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jeudi, 08 février 2018

Fascism, Futurism, & Aviation


Fascism, Futurism, & Aviation


Fernando Esposito,
Fascism, Aviation and Mythical Modernity,
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

The British political theorist Roger Griffin has argued that the defining characteristic of fascist movements is a central myth of national rebirth, or palingenetic ultranationalism. His study of fascism (The Nature of Fascism) sparked controversy upon its publication because it diverged from the consensus at the time that fascist movements were purely reactionary and conservative in character; rather he located fascism within modernism and defined it as a revolutionary, future-oriented ideology that represented not a revolt against modernity but a quest to create an alternative modernity.

Esposito likewise begins from this premise in Fascism, Aviation and Mythical Modernity. He defines fascism as an attempt to generate order and national renewal through myth in the face of the crisis of modernity. Citing Mircea Eliade’s description of the need of archaic societies “to regenerate themselves periodically through the annulment of time,” he interprets interwar fascism as an attempt to destroy the old order and regenerate history itself, a “reconnection forwards” (Wiederanknüpfung nach Vorwärts). The quest to create an order that stood outside time and history required the use of myth as a suprahistorical reference point. Fascism thus represented a synthesis of modernity and myth.

The ultimate symbol of this synthesis was aviation. The interwar period, often known as the Golden Age of Aviation, witnessed great advances in aircraft technology. Aeronautical science was a cutting-edge field of study and represented the pinnacle of technological innovation at the time. Simultaneously aviation was cast as a symbol of the fascist myth of national rebirth and the birth of a new man.

Shaking flight.jpg

The foremost prophet of the cult of aviation in Italian Fascism was Gabriele D’Annunzio. D’Annunzio was himself an aviator whose interest in flight began in 1908 after flying with Wilbur Wright and attending the Brescia air show the following year. He volunteered as a fighter pilot during the First World War (then over the age of 50) and in 1917 participated in the Italian air raid on the harbor of Bakar in Austrian Croatia. In 1918, he famously led an air raid of eight aircraft over Vienna in which thousands of propaganda leaflets were scattered over the city.

Flight was a prominent theme throughout his work. In the third book of his Laudi del cielo, del mare, della terra e degli eroi [In Praise of the Heavens, the Sea, the Earth and Heroes], for instance, he invokes Icarus’ flight: “Who shall gather them? / Who with stronger bonds will know / How to unite the strewn feathers / And try again the mad flight?” To the Fascists, Icarus was a symbol of the Promethean, Faustian spirit of mankind (particularly European man) and man’s quest for glory. D’Annunzio again invokes Greek mythology in an article entitled “Faith in Italian Aviation”: “Nike flies as in the myth, only not with two wings but with a thousand, with thousands upon thousands.”


D’Annunzio also conceived of the aviator-hero (Esposito’s term) as a religious martyr. The self-sacrificing heroism of the aviator who died fighting for his country became linked with quasi-religious redemption. He likened the sight of a plane spattered with blood to that of a crucifix and in his eulogy for the Italian aviator Gino Allegri, whom he hailed as a “mystic,” likened the droning of a plane’s engine to “the matinal ringing that announces the call to the divine service.”

During the First World War, aviators were also likened to medieval knights in the popular imagination. The air war was distinguished from the mass warfare of the ground war in that it consisted primarily of man-to-man combat; planes were thought of as “flying swords” in knightly duels. The aviator-hero thus symbolized the advent of a new martial elite that would merge the ideal of the aristocratic cavalryman with the modern “technological combatant,” bridging the gap between past and future. In this way the aviator also combined heroic individualism with a willingness to serve the collective.


Pulp fiction centered around aviation and tales of heroism in the air was enormously popular during the war. Aviators like Manfred von Richthofen (the “Red Baron”), Max Ritter von Müller, and Francesco Baracca were revered as national heroes. One poem in honor of Oswald Boelcke reads: “Hail, Boelcke, hardy seasoned aviator. / Hail, awesome crusher of the foe! / […] Hail, Boelcke, hail! To you as just reward / Does the Volk raise the crown of life / That will ever deck your hero’s deeds / And honor you with immortality!”

The Italians set many aviation records during the interwar years. Italy also built several new airports, pioneered research in aeronautical science, and made advances in civilian travel and airmail during this time. Exhibitions such as the 1934 air exhibition (Esposizione dell’aeronautica italiana), which drew more than one million people, instilled Italians with a sense of national pride by celebrating Italian aviation. Notable Italians in aviation included Francesco de Pinedo, who was the first pilot to fly a foreign plane to America and embarked upon a series of flying boat flights across the globe over the course of the 1920s; Umberto Nobile, who designed the polar airships Norge (the first aircraft to fly over the North Pole) and Italia and piloted them on Arctic expeditions; and Italo Balbo, who built up the Italian Royal Air Force under Mussolini and embarked on a few transatlantic flights, most notably in 1933 with his famed “Italian Air Armada.” Balbo was also a prominent Fascist and one of the four leaders who organized Mussolini’s March on Rome in October 1922.


Aviation was a central motif in Italian Futurism, particularly during the 1930s, and the airplane represented the ultimate symbol of Futurist ideals: speed, machinery, adventure, heroism, etc. Futurist artists (a number of whom were also aviators) were also fascinated by how the aerial perspective represented an “absolutely new reality, one that has nothing in common with the reality traditionally constituted by earthbound perspectives.” They launched the school of aeropittura (aeropainting) in 1929, giving rise to iconic works such as Tullio Crali’s Nose Dive on the City and Before the Parachute Opens and Tato’s Flying over the Coliseum in a Spiral (Spiraling). Aeropainting, like Italian Futurism in general, was closely associated with Fascism; Marinetti declared that it was a product of the same “revolutionary, aggressive, fervid spirit” behind Fascist aviation. Some aeropaintings were explicitly fascistic, such as Thayaht’s The Great Helmsman, which depicts a muscular Mussolini at the helm of an aircraft with several Savoia-Marchetti S.55 seaplanes (the same planes flown on Balbo’s transatlantic flights) behind him. Apart from aeropittura, the Futurists also devised other “aeroplane” arts: aeropoesia, aeroscultura, aeroachitettura, aeromusica, aerodanza, and even aeropranzo (Futurist meals).

Flight also figures in Marinetti’s Futurist novel Mafarka the Futurist. Mafarka (the protagonist) creates a giant winged cyborg superman, Gazurmah, a symbol of the ultimate fascist new man. Gazurmah eventually kills his creator, representing the destruction of the old order. Mafarka’s death (and rebirth in the form of Gazurmah) enables Gazurmah to soar to greater heights.


Naturally not all aviators were fascists, and aviation-related tropes and rhetoric were utilized by both fascists and liberals. The German-Jewish art historian Aby Warburg, a bourgeois cosmopolitan who championed liberal modernity, notably designed a postage stamp bearing the motto “Idea vincit” scrawled across the wings of a plane as a symbol of his commitment to the Weimar Republic, which Esposito contrasts with D’Annunzio’s proto-fascist ideals. Nonetheless, although there were liberal contributions to aviation discourse, the cult of aviation was most compatible with Fascism and found its highest expression in Fascist Italy.

The relationship between fascism and aviation was summarized by one Italian journalist who remarked in 1934, “You cannot be a Fascist without feeling a little like a flier; you cannot be a flier without feeling yourself a Fascist.” A writer in L’Ala d’Italia similarly stated:

Fascism has created a new world. Mussolini has brought about a new era of history. […] It is an ancient, rejuvenated race that sets itself against the old age of the world, a new faith that rises up against old habits, decrepit beliefs and ideologies: it is a new destiny. […] Flying is at the pinnacle of this new power.

Esposito also quotes Ernst Jünger’s preface to Luftfahrt ist not! [Aviation Is Necessary], a volume he edited in 1928:

. . . the airman is perhaps the sharpest manifestation of a new manhood. He represents the type that was already showing signs of itself in the war. […] Here, under the aegis of war, was combined every element of energy, distinction, and technical intelligence that characterizes modern civilization, as well as the secret categorical imperative that lends the final hardness to the alloyed metal of machines […]. […] Perhaps he illustrates most clearly the profound link between the soldier’s and the worker’s condition. For although they have remained the same, the forms of the soldier and the worker are here mingled with each other. […] The path that led across the heroic landscapes of war continues through the more sober fields of labor, and in both cases it is the flier’s heart that gives the activity its real value.


To Jünger, the rise of technology heralded a social revolution in which all human activity would be converted into labor in the form of large-scale industrial processes, which he termed “total mobilization.” Although Jünger was strongly critical of the calculative, utilitarian mass deployment of technology, he predicted that total mobilization would give rise to a new breed of man (the “worker”) characterized by heroism and sacrifice who could save technology from itself: “The phase of destruction is replaced by a real and visible order when that race accedes to dominion that knows how to speak the new language, and not in terms of mere intellect, of progress, of utility, or of convenience, but as an elemental language.” The worker would seek not to wield technology as a means of obtaining total control and security, in contrast to bourgeois man, but rather to achieve unity with it, dissolving the “tension between nature and civilization, organic and mechanical world.” The aviator thus embodied the ideal of the new man.

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/02/fascism-futurism-and-aviation/

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lundi, 15 mai 2017

Dada in België


Henk Jurgens:


Ex: http://www.doorbraak.be

'Dada. Een geschiedenis' beschrijft het ontstaan en de ontwikkeling van de dadabeweging met bijzondere aandacht voor dada-Nederland en dada-België.

Een aantal tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog in het Zwitserse Zürich aangespoelde kunstenaars verenigden zich rond het cabaret Voltaire tot dada. Al gauw werd ‘Dada’ een geuzennaam voor allerlei groepjes schrijvers en kunstenaars die de beeldende kunst en de literatuur radicaal wilden vernieuwen. In Brussel werd Clément Pansaers gegrepen door dada. Hij was in 1917 door de Duitse schrijver Carl Sternheim als huisleraar voor zijn kinderen aangesteld. Sternheim woonde sinds 1912 in de villa Clairecolline te Terhulpen. De villa werd een ontmoetingsplaats voor de literaire en artistieke coterie van Brussel. Zo was Sternheim voor de oorlog goed bevriend met de Vlaamse dichter Emile Verhaeren. Na de Duitse inval in België wilde Verhaeren echter niets meer met Duitsers te maken hebben en emigreerde hij naar Engeland en later naar Frankrijk. Het was een radicaal einde van hun vriendschap.

Tijdens de oorlog kwamen veel Duitse kunstenaars die door de bezetters in Brussel gelegerd waren, bij Sternheim thuis. De dichter Gottfried Benn, die als legerarts in Brussel was gestationeerd, werd een intieme vriend, net als Otto Flake, Alfred Flechtheim en Carl Einstein (geen familie). De schrijver Otto Flake was bij de persvoorlichting gestationeerd en de kunsthandelaar Flechtheim bij de Duitse administratie. Einstein had als  ‘Generalgouvernement Brüssel Abteilung Kolonien’ in Tervuren zijn kantoor. Tijdens de oorlog bloeide het culturele leven in Brussel op. Concerten, toneelvoorstellingen en soirées werden druk bezocht. Cafés en restaurants beleefden hoogtij dagen.

Clément Pansaers en Carl Einstein raakten goed bevriend. Pansaers had voor de oorlog onder het pseudoniem ‘Julius Krekel’ in het tijdschrift  Onze Stam verhalen en gedichten gepubliceerd. Het is, zo schreef hij in Onze Stam, de taak van de ‘literators-talenten in Vlaanderen’ dat zij ‘op hunne wijze zaaien het zaad, het Vlamisch zaad van herwording, van eigen-zijn in hun eigen Vlaamsch Volk en land.’ Vanaf 1917 gaat Pansaers het Franstalig maandblad Résurrection uitgeven, waarschijnlijk met financiële steun van Sternheim. Vooral Duitse expressionisten kwamen aan het woord. ‘Pansaers “nieuwe België” moet uit twee delen - Vlaanderen en Wallonië - bestaan die hoogstens als federatie met elkaar verbonden zijn,’ schrijft Hubert van den Berg in zijn studie Dada, een geschiedenis. Deze belangwekkende studie is door Vantilt in Nijmegen uitgegeven. ‘De politieke oplossing die hij bepleit, sluit naadloos aan bij de Flamenpolitik van de Duitse bezetter. Wanneer de Duitse bezetting in 1918 ten einde loopt, wordt Pansaers voor “boche”, “mof”, aangezien en wordt zijn huis geplunderd. Hij zoekt een veilig heenkomen en vertrekt naar Berlijn, waar hij -net als andere Vlaamse vluchtelingen, onder wie Paul van Ostaijen – op een bescheiden toelage van de Duitse overheid kan rekenen, in zijn geval voor zijn aandeel in de Duitse Flamenpolitik tijdens de bezetting.’ Na de wapenstilstand in 1918 vertrok Sternheim naar Sankt Moritz in Zwitserland waar hij bevriend raakte met de Vlaamse kunstenaar Frans Masereel die in 1917 een gedichtenbundel van Emile Verhaeren geïllustreerd had. Op de vlucht voor Hitler en zijn trawanten vluchtte Sternheim in 1935 weer naar Brussel. Gottfried Benn was al in 1917 als legerarts ontslagen en teruggekeerd naar Berlijn. Otto Flake verhuisde in 1918 naar Zürich, waar hij zich aansloot bij de Dadaïsten. Na de oorlog heropende Alfred Flechtheim zijn galerie in Düsseldorf.


Clément Pansaers

Carl Einstein was na de wapenstilstand nauw betrokken bij de Novemberrevolutie in Brussel. Op zondag 10 november 1918 werd de soldatenraad in Brussel geproclameerd. De Duitse staat was uit elkaar gevallen en de Belgische overheid had haar gezag nog niet kunnen herstellen. Einstein voerde namens de Soldatenraad de onderhandelingen met het Brusselse stadsbestuur. De geallieerde overwinnaars zagen een Soldatenraad in het net bevrijdde Brussel echter niet zo zitten en ook de Parti Ouvrier Belge, de Belgische socialisten, had geen belangstelling. Na een paar dagen werd de Soldatenraad weer opgeheven en vertrok Einstein naar Berlijn waar hij zich aansloot bij de Berlijnse dadaïsten.

‘In zijn Berlijnse tijd (1918-1921) staat Paul van Ostaijen heel dicht bij Dada, zowel persoonlijk als artistiek’ schrijft Van den Berg in zijn Dada-studie. ‘Hij kent verschillende Berlijnse dadaïsten. Toespelingen in zijn werk, vooral in het filmscript De bankroetjazz, tonen dat Van Ostaijen allerlei dadaïstische publicaties goed kent. Ook zijn voorliefde voor het groteske deelt hij met hen.’


Paul van Ostaijen

In december 1919 schreef Pansaers, terug uit Berlijn, een brief naar de dadaïsten in Zürich. Hij doet net of hij slechts per ongeluk van dada heeft gehoord. ‘Ik ben tot nog toe de enige in België die principes vergelijkbaar met de uwe verdedigt. Als u ermee instemt, zou ik alles willen bundelen wat dada voor België aangaat.’ Bijna een jaar later schreef hij een brief aan de Parijse dadaïsten waarin hij voorstelde een grote manifestatie te organiseren om dada in België te introduceren. De manifestatie heeft nooit plaats gevonden. In april 1921 vertrekt Pansaers naar zijn dada-vrienden in Parijs. Intussen is in Antwerpen in april 1920 het eerste nummer verschenen van het dada-maandblad Ça Ira. Maurice van Essche, een leerling van James Ensor, had samen met de Vlaamse schilder Paul Joostens het initiatief genomen. In Ça Ira verscheen werk van de Vlaamse kunstenaars Jan Cockx, Frans Masereel, Jozef Peeters, Karel Maes en Paul Cantré. Ook de Nederlander Theo van Doesburg, de leider van de Stijl-groep werkte aan het tijdschrift mee. Het laatste nummer van Ça Ira verscheen in januari 1923. Een paar maanden eerder, in het najaar van 1922, had het tijdschrift nog in het Cercle Royal Artistique van Antwerpen een overzichtstentoonstelling georganiseerd.

Clément Pansaers stierf al in 1922. Hij is 37 jaar geworden.


Titel boek : Dada. Een geschiedenis
Auteur : Hubert van den Berg
Uitgever : Vantilt, Nijmegen
Aantal pagina's : 352
Prijs : 29.95 €
ISBN nummer : 978 90 7569 797 1
Uitgavejaar : 2016

lundi, 21 novembre 2016

Wyndham Lewis, Ernst Jünger & Italian Futurism - Paul Bingham


Wyndham Lewis, Ernst Jünger & Italian Futurism - Paul Bingham

Robert Stark and co-host Alex von Goldstein talk to Paul Bingham. This show is a continuation of our discussion about Aleister Crowley and Aristocratic Individualism

Topics include:

How Wyndham Lewis, Ernst Jünger, Aleister Crowley, and the Italian Futurist, were individuals who existed outside the liberal reactionary/traditionalist paradigm, and viewed the world in a realist way unbiased by ideology
The cult of Positivism
Italian Futurism, how it was marginalized due to it’s ties to Mussolini, but made a major impact on the arts
How Ayn Rand was influenced by Italian Futurism
Robert Stark’s talk with Rabbit about Italian Futurism
Wynham Lewis’s Vorticist movement, his magazine Blast, and his Rebel Art Centre
The philosophy of the Vortex, which views everything as energy constantly in motion
The rivalry between Italian Futurist Filippo Marinetti and Wyndham Lewis, and how Lewis critiqued Italian Futurism for putting to much emphasis on technology
Wynham Lewis’s The Art of Being Ruled, which made the case that the artist was the best to rule, and that capitalism and liberal democracy suppressed genuine cultural elites
How the book addresses Transsexualism, and anthropological findings on the Third Sex
Kerry Bolton’s essay on Wyndham Lewis
Lewis’s relationship with fascism, how he published the book Hitler (1931), which presented Adolf Hitler as a “man of peace,” but latter wrote an attack on antisemitism: The Jews, are they human?( 1939)
The influence of war and violence on Italian Futurism
The Manifesto of Futurism
The Futurist Cookbook
Futurism is about testing what works, and rejecting traditions that don’t work
The futurist believed that every generation should create their own city, and futurist Antonio Sant’Elia’s Plan for Città Nuova (“New City”)
Paul worked on a book that was never published, “The Motor City and the Zombie Apocalypse,” about how the motor city is incompatible with human nature
The effects of global technological materialism on culture, and how technology needs the right people and culture to work
Jean Baudrillard point that the Italians have the best symbiosis between culture and technological progress
The Transhumanist concept of Cybernetics, which is rewiring the brain, and how the futurist used poetry as a precursor to cybernetics
Paul’s point that futurist movements such as cyberpunk, and Neoreaction are more focused on Live action role-playing, but are not serious about pushing the limits
The intellectual and transcendental value of LSD and DMT, Ernst Jünger’s experimentation with acid, but they are only effective if the right people use them
Paul’s point that the only real futurist are underground, and experimenting in third world countries
Aristocratic individualism, and Paul’s opinion that Ernst Jünger is the best example, and Jünger’s concept of the Anarch
Ernst Jünger’s science fiction novel The Glass Bees
Ernst Jünger’s “The Worker”

vendredi, 08 juillet 2016

René Daumal, une révolte poétique et spirituelle


René Daumal, une révolte poétique et spirituelle

Ex: http://www.zones-subversives.com

La trajectoire de René Daumal permet de présenter la créativité poétique qui alimente la première partie du XXème siècle. Il est surtout associé à la revue du Grand Jeu et aux marges du surréalisme.

« Prenez garde, André Breton, de figurer plus tard dans les manuels d’histoire littéraire, alors que si nous briguions quelques honneurs, ce serait celui d’être inscrit pour la postérité dans l’histoire des cataclysmes », prophétise René Daumal. Ce poète méconnu n’a pas tenté de créer une Église, à l’image de Breton ou Debord. Mais il incarne une certaine forme de révolte spirituelle et métaphysique. Il rejette le matérialisme dialectique mais pas la perspective révolutionnaire. Toutefois, Daumal et la revue du Grand Jeu privilégient l’expérimentation poétique, qui peut devenir une force comme une limite.

Le groupe « simpliste »

René Daumal né le 16 mars 1908 à Boulzincourt dans les Ardennes, région d’Arthur Rimbaud. Son père, Léon Daumal, s’active dans le militantisme socialiste. René Daumal découvre Alfred Jarry, l’auteur d’Ubu roi, une pièce de théâtre jugée scandaleuse. Au début du XXème siècle, Alfred Jarry s’inscrit dans le courant du symbolisme, la seule théorie d’Art véritablement nouvelle. Ce mouvement littéraire « lavé des outrageantes signifiances que lui donnèrent d’infirmes court-voyants, se traduit littéralement par le mot Liberté et, pour les violents, par le mot Anarchie », décrit Rémy de Gourmont. Jarry ne cesse de choquer le petit monde littéraire et son attitude perturbe la bienséance bourgeoise de la bonne société parisienne. Si Jarry meurt en 1907, avant la naissance de René Daumal, ce poète marque durablement les avant-gardes littéraires du XXème siècle.

Mais René Daumal ne tarde pas à rencontrer d’authentiques poètes. En classe de seconde, à Reims, il fréquente Roger Gilbert Lecomte, Robert Meyrat, Roger Vailland. René Daumal amène ce trio de farceurs à se poser de véritables questions pour pousser la réflexion, témoigne Robert Meyrat. René Daumal, adolescent discret et rêveur, écrit des poèmes qui tournent en dérision les petits évènements de la vie du lycée. Mais le groupe des « quatre R » se replie sur lui-même pour s’engager dans son aventure spirituelle. Ils méprisent les autres lycéens qu'ils condamnent à la médiocrité. René Daumal expérimente l’alcool, le tabac, le noctambulisme, l’asphyxie. Il se tourne vers les marges de la poésie et de la philosophie.

