, all’eccezione che conferma la regola della razionalizzabilità del tutto. A parere del borghese tutto ciò che non può essere ricondotto alla ragione strumentale e alla morale utilitaria deve essere per forza assurdo, dunque irrazionale; l’elementare è così, nell’ottica dell’uomo moderno, destinato ad essere s-piegato, calcolato. Il motivo di questa operazione matematica (12) è per Jünger essenzialmente uno: la paura. L’uomo moderno ha infatti come fine la sicurezza che, insieme alla comodità e all’aponia, vede come il presupposto della sua felicità. L’elementare introduce l’uomo nello spazio del pericolo e dunque lo apre all’esperienza inspiegabile, ma endemica all’umano, del Dolore (13). Crea così le premesse per lo sconvolgimento dell’ordine morale e sociale mettendo a repentaglio la sicurezza che, come si è detto, sarebbe il valore più caro all’uomo borghese. La contraddizione, la sofferenza, la violenza, ma anche la temerarietà, l’entusiamo eroico, fanno parte del sottobosco a cui l’elementare, secondo Jünger, dischiude l’animo umano. Il borghese crede che grazie al progresso, anche tecnico, la società umana possa un giorno pervenire alla costruzione di un paradiso terrestre in cui l’uomo universale, dotato di diritti inalienabili, possa essere rispettato in quanto tale; un paradiso terrestre da dove possa essere bandito il pericolo, il dolore. Jünger contesta l’equazione razionalità-borghese=razionalità. Quella borghese è infatti, ai suoi occhi, una forma di razionalità che strumentalizza ogni fenomeno alla sicurezza e alla comodità dell’uomo. Una forma di ragione che, dopo averlo oggettivizzato, fa di ogni ente un mezzo per raggiungere una forma di felicità terrena che risulterebbe riduttiva, poco appropriata alla grandezza destinale che l’uomo in passato sarebbe stato in grado di incarnare. Nel sistema jüngeriano l’elementare riveste quasi la funzione che in una macchina ha il carburante. E’ infatti l’energia del sistema, è una forza tellurica e immortale che agisce in sintonia con la Forma facendola muovere nello spazio, cioè consentendole di essere nel tempo. Ritornando allo schema generale: così come il tipo permette alla forma di esistere nello spazio, l’elementare permette alla forma di muoversi in esso e dunque, in virtù del legame che tradizionalmente stringe lo spazio col tempo, di essere tempo, cioè fenomeno, evento, Destino. L’Operaio sarebbe capace di scorgere l’elementare nella sua “realtà” senza giudicarlo e “castrarlo”. Non lo relega all’assurdo, ma cerca di amplificarne le potenzialità in vista del Dominio della Forma. Il modo più appropriato che questo eone della Forma ha per liberare la potenza di cui la Forma abbisogna è la tecnica. La tecnica, come è stato accennato e come verrà ribadito, non solo è il tramite che trasforma l’uomo in tipo, ma permette all’elementare di manifestarsi in tutto il suo vigore. La tecnica è dunque rigorosamente innestata nella metafisica elaborata da Jünger, essa appare, ne L’Operaio, come un suo meccanismo imprescindibile (14).

3. La tecnica

La tecnica è “la maniera in cui la forma dell’operaio mobilita il mondo” (15). L’Operaio è così quella Forma che mobilita il mondo tramite la tecnica. Heidegger commenta che allora la tecnica coincide con la mobilitazione -totale- del mondo attuata dalla forma dell’Operaio (16). Alain de Benoist, rifacendosi al saggio del 1930 intitolato Die Totale Mobilmachung, fa presente come ”mobilitare”, nel gergo di Jünger, non significhi solo mettere in movimento, ma vorrebbe indicare anche “essere pronto, rendere pronto”, Alain De Benoist aggiunge, “alla guerra” (17). Mobilitare può significare essenzialmente rendere qualcosa disponibile per qualcos’altro: la mobilitazione del mondo appresta il mondo alla conquista totale della Forma del Lavoro. La mobiltazione va da un lato di pari passo con la distruzione e si realizza nello spazio con la tecnica bellica (18); da un altro lato, già nella sua opera di demolizione, prepara il terreno per la parusia di una nuova Figura e innesca il meccanismo necessario affinché il nuovo Dominio della Forma si realizzi. Come si diceva, il tipo umano è altro dall’individuo. Ora, l’uomo si fa tipo tramite la tecnica, la quale incide sull’essenza dell’uomo grazie alla messa in moto di radicali processi spersonalizzanti che aprono l’individuo alla uni-formità e dunque alla sovra-individualità (19).

Perché lo strumento tecnico possa essere ad-operato dall’uomo, è necessario che questi faccia propria precisamente la razionalità strumentale. Se infatti l’uomo adotta la tecnica come strumento, non ha bisogno di mettere in gioco tutte quelle qualità che lo distinguono dagli altri uomini. Secondo una tradizione di pensiero che si impone già prima di Jünger (Sorel, Spengler, Ortega, Guénon) e che, dopo L’operaio, prosegue, seppur all’interno di concezioni filosofiche assai differenti, tramite Heidegger, Adorno, Arendt e molti altri, il mezzo tecnico (e la conoscenza come dominio) richiede esclusivamente la capacità meccanica e la razionalità sufficiente a farlo funzionare. Il funzionamento dello strumento sembra il fine del processo tecnico. L’uomo stesso appare come un ingranaggio finalizzato al funzionamento del mezzo che, alla stregua di un circolo vizioso, ha come fine la mera funzionalità. Capiamo così come, all’improvviso, l’uomo col suo retaggio di esperienze personali, qualità irripetibili, particolarità, ma anche “razza” (20), differenza etnica, conti poco. E’ invece importante l’esercizio della ragione che, prendendo in prestito la terminologia di Heidegger, definiamo “rappresentativa”. Il Tipo ergendosi a fondamento, a misura del mondo, pone il mondo medesimo davanti a sé come un oggetto. Il mondo è in quanto può essere misurato, forzato al metro umano. Il mondo è, ha valore (è valore, “immagine”) in quanto è strumentale al dominio del Tipo. Conoscere significa dunque misurare, cioè matematicizzare, pre-vedere, mobilitare, indirizzare al dominio (21). Il metro di valutazione del mondo è l’oggettivazione dello stesso ai fini della sua utilizzazione e la conoscenza in quanto tale, laddove si fa tecnica, è dominio. Questo processo è talmente radicale che, a un certo momento, pare che la tecnica come strumento, da mezzo si tramuti in fine e che, dunque, il fine del mobilitare sia strumentalizzare e utilizzare il mondo in vista del dominio. Il fine del mobilitare sembra il mobilitare (22). Il mezzo dell’uomo piega a sé l’uomo.

L’uomo che inizialmente crede di perseguire tramite la tecnica (strumento da lui inteso in senso neutrale) la felicità (la tecnica si propaga facilmente e velocemente e ingenera l’illusione che tramite essa si possa superare il dolore), poi diventa parte del dispositivo che accende.

La spersonalizzazione che la tecnica introdurrebbe prelude al totale oltrepassamento del modo che sino a quel momento, secondo Jünger, si aveva di interpretare la libertà intesa come “misura il cui metro campione venga fissato dall’esistenza individuale del singolo” (23). L’uomo è parte di un processo dove perdono di importanza le qualità e la vita del singolo, dove, come si diceva, risulta fondamentale rendere il mondo funzionante per lavorarlo in vista della produzione, cioè della mobilitazione. Il lavoro, mezzo che la forma utilizza per piegare a sé il mondo, si propaga in ogni settore della vita (24). Si riduce lo spazio che divide i sessi e quello che divide il lavoro in senso proprio dall’ozio; anche lo sport diventa lavoro; ogni cosa tende ad assumere una forma tipica e incarna lo stesso severo, freddo, ascetico stile. Farsi tipo tramite la tecnica significa dunque attualizzare tutta una serie di proprietà che rendono l’uomo adeguato al dominio della forma. Il dominio della forma nel tempo attuale si appaleserebbe così tramite segni inequivocabili che sono una conseguenza diretta dell’uso della tecnica e della mentalità che tale uso esige. Si fa strada una “rigidita’ da maschera” nel volto rasato del soldato, nella sua espressione glaciale e precisa, che non tradisce una differenza psicologica né alcun umano sentimento, ma che mostra una volontà oggettiva, impersonale, automatica, meccanica. L’uniforme fa la sua comparsa in ogni ambito della vita, gli operai assomigliano così ai soldati e i soldati sono operai. La cifra acquista la sua imprescindibile importanza in ogni settore dell’organizzazione statale, si fa strada l’anonimato, la ripetizione (che sostituisce la borghese irripetibilità, eccezionalità), garantisce la sostituibilità di un operaio con un altro. La quantità prevale sulla qualità.

Fin qui pare di leggere una critica alla tecnica e alla ragione che potremmo trovare in molti altri autori in quel tempo (25). Ma Jünger sembra essere originale proprio in quanto, dopo aver individuato le trasformazioni che la tecnica produce sull’uomo, non cede alla tentazione di condannare i mutamenti epocali di cui si è detto. Che l’uomo pensi di poter restare indenne da questi processi totali è infatti, a suo avviso, un’illusione. Egli, che si voglia o no, ne è mutato profondamente. Questa tras-figurazione distrugge negativamente l’individuo borghese; l’Operaio invece, consapevole della necessità dei processi in atto, sacrifica eroicamente i propri desideri contingenti e, nel Lavoro, considerato alla stregua di una missione rivoluzionaria, perviene alla coscienza di partecipare al Destino della Forma assurgendo a vessillo, “geroglifico” del suo totale Dominio. L’essenza della tecnica dunque, come dirà Heidegger, non sarebbe nulla di tecnico ma di nichilistico (26). Essa demolisce ogni vincolo e ogni consuetudinaria misura in quanto costringe ogni ente al suo utilizzo. Le cose perderebbero così il valore armonico, tradizionale, sacrale, cultuale che avevano e diventerebbero oggetti da dominare e da utilizzare facilmente e velocemente. Il fatto che il mobilitare appaia come un mezzo finalizzato al medesimo e cieco mobilitare, è appunto una apparenza che s-vela l’alto livello a cui la tecnica approda nella sua opera di conquista totale. In verità, il mobilitare finalizzato al mobilitare è, nel pensiero che si analizza, esattamente l’”astuto” modo che la Forma attualmente adotta per raggiungere il proprio Dominio. Il protagonista del mobilitare, il suo fine, non è infatti, contrariamente alle apparenze, in ultima istanza, il mobilitare, ma la vittoria totale della nuova Forma. Per questo Jünger distingue chiaramente tra fase dinamico-esplosiva (“paesaggio da officina”) e Dominio della Forma dell’Operaio. La prima è necessaria al secondo, ma il secondo conclude, nel suo compiersi, la fase “anarchica” in cui il mobilitare si esprime in modo tanto potente da ingenerare la credenza che il suo fine sia solo e soltanto la propria cieca, distruttiva e totale manifestazione (27). In questo processo totale, antikantianamente (28), l’uomo scoprirebbe la sua dignità, o, facendo nostro un gergo appropriato allo spirito del tempo in cui Jünger scrive, il suo “onore”, proprio nel trasformarsi in mezzo della manifestazione della forma. La tecnica è così esaltata precisamente perché tras-forma l’uomo da fine isolato a mezzo organico. L’Operaio risulta, nello spirito e nel corpo, glorificato, per così dire, alchemicamente risorto nella Forma.

4. Metapolitica

Questa analisi ci permette di planare dall’orizzonte metafisico a quello metapolitico. Jünger non condivide il presupposto che starebbe alla base del modello economico proposto dalla società liberal-capitalista, secondo cui la felicità e il benessere di una nazione si ottiene tramite la soddisfazione economica degli individui (atomi) che compongono la stessa società (29).

L’idea per la quale soddisfare i propri esclusivi interessi conduca alla felicità della nazione, è fermamente rifiutata da Jünger. Egli ritiene che l’interesse privato debba essere garantito nell’alveo degli interessi sovraindividuali dell’organismo comunitario. Fondare una ideologia che a partire dalla metafisica, tramite l’interpretazione altrettanto metafisica della tecnica, attacchi nei fondamenti l’individuo e la sua idea di libertà, significa chiaramente avere come bersaglio il liberalismo che sull’individuo e sulla tutela dei suoi diritti basa la propria dottrina. I rivoluzionari conservatori si sentivano “vitalisti” proprio nel senso che aderivano nichilisticamente alle contraddizioni della realtà, specialmente laddove queste conducevano alla demolizione dell’apparato politico ed ideologico delle classi dominanti (30). Essi ambivano ad una distruzione da cui potesse originarsi un nuovo gerarchico Ordine e una nuova forma di partecipazione politica. La stessa nozione di forma come qualcosa che non si riduce alla somma delle sue parti, trova riscontro in una comunità politica che non esaurisce la sua essenza nell’addizione dei singoli che la costituiscono. La comunità organica, come la forma, è altro dalle sue parti, è “un altro che si aggiunge”, un di più a cui non si arriva tramite la mera somma di vari elementi. Così l’agire, il pensare e il sentire degli individui non sarebbero in questo contesto finalizzati al possesso della felicità personale, ma al “bene”, alla potenza della comunità che trascende la somma.