Le groupe qui se définit comme « simpliste » s’active à des gamineries. Les jeunes poètes se distinguent par des caractères différents mais partagent la même curiosité pour l’expérimentation et les mêmes affinités mystiques. Le simplisme est décrit comme « troué, effondré, malmené, une non-œuvre, une contre-œuvre pour finir » selon Yves Peyré. Le groupe simpliste, formé en 1924, utilise la drogue et l’opium pour ses expérimentations métaphysiques. Meyrat propose aux trois autres « phrères » simplistes de jouer à la roulette russe. Il vide les barillets mais ses compagnons ne sont pas au courant et prennent le jeu au sérieux. Les simplistes jouent avec leur vie de manière enfantine, comme s’il s’agissait d’une farce. L’enfance est alors considérée comme une source d’inspiration métaphysique.

René Daumal se réfère à Nerval, écrivain du rêve. Il pratique l’hypnose pour atteindre l’isolement sensoriel et un sentiment de vertige. Le simplisme est une philosophie qui « va se fonder sur cette métaphysique expérimentale, celle de "l’identité de l’existence et de la non-existence du fini vers l’infini" », selon H.J. Marxwell. Les simplistes recherchent un « long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens », selon la formule d’Arthur Rimbaud.

La création de la revue le Grand Jeu

daumalGJ.jpgEn 1925, René Daumal rentre en khâgne au lycée Henry IV à Paris. Lecomte et Meyrat sont restés à Reims. Mais Vailland et surtout Minet ont également rejoint la capitale. Pierre Minet, surnommé Phrère Phluet, fréquente les milieux marginaux de la bohème parisienne et joue un rôle important dans la dynamique de création d'une nouvelle revue: le Grand Jeu.

Les collaborateurs du Grand Jeu proviennent d'origines géographiques et idéologiques différentes. Le premier numéro doit être publié en 1928 pour être consacré à la Révolte. Daumal insiste “pour ne pas donner une place excessive aux poèmes”, “pour ne pas avoir l'air de jeunes gens qui veulent être imprimés. D'ailleurs, qu'importe ? - Trop de poèmes ennuient vite, la partie poétique sera d'ailleurs aussi importante que la philosophique”. René Daumal prend la direction éditoriale du projet en raison des absences de Gilbert-Lecomte et Vailland.

Mais le Grand Jeu reste dans l'ombre des surréalistes qui valorisent également la révolte. La dimension individualiste et réfractaire de cette révolte débouche, pour André Breton et les surréalistes, vers les idées anarchistes. La poésie permet également d'exprimer un dégoût pour la société et de dénoncer les contraintes sociales et morales.

La trajectoire de René Daumal croise donc celle d'André Breton mais aussi celle d'Alfred Jarry et de la pataphysique. Pour René Daumal, “Le particulier est absurde”, “Le particulier est révoltant”, toute forme prise au sérieux devient absurde. Pour Jarry, le rire pataphysique devient “la seule expression humaine du désespoir”, pour “exorciser l'absurde”. René Daumal partage avec la pataphysique une philosophie de la table rase comme préalable. Mais il s'aperçoit rapidement des limites d'une simple critique ravageuse de l'existant sans perspective. C'est ce qui explique sa dérive dans l'orientalisme mystique.

René Daumal présente la réflexion de la revue Le Grand Jeu dans un texte intitulé “Liberté sans espoir”. L'adolescent doit forger son propre jugement sans subir la moindre influence. Il doit construire son propre espace de liberté, avec une révolte sans objet. L'ironie, qui devient alors centrale, constitue la réalisation d'“actes gratuits” dans lesquels la volonté ne se soumet à aucune règle. La valeur de l'acte se mesure à “la volonté pure”. Surtout, l'être humain doit renoncer à son individualité pour s'éveiller à la dimension universelle de l'esprit humain.

Ce discours métaphysique complexe permet aux membres du Grand Jeu d'attaquer violemment la société occidentale et ses dogmes. “Faire désespérer les hommes d'eux-même et de la société” devient le but du Grand Jeu. La négation et la destruction de la société avec ses règles idiotes devient un projet salutaire. Le premier numéro du Grand Jeu comprend trois essais sur la “Nécessité de la révolte”. Ensuite, le revue intègre plusieurs poèmes.                    

Convergences et oppositions avec les surréalistes

Le Grand Jeu se rapproche des surréalistes mais aucun accord n'aboutit. En effet, le Grand Jeu accueille les exclus et dissidents du mouvement surréalistes qui critiquent l'autoritarisme d'André Breton.

L’écriture automatique émerge avec la découverte de l’inconscient par la psychanalyse. Un groupe, autour de Breton et Soupault, fonde la revue Littérature en 1919. Ce projet commence « par la démolition de tout ce qui pourrait nous accaparer. Ne pas permettre. La réussite, pouah. La première bataille se livre contre le poème, le pohème, le peau-aime, etc », écrit le jeune Aragon. Breton et Soupault écrivent le poème des Champs magnétiques, réalisés sous la dictée magique de l’inconscient. Les mots et les phrases apparaissent d’eux-mêmes. La découverte de l’aventure surréaliste par Daumal et les jeunes Rémois fait écho à leurs propres préoccupations. Mais le mouvement dada s’attaque directement à la forme poétique. « Il est parfaitement admis aujourd’hui qu’on peut être poète sans avoir écrit un vers, qu'il existe une qualité de poésie dans la rue », estime Tristan Tzara. A Paris, le mouvement dada organise des conférences destinées à créer des scandales. Le 23 janvier 1920, les acteurs sur scène massacrent un texte de Breton. Puis Tzara lit un article de journal dans un concert de crécelles. Pour Breton, cette destruction de l’art incarne « l’idée moderne de la vie ». Mais les surréalistes se séparent de dada qui combat également la poésie. L’expérimentation surréaliste peut passer par des activités médiumniques. Breton tente de supprimer le contrôle qu'exerce la raison sur l’esprit pour libérer une force spirituelle. L’investigation surréaliste se tourne alors vers l’écriture automatique et le récit des rêves.

daumalcontreciel.jpgL’esprit humain doit se libérer de ses conditionnements selon les surréalistes. En 1925, ce mouvement pose des bases précises avec, pour préalable, « un certain état de fureur ». L’action surréaliste ne se préoccupe pas de « l’abominable confort terrestre » mais vise à « changer les conditions d’existence de tout un monde ».

Mais Breton tente de démolir le Grand Jeu à partir de positions politiques de certains de ses participants. Par exemple, Vailland fait l’éloge du préfet de police de Paris dans la presse. Le Grand Jeu interdit dès lors les contributions individuelles dans la presse. Mais Breton s’attache à conserver le monopole de la contestation poétique.

Le Grand Jeu se considère comme communiste dans la destruction de l’ordre établi mais ne rejoint pas le Parti. Les intellectuels communistes sont considérés comme des policiers serviles. Mais l’aventure du Grand Jeu s’essouffle et René Daumal se tourne vers de nouveaux horizons. Le Grand Jeu, depuis les simplistes, demeure une expérience collective qui dépasse les prétentions individuelles. « L’Occident individualiste-dualiste-libre-arbritriste, triste, capitaliste-colonialiste-impérialiste et couvert d’étiquettes du même genre à n’en plus finir, il est foutu, vous ne pouvez vous en doutez comme j’en suis sûr », constate Daumal.

La trajectoire de Daumal et du Grand Jeu s’ancre dans la créativité poétique de son époque. Mais la critique de la vie quotidienne débouche vers une fuite dans la poésie et la métaphysique. Le rêve, l’expérimentation s’apparentent à une fuite hors du monde et de la civilisation occidentale. Daumal, pourtant critique lucide de l'institutionnalisation du surréalisme, ne s’inscrit pas dans une démarche de dépassement de la société marchande par l’émancipation individuelle et collective. La révolution intérieure prime sur la révolution sociale. Alors que les deux devraient être étroitement liés. Sa dérive vers la culture orientale et une forme de religiosité hindouiste révèle l’impasse d’une révolte uniquement spirituelle pour ré-enchanter.

Articles liés:

René Crevel, dandy révolutionnaire

La révolution des surréalistes

Arthur Cravan: la vie est une aventure

L'explosion Dada

Sur René Daumal:

Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, René Daumal, l'archange, Grasset, 1998

Emission Surpris par la nuit sur René Daumal 

Emission radio consacrée à René Daumal

Dans la revue Clés

Court-métrage de Marion Crépel sur les simplistes

Sur le Grand Jeu:

Site consacré au Grand Jeu

Dans La revue des ressources: Régis Poulet, "Le Grand Jeu de René Daumal, une avant-garde à rebours"

Sur le site Traces autonomes, "Le Grand Jeu, une avant-garde critique"

Dans Libération : Frédérique Roussel, "Le cercle des phrères disparus"

Conférence : Zéno Bianu, "Rien ne va plus, faites le Grand Jeu"

mardi, 03 novembre 2015

F.T. Marinetti - Caffeina d'Europa


F.T. Marinetti

Caffeina d'Europa

Tentare di definire Filippo Tommaso Marinetti a più di 70 anni dalla morte è un esperimento difficile. Possiamo definirlo un “rivoluzionario”, un “cortocircuito” della storia culturale europea, ma soprattutto, un profetico anticipatore, ai limiti dell'incredibile. Dalla propaganda allo scandalo all'editoria, Marinetti è stato il protoideatore dei fenomeni di comunicazione di massa che oggi caratterizzano le nostre vite; nei suoi scritti compaiono descrizioni fantascientifiche di nuove tecnologie e abitudini, pienamente rintracciabili oggi in computer e social networks.
Ex: http://www.linttelletualedissidente.it 

Scuotere l’Italia “a suon di schiaffi e dinamite”, scrive Giordano Bruno Guerri nella biografia dedicata a Marinetti, era la missione del padre del Futurismo e di tutte le sue declinazioni. Lo schiaffo, la dinamite: la rinascita artistica che comincia da una particella elementare, il suono, una rifondazione che parte dal segno, dalla radice, per sconvolgere le fondamenta di un’intera cultura.

«Col preannunzio sciroccale del Hamsin e dei suoi 50 giorni taglienti di sanguigne scottature desertiche nacqui il 22 dicembre 1876 in una casa sul mare ad Alessandria d’Egitto». Secondogenito di una giovane coppia milanese, F.T. nasce in terra africana per volere del padre Enrico, avvocato, convinto al trasferimento dalle buone prospettive di lavoro offerte dall’apertura del Canale di Suez. Insieme al fratello Leone viene educato al Collegio Internazionale San Francesco Saverio, un istituto gesuitico dove incontrerà un altro illustre innovatore della poesia italiana del Novecento, Giuseppe Ungaretti. Grazie alle ingenti somme guadagnate dagli affari del padre, perfeziona gli studi con un baccalaureato a Parigi nel 1894. Dopo il soggiorno parigino, eccolo in territorio italiano, a Pavia, dove raggiunge il fratello per studiare legge, facoltà che abbandonerà presto a causa della morte di Leone. Conclude gli studi universitari a Genova e vince nel frattempo il concorso parigino Samedis populaires con il poemetto Les vieux marins. Il componimento è il taglio del nastro agli ambienti intellettuali francesi: in breve tempo viene pubblicata la sua prima raccolta di poesie, La Conquete des Étoiles, la carriera giuridica definitivamente accantonata. Continua a comporre versi in stile liberty e simbolista, guardando a Mallarmé e D’Annunzio – stimato rivale quest’ultimo, amato e odiato, lui stesso si definì “figlio di una turbina e di D’Annunzio, da cui sarà definito “cretino fosforescente”. Nel 1905 fonda la rivista Poesia, la nuova palestra del verso parolibero firmato F.T. Nel 1908 eccolo tirato fuori da un fossato a Milano, nella sua automobile, uscito fuori strada per evitare due ciclisti; l’episodio si farà aneddoto – come poi molti altri – e diventerà per Marinetti la chiave di lettura della rivoluzione culturale programmata per il prossimo anno: l’uomo estratto dall’automobile è l’uomo nuovo futurista che dopo aver vinto l’inferno della tradizione ed aver accantonato lo stile liberty e decadentista rappresentato dai due «noiosi» ciclisti, può volgersi all’istituzione di un’arte nuova, rivoluzionaria.


Il febbraio 1909 è arrivato. Tutto è pronto per il lancio della bomba. F.T. ha sedotto Rose Fatine, 20 anni, figlia di Mohamed el Rachi Pascià, un vecchio egiziano, ricco azionista de LeFigaro. Grazie alla buona intesa dei giovani amanti, l’uomo asseconda la bizzarra richiesta dell’italiano, ignaro del privilegio di partecipare ad un evento storico mondiale: pubblicare sul giornale il suo Manifesto. Il 20 febbraio 1909 sul quotidiano nazionale francese viene lanciata la bomba: esce il Manifesto del Futurismo, undici punti, con appendice. Il Futurismo è fondato. Sintetizzerà Marinetti: «E’ un movimento anticulturale, antifilosofico, di idee, di intuiti, di istinti, di schiaffi, pugni purificatori e velocizzatori. I futuristi combattono la prudenza diplomatica, il tradizionalismo, il neutralismo, i musei, il culto del libro.» La parola d’ordine è “Velocità”. Come dinamismo, come simultaneità, come meccanicismo e libertà. Marinetti stravolge ogni dogma della poesia e delle arti e ne ritaglia un vestito nuovo, “moderno”, diremmo oggi, come il secolo XX. Protagonista di quest’ultimo, annuncia F.T., sarà la Macchina, metafora dell’impeto prometeico dell’uomo nuovo. Per evitare una volta per tutte l’associazioni del poeta Marinetti e del futurismo all’idea infantile e brutale dell’adorazione della macchina e della modernolatria, ecco un passo del discorso che F.T. stesso tenne nel 1924 alla Sorbona:« Io intendo per macchina tutto ciò ch’essa significa come ritmo e come avvenire; la macchina dà lezioni di ordine, disciplina, di forza, di precisione, d’ottimismo e di continuità. […] Per macchina, io intendo uscire da tutto ciò che è languore, chiaroscuro, fumoso, indeciso, mal riuscito, trascuratezza, triste, malinconico per rientrare nell’ordine, nella precisione, la volontà, lo stretto necessario, l’essenziale, la sintesi». Il Manifesto è discusso in tutta Europa, i giornali lo chiamano “Caffeina d’Europa”. Intanto Marinetti continua a scrivere poesie, romanzi e testi teatrali, tra cui si ricordano “ Gl’Indomabili”, il censuratissimo “Mafarka il futurista” e la sceneggiatura “ Re Baldoria”. La fama di Marinetti si diffonde per tutto il Vecchio Continente, legata soprattutto alle esuberanze e ai modi “futuristi” di F.T. & Co. In particolar modo diventano celebri le serate-futuriste: spettacoli teatrali in cui vengono fuse performance di vario genere, dalla declamazione alla piéce teatrale, durante cui il futurismo fa da protagonista e le bagarre e gli scontri con il pubblico sono la norma, e ne alimentano la curiosità. Il 1911 inaugura la stagione dei viaggi del poeta e della maggiore sperimentazioni linguista e letteraria. Scoppiata la guerra con la Libia, parte al fronte come reporter per un quotidiano d’oltralpe. Poi è a Mosca e San Pietroburgo, invitato dai futuristi russi a fare propaganda. Nel frattempo in Lacerba, la rivista fiorentina diretta da Papini e Soffici, il futurismo trova il miglior canale di diffusione in Italia parallelamente alla pubblicazione di Zang Tumb Tumb, un reportage bellico scritto in parole in libertà. La prima guerra mondiale fa esplodere il cuore di Marinetti, che, in seguito all’attentato di Sarajevo, si arruola volontario: è a Caporetto ma anche a Vittorio Veneto. Tornato dal conflitto si interessa alla politica cui lo spirito rivoluzionario affascina Mussolini che si avvarrà di molti futuristi nel giorno della proclamazione dei fasci di combattimento, nel 1919 al San Sepolcro. Giudicate passatiste e reazionarie le idee di Mussolini, se ne allontanerà, pur sempre rimanendo rispettato e considerato dal Duce. Si lega nel frattempo a Benedetta Cappa, pittrice e poetessa che accompagnerà Marinetti fino alla fine dei suoi giorni, sua «eguale, non discepola». Nel ’35 parte volontario in Africa Orientale, nel ’42 si arruola per la campagna di Russia. Marinetti viene rimpatriato con l’arrivo dell’autunno, spossato e in precario stato fisico. La morte lo coglie il 2 dicembre 1944, a Bellagio sul Lago di Como, all’alba dopo una notte di lavoro poetico consacrato al Quarto d’ora di poesia della X mas, complice il cuore.

Tentare di definire Filippo Tommaso Marinetti a più di 70 anni dalla morte è un esperimento difficile, che richiede capacità di sintesi ben collaudate; sicuramente possiamo definirlo un “rivoluzionario”, nonostante le ideologie e i numerosi detrattori che F.T. ha avuto. Sicuramente possiamo definirlo un “cortocircuito” della storia culturale europea, ma fu soprattutto un profetico anticipatore, ai limiti dell’incredibile. Dalla propaganda allo scandalo all’editoria, Marinetti è stato il protoideatore dei fenomeni di comunicazione di massa che oggi caratterizzano le nostre vite; nei suoi scritti compaiono descrizioni fantascientifiche di nuove tecnologie e abitudini, pienamente rintracciabili oggi in computer e social networks. Nonostante le ortodosse e insipide categorizzazioni a cui è stato sottoposto, Marinetti resta nella sua natura contraddittoria un personaggio tanto affascinante quanto enigmatico. Intellettuale rivoluzionario, dissidente, fervente agitatore aderì al fascismo cui si allontanò disprezzando leggi marziali e reazionarismo; libertino, don Giovanni, promotore del libero amore e del tradimento e fautore dell’emancipazione totale e disinibita delle donne, fu padre modello di tre figlie e marito presente; anticlericale al fulmicotone, accesissimo nemico della Chiesa, si sposò cristianamente, fece battezzare e cresimare le figlie, e non si privò né dell’estrema unzione né dei funerali religiosi.

Se è vero che ognuno è figlio del suo secolo, sarà vero in questo caso anche il contrario. Il secolo delle contraddizioni e dello stravolgimento totale che il Novecento rappresenta ha un padre illustre. Permettendoci di citare Bontempelli diremmo: le parole gridate da Marinetti sono quelle che partoriscono un nuovo secolo.

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lundi, 28 septembre 2015

Smoke & Surrealism: Don Salvadore Dalí, the Original Mad Man


Smoke & Surrealism:
Don Salvadore Dalí, the Original Mad Man

By James J. O'Meara

Dalisbook-188x300.jpgCarlos Lozano and Clifford Thurlow
Sex, Surrealism, Dali and Me: The Memoirs of Carlos Lozano [2]
2nd ed.
YellowBay.co.uk, 2011

“In the next century, when children ask ‘Who was Franco? They will answer: he was a dictator in the time of Dalí.” — Don Salvador Dalí

“The only difference between Dalí and a mad man is that Dalí is not mad.” — Don Salvador Dalí 

Having just published a book[1] that makes extensive use of the “paranoiac-critical method [3]” of Don Salvatore Dalí,[2] I was pleased as Punch[3] when this item appeared on my Kindle radar.

Surely the only contribution made by that insufferable poseur, André Breton, with his “surrealist” movement[4] was as what we used to call in grad school a “reliable anti-authority;” anyone deemed by this self-proclaimed Pope of Surrealism as traitor and purged was, ipso facto, worthy of interest — most notably, Artaud[5] and Dalí.[6]

Our memoirist is in some ways a typical child of the ’60s, at least the way the ’60s are supposed to have been; hitchhiking around like Kerouac, reading Hermann Hesse. Born in Colombia, the family moves to America, he loses his father (of course) and eventually makes his way to San Francisco. After a plentiful course of drugs, he’s taken up by the Living Theatre — and in particular an older woman calling herself Gypsy — and brought to Europe, where he is abandoned by the troop. A reading of the Tarot (a legacy of Gypsy) leaves him “resolved to shed all fears and doubts and be myself.” He “had been left, not to starve, I realized, not to fail, not to fall beneath the wheel,[7] but to flow with the turning of the wheel.”[8]

San Francisco was fading from my memory. America was an alien planet floating in the void of wild uncharted waters.

Europe was different. Europeans seemed to have been born with a feeling for art and literature, poetry and beauty. Old men in bars read Camus.[9]

Salvador Dali with a painting of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera [4]

Salvador Dalí with a portrait of José Antonio Primo de Rivera

As we have often pointed out before, one needs to carefully distinguish the wheel, or circle, from the spiral; the former is the pattern of futile repetition (such as the Wheel of Fortuna or the Wheel of Rebirth) while the latter is the pattern of escape from the wheel and rising to a higher level (the Turn of the Screw). Carlos does not return to America, or Colombia, nor does he merely take up residence in Europe, like so many “artistic” Americans. Rather, he undergoes a metamorphosis, an archeofuturistic return of the Pagan to modern day Europe.

My earliest desire as a young adult had been to work as a teacher, to be a pillar of society. But LSD had allowed me to decode my DNA and, through its foggy mysterious influence, I had reprogrammed myself.

I had arrived home. Five days in Paris and the pagan darkness of the New World[10] was melting from my genes.

It comes as no surprise that Carlos is a dancer, “Isadora Duncan relived.”[11] As such, he understands and responds as he “moved in the spiraling patterns of savage nature.”

But to be complete, more than just drugs are needed.[12]

But then, the inexplicable happens, and he meets, and is taken up by Salvatore Dalí. The relationship is formally pederastic, of course, but that shouldn’t put you off, as Dalí is old enough to be more interested in pedagogy, so little here would shock, say, Jerry Falwell.[13] Besides,

Dalí, I would learn, was only a voyeur, the great masturbator, but his inclination was decidedly pederast. He liked inexperienced boys, androgynes particularly, transsexuals explicitly.[14] He bathed in the bizarre, the unnatural, the surreal; he had orgasms over the outrageous, the lascivious and lewd. He was enthralled by Le Pétomane, the French music hall performer whose act consisted of nothing but farting and he loved farting himself. “The French live to eat. I eat to fart.”