Al tempo de L’Operaio la distruzione bellica, grazie alla tecnologia, assunse un livello mai raggiunto fino a quel momento, le lotte sociali si fecero, a causa della misera condizione della classe operaia, ma anche in virtù della diffusione della ideologia marxista, dell’avanzata dei partiti socialisti e dei sindacati, proporzionali all’industrializzazione e alla mobilitazione dei materiali (umani e non) in vista del dominio delle nazioni più sviluppate. Nel dopoguerra, specialmente a causa dell’inflazione e della fortissima svalutazione della moneta, buona parte della classe media perse ogni sua sicurezza e si produssero licenziamenti a catena nelle fabbriche; vari movimenti di destra e di sinistra e altri che si collocavano esplicitamente al di là di questi due cartelli ideali, ottennero così il favore della popolazione stremata dalla crisi economica. Se a ciò si aggiunge la polemica nazionalista contro i firmatari della pesante e probabilmente iniqua pace di Versailles, si capisce come il clima politico e sociale fosse confacente all’avanzata di partiti “radicali” che vedevano nella classe liberale al potere la responsabile dello sfacelo economico e politico della Germania. In un orizzonte in cui il “nuovo nazionalismo”, a cui Jünger aderisce già a partire dalla fine della Prima guerra mondiale, otteneva sempre più consensi, la metafisica delle Forme avrebbe potuto dunque acquistare un significato morale-politico: il superamento del concetto di individuo, negli intenti di Jünger, avrebbe potuto condurre alla creazione di un “Uomo nuovo” che fosse pronto a donare la propria vita e ad immolare i propri desideri per la potenza dello stato organico, per il risanamento totale “patria umiliata”. Nel pantano ideologico della Repubblica di Weimar questa metafisica politica poteva dunque servire, agli occhi del pensatore, a costruire un’etica che ponesse l’uomo in grado di salvarsi, anche a costo di profondi sacrifici personali, dalla grave crisi in cui versava buona parte delle nazioni europee in quel tempo. Il modernismo reazionario, di cui Jünger è “l’idealtipo” (31), ha un preciso fine politico che è chiaro al pensatore tedesco ben prima della stesura de L’operaio: “Chi potrebbe contestare che la Zivilisation è più intimamente legata al progresso della Kultur, che nelle grandi città essa è in grado di parlare la sua lingua naturale e sa utilizzare mezzi e concetti nei cui confronti la Kultur è indifferente o addirittura ostile? La Kultur non si lascia sfruttare a scopi propagandistici, e un atteggiamento che cerchi di piegarla in questo senso non può che esserle estraneo (…)” (32). Jünger crede che il “cupo ardore” che spinse migliaia di giovani ad andare in guerra gridando “per la Germania” offerto ad una nazione “inesplicabile e invisibile”, per quanto fosse bastato a far “tremare i popoli fino all’ultima fibra”, non potesse essere sufficiente per sconfiggere nazioni come quella statunitense che si erano rese disponibili alla mobilitazione totale di tutte le loro energie. Da qui la domanda retorica e assai significativa: “E se soltanto (il cupo ardore di cui si è detto) avesse avuto fin dal primo momento una direzione, una coscienza, una forma?” (33). Il fine politico de L’operaio può allora essere così inteso: creare le premesse metafisiche, dunque “kulturali”, ideali affinché l’ entusiasmo eroico potesse essere veramente efficace, cioè vincente. Jünger si è reso conto non solo del potere ineguagliabile degli strumenti tecnici applicati alla guerra, ma anche della necessità di trasformare la mentalità della nazione nella direzione della mobilitazione totale. Tale mobilitazione implica la fusione della vita col lavoro. Egli cioè pensa che solo se tutto diventa lavoro, tutto viene mobilitato alla potenza e dunque alla vittoria della Germania. Perché ciò accada è necessario che ogni cosa venga piegata allo strumento tecnico. La società diventa “lavoro” se prima è diventata macchina, tecnica. La Kultur tradizionalmente intesa non basta a questo che è chiaramente inteso come uno scopo epocale. C’è bisogno di una Zivilisation che non contraddica la Kultur ma che ne garantisca la vittoria reale. L’operaio ha l’obbiettivo eminentemente politico di sintetizzare la Kultur con la Zivilisation, in qualche modo di rendere culturale e politica la civilizzazione e di civilizzare, “modernizzare” la Kultur (34). Jünger contesta in maniera netta l’individualismo negli articoli scritti tra il 1918 e il 193335e, se si nota che L’operaio è del 1932, lo scritto può essere inteso in senso meramente apolitico molto difficilmente. Gli Operai, nel libro del ’32, sono uomini d’acciaio, incarnazione di un’etica oggettiva -realista-, che ha come fine il dominio della Forma del lavoro, e dunque il lavoro totale in ogni settore della produzione e dell’esistenza. L’individuo borghese che, in questa parabola di pensiero, ha come obbiettivo la comodità e la sicurezza, non sarebbe adatto a rappresentare senza rimpianti e con assoluto rigore un’etica che preveda la rinuncia alle proprie contingenti aspirazioni, alla propria esclusiva e “materiale” felicità. D’altra parte, non sarebbe adatto ad incarnare una simile etica neppure il “proletario” che si sente umiliato e combatte per migliorare le condizioni della sua classe e per ribaltare i rapporti di proprietà. Questi infatti lotta per gli interessi di una parte della nazione e ha un fine, che, dal punto di vista jüngeriano, resta sociale ed economico. L’Operaio invece, come si diceva, non bada al miglioramento della propria condizione economica, non ambisce ad impossessarsi dei mezzi di produzione né crede agli ideali di uguaglianza nei quali, seguendo la tradizione marxiana, il proletario dovrebbe credere. L’Operaio jüngeriano è al servizio della Forma e del suo Dominio; a questo servizio sacrifica ogni sua aspirazione, personale o di classe.

Secondo Jünger, si deve lavorare in primo luogo sullo spirito umano per poter ambire almeno ad una parziale rinascita. Il superamento dell’individualità è da Jünger perseguito tramite gli effetti distruttivi della tecnica che, in altri pensatori, sia di destra che di sinistra, sono abborriti in ogni senso. Jünger, nel periodo de L’operaio, ritiene puerili e dannose le tesi di chi pensa che la tecnica sia di per sé uno strumento del Male, qualcosa rispetto a cui l’uomo si sarebbe posto come un inesperto “apprendista stregone” che non è più in grado di controllare le dinamiche innescate dai suoi esperimenti (36) e, allo stesso modo, non ritiene che l’uomo possa divenire buono, giusto e dunque felice. In ogni quadro epocale domina un tipo di Forma che impregna tutto di sé; ogni cosa in un dato ciclo ha lo stile della forma che domina. Il ciclo sorge in quel periodo definito Interregno (37). L’Interregno è nietzscheanamente quel torno temporale in cui i vecchi valori non sono ancora morti e quelli nuovi che scalpitano non hanno ancora conquistato lo spazio necessario al Dominio. Accade così che alla fine di un ciclo le vecchie forme e i valori fino a quel momento dominanti si svuotino pian piano dal loro interno. Che i valori si s-vuotino significa che perdono la loro essenza di valori; il valore è ciò intorno a cui e grazie a cui l’uomo costruisce il suo senso. Alla fine di un ciclo i valori sono ancora formalmente intatti, il loro involucro è integro, splendente; ma perdono di sostanza: non sono più in grado di orientare la vita dell’uomo, è come se il loro corpo fosse ancora monoliticamente visibile a tutti, ma stesse perdendo il proprio vigore, il proprio potere di movimentare l’uomo e con esso il mondo. E’ così che in questo vuoto assiologico ed ontologico si insinuano nuove forze che aprono lo spazio al dominio inarrestabile di nuove forme. In siffatta dinamica di s-vuotamento delle forme che coincide con un nuovo riempimento, opera la tecnica. La tecnica si insinua in ogni dove, nello spazio e nello spirito, inizialmente come uno strumento puro, assolutamente neutro, grazie a cui l’uomo può vivere più comodamente; attraverso cui ha sempre più l’illusione di esorcizzare, depotenziare il dolore e tramite cui, giorno dopo giorno, trasforma la propria vita. Più l’uomo si innamora del suo strumento, più viene risucchiato nei suoi ingranaggi oggettivizzanti di cui sopra si è detto. La tecnica secondo Ernst Jünger risulta pericolosa proprio là dove si ignora il suo potere necessariamente distruttivo. Risulta pericolosa se la si valuta superficialmente come uno strumento neutrale che l’uomo può con la sua ragione utilitaria piegare ai suoi interessi e alla sua oggettiva felicità restandone essenzialmente immune. Ma risulta pericolosa anche là dove si tenti di negarla rifugiandosi in anacronistici sentimenti romantici. In altri termini, agli occhi dello Jünger del 1932, la tecnica è positiva solo se si è consapevoli del fatidico ruolo metafisico che riveste, se si accetta di intraprendere attraverso il suo utilizzo un percorso e-sistenziale che conduca al superamento dell’io, e se, quasi come si trattasse di una catarsi ontologica, attraverso questo superamento ci si renda poveri contenitori della Forma e del suo fatale Dominio.


1 Der Arbeiter, Herrschaft und Gestalt appare nell’ottobre del 1932 presso Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt (Hamburg). Nello stesso anno si hanno tre nuove edizioni del saggio. Dopo la guerra, Heidegger convince Jünger a ripubblicare il saggio che infatti compare nel sesto volume delle sue opere uscite presso Klett-Cotta a Stoccarda. L’opera è tradotta in italiano solo nel 1984 da Quirino Principe (L’operaio, trad. it., Longanesi, Milano 1984.) dopo che, agli inizi degli anni ’60, Julius Evola la fece conoscere nel riassunto analitico intitolato L’operaio nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger, Armando, Roma 1961. Delio Cantimori preferì tradurre la parola Der Arbeiter con “milite del lavoro” per sottolineare il carattere guerriero della nuova figura (Cfr., Delio Cantimori, Ernst Jünger e la mistica milizia del lavoro, in Delio Cantimori, Tre saggi su Ernst Jünger, Moller van den Brück, Schmitt, Settimo Sigillo, Roma 1985, pp. 17-43.).

2 Qualora le forme, nel loro aspetto fenomenico, non fossero soggette all’annientamento, non si potrebbe agevolmente spiegare la differenza fra un ciclo caratterizzato dal dominio di alcune forme e un altro contraddistinto da forme diverse. Ci fossero sempre le stesse forme cosa muterebbe all’alba di un nuovo ciclo? La valorizzazione di questa dottrina tradizionale giustifica insieme ad altre importanti somiglianze un parallelo fra la metafisica di Jünger e quella a cui si richiamano Evola, Guénon ed in parte Eliade. In particolare, risulta interessante un confronto fra i segni che secondo questi autori caratterizzano il Kali Yuga (L’età Oscura, l’ultima età prima della fine di questo ciclo cosmico) e i segni che, ne L’operaio e in altre opere di Jünger, contraddistinguono l’“Interregno” in cui sorge ed agisce la Forma dell’Operaio. In questo senso, è assolutamente importante anche un paragone con Spengler per il quale si rimanda a: Domenico Conte, Jünger, Spengler e la storia, in A.A. V.V., in Ernst Jünger e il pensiero del nichilismo, a cura di Luisa Bonesio, Herrenhaus, 2002, pp. 153-198; Luciano Arcella, Ernst Jünger, Oltre la storia, in Due volte la cometa, Atti del convegno Roma 28 ottobre 1995, Settimo Sigillo, Roma 1998. Antonio Gnoli e Franco Volpi, I prossimi titani, Conversazioni con Ernst Jünger, Adelphi, Milano 1997, pp. 103, 104. Si veda anche Julius Evola, Spengler e il Tramonto dell’Occidente, Fondazione Julius Evola, Roma 1981. Sulla interpretazione jüngeriana del pensiero di Spengler si legga soprattutto: Ernst Jünger, trad. it., Al muro del tempo, Adelphi, Milano 2000.

3 “Nella forma è racchiuso il tutto che comprende più che non la somma delle proprie parti”. Ernst Jünger, trad. it., L’Operaio, Dominio e Forma, Guanda, Parma 2004, p. 32. “Una parte è certamente così lontana dall’essere una forma così come una forma è lontana dall’essere una somma di parti”. Ibidem.

4 Jünger definisce la storia dell’evoluzione come “il commento dinamico” della forma. Cfr., Ernst Jünger, L’operaio, cit., p. 75. La forma dunque “non esclude l’evoluzione”, la “include come proiezione sul piano della realtà”. Ivi, p. 125. Ciò implica l’avversione non solo alla dottrina del progresso (“ogni progresso implica un regresso”), ma il rifiuto netto di ogni prospettiva storicistica: “La storia non produce forme, ma si modifica in virtù della forma”, ivi. p. 75. Evola commenta: “Le figure non sono storicamente condizionate; invece sono esse a condizionare la storia, la quale è la scena del loro manifestarsi, del loro succedersi, del loro incontrarsi e lottare (…). E’ l’apparire di una nuova figura a dare ad ogni civiltà la sua impronta. Le figure non divengono, non si evolvono, non sono i prodotti di processi empirici, di rapporti orizzontali di causa e di effetto”. Julius Evola, L’operaio nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger, cit., p. 32. Si potrebbe allora sostenere con Eliade che la “valorizzazione” dell’esistenza umana non è “quella che cercano di dare certe correnti filosofiche posthegeliane, soprattutto il marxismo, lo storicismo e l’esistenzialismo, in seguito alla scoperta dell’ “uomo storico”, dell’uomo che si fa da se stesso in seno alla storia”. Mircea Eliade, Il mito dell’eterno ritorno, Archetipi e ripetizioni, Borla, Roma 1999, p. 8. Questa impostazione è molto simile a quella jüngeriana, infatti l’Operaio come Gestalt non può essere considerato un prodotto delle dinamiche storico-economiche. E’ la Forma a fare la storia, non viceversa.