The reader, of course, is less interested in Carlos’s schooling than in Dali’s antics. Dali sits at a café casually twisting tin foil and wax into sculptures he will sell for thousands; “I was a sheet of tinfoil ready to be turned and twisted. Soft wax in the hands of the perverter.”[15]

It was a continuous show. You were with an unconventional, singular personality. A star. Anything could happen. And it always did. I never tired of being with Dalí. Even when he was nasty I still adored him. He was like a lobster: masses of shell, tough on the outside, hard on the inside, and just a morsel of soft sweet meat.[16]

Dali’s acts and words seem illogical, absurd, unmotivated, only because we, unlike Dali, cannot follow the subliminal, sublime, surrealistic chord that unites them all.

“We spend one third of our lives on an oneiric treasure island. You must build bridges to the mainland and follow me through the invisible passages that join the waking and dream states and lead to the realm where all contradictions reach a hyper-lucidity of irrationality.”

What we said was forgettably brilliant, all nonsense and all so meaningful I knew intuitively it was far better talking foolishly with a genius than talking seriously with a fool.


A good example of Dali’s paranoiac mode of living and discoursing (to the extent that they can be distinguished) occurs when Carlos debuts in the Paris production of Hair. Dali of course arrives to congratulate him, and immediately the discourse becomes pagan:

“Hermes is the God of riches and good fortune. He is the messenger, a dancer, a trickster and the Patron Saint of Thieves, something Jesus the Fish acknowledged on the Cross. He was the son of Zeus, you know.”

Par for the course, just some mythological fluff for flattering his protégé, right? Later, at dinner, a guest makes the mistake of asking Carlos “his sign,” and Dalí is set off:

“What is the sign of Jesus?’ he roared. Dado shrugged like a good Italian. “Capricorn,” he said. “The early Christians changed the birthdate of Jesus to comply with the mid-winter celebrations they discovered among the savages of northern Europe. The Christian era and the Age of Pisces are contemporaneous. The very name, Jesus, transliterates as the word fish in Aramaic, his own tongue. As man or myth, he chose fishermen as disciples. Not goats.”

I sat there amazed by his theme [dancing, Hermes, thief, Jesus], amazed that it had begun before our arrival at Maxims’s.[17]

“He was a fisher of men,” he continued. “He performed miracles on the sea and with the fishes. The Gnostics sketched a fish in the dust, not a cross, to identify themselves. Jesus possessed all the qualities of Pisces, the last sign of the Zodiac and its completion of all human potentials. He was humble, emotional, unworldly and vague, unlike those who arrive in December under the sign of Capricorn, with their money worries and dreams of ruling the world. Jesus was born in the spring, a Pisces for the Age of Pisces. Violetera [Carlos] is a Scorpion, the same as Amanda [Lear, Dali’s transsexual favorite]. They will both sting me in the balls . . .” He paused.

Paused, indeed.

Dali’s main teaching is to inculcate the traditional, and Traditional, virtues of patience and repetition: “Dalí was dedicating his life to the battle against unrelenting time and decay.” The company of Hair gets an earful:

“All success comes from hard work. Hard work and patience and more hard work,” he roared, menacing the company with his walking stick. “Never trust in inspiration. You must work every day, every day, every day. Inspiration arrives through your work. It arrives through your involvement. I am a worker. A peasant. I work seventeen hours a day.”

As does Carlos:

“A Hindu once told me you find God by digging in the same hole. He was mad.[18] The substance of success is scandal and patience. Are you patient, Carlitos?”

“It is the obsession of repetition the Gods take note of.”[19]

dali ballerina.JPGDespite his “far-out” art and aberrant — but very public — lifestyle, Dalí, like most of the Great Artists of the 20th century, was at least temperamentally a man of the Right.[20] Thus, even if you have no interest, or an active dislike, of “modern art”[21] or weirdoes, you will likely enjoy this tour through this little-known world of post-War anti-Leftists, a sort of avant-garde version of the circles of the Windsors or Mosleys.[22]

Take this chap, “The Spanish Ambassador to France, a famous fascist,” who

was one of the richest men in Spain, . . . had helped to finance Franco’s uprising in the Spanish Civil War, El Caudillo had rewarded him with a diplomatic post, [and] was setting up a meeting between Don Salvador and the Conde de Barcelona, Spain’s exiled monarch and father of King Juan Carlos.

The famous fascist is confused by Carlos’ waist-length hair and patchouli scent:

[He] kissed my hand as he left the gathering. “Au revoir, Mademoiselle,” he said with a bow and Dalí was delighted. “Angels are androgynes,” he explained. “I will inspect your back. You will have scars where they cut off your wings. You have the most glorious navel. It is the privilege of princes to show their navel. I will decorate it with a ruby . . .”

Dali, of course, is dangerous to know, as the Ambassador discovers:

“They will think I’m a pederast . . .” he had said in confidence and Dalí had announced these noble doubts to the ears of the world . . .

And You-Know-Who is a distinct presence; as Dalí accepts some French literary award,

He threw out his chest, gripped his hands behind his back and only those who had sat watching old newsreels of Hitler knew who had inspired his act.

Even the waiters are fascistically suggestive:

[A] waiter . . . bore a distinct resemblance to Hitler. He had one of those awful moustaches and a wave of hair plastered to his forehead. “C’est colossal,” Dalí said. “I will put him in a film. I will show him as a kind man, a music lover, a marvelous painter. Hitler had the most wonderful sense of humour.”[23]

Parisian students, searching for a Third Way, recognize an ally:

The previous year during the Paris riots, Dalí had been driven to the Sorbonne to give a lecture on the relationship between DNA and the spiral stalks in vegetables in a Cadillac filled to the roof with cauliflowers. The students had been overturning expensive cars but when they saw Dalí they cheered.

It’s also a chance to revisit that Mad Men era of free smoking:[24]

The smoke had become thicker, hanging like dense clouds around the chandeliers.

He lit a Gauloise and the smell mingled with the street smells and Paris was everything I had imagined it was going to be.

Can you imagine the smell inside a French police station? All those Gauloises.[25]

Is it any surprise that Sterling Cooper’s art director is a closeted homosexual named . . . Salvatore?[26]

It’s unfortunate that Dalí is here well into his ’60s, so there’s no opportunity to really see genius at work. On the plus side, the book benefits from being written not by the memoirist nor by some art “expert” but by what would seem to be an old school journalist, one Clifford Thurlow, (not, fortunately, Clifford Irving[27]) who gives us a colorful and straightforward text that is a pleasure to read and, when combined with the paranoiac-surrealist acts and utterances of Dalí, produces a unique mixture, a kind of Magical New Journalist style.[28]

Highly recommended for anyone interested in that most fascinating and (deliberately) obscure area, the post-War avant-garde Right, though tolerance for a certain amount of nonsense is required.


1. End of an Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015). An Amazon reviewer of the text under discussion here notes that “like the keenest FaceBook digital networkers of today, [Dalí] knew how to promote himself, an innate skill practised long before the Mad Men of Madison Avenue.”

2. “The paranoiac critical method of Dalí is an attempt to systematize irrational thought. . . . When asked why the centaurs in his painting, Marsupial Centaurs [5], were riddled with holes, he replied, ‘The holes are like parachutes, only safer.’ This response is often used as an example of Dalí being Dalí, purposefully obscure, self-absorbed, and downright snotty. The reader might interpret this comment as a nose thumbing, coupled with an ‘If you don’t know why the holes are there, you Philistine, I will never tell you.’ The fact is, however, that Dalí is simply stating the reason for the holes, which upon examination, becomes unmistakable, true to its Paranoiac Critical ancestry.” “THE PARANOIAC CRITICAL METHOD” by Josh Sonnier, here [6]. As an example of the transition from irrational to inevitable, consider my discussion of Clifton Webb’s Mr. Belvedere as an incarnation of Krishna in “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty,” here [7]. For more on parachutes, holes, and safety, see The Skydivers by Bad Filmmaker and accidental Traditionalist Coleman Francis, as discussed in my upcoming essay “Flag on the Moon — How’d IT Get There?” Both essays will appear in the forthcoming collection Passing the Buck: A Traditionalist Goes to The Movies (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).

3. See Jonathan Bowden, “The Real Meaning of Punch and Judy,” here [8]. For another view, see Count Eric Stenbock, The Myth of Punch, edited by David Tibet (London: Durtro Press, 1999).

4. “Surrealism is not a movement. It is a latent state of mind perceivable through the powers of dream and nightmare. It is a human predisposition. People ask me: What is the difference between the irrational and the surreal and I tell them: the Divine Dalí.” — Dalí.

5. See Stephen Barber, Antoine Artuad: Blows and Bombs (London: Faber, 1993) and Jeremy Reed, Chasing Black Rainbows: A Novel About Antonin Artaud (London: Peter Owen, 1994).

6. See Dalí by J. G. Ballard, with an Introduction by Dalí (New York: Ballantine, 1974), and Diary of a Genius by Dalí, with an Introduction by J. G. Ballard (London: Solar Books, 2007). Ballard discusses surrealism on YouTube here [9].

7. A reference to Hesse’s novel of schoolboys, their crushes, and their being crushed by the System, Beneath the Wheel. The ’60s figure of Hesse crops up from time to time; Carlos meets a actor (not Max von Sydow) who will supposedly star in a (I guess never produced) film of Steppenwolf, and will talk of making a “journey to the east.”

8. Not impressed? Neither was Dalí. As for astrology: “People are no different from wine. We are born at a given moment, in a given place. There are good years and bad, from good valleys and inauspicious ones. Some bottles are shaken and the sediment fouls the taste. Some are dropped and smash into a thousand million pieces. That is astrology. Never, never speak of it again. . . . God despises astrology and prefers a well told lie to a tedious truth.”

9. Of course, some are more European than others. “I once knew an Englishman I also liked.” “Never trust the English.”

10. Unlike the repetitive circle, in the spiral things reverse, and America is “dark” and “pagan.” Burroughs also perceived the so-called “New World” as old and evil, “groveling worship of the food source” (Naked Lunch).

11. Like Krishna, or Mr. Belvedere, or indeed Clifton Webb himself; see note 2 above.

12. “He never touched drugs and barely took more than a sip of wine. ‘I am already in that place where you all want to be. Satori is in here,’ he bragged, rubbing his temples.” Elsewhere, Dali’s coterie “hopped around the room like devotees in a heathen temple.”

13. “‘Is it Hermes or Aphrodite? Is Dalí a pederast or a dirty old man? Let their tongues wag, Violetera [Carlos].”

14. As for women, “He liked the form not the touch. But there were exceptions.” Dalí would have been revolted by today’s negroid fashion in femininity: “Big breasts are the base element of the bovine principle. Women with small breasts are for pleasure. Women with big breasts are cows and cows are bred to eat and procreate.” Dalí’s inclinations seem to recall the Persian Sufi method of inducing poetic inspiration or mystical reverie by the contemplation (only) of the Beautiful Boy; see Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Scandal: Studies in Islamic Heresy (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1988). Need I cite Plato’s Symposium?

15. As Alan Watts pointed out, to be perverse means to move by poetry.

16. Frederic Rolfe (“Baron Corvo”) liked to compare himself to a crab. See his roman a clef Nicolas Crabbe.

17. Using Dalí’s methods, we can see that the embezzling little weasel Pryce (thief!) is really Wotan, and the Irish Catholic ad men of McCann Erikson are revealed as Judaic interlopers by their shirtsleeves; see End of an Era, op. cit.

18. Dalí has no reverence for the non-European: “It was divine wisdom to place them [Virgin and Mother] in one being. We do not need a pantheon like the Hindus and Aztecs.”

19. “If one does what God does enough times, one becomes as God is.” — Dr. Hannibal Lecter. On the other hand, Dalí is not himself insane (“I am not mad”). On his second trip to New York he smashes out of a window display, raining shards on startled Fifth Avenue passersby, just as Will Graham stops the Tooth Fairy by smashing into his kitchen via a plate glass window. Dalí is let go only when he promises “to never do it again.”

20. See Kerry Bolton’s Artists of the Right (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012). Dalí shares with Dada-ist painter Julius Evola a grand contempt for the bourgeoisie: when Dalí’s favorite hotel replaces the wooden toilet seat he believes was used by King Alphonso with modern, plastic seat, he goes ballistic and forces them to find and re-install the original. Even this inspires an epic rant: “We are surrounded by moralists, hygienists and philistines. I have no confidence in my class. You can trust the aristocracy to be charming. You can trust the peasants to be vulgar. You can trust the true artist to be a madman. The bourgeois you can trust to steal the toilet from under you . . .’” This is the toilet set, over the admiration of which Dalí and Carlos bond.

21. “All art is political,” Dalí instructs his ward. “Once it is understood, it loses its power and becomes aesthetic, decorative, pedagogic.”

22. One can’t help but recall Hunter S. Thompson’s description of the Circus Circus hotel as “What the whole ‘hep’ world would be doing if the Nazis had won the war” (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [New York: Random House, 1972]).

23. Again, one recalls or the subtitle of Franz Liebkind’s manuscript for Springtime for Hitler: “A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva.”

24. I discuss the Right’s obsession with tobacco in “Mad Manspreading?” here [10] and reprinted in End of An Era, op. cit.

25. The police station crops up when Carlos’ female companion doffs her blouse as they walk along a Paris street and are promptly arrested. The police, however, are easily bought off with offers of free tickets to Hair. One can’t help but think of how this genial corruption contrasts with the Nanny State howls of New York’s de Blasio and Cuomo over the “scandal” of topless women in Times Square (yes, even Times Square! Is nothing sacred?)

26. I discuss the “gay liberationist” fantasy that art directors on Madison Avenue were unknown or closeted in End of an Era, which Margo Metroland picked up on in her excellent review, here [11]. On the contrary, ad agency art departments were exactly where young men from the provinces would flock to; for example, Andy Warhol, whose career seems a kind of Americanized (i.e., trivialized) version of Dalí’s art-as-commodity.

27. Howard Hughes’ faux-biographer apparently lived among a similar colony of Spanish artists, divas and oddballs; see his contributions to Orson Welles’ F is For Fake (1975; Criterion, 2014)

28. There are a lot of odd spellings throughout, some perhaps British, some Colombian, some misprints; I have let Microsoft silently “correct” them in my quotations here.

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/09/smoke-and-surrealism/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://secure.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Dalisbook.jpg

[2] Sex, Surrealism, Dali and Me: The Memoirs of Carlos Lozano: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1491038209/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1491038209&linkCode=as2&tag=countecurrenp-20&linkId=X3NV2UTHBVZGHMJ7

[3] paranoiac-critical method: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoiac-critical_method

[4] Image: https://secure.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/dali_joseantonio.jpg

[5] Marsupial Centaurs: http://brain-meat.com/josh/dali/11.jpg

[6] here: http://brain-meat.com/josh/dali/dali5.htm

[7] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/02/the-babysitting-bachelor-as-aryan-avatarclifton-webb-in-sitting-pretty-part-2/

[8] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/03/the-real-meaning-of-punch-and-judy/

[9] here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhNE5xd_0wE

[10] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/06/mad-manspreading/

[11] here: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/09/the-ordeal-of-superficiality/

00:05 Publié dans art, Livre, Livre | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : salvador dali, art, surréalisme, avant-gardes, espagne, livre | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

jeudi, 27 novembre 2014

Wyndham Lewis

Wyndham Lewis

par Kerry Bolton 

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

English original here

Note du Rédacteur:

Cette version très enrichie d’un essai précédemment publié sur Wyndham Lewis est le chapitre 8 du livre de Kerry Bolton, Artists of the Right: Resisting Decadence, [Artistes de la Droite : Résister à la Décadence] qui devrait être publié prochainement par Counter-Currents.

wl10264-004-107AFCA6.jpgPercy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), est considéré comme le fondateur du seul mouvement culturel moderniste indigène en Grande-Bretagne. Cependant, on le met rarement sur le même plan que Ezra Pound, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, et d’autres de sa génération [1]. Lewis était l’une de ces nombreuses figures culturelles qui rejetaient l’héritage du XIXe siècle – celui du  libéralisme bourgeois et de la démocratie, qui pesait sur le XXe.

Cependant, à la différence de nombreux autres auteurs qui rejetaient la démocratie, le libéralisme et « la gauche », Lewis rejetait aussi le contre-mouvement qui cherchait à revenir au passé et qui plaçait l’intuitif, l’émotionnel et l’instinctif au-dessus de l’intellectuel et du rationnel. Lewis dénonçait particulièrement D. H. Lawrence pour son placement de l’instinct au-dessus de la raison et pour ce qui semblait être une célébration de la doctrine du « noble sauvage », qui a servi de base au libéralisme à partir du XVIIIe siècle.

Lewis était un individualiste extrême, tout en rejetant l’individualisme du libéralisme du XIXe siècle. Son adoption d’une philosophie de la distance entre l’élite culturelle et les masses l’amena à Nietzsche, bien qu’il fût effrayé par la popularité de Nietzsche chez tout le monde [2], et au fascisme et à l’éloge d’Hitler, mais aussi au rejet de ceux-ci puisqu’ils faisaient appel aux masses.

Né en 1882 sur un yacht au large des rivages de la Nouvelle Ecosse, il était de mère anglaise, et son père était un officier de l’armée américaine, excentrique et sans revenus, qui déserta  bientôt sa famille. Wyndham et sa mère arrivèrent en Angleterre en 1888. Il suivit les cours des Ecoles des Arts de Rugby et de Slade [3], qui le mirent toutes deux à la porte. Il visita ensuite les capitales artistiques de l’Europe, et fut influencé par le cubisme et le futurisme.

En 1922, Lewis présenta son portfolio de dessins qui avait d’abord été conçu pour illustrer une édition du Timon d’Athènes de Shakespeare, où Timon est décrit comme une marionnette désarticulée. Cela illustrait l’idée de Lewis selon laquelle l’homme peut s’élever au-dessus de l’animal par le détachement et le contrôle de soi, mais que la majorité des hommes resteront toujours des marionnettes ou des automates. Ayant lu Nietzsche, Lewis avait l’intention de rester une figure du type Zarathoustra, solitaire sur sa montagne et bien au-dessus de la masse de l’humanité.


Au début, Lewis fut associé au groupe de Bloomsbury, les intellectuels prétentieux et snobs d’un quartier bien précis de Londres, qui pouvaient lancer ou briser un artiste ou un auteur débutant. Il rejeta bientôt ces libéraux de gauche beaux-parleurs et les attaqua violemment dans The Apes of God [Les singes de Dieu] [4]. Cela entraîna un tournant – un tournant négatif – dans la carrière de Lewis : « Une bruyante controverse s’ensuivit ». Le manuscrit avait été rejeté par l’éditeur de Lewis, Chatto and Windus, et il avait publié le livre lui-même au nom de « The Arthur Press ». Les choses ne s’arrangèrent pas avec le livre de Lewis en 1932, Hitler. Son proche soutien Roy Campbell fut aussi entraîné dans sa chute [5], bien que Campbell se serait certainement heurté à la même opposition de Bloomsbury à cause de ses propres idées.

Un biographe a écrit : « Les triomphes de la fin des années 1920, des triomphes qui incluaient généralement une réponse critique favorable (…) furent temporairement oubliés dans le tintamarre littéraire/judiciaire/populaire… », et Lewis devint un « sale risque » pour les éditeurs [6]. Bloomsbury était une coterie puissante qui « pouvait aller jusqu’à excommunier et ostraciser » [7].

Résister à ce genre d’opposition n’était pas facile. Pourtant c’est précisément ce que fit Lewis, en dépit d’un manque de fonds et d’un refus de se mettre à la merci de gens ayant « des relations ». Pendant les années 1930, alors que c’était la mode en Grande-Bretagne d’avoir des opinions de gauche, Lewis n’en avait aucunement [8].


Concernant la révolte de Lewis contre la Gauche à la mode et son importance pour notre époque, Tomlinson remarque :

« Quand on pense aux sympathies politiques radicales manifestées par des hommes qui ont depuis rejoint l’Establishment, le refus de Lewis d’être estampillé, manœuvré ou manipulé dans une alliance avec l’intelligentsia de gauche montre sa fermeté de caractère et son indépendance d’esprit. Et maintenant qu’une Nouvelle Gauche est apparue, l’œuvre de Lewis possède une importance renouvelée particulièrement maintenant que le radicalisme d’aujourd’hui combine son assaut contre les ‘fondements’ de la société avec les plus pitoyables essais dans le scabreux. (…) Comme Lewis aurait écrasé tout cela… » [9]

Rompant avec l’Atelier Omega de Bloomsbury, Lewis fonda le Centre d’Art Rebelle d’où émergea le mouvement vorticiste et son magazine Blast: Review of the Great English Vortex [10], « balayant des idées mortes et des notions usées », comme le dit Lewis [11]. Parmi les signataires du Manifeste Vorticiste figuraient Ezra Pound, le sculpteur français Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, et le peintre Edward Wadsworth. T. S. Eliot fut aussi un adhérent,  écrivant des articles pour le deuxième numéro de Blast [12].

Pound, qui décrivit le vortex comme « le point d’énergie maximum », inventa le nom de Vorticisme. Alors que Lewis avait trouvé intéressants la stase du cubisme et le mouvement effréné du futurisme, il s’indigna quand Marinetti le décrivit comme un futuriste et voulut trouver un mouvement moderniste anglais indigène. Le but était de synthétiser le cubisme et le futurisme [13]. Le vorticisme décrirait le point statique dont l’énergie surgissait. Il était aussi très soucieux de refléter la vie contemporaine où la machine finissait par dominer, mais rejetait la glorification romantique de la machine par le futurisme [14].