5 Usando il linguaggio heideggeriano si può sostenere che la forma non può essere piegata alla scienza intesa come “ricerca”: “La scienza diviene ricerca quando si ripone l’essere dell’ente” nell’ “oggettività”. Cfr., Martin Heidegger, L’epoca dell’immagine del mondo, in id. Sentieri interrotti, La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1984, p. 83. La Forma non può essere oggettivizzata, non se ne può fornire una storia dettagliata né, tantomeno, se ne può calcolare in anticipo e con esattezza il corso futuro.

6 Plotino distingue l’essere che è costituito da forme sensibili e intelligibili dall’Uno che può essere considerato amorfo: “L’Uno non è “qualcosa”, ma è anteriore a qualsiasi cosa; e nemmeno non è essere, poiché l’essere possiede (…) una forma, la forma dell’essere. Ma l’Uno è privo di forma, privo anche della forma intelligibile”. Plotino, Enneade VI, in Plotino, Enneadi, Rusconi, Milano 1992, p. 1343. L’Uno “privo di forma” non può essere conosciuto “né per mezzo della scienza né per mezzo del pensiero”. Chi estaticamente ha “visto” o meglio è “stato” (è) l’Uno “non immagina una dualità, ma già diventato altro da quello che era e ormai non più se stesso, appartiene a Lui ed è uno con Lui”. L’Uno non può essere oggettivizzato. L’oggettivazione si fonda infatti sulla distanza e sulla differenza tra il soggetto che oggettiviza e l’ente oggettivizzato. Qualora ci fosse la distanza tra chi contempla l’Uno e l’Uno, quest’ultimo non si potrebbe cogliere come tale ma come “un altro”. Contemplare l’Uno significa farsi riempire dall’Uno, essere Uno. Stabilito ciò, si capisce come l’esperienza dell’Uno non possa essere adeguatamente raccontata. Manca infatti l’oggetto da ricordare. Ne L’operaio la tecnica è il modo attraverso cui l’uomo, superando la propria differenza, si avvicina a rappresentare la Forma che lo trascende.

7 Il concetto di “Avvicinamento” che scopriamo nel saggio del 1963 Tipo Nome Forma viene ripreso nello scritto del 1970 Avvicinamenti, Droghe ed ebbrezza: “L’avvicinamento è tutto, e questo avvicinamento, non ha uno scopo tangibile, uno scopo cui si possa dare un nome, il senso risiede nel cammino”. Ernst Jünger, Avvicinamenti, Droghe ed ebbrezza, Guanda, Parma 2006, p. 53.

8 “(…) nel regno della forma la regola non distingue tra causa ed effetto, bensì tra sigillo ed impronta, ed è una regola di tutt’altra natura”. Ernst Jünger, L’operaio, cit., p. 31.

9 “Il predicare della natura (…) muove dall’oggetto (il giglio indicato), attraverso il tipo (il giglio nominato), alla forma e infine all’indistinto”. Le risposte divengono sempre più ampie e, nel contempo, si riducono le distinzioni. Questa riduzione è il segno dell’avvicinamento all’Indistinto”. Ernst Jünger, Tipo, Nome, Forma, trad. it., Herrenhaus, 2001, p.93.

10 La perdita dell’aura nell’epoca della riproducibilità tecnica è un elemento che Benjamin giudica, al contrario di Adorno e di Horkheimer, funzionale alla possibilità di una rivoluzione sociale. Paradossalmente Jünger, che da Benjamin è stato aspramente criticato in relazione al suo scritto Die Totale Mobilmachung, nella dura recensione Teorie del fascismo tedesco, ritiene anch’egli fatale il sacrificio dell’autenticità dell’arte a favore del suo “uso” rivoluzionario. Naturalmente le prospettive sono opposte in quanto, alla stregua di Lukács (cfr. György Lukács, La distruzione della ragione, Einaudi, Torino 1959, p. 538.), gli “incatesimi runici” di Jünger sarebbero, secondo Benjamin, tesi al rafforzamento di una “classe di dominatori” che “non deve rendere conto a nessuno e meno che mai a se stessa, che, issata su un altissimo trono, ha i tratti sfingei del produttore, che promette di diventare prestissimo l’unico consumatore delle sue merci”. Walter Benjamin, Teorie del fascismo tedesco, in id., Benjamin, Critiche e recensioni, Tra avanguardie e letteratura di consumo, trad. it., Einaudi, Torino 1979, p. 159. Dunque, la rivoluzione di Jünger e dei suoi sodali nazional-rivoluzionari, sarebbe tesa “ideologicamente” a rafforzare lo status quo, cioè lo stato liberalcapitalista e i privilegi dei “padroni”. Secondo i miei studi, Ernst Jünger non critica falsamente (“ideologicamente”) la classe borghese per amplificarne paradossalmente il potere. Egli non ha il fine di favorire lo status quo. Nel corso dell’articolo avrò modo di ribadire come le posizioni di Jünger sono equidistanti sia dal materialismo collettivista sia dall’utilitarismo borghese.

11 Secondo Daniele Lazzari: “Siamo stati persuasi da quasi tre secoli di illuminismo che il pensiero moderno avrebbe piegato le forze elementari ormai scientificamente conosciute, analizzate ed “ingabbiate” dal razionalismo dell’umana specie, ma in barba a queste riflessioni, all’osservatore più attento non può sfuggire il persistere, se non l’accentuarsi, di queste forze elementari. Tra queste la Natura, mai dimentica di sé e della sua eterna potenza non perde occasione di ricordarci la sua grandezza, la sua inarrestabile forza distruttrice con le grandi alluvioni, trombe d’aria e vulcaniche eruzioni”. Daniele Lazzari, Il Signore della Tecnica, in A.A. V.V., Ernst Jünger, L’Europa, cioè il coraggio, Società Editrice Barbarossa, Milano 2003, p. 162.

12 Heidegger ricorda che “Τά μαθήματα significa per i Greci ciò che, nella considerazione dell’ente e nel commercio con le cose, l’uomo conosce in anticipo”. Martin Heidegger, L’epoca dell’immagine del mondo, in id., Sentieri interrotti, cit., p. 74. La scienza come matematica determina “in anticipo e in modo precipuo qualcosa di già conosciuto”. Ivi, p. 75. Questo processo che implica la pre-conoscenza di ciò che si conosce e dunque la pre-visione, è il modo tipico attraverso cui, anche per Jünger, l’uomo moderno conosce, calcola e domina il mondo. La verità del mondo sta nella sua esattezza, cioè nella corrispondenza rigorosa col procedimento che si adotta per conoscerlo. Questo modo di conoscere è valido massimamente per la tecnica. La forma tramite la tecnica e la scienza come matematica calcolano e dominano il mondo. Ma, nel pensiero di Jünger, la Forma in se stessa non può certo essere a sua volta misurata, pre-determinanta. La sua verità non è l’esattezza.

13 All’argomento del dolore che, come si sta ricordando, è intrinsecamente legato il tema dell’elementare, e che non è possibile affrontare in tutta la sua ampiezza in questo articolo, Jünger dedica un complesso e profondo saggio nel 1934 in cui si legge: “Là dove si fa risparmio di dolore l’equilibrio verrà ristabilito secondo leggi di un’economia rigorosa, e parafrasando una formula celebre, si potrebbe parlare di una “astuzia del dolore” volta a raggiungere in qualsiasi modo lo scopo”. Ernst Jünger, Sul Dolore, in id. Foglie e Pietre, cit., p. 149.

14 La revisione della tematica della tecnica, che comunque non mi pare possa intaccare nella sostanza i fondamenti della metafisica delle forme, è un argomento molto complesso a cui sarebbe bene dedicare un apposito studio all’interno del quale si analizzino nello specifico almeno i saggi Oltre la linea (trad. it., Adelphi, Milano 1989), Il trattato del Ribelle (trad. it., Adelphi, Milano 1995), Al muro del tempo ( trd. it., Adelphi, Milano 2000), il romanzo filosofico Eumeswil (trad. it., Guanda, Parma 2001) e La forbice (trad. it., Guanda, Parma, 1996). Ne L’operaio, che è l’oggetto di questo articolo, Jünger pensa che l’omonima Figura possa finalizzare alla Rinascita dell’uomo totale l’elementare; la tecnica è dunque vista come lo strumento necessario che l’uomo adotta per disporsi alla Trascendenza della Forma. Successivamente questo strumento, a cui già nel ’32 era stata associata una trasformazione della libertà, non è più adatto a garantire la comunicazione tra la Forma e l’uomo. Da qui l’esigenza di elaborare nuove figure come appunto quella del Ribelle (in Il trattato del Ribelle) o dell’Anarca (in Eumeswil) che arrivano alla propria libertà sovratemporale tramite percorsi individuali.

15 Ernst Jünger, L’operaio, cit., p. 140.

16 Cfr. Martin Heidegger, La questione dell’Essere, trad. it., in Ernst Jünger-Martin Heidegger, Oltre la linea, trad. it., Adelphi, Milano 1989, pp. 130, 131.

17 Cfr., Alain de Benoist, L’operaio fra gli dei e i titani, cit., p. 40.

18 Benjamin identifica con precisione il nesso tra la guerra e la tecnica specialmente riferendosi all’estetizzazione della politica che perseguirebbe il fascismo. La guerra imperialistica sarebbe lo sbocco naturale della società capitalista a causa “della discrepanza di poderosi mezzi di produzione e la insufficienza della loro utilizzazione nel processo di produzione (in altre parole, dalla disoccupazione e dalla mancanza di mercati di sbocco)”. Walter Benjamin, L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica, Einaudi, Torino 1966, pp. 46, 47. E’ probabile (anche se non necessario) che la Mobilitazione Totale così come è stata elaborata da Jünger possa sfociare nella guerra. E’ anche vero che i Rivoluzionari-conservatori non contestano la società a partire da idee economiche e che i rapporti di proprietà non costiuiscono il fulcro principale della loro riflessione. E’ infatti lo stesso Operaio “a rifiutare ogni interpretazione che tenti” di spiegarlo “come una manifestazione economica, o addirittura come il prodotto di processi economici, il che significa in fondo, una sorta di prodotto industriale”. Ernst Jünger, L’operaio, cit., p. 29. L’Operaio pronuncia una “dichiarazioone d’indipendenza dal mondo dell’economia”, anche se “ciò non significa affatto una rinuncia a quel mondo, bensì la volontà di subordinarlo ad una rivendicazione di potere più vasta e di più ampio respiro. Ciò significa che non la libertà economica né la potenza economica è il perno della rivolta, ma la forza pura e semplice, in assoluto”. Ibidem.

19 Secondo Evola il “mondo senz’anima delle macchine, della tecnica e delle metropoli moderne”, “pura realtà e oggettività”, “freddo, inumano, distaccato, minaccioso, privo di intimità, spersonalizzante, “barbarico””, non è rifiutato dall’Uomo differenziato. Infatti, “proprio accettando in pieno questa realtà (…) l’uomo differenziato può essenzializzarsi e formarsi (…) attivando la dimensione della trascendenza in sé, bruciando le scorie dell’individualità, egli può enucleare la persona assoluta”. Julius Evola, Cavalcare la Tigre, Edizioni Mediterranee, Roma 1995, pp. 103, 104. Rispetto al complesso rapporto fra Jünger ed Evola, oltre agli scritti evoliani L’operaio nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger ( Armando, Roma 1961), Il cammino del Cinabro (Vanni Scheiwller, Milano 1963) e Cavalcare la Tigre, si legga Francesco Cassata, A destra del fascismo, profilo politico di Julius Evola, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 2003.

20 Ne L’operaio la caratteristica peculiare della tecnica consiste proprio nella sua capacità di modificare l’essenza dell’uomo verso l’uniformità. La tecnica, che è il più appropriato strumento di dominio dell’Operaio, frantuma ogni tradizione e ogni valore e dunque anche ogni differenza di carattere schiettamente biologico. Allo stesso modo, è vero che chi non avesse la capacità di sfruttare positivamente la distruzione tecnica, sarebbe, nell’ottica di Jünger, destinato alla massificazione amorfa, in altri termini ad una modalità di vita probabilmente inferiore rispetto a quella incarnata dall’Operaio. Solo quest’ultimo, esperita la distruzione di tutti i valori e consapevole della potenza inumana della tecnica, rinasce come eroe della Forma e come protagonista del suo destino di dominio.