Pound et Lewis étaient tous deux influencés par le classicisme du critique d’art et philosophe T.E. Hulme, un conservateur radical. Hulme rejetait l’humanisme et le romantisme du XIXe siècle dans les arts, les considérant comme des reflets de la croyance rousseauiste (et finalement communiste) en la bonté naturelle de l’homme non-corrompu par la civilisation, et à la malléabilité infinie de la nature humaine par un changement de l’environnement et du conditionnement social. Hulme écrit :

« …Des gens de toutes classes, des gens qui craignaient d’y perdre, étaient en effervescence concernant l’idée de liberté. Il devait y avoir quelque idée qui leur permettait de penser que quelque chose de positif pouvait sortir d’une chose aussi essentiellement négative. Il y en avait une, et ici j’ai ma définition du romantisme. On leur avait dit par Rousseau que l’homme était bon par nature, que c’étaient seulement les mauvaises lois et coutumes qui l’avaient opprimé. Enlevez tout cela et les possibilités infinies de l’homme auraient une chance. C’est ce qui leur faisait penser que quelque chose de positif pouvait sortir du désordre, c’est ce qui créait l’enthousiasme religieux. Voilà la racine de tout le romantisme : que l’homme, l’individu, est un réservoir infini de possibilités, et si vous pouvez réarranger la société ainsi en détruisant l’ordre oppressif alors ces possibilités auront une chance et vous aurez le Progrès.

On peut définir le classique très clairement comme l’opposé exact de cela. L’homme est un animal extraordinairement fixé et limité dont la nature est absolument constante. C’est seulement par la tradition et l’organisation que quelque chose de bon peut être obtenu de lui.

…Bref, ce sont les deux visions, donc. L’une, que l’homme est intrinsèquement bon, corrompu par les circonstances ; et l’autre qu’il est intrinsèquement limité, discipliné par l’ordre et la tradition pour l’orienter vers quelque chose de bon. Pour le premier parti la nature de l’homme est comme un puits, pour l’autre comme un seau. La vision qui voit l’homme comme un puits, un réservoir plein de possibilités, je l’appelle la vision romantique ; celle qui le voit comme une créature très finie et fixée, je l’appelle la classique. » [15]


Hulme dit clairement que le « romantisme » est le soubassement dogmatique du paradigme libéral dominant des sociétés occidentales.

Le classicisme de Lewis est construit autour d’une série de dichotomies : classicisme contre romantisme, raison contre émotion, intellect contre intuition et instinct, masculin contre féminin, aristocratie contre démocratie, l’individu contre la masse, et plus tard le fascisme contre le communisme. L’esthétique vorticiste se prêtait facilement à des interprétations proto-fascistes et conservatrices : des motifs « disciplinés, brusques, épais et brutaux », la clarté et la forme par opposition à l’art qui se dissout dans le « vague de l’espace », comme le décrivit Lewis [16].

Sur le plan artistique, le classicisme signifie aussi clarté du style et forme distincte. Pound était attiré par la manière dont, par exemple, l’idéogramme chinois décrivait les idées succinctement [17]. C’est pourquoi l’art et l’écriture devaient être basés sur la netteté et la clarté de l’image. Le sujet était vu extérieurement, d’une manière détachée. Pound et Hulme avaient fondé le mouvement imagiste selon des principes classicistes. A cela se superposait maintenant le vorticisme, décrivant les motifs géométriques complexes mais clairs de l’âge de la machine. Par opposition au futurisme italien, l’art vorticiste ne visait pas à décrire le déchaînement de l’énergie mais à le figer dans le temps. Tout en décrivant le tourbillon  d’énergie, le vorticisme se distinguait du futurisme par son axe central de stabilité. Le vorticisme fut cependant rejeté par Lewis durant la Première Guerre mondiale comme étant « morne et vide », comme quelque chose qui avait besoin d’être « rempli », alors qu’en littérature, les mots et la syntaxe ne devaient pas être des sujets d’abstraction [18].

Dans sa nouvelle Tarr, publiée comme un monument à lui-même pour le cas où il serait tué dans la guerre où il servit comme officier d’observation avancée pour l’artillerie, il critique sévèrement les artistes et auteurs bohêmes représentés en Angleterre par la coterie de Bloomsbury :

« …Votre potion insipide est un mélange des lies du libéralisme, la pauvre écume produite par les années 90 décadentes, les restes de la garde-robe d’une bohême vulgaire. (…) Vous êtes de la tisane d’orge concentrée et hautement organisée : il n’y a rien à dire en votre faveur dans l’univers : n’importe quel Etat efficace confisquerait vos biens, brûlerait votre garde-robe – ce vieux chapeau et tout le reste – comme infectieuse, et vous interdirait de la propager.

…Une variété de choux douçâtres et prolifiques a provoqué un pourrissement général et rampant en Occident (…) que n’importe quel pouvoir résolu pourra anéantir en un clin d’œil et les yeux fermés. Votre gentil interlude en fait indirectement une période de tribulation pour les choses vivantes qui restent dans votre voisinage. Vous systématisez la vulgarisation de l’individu : vous êtes la copie à l’avance du communisme, un faux communisme millénaire de la classe moyenne. Vous n’êtes pas un individu : vous n’avez, je le répète, aucun droit à ces cheveux et à ce chapeau : vous tentez d’avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre. Vous devriez être en uniforme et au travail, pas uniformément hors de l’uniforme et calomniant l’Artiste par votre oisiveté. Etes-vous oisif ?

…La seule justification pour votre allure débraillée, c’est bien qu’elle est parfaitement emblématique. » [19]

En 1918, Lewis fut nommé artiste de guerre officiel pour le Bureau Canadien des Archives de Guerre. Ici certaines de ses peintures sont de style vorticiste, décrivant les soldats comme des machines de la même qualité que leur artillerie. A nouveau, l’homme est montré comme un automate. Cependant, la guerre détruisit le mouvement vorticiste, Hulme et Gaudier-Brzeska succombant tous les deux, et Blast n’alla pas plus loin que deux numéros.

Le Code d’un Berger

Le néo-nietzschéisme de Lewis est succinctement exprimé dans un essai publié dans The Little Review en 1917, « Le Code d’un Berger ». Parmi les 18 points [20] :

« En t’accusant toi-même, reste fidèle au Code de la Montagne. Mais le crime est étranger à la nature d’un Berger. Tu dois être ta propre Caste. »

« Chéris et développe côte à côte tes six plus constantes indications de personnalités différentes. Tu acquerras alors la potentialité de six hommes… Chaque tranchée doit en avoir une autre derrière elle. »

« Passe un peu de ton temps chaque jour à traquer les faiblesses que tu as contractées par ton commerce avec le troupeau, aussi méthodiquement, solennellement et énergiquement qu’un singe le fait avec ses puces. Tu découvriras que tu en es recouvert quand tu es entouré par l’humanité. Mais tu ne les emmèneras pas sur la montagne… »

« Ne joue pas avec les notions politiques, les aristocratismes ou l’inverse, car c’est un compromis avec le troupeau. Ne te laisse pas aller à imaginer un bon troupeau qui resterait un troupeau. Il n’y a pas de bon troupeau. Les bestiaux qui se font appeler ‘gentlemen’ t’apparaîtront un peu plus propres. C’est simplement une ruse et c’est l’œuvre d’un produit appelé savon… »

« Sois sur tes gardes avec le petit troupeau des gentlemen. Il y a des règles très strictes pour empêcher le troupeau de mettre les pieds sur les flancs de la montagne. En fait ta principale fonction est d’empêcher leur empiètement. Dans un moment d’ennui ou d’agressivité, certains sont capables de faire des incursions vers les régions plus hautes. Heureusement leur instinct les fait rester en masses ou en bandes, et leur transgression est bientôt remarquée. Contredis-toi. Pour vivre, tu dois rester fragmenté. »

« Au-dessus de ce triste commerce avec le troupeau, fais en sorte que quelque chose reste véritablement sur la montagne. Descends toujours avec des masques et d’épais vêtements dans la vallée où nous travaillons. Les gaz stagnants de ces troupeaux vulgaires et pourris sont plus dangereux que les cylindres errants qui les émettent. (…) Notre colline sacrée est un ciel volcanique. Mais le résultat de la violence est la paix. Même la malheureuse houle, au-dessous, a des moments de paix. »

Le « Code d’un Berger » rappelle beaucoup le texte de Nietzsche « Des mouches du marché », dans Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra [21]. Le credo indique aussi pourquoi Lewis ne pouvait pas rester longtemps un admirateur du fascisme ou du national-socialisme – « Ne te laisse pas aller à imaginer un bon troupeau qui resterait un troupeau. Il n’y a pas de bon troupeau » –, puisque le fascisme et le national-socialisme exaltent le « troupeau », culturellement, socialement, et économiquement.


La pauvreté suivit Lewis toute sa vie. Comme Pound, il était à la recherche d’une société qui honorerait les artistes. Comme Pound et D. H. Lawrence, il avait le sentiment que l’artiste est le gouvernant naturel de l’humanité, et il s’insurgeait contre la dégradation de l’art au niveau d’un article courant.

L’attitude politique et sociale de Lewis venait de son esthétique. Il était opposé à la primauté de la politique et de l’économie sur la vie culturelle. Son livre de 1926, The Art of Being Ruled [L’art d’être gouverné] expose en détail les idées de Lewis sur la politique, incluant un rejet de la démocratie et quelques références favorables au fascisme. Ici Lewis condamne la vulgarisation de la science comme une « religion populaire », favorable à un « état d’esprit révolutionnaire », et le mythe du « Progrès » [22] basé sur idolâtrie de l’« amélioration mécanique » [23]. L’idéal est l’« Homme de la Rue » comme « le nouveau Messie de la religion contemporaine », à qui l’on vend continuellement l’idée de changement, ou de « révolution-comme-habitude » [24]. En tant que révolutionnaire, Lewis aspirait au renversement des « valeurs désuètes », et était antithétique à la « révolution-comme-habitude » des intellectuels stéréotypés du type Bloomsbury [25].


Il propose aussi une analyse sceptique concernant les buts de la « démocratie » où le pouvoir est exercé derrière l’illusion d’élections libres, qui sont basées sur le conditionnement de la masse des votants par les possesseurs de la Presse ; c’est-à-dire, ceux qui ont l’argent :

« Le fonctionnement du système électoral ‘démocratique’ est bien sûr comme suit : Une personne est formée rigoureusement à certaines opinions ; puis on lui donne le droit de vote, et on dit qu’elle est ‘libre’ et pleinement affranchie ; puis elle vote (soumise, bien sûr, à de nouveaux et rigoureux ordres de la presse, où parfois son mentor lui commande de voter contrairement à ce qu’on lui a enseigné) strictement en accord avec sa formation. Son appui à tout ce qu’on lui a appris à soutenir peut être pratiquement garanti. C’est bien sûr pourquoi le vote du citoyen libre est une farce : il est annulé par l’éducation et la suggestion, l’imposition de la volonté du gouvernant au moyen de la presse et d’autres canaux des pouvoirs publics. Le gouvernement ‘démocratique’ est donc bien plus efficace que la subjugation par la conquête physique. » [26]

L’appui au fascisme était un produit de son classicisme – sa valorisation de la dureté, du masculin, de l’exactitude, et de la clarté – ainsi que de ses opinions de longue date concernant la démocratie et les masses. Ce classicisme le poussa à applaudir l’Etat fasciste « rigidement organisé », basé sur des lois immuables et absolues que Lewis appliquait aux arts, par opposition aux « fluctuations » ou aux changements du romantisme.

Lewis apporta son appui à l’Union des Fascistes Britanniques de Sir Oswald Mosley. Celui-ci raconte dans son autobiographie que Lewis lui donnait des rendez-vous secrets, craignant un assassinat [27]. Cependant, Lewis fut assez ouvert d’esprit pour écrire un essai sur le fascisme, intitulé « Left Wings » [« Gauches »], pour le British Union Quarterly. Ici Lewis écrit qu’une nation peut être subvertie et capturée par des groupes numériquement faibles. L’intelligentsia et la presse faisaient ce travail de subversion avec une orientation de gauche. Lewis était au courant de l’appui que le marxisme recevait des riches, incluant les bohêmes  millionnaires qui patronnaient les arts. La propagande marxiste en faveur de l’URSS bénéficiait d’un financement énorme. Le marxisme était une imposture, une mascarade dans son soutien aux pauvres contre les riches [28]. « Que le communisme russe ne soit pas une guerre au couteau des Riches contre les Pauvres n’est que trop bien démontré par le fait que sur le plan international tous les Riches sont de son coté. Tous les ‘magnats’ parmi les nations lui sont favorables ; toutes les communautés appauvries, tous les petits Etats paysans, le craignent et s’opposent à lui » [29].

Les observations de Lewis sur la nature du marxisme étaient corroborées par la position antibolchevique du Portugal et de l’Espagne, auxquels il pensait probablement en parlant d’opposition des ‘petits Etats paysans’ au communisme. Alors que le bolchevisme lui-même était financé par des milieux financiers à New York, en Suède, et en Allemagne (les Warburg, Schiff, et Olaf Aschberg – le dénommé « banquier bolchevik » [30]), d’où l’affirmation : « les ‘magnats’ parmi les nations lui sont favorables ».


Lewis conclut en déclarant que le fascisme est le mouvement qui est authentiquement pour les pauvres et contre les riches, pour la propriété alors que les ‘super-riches’ sont contre la propriété, « puisque l’argent s’est fondu dans le pouvoir, le concret dans l’abstrait… »

« En tant que fasciste, vous défendez le petit commerçant contre le grand magasin ; le paysan contre l’usurier ; la nation, grande ou petite, contre le super-Etat ; le commerce personnel contre le Big Business ; l’artisan contre la Machine ; le créateur contre l’intermédiaire ; tout ce qui prospère par l’effort individuel et le travail créatif, contre tout ce qui prospère dans l’air abstrait de la Haute Finance ou du jargon théorique de l’Internationalisme. » [31]

Comme on le voit par ses références à la « Haute Finance » et aux « magnats » soutenant la gauche, Lewis, comme Ezra Pound [32], était conscient de la pourriture complète du système financier fondé sur l’usure, écrivant : « …et la technique du Crédit est un instrument de destruction en comparaison duquel toute autre arme offensive connue tombe dans l’insignifiance » [33].

Cependant, Lewis avait des réserves concernant le fascisme, de même qu’il avait des réserves concernant l’engagement en faveur de n’importe quelle doctrine, non seulement à cause de la nature de masse – ou « troupeau » – du fascisme, mais aussi parce que le principe de l’action, de l’homme d’action, devient trop souvent une activité frénétique, alors que la stabilité dans le monde est nécessaire à l’épanouissement des arts. Il dit dans Time and Western Man [Le temps et l’homme occidental] que le fascisme en Italie était trop tourné vers le passé, mettant l’accent sur une résurgence de la splendeur impériale romaine et l’usage de son imagerie, au lieu de se consacrer à la réalisation du présent [34]. Dans ce « culte du Temps » étaient inclus le courant doctrinal de l’action, du progrès, de la violence, du combat, du changement constant dans le monde, qui incluent aussi le darwinisme et le nietzschéisme, en dépit de l’influence continue de ce dernier sur la philosophie de Lewis.

Pourtant, quand les lignes commencèrent à être tracées pour la future confrontation entre le fascisme et la démocratie, Lewis prit la défense de l’Italie fasciste dans son invasion de l’Abyssinie, condamnant les sanctions de la Société des Nations contre l’Italie, et déclarant : « si l’Italien industrieux et ingénieux, plutôt que l’Ethiopien paresseux, stupide et agressif,  devait finalement contrôler l’Abyssinie, ça ne serait sûrement pas une grande tragédie » [35].

Une première appréciation intitulée Hitler fut publiée en 1931, scellant le sort de Lewis en tant que génie marginalisé, en dépit de sa répudiation de l’antisémitisme dans The Jews, Are They Human? [Les Juifs, sont-ils humains ?] et du nazisme dans The Hitler Cult [Le culte de Hitler], tous deux publiés en 1939.

Temps et Espace

wl51FLambzJ1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgUn environnement artistique sain requiert l’ordre et la discipline, pas le chaos et la fluctuation  continuelle. C’est le grand conflit entre le « romantique » et le « classique » dans les arts. Cette dichotomie entre « classique » et « romantique » est représentée en politique par la différence entre la philosophie du « Temps » et celle de l’« Espace », cette dernière étant illustrée par la philosophie de Spengler. A la différence de beaucoup d’autres représentants de la « Droite », Lewis était fermement opposé à l’approche historique de Spengler, critiquant son Déclin de l’Occident dans Time and Western Man. Pour Lewis, Spengler et d’autres « philosophes du Temps » reléguaient la culture dans la sphère politique. Les interprétations cycliques et organiques de l’histoire sont vues comme « fatalistes » et démoralisantes pour la survie de la race européenne. Lewis résumait la thèse de Spengler comme suit : « Vous les Blancs, êtes sur le point de vous éteindre. Tout est fini pour vous ; et je peux vous le prouver par le résultat de mes recherches, et par ma nouvelle science de l’histoire, qui est bâtie sur le grand système du temps… » [36].

Lewis affirmait que la « philosophie du Temps » est vouée à subir le changement et les fluctuations, alors que la philosophie de l’« Espace » est vouée à la forme et à la présence, les fondements du classicisme, que Spengler dénigrait en faveur du désir d’infini sans forme de l’homme « faustien » [37].

L’art véritable n’est pas révolutionnaire, mais est un « bastion permanent », qui n’est jamais en révolte sauf quand l’art cesse d’exister ou devient « faux et vulgaire ». Le dénommé « art révolutionnaire » que Lewis observait à son époque était « de l’art inférieur et stupide, ou bien  de l’art consciemment politique » [38]. Lewis écrit en outre : « Aucun artiste ne pourra jamais aimer la démocratie ou son parent doctrinaire et plus primitif, le communisme ».

« Les unités-de-masse émotionnellement excitées, en troupeau serré, lourdement standardisées, agissant dans une union aveugle et extatique, comme en réponse au rythme d’une musique invisible – de style… soviétique – seraient la pire chose souhaitable, selon moi, pour l’Occident démocratique libre, s’il était libre, et si sa démocratie était du genre intelligent… » [39]

Lewis voyait les mouvements « révolutionnaires » comme régressifs, bien qu’ils fussent qualifiés de « progressistes ». Le féminisme vise à revenir aux « conditions supposées du Matriarcat primitif ». Le communisme et tous les mouvements révolutionnaires de son époque, il les voyait comme visant à revenir au primitif [40]. D’après ce motif, on peut comprendre pourquoi il condamnait aussi D. H. Lawrence. La « Haute Bohême », incluant « le monde des milliardaires », particulièrement ceux qui se concentrent sur le féminisme et la révolte sexuelle, sont des symptômes du « Temps », tout comme les réussites techniques et le commerce – alors que l’art est « éternel » [41]. Ce qui était promu comme de l’art « osé » et « scandaleux » était selon Lewis « mièvre », « domestiqué » et « ridicule », « rien de cela ne pouvant accélérer le pouls d’un lapin » [42]. Apparenté à cette pseudo-révolution est le « culte de l’enfant », artistiquement exprimé dans « le culte du primitif et du sauvage » de Gauguin, par exemple [43].


L’antipathie de Lewis envers la démocratie est enracinée dans sa théorie du Temps. Dans Men Without Art [Hommes sans Art], il écrit que la Démocratie est hostile à l’excellence artistique et encourage « les standards de souscription du box office et des bibliothèques » [44]. L’art, au contraire, est éternel, classique. La démocratie hait l’intellectuel et le prend pour cible, parce que l’« esprit » est aristocratique et insultant pour les masses. C’est encore une fois la dichotomie du « romantique contre le classique ». Conjointe à la démocratie est l’industrialisation, toutes deux représentant les masses contre le génie solitaire. Le résultat est le « rassemblement des gens en énormes masses mécanisées ». L’« esprit de masse… doit nécessairement parvenir à une taille standard pour recevoir l’idée standard ».


La démocratie et la publicité font partie intégrante de cette dégradation, et derrière tout cela se trouve l’argent, incluant les « bohêmes millionnaires » qui contrôlent les arts. La fabrication d’une image romantique de la machine, qui commença à l’époque victorienne, est le produit de notre « Age de l’Argent ». Le vorticisme, dit Lewis, décrit la machine comme convenant à un art qui observe le Présent, mais à la différence du futurisme, ne l’idolâtre pas. C’est la technologie qui génère le changement et la révolution, mais l’art reste constant ; il n’est jamais en révolte, sauf quand la société promeut des conditions où l’art ne peut pas exister, comme dans la démocratie.

Quand Lewis fait la satire des gens de Bloomsbury, il écrit qu’un gouffre sépare l’élite et les masses, mais que cela n’est pas forcément malveillant envers ces masses :

« L’intellect est plus éloigné de la foule que toute autre chose : mais ce n’est pas un retrait snob, c’est une distanciation pour les besoins du travail, du travail sans son utilité pour la foule (…) ; Plus que le prophète ou l’enseignant religieux, (le chef) représente (…) le grand élément détaché de ce monde, et ceci est la garantie de son utilité. Et il devrait être déchargé de la compétition futile dans tous les domaines mineurs, pour que ses facultés les plus pures puissent être libres pour les tâches majeures de la création intelligente. »

Malheureusement, placer ses idéaux sur le plan de l’activité a pour conséquence la vulgarisation, un dilemme qui fut à l’origine des réserves de Lewis vis-à-vis de Nietzsche. Dans The Art of Being Ruled, Lewis écrit que toute chose contient son « ombre », « son singe et familier ». Lewis parlait encore de ce dilemme dans Rotting Hill [La colline pourrissante] durant les années 50 : « Tous les dilemmes du créatif cherchant à fonctionner socialement sont centrés sur la nature de l’action : sur la nécessité de l’action brutale, de faire appel au barbare pour bâtir une civilisation ».

Révolte du Primitif

Le livre de Lewis Paleface: The Philosophy of the Melting Pot, [Visage pâle : la philosophie du melting-pot], destiné à être une réplique à D. H. Lawrence, fut écrit pour répudier le culte du primitif – l’idéal rousseauiste du « retour à la nature » et du « noble sauvage » – très à la mode parmi les bohêmes millionnaires, comme il l’avait été parmi les intellectuels de salon du XVIIIe siècle. Alors que Lawrence disait que les tribus primitives pouvaient inspirer la race européenne décadente et l’aider à revenir à son propre être instinctuel, un tel « romantisme » était contraire au classicisme de Lewis, avec sa primauté de la raison. Contrairement à Lawrence, Lewis affirme : « Je préférerais avoir une once de conscience humaine plutôt qu’un univers entier rempli d’inspirations ‘abdominales’ subites et d’intenses palpitations mystiques, inconscientes et ‘étourdissantes’ ».

Dans Paleface, Lewis souhaite une caste dirigeante d’esthètes, assez semblablement à son ami Ezra Pound et à son adversaire philosophique Lawrence :

« Nous, [qui sommes] de naissance les dirigeants naturels de l’Européen blanc, ne sommes plus des gens ayant des visées politiques ou publiques (…). Nous, les dirigeants naturels du monde où nous vivons, sommes maintenant des citoyens privés au plein sens du terme, et ce monde est, en ce qui concerne l’administration de sa loi traditionnelle, sans direction. Dans ces circonstances, son âme, dans une génération environ, sera éteinte. » [45]

Lewis s’oppose au « melting-pot » où les différentes races et nationalités ne peuvent plus être distinguées. Une fois de plus, les objections de Lewis sont esthétiques dans leur fondement. Le cadeau du Nègre à l’homme blanc est le jazz, « le médium esthétique d’une sorte de subconscient prolétarien frénétique », dégradant, et poussant les masses à une agitation insensée, un « son massif et idiot » qui est « marxiste ». Nous pourrions comprendre maintenant que c’était le début du processus sur lequel l’industrie de la musique moderne est largement fondée, la musique « populaire » – la musique transitoire du marché de masse – étant centrée sur des rythmes frénétiques souvent accompagnés d’une danse pseudo-tribale effrénée, symptomatique du retour au « culte du primitif », au nom du « progrès ».

Liberté obligatoire

A l’époque où Lewis écrivait Time and Western Man, il croyait que les gens devaient être « contraints » à être libres et individualistes. Inversant certaines de ses idées exprimées dans The Art of Being Ruled, il ne croyait maintenant plus que le besoin des masses à être asservies devait être organisé, mais plutôt que les masses devraient être contraintes à être individualistes, écrivant : « Je crois qu’ils pourraient avantageusement être contraints à rester absolument seuls plusieurs heures chaque jour, et avec une semaine d’isolement complet dans des conditions agréables (disons dans un paysage montagneux), tous les deux mois, cela serait une  disposition excellente. Cela et d’autres mesures coercitives d’un genre similaire, je pense, en ferait des gens bien meilleurs » [46].

On pourrait dire qu’ici encore le processus d’industrialisation et le type de système économique qu’il implique, en même temps que l’urbanisation et la primauté de la City [= le pouvoir financier], sont nécessairement favorables à la création et au maintien d’une masse frénétique et pressée, enfermée dans une broyeuse. Chaque aspect de la vie est soumis au besoin de hâte, même sur le plan gastronomique, sous la forme du « fast food » comme cuisine de l’ère moderne. Le besoin d’heures de travail plus longues s’oppose aux premières attentes, selon lesquelles l’âge de la machine inaugurerait une ère de loisirs où la multitude aurait le temps de réfléchir sur l’art et la littérature, et même de les créer, comme pour les idéaux utopiques des premiers esthètes socialistes tels que William Morris et Oscar Wilde. L’espoir de Lewis que les individus pourraient être un jour contraints à se relaxer dans la solitude, pour qu’ils puissent devenir des individus réels, est plus éloigné que jamais.

Retour en Angleterre socialiste

En 1939, Lewis et sa femme se rendirent aux USA et ensuite au Canada où Lewis donna des cours à la Faculté d’Assumption, une situation qui ne lui causa pas de désagrément, car il avait depuis longtemps un grand respect pour le catholicisme, même s’il ne s’y était pas converti.


Lewis, le polémiste impénitent, commença une campagne contre l’abstraction extrême dans l’art, attaquant Jackson Pollock et les expressionnistes abstraits.

Il revint en Angleterre en 1945, et bien que devenu complètement aveugle en 1951, il continua d’écrire. En 1948 son livre America and Cosmic Man [L’Amérique et l’homme cosmique] décrivit les USA comme le laboratoire d’un futur nouvel ordre mondial d’anonymat et d’utilitarisme. Il voyait les USA non comme un pays mais comme une « Cosmopolis » [47]. Il pensait que les Américains étaient voués non au patriotisme national mais à la « fraternité », parce que les Américains sont de « race mêlée », et pour Lewis « la fraternité est plutôt une bonne chose pour laquelle combattre » [48], une combinaison d’« éthique puritaine et de politique révolutionnaire », une leçon donnée au monde sur « la manière d’obliger le lion à se coucher à coté de l’agneau » [49].

wlblast.jpgComme nous l’avons vu, Lewis se moquait paradoxalement de la croyance de Pound au crédit social, mais il était très conscient du pouvoir de l’usure et des « Empereurs de la Dette ». Il examina cela une nouvelle fois en 1948 en écrivant :

« Les intérêts monopolistiques, avec tout le pouvoir dont de tels intérêts disposent, s’opposent à tout changement dans un système vieilli qui a si bien servi leurs buts, et qui a tant d’avantages de leur point de vue, par rapport à un nouveau modèle.

Le royaume de féérie du capital bancaire et de la grandiose usure universelle, d’où un épais brouillard d’irréalité se déverse continuellement dans la politique (…) est un Mystère, dont l’existence même est ignorée par l’homme éduqué moyen…

Tout ce qu’il suffit de dire, c’est que la grande artificialité de la politique, que dans ces pages j’ai tenté de décrire, est au moins égalée, sinon dépassée, par l’artificialité de l’économie. Cela est vrai de l’Angleterre tout autant que de l’Amérique, bien que les Etats-Unis soient maintenant le quartier-général de la finance mondiale. » [50]

Revenant en Angleterre, Lewis reçut une certaine reconnaissance « officielle » lorsqu’il fut chargé d’écrire deux drames pour la BBC et qu’il devint un chroniqueur régulier pour The Listener.

Un poème d’après-guerre, So the Man You Are [Voilà l’homme que tu es], continue sous une forme autobiographique à refléter certains des thèmes favoris de Lewis ; celui de l’individu créatif opposé à l’alliance du troupeau, de la « Haute Finance, et du Bolchevisme » :


L’homme que je suis pourrait vendre la sacrée mèche

Si on me donnait des tribunes ! A la racaille

On peut donner toutes les trompettes que l’on veut.

Mais pas à ceux qui ont une langue en or. Le rebord de la fenêtre

Est la seule chaire qu’ils peuvent espérer obtenir.


Quel vent un esprit honnête fait-il souffler ? Ne cherchez pas

Un vent de la faucille et du marteau, des cloches et du livre,

Ni le vent d’un parti quelconque, ou soufflant

Depuis une montagne quelconque pour nous parler

De la Haute Finance, ou depuis des contreforts du même genre.

L’homme que je suis ne joue pas le jeu ! [51]


Lewis avait le sentiment que « tout était en train de se dessécher » en Angleterre, que « l’extrémisme dévorait les arts et le pourrissement était général à tous les niveaux de la société ». Sur l’Angleterre d’après-guerre, il écrit : « C’est la capitale d’un empire mourant –  ne s’écroulant pas dans les flammes et la fumée mais expirant d’une manière particulière et silencieuse ».

C’est l’Angleterre qu’il dépeint dans sa nouvelle de 1951, Rotting Hill (le nom donné par Ezra Pound à Notting Hill), où vivaient Lewis et sa femme. L’Etat Providence symbolise un mauvais standard d’utilité dans la recherche du bonheur universel. Dans l’Angleterre socialiste, tout devient de qualité inférieure, incluant les boutons de chemise qui ne correspondent pas aux boutonnières, les lacets de chaussures trop courts pour être noués, les ciseaux qui ne coupent pas, et du pain et de la confiture immangeables. Lewis tente de décrire pleinement la grisaille socialiste de la Grande-Bretagne des années 40.

A la différence des littéraires qui se révoltèrent contre la domination de la gauche dans les arts, Lewis finit par soutenir l’idéal d’une culture mondiale surveillée par un Etat mondial central, et d’une humanité qui deviendrait l’« Homme Cosmique », voyant les USA comme le prototype d’une future société mondiale que le reste du monde rejoindrait [52]. Il écrivit sa dernière nouvelle The Red Priest [Le Prêtre Rouge] en 1956. Lewis mourut en 1957, salué par T. S. Eliot dans une nécrologie dans The Sunday Times : « Une grande intelligence a disparu ».



[1] Frederic Jameson, Fables of Aggression: Wyndham Lewis, the Fascist as Modernist (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), p. 1.

[2] Dans sa préface à l’édition de 1918 de Tarr, Lewis déplore que le nietzschéisme a « transformé en Surhomme chaque épicier vulgairement énergique en Europe ».

[3] William H. Pritchard, Wyndham Lewis (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1972), p. 2.

[4] Wyndham Lewis, The Apes of God (Publisher? 1932).

[5] Bradford Morrow, “A History of an Unapologetic Apologia: Roy Campbell’s Wyndham Lewis,” Blast 3 (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1984), p. 11.

[6] Morrow, p. 11.

[7] E. W. F. Tomlin, “Wyndham Lewis: The Emancipator,” Blast 3, p. 109.

[8] Tomlin, p. 110.

[9] Tomlin, p. 110.

[10] William C. Wees, “Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism,” Blast 3, p. 47.

[11] Wees, p. 49.

[12] Blast 2 (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1981).

[13] Wees, p. 48.

[14] Wees, p. 49.

[15] T. E. Hulme, Speculations (1911), “Romanticism and Classicism” (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World Inc., 1936), p. 114.

[16] Wees, p. 49.

[17] Voir par exemple les idéogrammes chinois illustrant les concepts de confusion et d’ordre social dans le livre de Pound, Jefferson and/or Mussolini (New York: Liveright, 1970), chapitre  XXIX : « Kung », qu’il identifie à l’ordre fasciste. Voir aussi les idéogrammes chinois utilisés dans les Cantos de Pound, LI et LIII.

[18] Wyndham Lewis, Rude Assignment: A narrative of my career up-to-date (London: Hutchinson, 1950), p. 129.

[19] Wyndham Lewis, Tarr (1918) (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1982), pp. 25–26.

[20] Le « Code d’un Berger » peut être trouvé (en anglais) sur : http://www.gingkopress.com/09-lit/code-of-herdsman.html

[21] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Harmondsworth: Penguin books, 1969), pp. 78–81.

[22] Roy Campbell, “Wyndham Lewis,” Blast 3, p. 15.

[23] Campbell, p. 23.

[24] Campbell, p. 16.

[25] Campbell, p. 18.

[26] Wyndham Lewis, The Art of Being Ruled (London: Chatto & Windus, 1926), p. 111.

[27] Oswald Mosley, My Life (London: Nelson, 1968), p. 225.

[28] Wyndham Lewis, “Left Wings,” British Union Quarterly, January–April, 1937, in Selections from BUF Quarterly (Marietta, Georgia: The Truth At Last, 1995), p. 137.

[29] “Left Wings,” British Union Quarterly, p. 137.

[30] K. R. Bolton, “November 1917: Wall Street & the November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution,” Ab Aeterno, No. 5, October–December 2010 (Academy of Social and Political Research).

[31] “Left Wings,”p. 137.

[32] Pourtant il rejetait le conseil insistant de Pound d’étudier le crédit social de C. H. Douglas, et parlait des « cinglés du crédit » – Lewis, The Hitler Cult (London: Dent, 1939), p. 26, apparemment sans proposer d’alternative pratique à ce qu’il appelait aussi les « Rois du Crédit » et les « Empereurs de la Dette » (Lewis, Doom of Youth [New York, 1932], p. 35).

[33] Doom of Youth, p. 35.

[34] Paradoxalement, Lewis, en dépit de son soutien à Hitler et à Mosley, n’avait jamais soutenu le fascisme italien, le considérant comme du « futurisme politique ». Bryant Knox, “Ezra Pound on Wyndham Lewis’s Rude Assignment,” Blast 3, p. 161.

[35] Lewis, Left Wings Over Europe (London: Jonathan Cape, 1936), p. 165.

[36] Lewis, Time and Western Man (London: Chatto & Windus, 1927), p. 262.

[37] Spengler ne « dédaignait » pas les autres cultures ; il cherchait à décrire leur essence interne comme un observateur détaché.

[38] Time and Western Man, pp. 39–40.

[39] Time and Western Man, p. 42.

[40] Time and Western Man, pp. 51–52.

[41] Time and Western Man, p. 53.

[42] Time and Western Man, p. 53.

[43] Time and Western Man, p. 69.

[44] Wyndham Lewis, Men Without Art (London: Cassell, 1934), p. 263.

[45] Wyndham Lewis, Pale Face: The Philosophy of the Melting-Pot (London: Chatto and Windus, 1929), p. 82.

[46] Time and Western Man, p. 138.

[47] Lewis, America and Cosmic Man (New York: Country Life Press, 1949), p. 18.

[48] America and Cosmic Man, p. 27.

[49] America and Cosmic Man, pp. 30–31.

[50] America and Cosmic Man, pp. 158–59.

[51] Lewis, “If So the Man You Are,” 1948, The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1965), pp. 73–74.

[52] America and Cosmic Man, “Cosmic Society and Cosmic Man.”


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lundi, 31 mars 2014

Life is Always Right

Life is Always Right:
Futurism & Man in Revolt

By Mark Dyal

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

“We are not only more revolutionary than you, but we are beyond your revolution.” – F. T. Marinetti[1]

“You must know that blood has no value or splendor unless it has been freed from the prison of the arteries by iron or fire.” – F. T. Marinetti[2]

In the early days of July 1923, a heroic and blasphemous storm blew across the Carso plain and down into the Po river valley. Its daring speed and electrified energy created an atmosphere that transfixed those who scrambled for the safety of porticoes, sensing that this storm would put to a test all that had survived such storms in the past. Indeed, by the time it reached the flag-ringed buildings of Milan’s Piazza San Sepolcro the conflagration seemed to laugh at the memory of the structures that fell in its wake. And in that great and hallowed piazza, Giuseppe Prezzolini cowered away from the window, intent to finish the work that taxed his overwrought senses.

Prezzolini, the fine journalist and literary critic, was deep in rumination about perspective. How, he wondered, could those who sought to revolutionize the world champion something as amorphous and changing as perspective? How could revolt, of all things, proceed without the order and precision of truth and objectivity? How could the pathetic moans of an amateurish whore be confused with an ecstatic symphony of pleasure; or worse, how could the exalted battle cries of the world’s new masters be merely the cacophonous baying of a frightened herd of sheep? With this problem in mind, he tapped out his work, “Fascism and Futurism,” and thereby gave his readers a new perspective on the storm blowing through his proud and sanctified abode.

From Prezzolini’s perspective, the storm was violent and uncontrollable. It raged without memory with the instruments of war: grenades, mortars, and bombs seemed to explode in response to the piercing thrusts of rifle-bound bayonets, lashing wildly at the orderly and sensible piazza below. With every blow he shrank deeper into the comfort of his writing chair. Soon, however, a dreadful thought occurred to him, and he rushed to the window. Relieved and gratified, he smiled a knowing smile when he saw that the tattered symbols of reason, truth, and morality were still on guard against the vile anarchic forces besieging them.

From Prezzolini’s perspective, reason, truth, and morality were synonymous with the successful Revolution that had climaxed nine months earlier, bringing humanity one step closer to the perfection of liberty – a political and mystical right of men properly bound by duty and responsibility to the State.[3] Of course, much had happened in the meantime, and the soon-to-dissipate storm outside his window would be just as soon forgotten. As he remembered, Fascism and Futurism once had much in common. Especially in the days following the Great War, when Marinetti’s men led the revolutionary syndicalists, arditi, and critical artists into the fascist movement – back then they even called themselves “ardito-futuristi,” each with his own love of danger, violence, and reawakened instincts of the man of war.[4]

In they came, he remembered, crowding into the Industrial and Commercial Hall just outside his door. They were drunk on Sorel, proclaiming conflict a “permanent necessity” in the fight against a passive and flaccid existence. The failure of social revolution, one of them said, especially in the wake of industrialization and the creation of the urbanized mass man, was due to cowardice; the syndicalists just failed to act – and were ultimately betrayed by the Movement and Party crazed socialists.

This, according to Marinetti – the leader of this band of misfits, is one reason the Futurists claimed to be “mystics of action,” seeing the nation-State as a bastion of conservatism, repression, bureaucracy, and clericalism: even with neo-classical rulers, one might say, the State is and will always be the enemy of free men – men on the outside, in the beyond, in the nether regions of what is permissible and “good for business.”

As such, they would move against the State in the squadristi bands that almost became the ruin of The Revolution. Disdainful of the police, they were illegal, spontaneous, often haphazard, and arbitrary – hardly the stuff that goes into the establishment and defense of law and order!




So, this perpetually violent man in revolt, freed from moral and historical constraints and Statist duties and responsibilities, was to become the new “Futurist man:” a man, as Marinetti said, that is not human (for without the essential elements of the human – rationality, morality, and memory – all perfectly suited to justify slavish adherence to being-bourgeois – then one is no longer human, but something else – something monstrous, something rapacious, something joyous). Marinetti said that the bourgeois State corrodes vital energy, that it feeds upon humanized herd-animals with deadened wills yoked to universalized assumptions of natural goodness and happiness. But Prezzolini would ask him today as he did then, what good could this Futurist man bring to The Revolt? He is be too reckless, too free, and too dangerous to be of any use to men trying to build a State.

Squadrismo! Yes, he remembered, that’s what it was about: embodied radicalism, joyful violence, and the destruction of the forces of order that so perfectly connected mind, body, and State. Ruefully, he shook his head, eager to forget the ravages of such unchecked, unscripted, and useless virility. The Futurists’ virility – the cult of speed, the contempt for the masses, and the antipathy toward bureaucracy – had certainly infected the early days of the Fascist Revolution. But fighting to become-other, to move beyond duties and responsibilities while embracing the flux and chaosmos of the man in revolt, this is a far cry from fighting for the honor and glory of the State. In the former the heroic man will die alone, but in the other – in the fight that we men of the State promise and demand – the heroic man never dies. Instead he is made grander and more meaningful than he ever could have been on his own.

However, standing here in the afterglow of the creation of the Fascist State – the very symbol of victory! – Prezzolini began to laugh aloud at the memory of what would one day be called the creation of the “two fascisms.”[5]

But then, in the summer of 1921, it was the moment of truth for Prezzolini’s Revolt. Would it follow the disdainful revolutionary violence of the Futurists and arditi into an unknowable future? Or would it turn toward the bourgeois shopkeepers and landowners who sought a stable and prosperous State built on the foundations of a glorious national past? Would it be swept up in the unbridled action of the men in revolt, or would it become The Revolution? Would it maintain its core as a pack of elite and daring fighting men – those who dared, in fact, to cast off all bourgeois duties and responsibilities, to “cut all roots and understand nothing but the delight of danger and quotidian heroism?”[6] Or would it embrace its historical responsibility and create something lasting, something immortal, like a Party and State?

Indeed it would, and did – disposing of both the Futurists and ardito-squadristi alike in several purging acts of political rationality – and set itself up as the apotheosis of “hierarchy, tradition, and authority.”[7] But as the storm blew, and the rotary engines intoxicated with their own speed and sound blasted at the security of the paving stones below his window, Prezzolini felt uneasy, as if something violent, cruel, and beyond the strictures of justice was seeping through the cracks in his sanctified workspace.

At once he knew its source: Marinetti. Blasphemer! Madman! The fool who wanted to use violence to destabilize the subjective – and subjectifying – forces of the bourgeois form of life! And to what end? Well, Prezzolini knew quite well to what end. Look at this, he screamed to his soul as he grabbed the tear sheet:

And so, let the glad arsonists with charred fingers come! Here they are! Here they are! Go ahead! Set fire to the shelves of the libraries! Turn aside the course of the canals to flood the museums! . . . Seize your pickaxes, axes, and hammers, and tear down, pitilessly tear down the venerable cities! . . . You raise objections? Stop! Stop! We know them. We’ve understood! The refined and mendacious mind tells us that we are the summation and continuation of our ancestors – maybe! Suppose it so! But what difference does it make? We don’t want to listen![8]

And so Prezzolini wrote a serendipitous march, a pointed and reserved tome in defense of the tradition and past splendor that found itself under attack from these irresponsible derelicts. Look again, his tormented cogito demanded; they actually call themselves “barbarians – the recalcitrant defaulters of the Ideal!”[9]

“Fascism, if I am not mistaken,” he began to write, “wants hierarchy, tradition, and observance of authority. Fascism is content when it invokes Rome and the classical past. Fascism wants to stay within the lines of thought that have been traced by the great Italians and the great Italian institutions, including Catholicism. Futurism, instead, is quite the opposite of this. Futurism is a war against tradition; it is a struggle against museums, classicism, and scholastic honors. How can this be reconciled with Fascism, which instead is trying to restore all our moral values?”[10]

Thank God, he murmured. Thank God! Thank God we had the decency, the sensibility, and the duty to distance our glorious Party and State from these lunatics. Perspective had made Prezzolini wise, for he knew that revolution had no future. The future, as history had already shown, is with the State. So be it if Fascism had to become a counter-reformation that betrayed the revolutionary energies and critical vitalism of its founding members:[11] the State and nothing but the State, as Mussolini said – a “spiritual and moral fact!”[12] We will properly manage the social domain, he thought defiantly. We will bring continuity and regularity to all that is in flux. We will make sedentary all that flows freely.[13] We will make homogenous all that is different. We will bring law and order, rationality and peace![14] If the people are not up to the task, if they chafe at the imposition of their rulers’ and bosses’ sovereignty, if they feel no allegiance to their duties and responsibilities to the State, then . . . let them go and play with Marinetti!