21 Cfr., Martin Heidegger, L’epoca dell’immagine del mondo, in id. Sentieri interrotti, trad. it., La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1968, p. 87. Secondo Heidegger, dopo che l’uomo è divenuto sub-jectum issandosi a fondamento dell’essere e dunque a metro della verità, sapere significa dominare. Heidegger confessa che il suo scritto del 1953 La questione della tecnica “deve alle descrizioni contenute nel Lavoratore un impulso durevole”. Martin Heidegger, La questione dell’Essere, in Ernst Jünger-Martin Heidegger, Oltre la linea, cit., p. 118. In effetti, sia la strumentalizzazione del mondo attuata dalla ragione tecnica che il nesso profondo che fonde il darsi della verità col suo nichilistico ritrarsi sono, almeno in parte, tematiche già presenti ne L’operaio. (Cfr. Martin Heidegger, La questione della tecnica, in Saggi e discorsi, trad. it., Mursia, Milano, 1976.). Adorno e Horkheimer, in La dialettica dell’illuminismo, scrivono che “l’illuminismo nel senso più ampio di pensiero in continuo progresso”- cioè non solo come illuminismo del secolo XVIII- “ha perseguito da sempre l’obbiettivo di togliere agli uomini la paura e di renderli padroni”. Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, trad. it., Dialettica dell’illuminismo, Einaudi, Torino 1966, p. 11. La tecnica è “l’essenza” del sapere come potere”. Ivi, p. 12. Jünger anticipa questa analisi sul sapere moderno che ha la tecnica e la razionalità strumentale come essenza. I pensatori della Scuola di Francoforte però tendono a non considerare in senso positivo il potere catartico della strumentalizzazione della ragione e del sapere come dominio. Secondo Jünger invece, una volta constatata l’irreversibilità delle dinamiche descritte, non resta che viverle. Né per Heidegger né per Jünger si può prescindere dall’essenza nichilistica della tecnica: è proprio esperendo il nichilismo che ci si incammina verso un suo eventuale superamento. Entrambi non condannano la tecnica in quanto ne giudicano necessario l’avvento. Sull’argomento cfr., Michela Nacci, Pensare la tecnica, un secolo di incomprensioni, Laterza, Bari 2000, p. 44.

22 Questo aspetto è stato acutamente evidenziato dal nazionalbolscevico Ernst Niekisch: “(…) La mobilitazione totale, di cui Jünger si fa banditore, è l’azione la quale raggiunge i propri estremi limiti, le punte più alte cui si possa attingere; essa pretende di porre tutto in marcia, non tollera più nulla in stato di riposo, donna, bambino, vegliardo che sia. Incita i lattanti ad arruolarsi, chiama le ragazze sotto le armi, dà fondo alle più segrete riserve; niente ne resta escluso, ogni angolo è frugato, l’ometto più mingherlino viene trascinato al fronte. E’ il bagordo più sfrenato in cui si butta il nichilismo, quando gli è diventato quasi inevitabile dover finalmente fissare il proprio volto”. Ernst Niekisch, Il regno dei demoni, Feltrinelli, Milano 1959, pp. 117, 118. Niekisch descrive perfettamente la mobilitazione totale, ma tace sul fatto che, come più volte Jünger ripete, dietro al movimento si cela immobile la Forma.

23 Ernst Jünger, L’operaio, cit., p. 115.

24 Il lavoro non è interpretato come un fenomeno meramente sociale ed economico, né si ha la minima intenzione di porsi dalla parte degli operai sfruttati, che lavorano troppo. Viceversa, si tenta di introdurre il lavoro come un ideale, si tratta del lavoro come forma dell’uomo e, in un certo qual modo, come forma del mondo. Il mondo e l’uomo mutano la loro forma grazie al lavoro inteso come la missione propria dell’epoca moderna.

25 Si sente l’influenza di Weber laddove si parla della ragione strumentale che finalizza ogni ente all’utile umano, al profitto e che favorisce il superamento disincantato di quella ascesi intramondana che era all’origine del capitalismo medesimo ( cfr., Max Weber, L’etica protestante e lo spirito del capitalismo, trad. it., Rizzoli, Milano 1991, pp. 239, 240.) Ma, fa notare molto precisamente Herf, se “la critica della tecnica era moneta corrente nella cultura di Weimar”, “Ernst Jünger si distingueva, poiché sembrava accogliere positivamente il processo di strumentalizzazione degli esseri umani. Era come se Weber avesse accolto con gioia la prospettiva della gabbia di ferro”. Jeffrey Herf, Il modernismo reazionario, Il Mulino, Bologna 1988, p. 150. Per Jünger invero il fatto che la razionalità finalizzata al profitto si espanda in ogni settore della vita e che il lavoro si propaghi in ogni ambiente, non impedisce che l’Operaio possa, in un certo senso, tornare ad incarnare un’etica ascetica in cui non sia tanto importante il godimento di ciò che viene prodotto, quanto la dedizione totale al lavoro, dunque anche alla produzione. Egli cerca di dividere la missione del lavoro, funzionale al dominio della forma e alla nascita dell’Operaio (che non è un mero consumatore delle merci che produce), dall’etica utilitarista, propria del borghese che produce per raggiungere il suo isolato utile e piacere.

26 “Essere e niente non si danno uno accanto all’altro, ma l’uno si adopera per l’altro, in una sorta di parentela di cui non abbiamo ancora pensato la pienezza essenziale”. Martin Heidegger, La questione dell’essere, in Ernst Jünger, Martin Heidegger, Oltre la linea, cit., p. 157.

27 Ne L’Operaio, e in vari articoli che lo precedono (cfr., ad esempio, Ernst Jünger, “Nazionalismo” e nazionalismo, Das Tagebuch, 21 settembre 1929, in Ernst Jünger, Scritti politici e di guerra 1919-1933, trad. it., Libreria Editrice Goriziana, Gorizia 2005, p. 89.), Jünger loda alla stregua dei futuristi la velocità, la macchina, l’acciao, la violenza che genera distruzione, i paesaggi lunari e freddi tipici del mondo-officina, la guerra come fattore elementare attraverso cui poter esperire una nuova forma di esistenza rinvigorita dal pericolo e dalla morte. Il costante riferimento all’Ordine (all’Essere, all’Immobile) è stato invece interpretato come la differenza più profonda fra Jünger e i futuristi italiani. Secondo Fabio Vander ad esempio poiché “non può esservi calma dopo la tempesta della Krisis, se non come essere della tempesta ovvero essere del divenire, dialettica della differenza”, Jünger “deve rassegnarsi al “semplice dinamismo, attivismo”, deve considerarlo intranscendibile se rifiuta, come rifiuta, la prospettiva dialettica. Allora di fronte alla tragicità di Jünger, meglio il divertissement di Marinetti, che appunto della differenza assoluta non cercava trascendimento, salvezza”. Fabio Vander, L’estetizzazione della politica, Il fascismo come anti-Italia, Dedalo, Bari 2001, p. 55. Secondo Vander, Jünger, ma anche Heidegger, poiché restii ad accettare la dialettica della differenza, non sarebbero stati in grado di sintetizzare l’Essere col Divenire, mentre Marinetti, non avendoci neppure provato, sarebbe stato più coerente. Constatata nel pensiero di Jünger la presenza della nozione “forte” di Forma, ma considerata pure la complicata correlazione che fonde il sensibile al sovrasensibile, non mi sento di ridurre la metafisica delle forme a un fallito tentativo di coniugare l’Essere col Divenire.