Does he not understand? We are the State, we are law, and we are order, sanctified by God and international treaty! What do his Futurists wish to be? Outside! Beyond the State! Don’t they know? There is no outside – we are “the Logos, the philosopher-king, the transcendence of the Idea, the interiority of the concept, the republic of minds, the tribunal of reason, the bureaucrats of thought, man as legislator and subject, . . . the interiorized image of a world order!”[15] When you leave that, dear Marinetti – dear “recalcitrant traitor of the Idea,” where do you go?


To war, was Marinetti’s answer. Only war, he said, can create the conditions and assemblages conducive to revolution. And when you are a man alone – a man in a pack, perhaps – and find yourself without a war, well, what then? You create the necessary conditions and assemblages of your own life. You “murder the moonlight,” you “destroy time and space,” living instead in “eternal and omnipresent velocity” – the velocity of courage and aggression, of “words and thought-in-freedom,” destroying any and all stagnant prudence, “utilitarianism, opportunistic cowardice” and reactive ressentiment that you used to think justified your élan vital.[16] You create mayhem – you live without tradition, without dogma, incessantly inventing new means with which to astonish your bourgeois instincts, nurtured instead by the “new sensibility” that will decompose all that you know about beauty, greatness, religiousness, solemnity, and cultivation.[17]

Live without tradition! Prezzolini was aghast. Live without memory! Again he wondered if Marinetti and these Futurists understood the implications of their ideas. Memory, he would remind them, serves a great purpose, for it alone creates a person capable of repaying debt;[18] and debt is the basis of civilization – for indeed, how can civilization proceed without all comic, bodily, and social tributes necessarily paid?[19] And just what do the Futurists think they are forgetting? What is the purpose, if you will, of forgetting? What responsibilities, duties, and debts, must they forget? They will say that forgetting laziness, slowness, and feminine sensibility so as to affirm life as acceleration. Like Bergson they want to make time a subjective duration and bundle of intensities – a velocity carrying other velocities –

Our life should always be a velocity carrying other velocities: mental velocity + velocity of the body + velocity of the vehicle that carries the body + velocity of the element that carries the vehicle. We should dislocate thought from its mental road and put it in a material one. Velocity destroys the laws of gravity, renders the values of time and space subjective . . . Kilometers and hours are not universally the same; for the speeding man they vary in length and duration . . . Increasing lightness. You’ve triumphed over the law which forces man to crawl . . . Gasoline is divine . . . Speed in a straight line is massive, crude, unthinking. Speed with and after a curve is velocity that has become agile, acquired consciousness.[20]

Thought and existence in the production of time as flows and affects (+ and + and + and + . . . until life bursts forth from any attempts to negate and strangle its potential), extricating time itself from its rightful and natural milieu as a universal constraint of matter.[21]

But everyone knows not only that this is madness, but also that is just the beginning. Look how Marinetti dances with the sirens of our doom – with the very forces that will bring the logic of historical progress to a halt – when he advises us to “exalt the aggressive will of man, without remembrance, and to emphasize yet again the ridiculous vacuity of nostalgic memory, of shortsighted history, and of the past that is dead.”[22] And his friend Boccioni says that Futurism is here to destroy the past so as to create a “void populated by primitives and barbarians” – all with an anti-artistic sensibility connected and driven only by rhythmic movement, planes, and lines – without the sublimity of ideal forms and archetypes.[23]

But what can Boccioni possibly mean with this ridiculous suggestion? Is he trying to offer a basis of re-differentiation for the un-differentiated man? But haven’t we moved beyond such quaint notions of a return to primitivism? Just then Prezzolini was alarmed by a loud crash amongst the din of the storm. It sounded like the screech of rubber tires spinning out of control, hurling machine and life aloft like a nomadic arrow in flight – au milieu, fixed by neither the archer who shot it nor the target at which it was aimed – dancing its way to the horizon in a fiery rainbow of exploding and shrapnelizing glass and metal, the particles of each in conjunction with the other, as well as any body upon which they impacted.

To his horror the detonation was followed by a chorus of voices explaining the storm to a pair of young punks, “Life is always right,” it said, “The artificial paradises with which you hope to assassinate it are worthless.”[24] Woe to any man who goes outside in times like this, he thought; better to die now than continue this risk. And with that he cursed his ears for having been party to the impudence of these foolish men, ever more fearful that they could link his dear and tender soul to what they had overheard. He shrank evermore, and decided that a drink might calm his nerves.

And anyway, he realized as he savored his cup of hot milk, isn’t Boccioni a Futurist? Of all people he should know better. And what does a “barbarian void” offer that the State does not? Carlo Carrà gave us a sense of what the barbarian void seeks in distancing itself from the State: creation – to understand life in terms far removed from the purely representational form of rational bureaucratic thought that he called “illustrationism.” Illustrationism involves a tracing of life’s potentials, always governed by traditions, conventions, and the all-seeing Ideal.[25]

What Futurism proposes instead is an unbridled creationism, in which painters paint sound, movement, and uncover all of the affective qualities awaiting a revolt in the quantities of human instincts:

 . . . Words unmoored, ideas unbound, free of the enslavement of instinctual energy and techniques of living to forms and ideas that castrate as much as they create. Outside of work we find invention. Outside of schools we find free thought. Outside of del giorno concepts, theories, estimations, and potentials — beyond the straight and narrow path that they delineate: an echo of the refrain of the walking dead! . . . the funereal normality of thinking and being in the service of forces that demand so little of us: the ease of believing and submitting to banality and commonality – we seek and demand of ourselves a life taken out of bounds.

Painting smells, he had to laugh at that one. That would be like legislating or commanding revolution. He was shocked at himself, as for one horrifying moment he found himself talking just like them! But his uncertainty brought his mind back to its work. How do these barbarian Futurists plan to create anything, especially in light of Marinetti’s war against grammar and linguistic convention, he thought. “Words-in-freedom,” Marinetti says, will undermine and disrupt the codifying principles of language – principles that shape consciousness and the functional interplay with reality. He asks us to abandon the use of “I,” which anthropomorphizes a particularly bourgeois understanding of the subject, positing instead a “return to the molecular” and an understanding of the splinters and shards of our subjectivity that hold the keys to our revolutionary potentials.[26]


He asks us to “destroy syntax and scatter one’s nouns at random, just as they are born,” to “abolish adjectives and adverbs,” which force, and presume, a pause in the flow of experience, and create a “tedious unity of tone,” which only exists in language. What’s more, he suggests that verbs only be used in their infinitive form, so as to create an elasticity of relations (in contrast to an enslavement of the moving and doing verb to the parasitic “I”) and to “give a sense of the continuity of life and the elasticity of intuition.”[27]

In this light, Prezzolini quickly realized that what the Futurists were doing was dangerous and a threat to the victory of the Fascist State. The human being, it is true, can be herded into vast conglomerates and easily convinced of its universal values and properties. But just because man can so readily live in a herd, is this its optimal potential? This is the question that Prezzolini now discovered at the heart of the Futurist manifestos. With their attacks on language as an automation machine commanding the interconnection and coordination of beings for territorializing despotic tasks that serve only the most slavish of the herd, Futurists were attempting to short circuit the ties of the social contract. They understood that the conscious organism must be compatible with the social system in which it exists.[28]

Shifts in the modalities of social life – like barbarian voids or packs – must entail a concomitant shift in consciousness and functional interplay with existence. Attention, cognitive processing, decision-making, and expression all undergo constant mutation in order to maintain their association with sense-making apparatuses of the particular collective modality.[29] Understood even in this simplified way, one sees very clearly the implications of the State presenting itself as “the rational and reasonable organization of a community,” with the “interior or moral spirit of the people” as the organizing principle of a “harmonious universal absolute spirit.” The State justly becomes the nexus of correct-thinking, pure reason, and personal mastery.[30] If those links are broken, and sense no longer can be made (or made to be made), then the duties, debts, and responsibilities yoking man to a sociality that makes a mockery of his instincts make no sense. Mayhem!

Our Father in heaven, Prezzolini stuttered as he began pacing the room. Suddenly the storm seemed to rage much louder. Our Father, he said again, if only those were marching boots I hear and not the dissonant hum of warplanes and failing power generators. His work now seemed to have the importance of a Papal Bull. This throwing the past into the sea so as to increase one’s agility in evading roadblocks – surely these roadblocks, these very barriers to chaos are the keys to our victory! – can only lead to ruin. But to destroy the very bases of order and right thinking in the present is even more egregious. Men of this type must be led – for their own good and for the good of The Revolt. Yes! They must be led, or be eliminated.

Certainly this is clear when we read in Marinetti’s “War, the Only Hygiene of the World,” of his disappointment with the disarmament of revolutionary energy when it is handed over to the leaders of The Revolt, who, as he says, are “fatally interested in preserving the status quo, calming down violence, and opposing every desire for adventure, risk, and heroism.”[31] But again, we must reproach Marinetti for failing to understand the importance of prudence, opportunism, and building a mass-based organization of great political and social potential.

And when we say that this organization with universal appeal and dedication to wisdom and order is to be immortal, what does Marinetti say? He says that the Futurist “lovers and defenders of heroic instincts” feel “only repugnance at the idea of striving for immortality, for at bottom it is no more than the dream of minds vitiated by usury.”[32]

To him and the others, he would return their repugnance with interest! He smiled at the irony, for now he was the one who had the ear of the Duce. Perhaps, he thought furiously, the entirely contingent circumstances that aligned these maniacs with The Revolt once justified their cancerous dereliction, but they have no role to play in the State. And so he returned to his oft-interrupted work:

Fascism cannot accept the destructive program of Futurism, and instead it will have to restore the very values that clash with Futurism. Political discipline and hierarchy are also literary discipline and hierarchy. Words are rendered empty when political hierarchies are made pointless. Fascism, if it truly wants to win its battle, has to consider Futurism as having already been absorbed for what it could provide as a stimulus, and has to repress it for whatever it may still possess that is revolutionary, anticlassical, and unruly.[33]

And so, while Marinetti and his merry band of Futurist revolutionaries waged a war without frontlines against the Parties, values, representations, and power of the bourgeois world – bringing a storm of uncontrollable aggression and dereliction to all of the hallowed halls that glorified the empire of the Last Man, Giuseppe Prezzolini finished his work, its last sentences littered with defenses of hierarchy and order, and “words in their proper place, obeying the rules, and respecting nature.”[34] He then mailed it to the appropriate governmental commission appointed to reform education for their approval and enlightened council.


[1] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Beyond Communism,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 260.

[2] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Let’s Murder the Moonlight,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 55.

[3] Emilio Gentile, The Struggle for Modernity: Nationalism, Futurism, and Fascism (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003), 21.

[4] Adrian Lyttleton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy, 1919–1929, Revised Edition (London: Routledge, 2004), 46–49.

[5] Lyttleton 55.

[6] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “We Abjure our Symbolist Masters,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 93–95.

[7] Giuseppe Prezzolini, “Fascism and Futurism,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 276.

[8] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 53.

[9] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Quarter Hour of Poetry of the Decima MAS,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 505

[10] Prezzolini, 276.

[11] Lyttleton, 370.

[12] Benito Mussolini, The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism, translated by Jane Soames (New York: The Gordon Press, 1976), 21.

[13] James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 2.

[14] Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1870–1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967), 154.

[15] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, On the Line, translated by John Johnston (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), 56.

[16] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 51.

[17] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “The Variety Theater,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 159–61.

[18] Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of the Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition, translated by Joshua David Jordan (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012), 40.

[19] Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, translated by Carol Dithe, edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 41.

[20] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “The New Religion-Morality of Speed,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 224–29.

[21] Franco “Bifo” Berardi, The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012), 90–92.

[22] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Critical Writings (New Edition), translated by Doug Thompson, edited by Günter Berghaus (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006), 252.

[23] Umberto Boccioni, “Futurist Sculpture,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 118.

[24] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Tactilism,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 266.

[25] Carlo Carrà, “Warpainting (Extracts),” in Futurist Manifestos, edited by Umbro Apollonio (Boston: MFA Publications, 2001), 202–5.

[26] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Words-in-Freedom,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 147.

[27] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 119–20.

[28] Berardi 17.

[29] Berardi 123.

[30] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Nomadology: The War Machine, translated by Brian Massumi (New York: Semiotext(e), 1986), 42–43.

[31] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “War, the Only Hygiene of the World,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 85.

[32] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, “Multiplied Man and the Reign of the Machine,” in Futurism: An Anthology, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 89.

[33] Prezzolini 277–78.

[34] Prezzolini 278.


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mercredi, 12 mars 2014

Cena futurista

00:07 Publié dans art, Evénement | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : art, avant-gardes, événement, italie, bolzano, futurisme | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

The Paintings of Julius Evola

The Paintings of Julius Evola


Julius Evola, "Paesaggio interiore, illuminazione," 1919

Julius Evola, “Paesaggio interiore, illuminazione,” 1919


The esotericist Julius Evola came to view Dadaism as decadent later in his life, and only spent a few years as a painter. But for fans of his writing and philosophy, the paintings he did in his youth hold a special fascination, and provide insights into his later philosophy.


Evola has been called “Italy’s foremost exponent on Dadaism between 1920 and 1923″ (according to Roger Griffin’s Modernism and Fascism, pg. 39). Fifty-four of his paintings were exhibited in Rome in 1920, and an exhibition in Berlin included 60 paintings by Evola. and According to an essay on Dada on the website of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Evola launched a Rome Dada season in April 1921, which included an exhibition at the Galleria d’Arte Bragaglia that included works by Mantuan Dadaists Gino Cantarelli and Aldo Fiozzi, as well as performances at the Grotte dell’Augusteo cabaret. Evola did readings from Tristan Tzara’s Manifeste dada 1918 and said that Futurism was dead, causing an uproar.


Evola’s intellectual autobiography, The Path of Cinnabar, provides insights into Evola’s foray into the art world in the chapter “Abstract Art and Dadaism.” He was attracted to Dada for its radicalism, since it “stood for an outlook on life which expressed a tendency towards total liberation, conjoined with the upsetting of all logic, ethic and aesthetic categories, in the most paradoxical and baffling ways” (pg. 19). He quotes Tzara: “What is divine within us, is the awakening of an anti-human action” and cites a Dadaist philosophy with a premise in keeping with Evola’s thoughts on the Kali Yuga:


Let each person shout: there is a vast, destructive, negative task to fulfil. To swipe away, and blot out.In a world left in the hands of bandits who are ripping apart and destroying all centuries, an individual’s purity is affirmed by a condition of folly, of aggressive and utter folly. (pg. 19)


Evola says that such an emphasis on the absurd seems, at an external level, analogous methods used by schools of the Far East such as Zen, Ch’an, and Lao Tzu’s writings.


If some of Evola’s paintings seem ugly, it’s not without purpose and intent from the artist. In 1920′s Arte astratta, Evola outlined his theory that “passive aesthetic needs were subordinate to the expression of an impulse towards the unconditioned.” Dadasim, as Evola understood it, was not to create art as it’s usually understood, but “signalled the self-dissolution of art into a higher level of freedom” (Cinnabar, pg. 20-21).


It was during the Dadaist period of his life that Evola started reading about esotericism. He met neo-Pythagorean occultist Arturo Reghini in the early 1920s. He quit painting in the early 1920s, and stopped writing poetry in 1924–not to pursue either again for more than 40 years (according to Gwendolyn Toynton’s essay “Mercury Rising” at Primordial Traditions). Although Evola left the Dadaist movement after a few years, in an interview in 1970 he said that the movement even today “remains unsurpassed in the radicalism of its attempt to overturn not only the world of art, but all aspects of life” (Cinnabar, pg. 257).


The following paintings are compiled from numerous sites on the Internet. I believe this is the most complete and detailed collection of Evola paintings on the web (in English, at least).


Early works (1916-1918):


Julius Evola, “Tendenze di idealismo sensoriale” (“The tense of aesthetic idealism”), 1916-18


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Sequenza dinamica (etere)” (“Dynamic synthesis (ether)”), 1917-18


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Tendenze di idealismo sensoriale” (“The tense of aesthetic idealism”), 1916-18


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Five o’clock tea,” 1917


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Mazzo di fiori” (“Bunch of flowers”), 1918


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Fucina, studio di rumori” (“The Forge, study on noise sounds”), 1917-18


The painting below appears to have sold at Christie’s for $43,152. A different source gives the date as 1920-21:


Julius Evola, “Paesaggio interiore ore 3 A.M.” (“Inner Landscape, 3 a.m.”), 1918


The following painting, according to the book Alchemical Mercury: A Theory of Ambivalence by Karen Pinkus, is now in the Kunsthaus of Zurich. On one of the many geometric blocks, Evola has written “Hg” (the symbol for Mercury) in red ink. According to Pinkus, “this is a very interesting gesture, especially as the inscription seems entirely disjoined from the composition itself, as if it had been an afterthought, and a reflection of the troubled relationship between modern chemistry as abstraction and alchemical materiality.”


Julius Evola, “Paesaggio interiore, illuminazione,” 1919


This oil painting is hanging on a wall of the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome (according to Guido Stucco’s introduction to The Yoga of Power, pg x):


Julius Evola, “Paesaggio interiore ore 10,30″ (Inner Landscape, 10:30 a.m.”), 1918-20


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Senza titolo,” 1919


This oil-on-cardboard painting comes up in past auction searches for Evola’s work:


Julius Evola, “Portrait cubiste de femme,” 1919-20


The following two works were published in Evola’s 1920 book Arte astratta: Posizione teorica, 10 poemi, 4 composizioni (Rome: P. Maglione & G. Strini). You can see the other two compositions in a online scan of the book at the website of The International Dada Archive at the University of Iowa Libraries. Evola’s essay “Abstract Art” is available in English translation in the book Dadas on Art.


Julius Evola, “Composizione N. 3,” c. 1920


* * *


Julius Evola, “Composizione,” c. 1920


Middle Works (early 1920s):


Julius Evola, “Composizione (Paesaggio) dada N. 3″ (“Composition (Landscape) dada N. 3″), c. 1920


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Astrazione” (“Abstraction”), 1920


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Astrazione” (“Abstraction”), 1920


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Composizione Dada,” 1920


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Composizione n. 19,” 1918-20


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Piccola tavola (vista superiore)” (“Small table (upper surface)”), 1920


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Paesaggio interire, aperture del diaframma” (“Interior landscape, the opening of the diaphragm”), 1920-21


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “La libra s’infiamma e le piramidi” (“The book in flames and the piramides”), 1920-21


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “Senza titolo,” 1921


Late paintings:


Numerous sources on the web, including academic papers and art auction houses, show paintings by Evola that he did much later in his life, several which are shown below. If any readers know where to find information about Evola’s later works in English, I would greatly appreciate being contacted in order to update this section.


This painting was listed at an art auction website, and said to be painted in 1945:


Julius Evola, “Paesaggio interiore”


The following two paintings are cited in Julius Evola: L’Altra Faccia Della Modernita by Francesca Ricci and on the website of the Fondazione Julius Evola.


Julius Evola, “Nudo di donna (afroditica)” (“Nude of aphrodite beauty”), 1960-70


*  *  *


Julius Evola, “La genitrice dell’universo” (“The generator of the Universe”), 1968-70


*  *  *


Readers interested in seeing more of Evola’s artwork can check out this video, which has additional images:




And this French TV interview, with English subtitles, is Evola on Dada:



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vendredi, 07 mars 2014

Futurism in Venice

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mercredi, 05 mars 2014

Italian Futurism


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dimanche, 16 février 2014

Brussel, een artistiek Stromboli

Brussel, een artistiek Stromboli


Brussel staat vandaag centraal in veel politieke discussies, maar wat is er te vertellen over de geschiedenis van de stad? Eric Min schreef er een boek over, Frans Crols las het.

Frans Crols
Ex: http://www.doorbraak.be

Eeuw_Van_B.jpgEen tweede man die een pen kan voeren vertoont zich als Brusselkenner. Naast Geert van Istendael en zijn trefzekere en te prijzen 'Arm Brussel', van oude datum (1992) met heruitgaven, heeft Eric Min een ronduit fantastische biografie geschreven over Vlaanderens trots en schande. Eric Min en zijn fraaie, rijke zinnen ken ik sedert zijn waardevolle en vernieuwende levensverhaal over James Ensor. Men zou denken dat over die Oostendse schilder van bizarrerieën alles in veelvoud was herkauwd, niets bleek minder waar te zijn. Ensor was het eerste boek van Min, die ambtenaar is van de Vlaamse regering, en in zijn vrije tijd cultuurmedewerker van De Morgen. Wat Min leerde uit Ensor, een opdracht van uitgever Meulenhoff (nu Bezige Bij), is hoeveel braakgrond, hoeveel sluimerende bronnen en teksten er blijven voor het portretteren van kunstenaars, schrijvers, prominenten waarover men denkt alles geschreven te zijn. Fout. Soms zijn er honderden brieven nooit gelezen, bestudeerd of geannoteerd bij de familie, op zolderkamers, in archieven waar geen professor of assistent binnen wil. Dat is ook de ervaring die Min opdeed bij het schrijven van de biografie van Brussel.