28 “Agisci sempre in modo da trattare l’umanità, sia nella tua persona sia nella persona di ogni altro, sempre come un fine e mai soltanto come un mezzo”. Immanuel Kant, Fondazione della metafisica dei costumi, trad. it., Laterza, Bari 1992, p. 111. Cesare Cases scrive che “l’etica di Jünger si direbbe l’opposto dell’etica kantiana: l’uomo non vi è concepito come valore in sé, ma come “simbolo”, come mezzo per raggiungere un determinato scopo, in cui si invera e che è in funzione di un’entità metafisica che si chiama volta per volta “idea”, “Forma”, “destino””. Casare Cases, La fredda impronta della Forma, Arte, fisica e metafisica nell’opera di Ernst Jünger, La Nuova Italia, Firenze 1997, p. 39.

29 “E’ l’immensa moltiplicazione delle produzioni di tutte le differenti attività, conseguente alla divisione del lavoro, che, nonostante la grande ineguaglianza nella proprietà, dà origine, in tutte le società evolute, a quell’universale benessere che si estende a raggiungere i ceti più bassi della popolazione. Si produce così una grande quantità di ogni bene, che ve n’è abbastanza da soddisfare l’infingardo e oppressivo sperpero del grande, al tempo stesso, da sopperire largamente ai bisogni dell’artigianto e del contadino. Ciascun uomo effettua una così grande quantità di quel lavoro che gli compete, che può anche produrre qualcosa per quelli che non lavorano affatto e, al tempo stesso, averne in tale quantità che gli è possibile, attraverso lo scambio di quanto gli rimane con i prodotti delle altre attività, di provvedersi di tutte le cose necessarie e utili di cui ha bisogno”. Adam Smith, La ricchezza delle nazioni, trad. it., Editori Riuniti, Roma 1969, p. 14. Anche Jünger crede nella necessità della divisione del lavoro, dunque nella specializzazione e nel nesso che lega questi processi alla complessiva crescita economica della nazione. Non crede invece che il solo mercato, come fosse una “mano invisibile”, possa essere in grado di determinare la ricchezza della nazione e, in definitiva, il benessere complessivo del popolo.

30 L’avvicinamento della metafisica delle Forme alla metafisica della vita può essere pensato con cognizione di causa solo se accanto alle somiglianze si mettono in evidenza le profonde differenze. Fare alla stregua di Lukács della metafisica delle Forme un’enclave della filosofia della vita (cfr. György Lukács, trad. it., La distruzione della ragione, cit., p. 538.), può condurre a incasellare la prima nell’alveo dell’irrazionalismo e dunque può servire a ridurrre la complessa filosofia di Jünger a un sistema teso a criticare la ragione in quanto tale. Se Jünger concorda con filosofi come Simmel sull’importanza della vita intesa come un fiume da cui l’uomo trae i valori e in cui i valori fatalmente nel tempo sono riassorbiti, conferisce anche notevole importanza alla dimensione propriamente metafisica o meglio esattamente Trascendente. La Forma non è qualcosa che fuoriesce per caso dal divenire magmatico. Essa è eterna, immobile. Se non può essere paragonata all’idea platonica è solo perché, benché sia trascendente, la dinamica della sua e-sistenza si estrinseca come evento, ma l’essenza è e rimane atemporale. Questa atemporalità conferisce solidità all’impianto etico de L’Operaio. In questo senso, la riflessione di Jünger può essere avvicinata a quella dei pensatori della Tradizione, ad esempio ad Evola e a Guénon. Infatti questi studiosi, riproponendo la metafisica della “Tradizione”, sostengono che l’uomo, per agire in conformità al proprio destino, debba incarnare principi assoluti e trascendenti, impersonali. L’uomo della Tradizione abbandona i propri desideri, il proprio utile e persegue un’ attività sovraindividuale. La sua è un’ “azione senza desiderio”, un “agire senza agire”. (Cfr. Julius Evola, Cavalcare la Tigre, cit., p. 68.). Anche l’Operaio agisce senza agire, nel senso che è Forma: non è lui ad agire, ma la Forma di cui è impronta. Da qui la preminenza in questo pensiero di concetti “forti” come quello di disciplina, di sacrificio, di eroismo. Il vitalismo mutuato da Nietzsche è dunque inquadrato in un sistema metafisico in cui valori tipicamente guerrieri, aristocratici, tradizionali trovano forza e, nell’intento di Jünger, imperitura conferma.

31 Michela Nacci, Pensare la tecnica, Un secolo di incomprensioni, cit., p. 61.

32 Ernst Jünger, La mobilitazione Totale, in id., Foglie e Pietre, Adelphi, Milano 1997, p. 127.

33 Ibidem.

34 Herf fa presente che la prima guerra mondiale era stata per i rivoluzionari conservatori “il palcoscenico su cui si riconciliavano le dicotomie centrali della modernità tedesca: Kultur e Zivilisation, Gemeinschaft e Gesellschaft”. Jeffrey Herf, Il modernismo reazionario, cit., p. 130. Diversamente da Spengler e da altri “intellettuali di destra” vicini all’“antimodernismo völkisch, Jünger proponeva di assorbire la macchina e la stessa metropoli nella Kultur tedesca, anziché respingere entrambi come prodotti di forze estranee”. Ivi, p. 133.

35 Cfr., Ernst Jünger, Scritti politici e di guerra, Libreria Editrice Goriziana, Gorizia 2005.

36 “Si vorrebbe riconoscere all’uomo, a piacere, la qualità di creatore o di vittima di questa stessa tecnica. L’uomo appare qui o un apprendista stregone, il quale evoca forze i cui effetti egli non sa dominare, o il creatore di un progresso ininterrotto che corre incontro a paradisi artificiali”. Ernst Jünger, L’operaio, cit., p. 140.

37 Armin Mohler fornisce una chiara spiegazione del contesto in cui sorge il concetto di “interregno”: “Attraverso la nuova esplosione di movimenti che si determina nel secolo XIX il Cristianesimo (…) si disgrega. Nella realtà politica, conformemente al principio di inerzia, continua ad esistere; tuttavia là dove si prendono le decisioni esso ha perso la sua posizione dominante e rimane, anche nelle sue tradizioni consolidate (Neotomismo e Teologia dialettica), solamente una forza tra le altre. Questo processo è accelerato ulteriormente dalla decomposizione dell’eredità del mondo antico, che aveva aiutato nel corso dei secoli il cristianesimo a raggiungere una forma propria. Gli elementi della realtà precedente sussistono ancora, ma, isolati e senza punti di riferimento, si muovono disordinatamente nello spazio. L’antica struttura dell’Occidente quale unità di mondo classico, cristianesimo e forze di nuovi popoli penetrati nella storia con le invasioni barbariche, è frantumata. Ci troviamo così in questo stato intermedio, in un “Interregnum”, da cui ogni espressione culturale è influenzata”. Armin Mohler, La Rivoluzione Conservatrice in Germania 1919-1932, Una guida, cit., pp. 22, 23.