Is de titel 'De eeuw van Brussel, 1850-1914' een loze reclamekreet om het boek interessanter te maken dan mag? Neen. De karakterisering is correct. In de tweede helft van de negentiende eeuw en de eerste jaren van de twintigste eeuw was Brussel een artistieke, politieke, economisch uiterst dynamische, baanbrekende wereldstad. Niet de slonzige zus naast opulent Parijs. Op een beperkte plek - het centrum van de stad rond de nog bestaande winkelgalerijen (toen een unicum in Europa) en de wijk rond de vijvers van Elsene - ageerden een beperkt aantal mensen, 250 in totaal. Die 250 waren advocaten, schilders, letterkundigen, galeriehouders, professoren, politici, ondernemers. Een humus van geld, goede smaak, loge-idealen, nieuwe politieke inzichten, salons, kunsthuizen en excentriekelingen als de progressieve Edmond Picard, die ook een notoire anti-semiet was, naast socialistisch senator. Zijn anti-joodse pamfletten werden in 1940 herdrukt door Rex.

Kunst is niet per definitie een progressieve bezigheid, maar meestel wel en in het Brusselse geval zeker. De wegen, de nachten, de vriendinnen, de mecenassen, de bewonderaars van de langdurige bewoners of passanten van Brussel als Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Félicien Rops, Auguste Rodin, Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde, August Vermeylen kruisten mekaar aan de Zenne in een rondedans van kunstvertier, vooruitstrevende beeldenstorm, banketten, bordeelbezoek, artistieke doorbraken, politiek gekonkelfoes.

Brussel was een vrijstad in die jaren die de kunstzinnige internationale Franstalige beau monde aantrok en, zie hun brutale Brusselmemoires, afstootte. Uit een mengeling van gearriveerde artiesten met vernieuwers ontstond de Art Nouveau, de beeldhouwkunst van Rodin, de shockerende homopoëzie van Rimbaud, de productie van anarchistische pamfletten, met een Elysée Reclus, de gangmaker van het libertaire socialisme in Frankrijk die, eenmaal in de Belgische hoofdstad, als een van de weinige vooraanstaanden van dat bruisende Brussel opkwam voor het Nederlands. In die fascinerende ontbolsterende oude wereld duikt als een zelfdzame, naast Rik Wouters, Vlaamsgezinde op, August Vermeylen met het kunstentijdschrift Van Nu en Straks, en zijn bijdrage 'Vlaamsche en Europese Beweging' (1990).

Van Nu en Straks was antipaaps en anarchistisch en verfoeide het onderdanige katholicisme van het traditionele Vlaanderen. Vermeylen draaide 100 procent mee in 'de eeuw van Brussel' en was voorstander van links, emancipatie, vrijdenken, secularisering, het vrije huwelijk. Alhoewel hij braafjes en formeel in de echt trad met een poppetje uit de betere kringen die de vrijmetselaar zelfs tot aan het altaar sleurde.

Eric Min is een kosmopoliet met een progressieve ingesteldheid en deelt de klassieke afkeer van de linkse medemens voor wat Vlaams-nationaal is, nationalistisch, gebrand op volkse identiteit. Laat u daardoor niet afschrikken om zijn boek te lezen. De grootste Brusselvriend én de grootste Brusselvijand zullen smakelijke, erudiete uren doorbrengen bij de vele onbekende feiten en figuren en genieten van een taalzwier die van het bovenstebeste is.

Beoordeling : * * * *
Titel book : De eeuw van Brussel
Subtitel book : biografie van een wereldstad 1850-1914
Auteur : Eric Min
Uitgever : De Bezige Bij Antwerpen
Aantal pagina's : 418
Prijs : 34.99 €
ISBN nummer : 9789085423942
Uitgavejaar : 2013

mercredi, 22 janvier 2014

Italian Futurism 1909-1944

Edited and with introduction by Vivien Greene. Text by Walter Adamson, Silvia Barisione, Gabriella Belli, Fabio Benzi, Günter Berghaus, Emily Braun, Marta Braun, Esther da Costa Meyer, Enrico Crispolti, Massimo Duranti, Flavio Fergonzi, Matteo Fochessati, Daniela Fonti, Simonetta Fraquelli, Emilio Gentile, Romy Golan, Vivien Greene, Marina Isgro, Giovanni Lista, Adrian Lyttelton, Lisa Panzera, Maria Antonella Pelizzari, Christine Poggi, Lucia Re, Michelangelo Sabatino, Claudia Salaris, Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Susan Thompson, Patrizia Veroli.
Published to accompany the exhibition Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe opening at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2014, this catalogue considerably advances the scholarship and understanding of an influential yet little-known twentieth- century artistic movement. As part of the first comprehensive overview of Italian Futurism to be presented in the United States, this publication examines the historical sweep of Futurism from its inception with F.T. Marinetti’s manifesto in 1909 through the movement’s demise at the end of World War II. Presenting over 300 works created between 1909 and 1944, by artists, writers, designers and composers such as Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Fortunato Depero, Gerardo Dottori, Marinetti, Ivo Pannaggi, Rosa Rosà, Luigi Russolo, Tato and many others, this publication encompasses not only painting and sculpture, but also architecture, design, ceramics, fashion, film, photography, advertising, free-form poetry, publications, music, theater and performance. A wealth of scholarly essays discuss Italian Futurism’s diverse themes and incarnations.

Edited and with introduction by Vivien Greene. Text by Walter Adamson, Silvia Barisione, Gabriella Belli, Fabio Benzi, Günter Berghaus, Emily Braun, Marta Braun, Esther da Costa Meyer, Enrico Crispolti, Massimo Duranti, Flavio Fergonzi, Matteo Fochessati, Daniela Fonti, Simonetta Fraquelli, Emilio Gentile, Romy Golan, Vivien Greene, Marina Isgro, Giovanni Lista, Adrian Lyttelton, Lisa Panzera, Maria Antonella Pelizzari, Christine Poggi, Lucia Re, Michelangelo Sabatino, Claudia Salaris, Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Susan Thompson, Patrizia Veroli.

Published to accompany the exhibition Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe opening at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2014, this catalogue considerably advances the scholarship and understanding of an influential yet little-known twentieth- century artistic movement. As part of the first comprehensive overview of Italian Futurism to be presented in the United States, this publication examines the historical sweep of Futurism from its inception with F.T. Marinetti’s manifesto in 1909 through the movement’s demise at the end of World War II. Presenting over 300 works created between 1909 and 1944, by artists, writers, designers and composers such as Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Fortunato Depero, Gerardo Dottori, Marinetti, Ivo Pannaggi, Rosa Rosà, Luigi Russolo, Tato and many others, this publication encompasses not only painting and sculpture, but also architecture, design, ceramics, fashion, film, photography, advertising, free-form poetry, publications, music, theater and performance. A wealth of scholarly essays discuss Italian Futurism’s diverse themes and incarnations.

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vendredi, 21 juin 2013

In herinnering aan Marc. Eemans


In herinnering aan Marc. Eemans (16 juni 1907 - 28 juli 1998)


Marc. Eemans wordt geboren op 16 juni 1907 te Dendermonde. Hij is onder meer actief als dichter, schilder en kunsthistoricus.

Al op zeer jonge leeftijd vertrouwd geraakt met het Brusselse artistieke milieu, begint hij onder invloed van Victor Servranckx zich op 15-jarige leeftijd te wijden aan de abstracte schilderkunst. In deze periode volgt hij lessen bij de symbolistische schilders Constant Montald en Emile Fabry. Hij schrijft voor toonaangevende avantgarde-tijdschriften als Het Overzicht, De Driehoek en Sept-arts. Vanaf 1925 schildert Eemans niet langer abstract. Hij ondergaat sterk de invloed van André Breton's Manifeste du surréalisme dat in het voorafgaande jaar verschijnt. Eemans onderhoudt intensieve contacten met de Brusselse surrealistische kring en geldt ook hier als de jongste binnen het gezelschap. Aanvankelijk voelt hij zich aangetrokken tot het communisme en schrijft hij in 1926 samen met de bevriende dichter René Baert Le Manifeste de l'Humanisme. Eemans' bronnen zullen echter veeleer mystiek van aard zijn. Een vroeg aanwezige belangstelling voor het werk van o.a. de Engelse en Duitse romantici (Percy Bysshe Shelley, Novalis), William Blake, Maurice Maeterlinck en Comté de Lautréamont wijst hem in deze richting. In 1930 komt het tot een definitieve breuk met de Brusselse kring en vervolgt hij zijn eigen weg. Datzelfde jaar richt Eemans samen met Baert de uitgeverij Hermès op, dat Eemans' eerste dichtbundel Vergeten te worden publiceert. Het (Franstalige) tijdschrift Hermès verschijnt van 1933 tot 1939 en wijdt speciale afleveringen aan (o.a.) Jan Ruusbroec, de Middelnederlandse mystiek, Meester Eckhart en het Soefisme. Niet onbelangrijk zijn de door Henry Corbin gerealiseerde Franse vertalingen van Duitse existentialistische auteurs (Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers). In nabeschouwing zou het project volgens Eemans gelijkenissen vertonen met de esoterische kring Gruppo di Ur, in 1927 mede-opgericht door de Italiaanse filosoof Julius Evola.

eemans_partout2.jpgEemans romantische en aristocratische gezindheid doen hem evolueren naar een eerder mythisch geïnspireerd nationaalsocialisme. “Eemans [zag] in het nazisme vooral een terugkeer tot de oertraditie, de wedergeboorte van een sacrale en magische wereld die ten onder was gegaan aan de technische, democratische maatschappij.” (1) Het in 1944 verschenen L'épreuve du feu: à la recherche d'une éthique van de hand van René Baert vormt een blauwdruk van deze visie.

In reactie op de naoorlogse Belgische kunst, die dan voornamelijk abstract-georiënteerd is, sticht Eemans in 1958 samen met de Waals-Brusselse schilder Aubin Pasque
Fantasmagie, het driemaandelijkse tijdschrift van het Centre International d'Actualité Fantastique et Magique. Ze vertegenwoordigt een fantastische schilderkunst (en literatuur) die navolging vindt in o.a. Frankrijk, Duitsland, Nederland, Tsjecho-Slowakije en Joegoslavië.

In de jaren 1970 komt Eemans in aanraking met het werk van Julius Evola, wiens traditioneel metafysische opvattingen hem diepgaand zullen beïnvloeden. Hij bezoekt Evoliaanse kringen in Italië en treedt in contact met Renato del Ponte, stichter van het Centro Studi Evoliani in Genua en redacteur van het tijdschrift Arthos. Er wordt overgegaan tot de vorming van een Brusselse studiekring (Studi Evoliani Bruxelles) die kortstondig nieuwsbrieven verzorgt, teksten en vertalingen uitgeeft, maar op weinig belangstelling kan rekenen.

Ter gelegenheid van Eemans' 65e verjaardag wordt door vrienden in 1982 een Marc. Eemans-stichting opgericht. Ongeacht haar functioneren was de doelstelling – het bestuderen van idealistische en symbolistische kunst en literatuur – ambitieus. Een archief van kunst, literatuur en muziek met betrekking tot diverse symbolen en mythen, niet slechts van België maar van Europa en elders in de wereld, zou worden ontsloten.

Nog tot in zijn laatste jaren geeft Eemans dissidente beschouwingen over zijn kunstenaarschap en het Belgische surrealisme.

Aanbevolen literatuur

Jespers, Henri-Floris (20-09-2009). Marc. Eemans en de 'gnostische' schilderkunst. (http://mededelingen.over-blog.com/article-36310697.html)

Tommissen, Piet (1972). Inleiding tot de idee Marc. Eemans. Brussel: Henry Fagne. (http://marceemans.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/p-tommissen-inleiding-tot-de-idee-marc-eemans)

Voor teksten van Marc. Eemans, zie http://marceemans.wordpress.com


(1) Henri-Floris Jespers, 'Marc. Eemans 90 jaar: een biecht', in: BRUtaal I (1997), nr. 1, p. 12.

mardi, 18 juin 2013

La spiritualità di Marinetti


La spiritualità di Marinetti: fra anticlericalismo, spiritismo e cristianesimo

Giovanni Balducci

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

È noto come il Programma sansepolcrista del 1919 fosse fortemente anticlericale e presentasse addirittura un piano di “svaticanizzazione” dell’Italia mediante il sequestro di beni e l’abolizione dei privilegi ecclesiastici. All’adunata di piazza San Sepolcro del 23 marzo 1919 a Milano partecipa anche Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in qualità di leader del Partito Politico Futurista.

L’anticlericalismo di Marinetti ben si sposa con quello del movimento fascista, anzi è ancor più radicale di quest’ultimo, come si evince dal manifesto “Contro il Papato e la mentalità cattolica, serbatoi di ogni passatismo”, sempre del 1919, in cui il poeta propone di: «Sostituire all’attuale anticlericalismo retorico e quietista un anticlericalismo d’azione, violento e reciso, per sgomberare l’Italia e Roma dal suo medioevo teocratico che potrà scegliere una terra adatta ove morire lentamente».

aeroplano-del-papaTali dichiarazioni non fanno altro che confermare quanto già espresso da Marinetti ne L’aeroplano del Papa, pubblicato nel 1912, in cui il padre del Futurismo predicava la necessità di «svaticanare l’Italia» e – in tempi non sospetti – di muovere guerra alla bigotta Austria.

Ma il violento anticlericalismo marinettiano è ben visibile in nuce già nel celebre Manifesto futurista del 1909, così pregno di quel dinamismo anarchico ed antitradizionale che sarà la cifra essenziale del movimento futurista, dal quale prenderà il via una nuova e rivoluzionaria stagione culturale, e che rappresentò, ça va sans dire, l’antecedente storico non solo di tutta l’arte a venire, ma anche di un nuovo modo di intendere la vita veloce e disinvolto.

Coevo al Manifesto del Futurismo è il “Manifesto politico per le elezioni del 1909” in cui Marinetti faceva professione di nazionalismo, anti-pacifismo, anti-socialismo ed anti-clericalismo. Dello stesso anno è anche l’incendiario romanzo Mafarka, il futurista, che gli valse un processo per oltraggio al pudore. Pervaso da suggestioni nietzscheane ed anti-romantiche, il romanzo culmina con la generazione da parte del protagonista di un essere dalle fattezze di uccello meccanico, stante a simboleggiare la volontà di potenza ed il genio creativo dell’artista, temi cari al filosofo della “morte di Dio”.

mafarkaA proposito delle concezioni antimetafisiche di Marinetti, Julius Evola – che di metafisica, invece, campava – ricorderà nella sua autobiografia di quando il poeta, dopo aver letto un suo scritto, gli disse chiaro e tondo che le proprie idee erano lontane dalle sue più di quelle di un esquimese. Ma si sa, quando non si crede più nella trascendenza, si finisce spesso col credere a tutto: così fu anche per Marinetti, che come molti altri positivisti della sua epoca – pensiamo a Cesare Lombroso, e alla sua passione per i tavolini traballanti – prese a frequentare medium e spiritisti, stringendo amicizia, tra l’altro, con la sensitiva e poetessa triestina Nella Doria Cambon, confidente, per altro, anche di Svevo e di D’Annunzio.

Ma il vitalismo di cui è pervasa l’intera opera marinettiana non è esente da influenze misticheggianti: quella di Marinetti è però una “mistica della materia”, infatti, il movimento, l’azione, il dinamismo, per Marinetti, non sono che espressioni di quell’energia bergsonianamente intesa come frutto di uno slancio vitale che spinge la materia ad evolversi. Egli stesso affermava che ogni sera era solito inginocchiarsi e pregare di fronte alla lampadina del proprio comodino, perché in essa circolava la “divina velocità”.

venezianellaCon l’avanzar degli anni, nondimeno, farà ritorno alla fede cattolica. Negli anni ’30 promuove addirittura il movimento dell’“arte sacra futurista”, sostenendo che: «Solo gli artisti futuristi, che da vent’anni impongono nell’arte l’arduo problema della simultaneità, possono esprimere simultaneamente i dogmi simultanei del culto cattolico, come la Santa Trinità, l’Immacolata Concezione e il Calvario di Dio».

I suoi ultimi scritti, del 1944, sono “L’aeropoema di Gesù”, dove canta con enfasi palinodica «l’illusione di essere di metallo, mentre si è solo povera carne piangente», ed il “Quarto d’ora di poesia per la X Mas” – scritto poche ore prima di morire – in cui pare destreggiarsi tra il ritrovato amore per Dio e la passione per l’azione che l’accompagnò per tutta la vita: «Non vi grido arrivederci in Paradiso – dirà ai combattenti della X – ché lassù vi toccherebbe ubbidire all’infinito amore purissimo di Dio mentre voi ora smaniate dal desiderio di comandare un esercito di ragionamenti dunque autocarri avanti».

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dimanche, 27 janvier 2013

Bij Paul van Ostaijen in de leer

Bij Paul van Ostaijen in de leer


Zowel de vroege als de late epigonen van Paul van Ostaijen zullen het U wellicht heel anders trachten diets te maken, daar elkeen bij zijn leermeester slechts datgene wenst te leren wat het meest naar zijn zin is en het best met zijn eigen geestesaanleg overeenstemt.

De speelse geesten, die slechts van woordgeknutsel houden of de poëzie “experimenteren” zoals men een nieuwe fiets of een nieuwe flirt aanpakt, zullen U weten te vertellen dat Paul van Ostaijen de aartsmodernist bij uitstek was die hele tot dan toe zo ouderwetse Vlaamse poëzie op stelten heeft gezet, om de ene poëtische waaghalzerij na de andere aan te durven en het over boord te werpen. Ze staven zich blind op toch zo modernistische “Boere-charleston” of op dat even leuk “Alpejagerslied”, met die twee heren die een open hoed dragen en die hem voor elkaar afnemen vlak vóór de winkel van Hinderickx en Winderickx… Leuk zijn ze, inderdaad, die gedichten en misschien zelfs baanbrekend, doch vindt U ze niet eveneens een tikje “prozaïsch” en potsierlijk, met heel die goedkope tingeltengel van “bolle wangen ballen bekkens / bugel en basson”?

We weten gelukkig genoeg, dat het voor Paul van Ostaijen met die en dergelijke andere gedichten slechts om het “Eerste Boek van Schmoll” ging, U weet dat eerste piano-oefenboek, waarin de kinderen de allereerste beginselen van de moeilijke klavierkunst aanleren. Na dit boek komen de andere, meer ingewikkelde oefenboeken en slechts na jaren oefenen komt men er eindelijk toe min of meer voldoende bekwaam te zijn een fuga van Bach of een nocturnen van Chopin te vertolken. Met Paul van Ostaijen was het net eender en na die eerder schrale en al te gemakkelijke probeerselen moesten meer ernstige dichtoefeningen komen. Trouwens, dit “Eerste Boek van Schmoll” behelst het niet reeds enkele zeer gave gedichten, zoals die wondermooie en ietwat romantische “Loreley”? Helaas, Paul van Ostaijen is te jong de dood ingegaan, om ons de volle maat van zijn dichterlijke gaven te hebben kunnen tonen. De gedichten die we van hem bezitten zijn nog te onvolkomen, te onvolmaakt om ons de volle, overdadige potentie van zijn waar dichterlijk vermogen te kunnen onthullen.

In zijn critische proza moeten wij de dichter Paul van Ostaijen leren zoeken en, hoe paradoxaal! het is in een van de weinige Franstalige geschriften van deze Vlaamse dichter dat wij zijn ars poetica vinden. Dit Franstalig geschrift heet “Un Débat Littéraire”. Het behelst de tekst van een lezing door Paul van Ostaijen in 1925, te Brussel, gehouden voor het publiek van het studentengenootschap “La Lanterne Sourde”. Als nog zeer jonge dichter, hadden wij het voorrecht deze lezing te mogen horen, er ja zelfs een beetje een van de mede-inrichters van te zijn. De lezing van Paul van Ostaijen maakte de grootste indruk op zijn Brussels publiek en voor onszelf werd ze een werkelijk richtinggevende poëtische boodschap, die wij achteraf nog dikwijls met Paul van Ostaijen mochten bespreken.

De poëtische boodschap van Paul van Ostaijen viel bij ons in een wellicht reeds goed voorbereide aarde, want toen reeds dweepten wij èn met Hadewijch èn met Novalis. Hoe het ook zij, de heel wat oudere Paul van Ostaijen vond in ons, vertegenwoordiger van een jongere generatie, een gewillige discipel, toen hij verkondigde dat Sint Jan van ‘t Kruis de hoeksteen van de hele Spaanse literatuur was, terwijl Mechtild van Maagdeburg, Meister Ekhardt, Jacob Böhme, Tauler en Angelus Silesius als de hechtste vertegenwoordigers van de Duitse letterkunde dienden beschouwd te worden.

Paul van Ostaijen had, inderdaad, de poëtische boodschap van die wonderbare woordkunstenaars begrepen; hij had van hen geleerd dat het woord heel wat meer is dan een teken, dat de woorden meer dan loutere begrippen dekken, dat ze het leven zelf zijn, of eerder dat ze de transcendentie van al hetgeen in het leven besloten weten te reveleren. Hij had van hen geleerd dat het woord in de woordkunst heel wat meer is dan een klank, een klankassociatie met of zonder geestelijke of intellectuele resonans-bodem. Weliswaar is de poëzie eerst en vooral, zoals alle kunsten trouwens, gensensibiliseerde materie, die materie hier het woord zijnde met al de mogelijkheden van zijn verhouding tot het onbewuste. De metafysische bekommernis van de dichter, leerde ons Paul van Ostayen (want volgens hem diende de dichter metafysische bekommernissen te hebben), zou er de dichter toe leiden in de woorden heel wat meer te zien dan het beeld van de uiterlijke wereld, om er de onbewuste som uit te puren van al hetgeen uit hun aard in hem weerklank, diepte en verte heeft gevonden. En op zijn beurt moet de dichter, niet de geest, maar het onbewust van zijn lezer of luisteraar weten te beroeren.

Ten slotte bestaat de kunst van de dichter er vooral in een bewuste en bestendige beroering van het onbewuste te verwekken. Doch van Ostaijen wist onmiddellijk de onbewust geïnspireerde poëzie van de bewust opgebouwde te onderscheiden, met dit voorbehoud echter dat de ene vaak in de andere verglijdt. Geen enkel dichter, geen enkel bewust woordkunstenaar geraakt echter ten volle in de sfeer van de louter onbewust geïnspireerde poëzie; slechts de zuivere mystici, de profeten en… de geesteszieken kunnen het spreekbord van de onbewuste, van de “goddelijke” of andere niet gewone ingeving worden. Aan de dichters behoort het de bewust opgebouwde poëzie te puren uit de gehele bewerking van de onbewuste grondstof die hun wordt geboden ter beoefening van hun dichtkunst. Van Ostaijen stond hier dan van meetaf afwijzend tegenover het blind vertrouwen van de surrealisten in hetgeen deze het woordautomatisme noemen. Voor hem kwam het er in eerste instantie op aan de Wahlverwantschaften van de woorden op te sporen en hierbij zijn hun klank en de metafysische en gevoelsverhoudingen tussen die klank en de zin van de woorden wellicht de beste gidsen.

Paul van Ostaijen stelde zich daarbij de vraag of men een bewuste mystieke literatuur kon scheppen. Hij antwoordde er onmiddellijk negatief op. Hij meende echter dat men heel wat aan de mystieke literatuur kon ontlenen, om haar uitingsmiddelen bewust in de poëzie om te werken. Kantiaans aangelegd, sprak hij dan van een “mystiek in de verschijningsvormen” die de mystiek in God zou kunnen vervangen. Maar die “mystiek in de verschijningsvormen”, is ze ten slotte niet als een vorm van het eeuwige pantheïsme te beschouwen? In die zin hebben we althans de les van van Ostaijen verstaan en, de extase van de mystici “bewust” ervarend, hebben we de “verwondering”, de “begeestering”, samen met al de “nachtzijden” van het leven, als doel an sich van de poëzie weten te ontginnen. (*)

Paul van Ostaijen zegt nog dat het er op aankomt door het woord heen “rationeel”tot het surreële op te gaan. Wij hebben zijn raad gevolgd en zijn aldus logischerwijze in het surrealisme beland om achteraf tot een loutere metafysische poëzie te komen. Doch hijzelf, heeft hij zijn ars poëtica heel en gans in de praktijk van zijn poëzie weten om te zetten? Wij geloven van niet, want daarvoor was zijn kunst nog te gebonden aan zekere aspecten van het expressionisme, ja zelfs van het dadaïsme. Wel heeft hij de grondslagen gelegd van een loutere thematische poëzie, doch zijn thematiek was nog te verslaafd aan de al te goedkope feeërie van de music-hall, aan “dressuurnummers” en grotesken. In enkele van zijn mooiste gedichten heeft hij de poëzie van het “kind in ons” weten op te roepen, doch de poëzie van “plant in ons”, van het “dier in ons” en het verder van al hetgeen de “subcorticale” wereld van ons diepste wezen toebehoort heeft hij nooit of slechts sporadisch weten te benaderen.

De poëzie van Paul van Ostaijen is voor ons een vertrekpunt geweest, een “overwonnen standpunt”, om een uitdrukking aan zijn eigen terminologie te ontlenen. In de poëzie van de jongste jaren hebben wij, helaas, slechts een terugkeer tot die “overwonnen standpunten” dus een poëtische “Weg zurück” menen te zien. Wij weten het wel, men zal ons antwoorden dat men verder gegaan is dan van Ostaijen zelf. Misschien wel, doch dan voorzeker slechts op de meest gemakkelijke onder de vele wegen die vanaf het “kruispunt” van Ostaijen openstonden. Wij, in tegendeel, hebben de moeilijkste verkozen, die waar de poëzie de ijlste toppen van het sacrale in de mens besloten tracht te benaderen en te omschrijven. Doch leidt deze weg ten slotte niet tot de “eeuwige poëzie”, die boven alle bekommernis van rijm, metrum of andere min of meer gebonden of ongebonden prozodie, de poëzie weet bloot te leggen van al hetgeen ons in het werelds aanzijn weet te beroeren?


(*) Paul Rodenko, in zijn boek “Tussen de Regels”, aarzelt niet Paul van Ostaijen een “mysticus” te noemen. Hij voegt er aan toe dat alleen van daaruit de poëtische ontwikkeling van de dichter te begrijpen is, en hij citeert daarbij, ter staving, een louter metafysisch gedicht van de dichter, waarin het gaat over de bevrijding van de “gevangen éénheid” van doen en denken, lichaam en ziel.

Marc. Eemans, Bij Paul van Ostaijen in de leer, in De Periscoop, 7e jg., nr. 1, november 1956, blz. 1-2.

lundi, 21 janvier 2013

Classical Modernism & the Art of the Radical Right

wyndham lewis-567455.jpg

Classical Modernism & the Art of the Radical Right

By Jonathan Bowden

Edited by Alex Kurtagić 

Editor’s Note: 

The following is an excerpt from Jonathan Bowden’s Heat. He wrote the text aged 30, between July and September 1992. The text is reproduced as it appears, only lightly edited for spelling and punctuation.

. . . this brings a particular dilemma to the surface, namely the division between political and literary extremism. This is the division or discrepancy, if one exists, between the expectation, thought, and expression of a particular desire and its political realization. Indeed, Stephen Spender was quick to point out in his introduction to Alistair Hamilton’s book The Appeal of Fascism: Fascism and the Intellectuals [2], that a large amount of guilt underlay the Leftist response to fascism in the thirties—namely, his own flirtation with communism, among others, could be explained by the proximity he saw between intellectual gestures and the irrationalism of the radical Right.

In a sense Spender had recognized that an enormous amount of anti-bourgeois emotion and Romantic conceit—the entire sweep of Romanticism, Symbolism, and the Decadence—had at root “fascistic” emotions. This was a somewhat sweeping statement, it had to be admitted, but it was not completely inaccurate. For as with the Symbolist and decadent liberal anarchist Octave Mirbeau and his Garden of Supplicants, a large amount of Romantic rhetoric was bourgeois anti-bourgeois. In other words, it was so radical it soon began to take leave of the class, namely the middle class, which had given it birth. It was Spender’s understanding (in a rudimentary way) of the thesis which George Lukács would later put in a more forceful manner (namely, in The Destruction of Reason) that turned this poet into a pansy-Bolshevik; a pink shade of red—a member of the Homintern. Yet Spender grasped a fundamental point, which is often overlooked, and this has to do with the educated antecedents of classical fascism. It is as if—at least at one level of consciousness—all work of a Romantic, pre-modern, anti-modern, illiberal, and anti-Victorian guise presaged a classical vision of the Right. It even penetrated into the early stages of modernism—where an attempt was made to clear away the “decadent” effluvium of High Romanticism with some sharp-edged early modernism, if not neo-classicism in modern guise. Hence, the fact that Lewis, Pound, Eliot, and Hulme were “soured” Romantics; cynical post-Romantics, if you will. Men who viewed Romanticism with a certain leavened sardonicism. It was a bitter and twisted form of modernism which looked to the past as it demolished it and to the future as it remonstrated with it on behalf of forms of the past. As a result, classical early modernism had two conflict strands within it. One of these went forward into an analysis of pure form—the architecture of formal misstatement—where all that matters is the consideration of a particular type of form; a formalist criteria, a logarithmic exercise in relation to the possibility of taste—whereby modern art produced through Surrealism and its aborted pre-birth/after-birth (Dadaism) to a consideration of color, tactility, and the instrumental nature of a form of vision. When there was nothing left to say—when art had been neutered by the nature of the photographic image, on the one hand, and the impossibility of expressing meaningful statement in a “bourgeois world,” on the other. (The latter in accordance with a particular type of minimalist Marxist aesthetic; the sort of thing which was an Adornoesque parody of itself.) While another tendency in modernism has yet to be explored and this is the proto-classicism which led early modernists to experiment with the possibility of a return to classical simplicity by virtue of a modernist aesthetic. This was why a large number of early modernists, like Epstein and Gaudier-Brzeska (whose work outraged traditionalists), were so interested in the purity of classical form—its aesthetic simplicity and proportion. Likewise, modern classicists, of a highly modernist and individualist character, like Maurras and T. E. Hulme, preached a new form of art which was spare, linear, rectangular, and masculine. In some respects, this predisposition teetered on the edge of two conflicting cultural vistas. On the one hand, it wished to go back even to before Romanticism, on the other, it wanted to recreate everything again in a way which had never been done before.


machine age drawing.jpg

As can be seen from the projected career of various modernists, the modern aesthetic could only go so far, in that a large number would fall away before the vista of total modernity. This is in relation to a pitiful summation of complete modernism which entered into a form of reiterated stylization; sheer form in the pursuit of its absence, the formlessness of an aesthetic concerned with nothing but the possibility of misstatement. Hence, the fact that Lewis, Dalí, Marinetti, de Chirico, Roberts, Gaudier-Brzeska, and many more, gradually fell away from modernism—Dalí towards a symbolic, classical, neo-Romantic form of iconography, namely religious painting, and Lewis towards modernist figuration, expressive linearity, anti-abstraction, and blindness. Also, the latter was to repudiate a form of aesthetic futility, the abandoned purpose of nihilistic modernism—i.e., the sheer purposelessness of empty abstraction; the pursuit of a type of form which had nothing to communicate—in his book that was also a form of recantation, namely The Demon of Progress in the Arts [4].

So we can say that there was a form of arrested classicism within early modernism which later came to reject it. This type of art either put modernism at the service of a neo-classical state, i.e., futurism in Fascist Italy, or it embraced fully-fledged traditional neo-classicism à la Arno Breker and the return to a naturalist form of neo-Grecian art. This was a type of counter-revolution in relation to modernism; a reformatory form of counter-reformation—a type of European modernity that was anti-modernist, a modern form of non-formalist criteria, neither academic nor anti-academic. It was a form of anti-formalist, anti-Bolshevik revolutionary tradition in relation to artistic procedure. What became known—somewhat crassly—as “Nazi art.”

Indeed, it is interesting to note that after the war, after defeat, these various strands came together again, if only in the form of friendship between the various protagonists—namely, the practitioners of a form of pre-to-early modernism that had a classical bias and straightforward neo-classicists who were the radical and talented vanguard of a type of artistic traditionalism; revolutionary artistic traditionalism nonetheless. The people concerned were Breker, Dalí, Fuchs, Pound, Cocteau, Hauptmann, Céline, members of the Wagner family, Speer (if only retrospectively), and the gradual reconsideration of Vorticism and Futurism—as the political passions which had led to opposition against them began to fall away.

Source: http://www.wermodandwermod.com/newsitems/news110120131209.html [5]


Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/01/classical-modernism-and-the-art-of-the-radical-right/

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mardi, 08 janvier 2013

Une approche des surréalismes de Belgique


Une approche des surréalismes de Belgique

par Marc. Eemans 

Café Het Goudblommeke (55 rue des Alexiens 1000 Brussel) maart 1953. Van links naar rechts: Marcel Mariën, Camille Goemans, Gérard Van Bruaene, Irène Hamoir, Georgette Magritte, E.L.T. Mesens, Louis Scutenaire, René Magritte en Paul Colinet.

Tout comme l'histoire de la peinture et de la sculpture symbolistes belges doit encore être écrite, cela en dépit de nombreux et parfois remarquables travaux d'approche tels des catalogues d'expositions et de savantes monographies de détail ou d'ensemble, l'histoire de l'art surréaliste de Belgique reste encore à écrire. Certes, il existe déjà pas mal de publications à ce sujet, ne serait-ce que les innombrables livres parus à la louange de la peinture de René Magritte ou de Paul Delvaux. Il y a eu de même des esquisses de travaux d'ensemble qui pèchent, hélas, par manque d'objectivité ou d'information. Le travail le plus complet jusqu'ici est le beau livre de Madame José Vovelle, actuellement professeur en Sorbonne. Ce livre, édité en 1972 aux Editions André De Rache à Bruxelles, n'est toutefois qu'une thèse de doctorat de troisième cycle soutenue en 1968 à Paris.

Comme le dit un modeste "avertissement" en tête de ce très remarquable travail, "Depuis des documents inédits ont été divulgués et des études particulières ont précisé tel ou tel point de la matière envisagée". Et en effet, de nombreuses perspectives nouvelles se sont ouvertes, tandis que des faits tout aussi nouveaux ont tenté de brouiller celles-ci depuis la rédaction de l'ouvrage de Madame Vovelle.

Puisse le catalogue pour la présente exposition des oeuvres qui ont fait l'objet du legs Hamoir-Scutenaire rectifier quelque peu ces perspectives, et d'abord en précisant que ce que l'on présente généralement comme le surréalisme en Belgique n'est le plus souvent que le surréalisme de la "Société du mystère" (selon l'expression de Patrick Waldberg) de l'entourage de Magritte, et encore ... Bien souvent on oublie d'y ajouter le surréalisme du "Groupe surréaliste du Hainaut", en ignorant à peu près complètement l'éphémère effloraison du surréalisme liégeois avec Auguste Mambour, qui fut un remarquable surréaliste durant environ trois ans, et le couple Delbrouck-Defize qui exposa même un jour à Paris sous l'égide d'André Breton.

Deux femmes surréalistes wallonnes, qui relèvent plutôt du groupe surréaliste parisien, sont la Namuroise Marianne Van Hirtum et la Liégeoise Alika Lindberg, fille du poète Hubert Dubois, l'inspirateur du surréalisme de Mambour. Cette dernière figure toutefois dans les annales du surréalisme parisien sous le nom de Monique Watteau. Toutes deux semblent des inconnues pour les historiens du surréalisme belge, tout comme la Gantoise Suzanne Van Damme, l'épouse du surréaliste italien Bruno Capacci et l'amie des surréalistes bruxellois Paul Colinet et Marcel Lecomte. ·

C'est par ailleurs un lieu commun d'affirmer que si l'expressionnisme belge est flamand, le surréalisme belge serait wallon. Rien n'est moins vrai, car le maître à penser du surréalisme bruxellois, Paul Nougé, bien que d'origine française, avait une mère flamande, tout comme l'historiographe officiel du surréalisme belge, Marcel Mariën est anversois. Il en est de même pour son homonyme (également un oublié quoique surréaliste depuis 1926-1927), le collagiste Georges Mariën, chef de file de plusieurs collagisles surréalistes anversois.

N'oublions pas que Camille Goemans est le fils du Secrétaire perpétuel de l'Académie royale de Langue et de Littérature flamandes de Belgique et que E.L.T. Mesens se proclamait volontiers, ne serait-ce que par bravade ou provocation, "le flamingant de Londres". Fait est qu'en sa jeunesse présurréaliste celui-ci avait été un intime des poètes expressionnistes flamands Wies Moens et Paul Van Ostaijen ainsi que du futur chef fasciste flamand Joris Van Severen dont une grande amie de Magritte, la Flamande, quoique francophone Rachel Baes a été la fidèle égérie au point de se faire enterrer à ses côtés au cimetière d'Abbeville en France.

On néglige également l'apport pourtant important au surréalisme belge des Flamands Fritz Van den Berghe, tout au moins en son ultime période (1927-1939), de Maxime Van de Woestijne (il est le seul à représenter le surréalisme belge dans une petite monographie allemamle consacrée à l'ar1 surréaliste) et de nous-même, auteur d'un album contenant "dix formes linéaires influencées par dix formes verbales" (1930), le seul recueil vraiment surréaliste paru en langue néerlandaise, tout au moins en Flandre.

Comme on a bien voulu conférer à un dessinateur quelque peu naïf et sans le moindre talent le statut de surréaliste à part entière pour la seule raison qu'il est le neveu de Paul Colinet, pourquoi ne nous permettrions-nous pas de joindre également aux surréalistes belges un Jules Lempereur qui inspira par certains de ses dessins le livre de Marcel Lecomte intitulé "Connaissance des degrés", paru toutefois sans les arts dessins. Même dans les milieux officiels (Administration des Beaux-Arts et Musées) le surréalisme belge est devenu ûn vrai fourre-tout. C'est ainsi, par exemple, qu'à l'exposition "Werkelijkheid en verbeelding - Belgische Surrealisten" (Réalité et imagination - Surréalistes belges), qui s'est tenue à Arnhem du 12 juillet au 6 septembre 1964, nous retrouvons parmi les exposants James Ensor, Léon Spilliaert, Victor Servranckx , Jan Burssens, Marcel Delmotte et Octave Landuyt, sans oublier plusieurs peintres qur fréquentaient la taverne bruxelloise "Le Petit Rouge", promus surréalistes par E.L.T. Mesens du fait qu'il y avait ses habitudes lors de ses séjours, après guerre, dans sa ville natale...


Si l'on veut vraiment écrire une histoire objective des "surréalismes de Belgique", il conviendrait d'y reconnaître trois courants dont les prodromes sont un courant dadaïste ("Oesophage", "Marie"), un courant rationaliste , très valéryen ("Correspondance") et un courant métaphysique, proche des vues sur la poésie du poète flamand Paul Van Ostaijen ("Hermès").

Des trois courants seuls les deux premiers ont requis l'attention des historiens du surréalisme belge (voir e.a. le livre de José Vovelle et le catalogue de l'exposition "René Magritte et le Surréalisme en Belgique" (Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgrque, Bruxelles 24 septembre - 5 décembre 1982). Quant au troisième courant, fort proche du surréalisme de l'André Breton du "Second manifeste du Surréalisme", 1929, il ne prit vraiment corps qu'en 1930, lorsque Camille Goemans et Marc. Eemans eurent pris congé", du surréalisme à la Nougé-Magritte et Scutenaire, en fondant les Editions "Hermès".

La vraie soudure entre les surréalistes bruxellois se fit à l'occasion de ce qu'il est convenu d'appeler la "bataille du Casino de Saint Josse" (novembre 1926): Les futurs membres du groupe vinrent à cette manifestation en char à bancs (une initiative de Geert van Bruaene) accompagnés d'un "chevalier" mercenaire en armure, car les acteurs du "Groupe Libre" avaient averti leurs adversaires qu'ils seraient reçus sans ménagement. Il y eut en effet non seulement chahut, mais aussi bataille avec quelques blessés légers de part et d'autre, dont Camille Goemans.

Parmi les amis des futurs surréalistes il y avait outre Van Bruaene , trors Flamands, les poètes Gaston Burssens et Paul Van Ostaijen (à cette époque un associé de van Bruaene) ainsi que l'auteur de ces lignes qui fut le seul de ceux-ci à rejoindre le groupe.

Marc. Eemans entraîna dans son sillage son amie Irène Hamoir laquelle il venait d'apprendre les rudiments du surréalisme selon les préceptes du premier "Manifeste du surréalisme" de Breton, d'où la "Lettre à Irène sur l'automatisme". Hélas, pour Eernans ! l'"automatisme" n'était pas tout à fait à l'ordre du jour de surréalistes bruxellois loin de là ! Il avait oublié que ceux-ci étaient surtout férus d'insolite et de spéculations diverses sur les apparences des choses et de leur réalité la plus banale possible tout en les rangeant dans un ordre peu habituel. Seconde bévue d'Eemans au sein du groupe, fut sa traduction d'une "Vision" d'une mystique médiévale brabançonne, Soeur Hadewych. Selon lui, le déroulement de cette vision rejoignait la quête du mervetlleux des surréalistes. Il suivait en cela une des thèses de son ami Van Ostaijen selon laquelle, tout en n'accordant que peu de crédit à l'écriture automatique à la Breton, celui-ci prônait en poésie une exploitation consciente du subconscient, en faisant une distinction nette entre la poésie subconsciemment inspirée et la poésie consciemment construite. Selon Van Ostaijen, la première de ces deux poésies procéderait d'un état extatique et, si l'on n'est pas un mystique, cette poésie pourrait procéder d'un fonds de mythes et d'archétypes selon une psychologie des profondeurs comme l'a formulée un Carl Gustav Jung.

A l'époque, Eemans et Van Ostaijen étaient encore ignorants de la psychologie jungienne, mais en bon surréaliste Eemans se croyait autorisé à se référer au freudisme et à ses vues sur l'inconscient. Toutefois, sans connaître Jung, Van Ostaijen et Eemans s'étaient déjà convertis aux vertus de tout ce qui relèverait de l'irrationnel, du métaphysique el de l'hermétique : aussi bien la mystique, orthodoxe ou non, que l'occultisme, l'alchimie, la parapsychologie, le romantisme, surtout allemand, et le symbolisme, sans oublier l'art des fous et ce que l'on appellerait plus tard l'"art brut", bref tout ce qui. s'insère dans l'imaginaire, le féerique du "hasard objectif', le fantastique et le merveilleux visionnaire.

Que nous sommes loin d'un surréalisme à la Nougé - Magritte et surtout de la gratuité du dadaïsme à la Mariën ! mais proche du surréalisme du Breton qui croit à ce fameux "point suprême d'où la vie et la mort, le réel et l'imaginaire, le passé et le futur, le communicable et l'incommunicable cessent d'être perçus contradictoirement".

Et aussi que nous sommes encore loin de ce futur surréalisme "non-dit" de la revue "Hermès", celle-ci consacrée à l'étude comparée de la poésie, de la mystique el de la philosophie.

Marc. Eemans en devint un des deux directeurs et Camille Goemans y fut l'auteur des "Notes des Editeurs" ainsi que des "Notes sur la poésie et l'expérience" rédig ées en collaboration avec l'essayiste Joseph Capuano. Henri Michaux, ami de collège de Goemans, devint le secrétaire de rédaction de la revue et André Rolland de Renéville, l'auteur de "Rimbaud le Voyant", ainsi que Bernard Groethuysen et quelques autres spécialistes en la matière y entrèrent au comité de rédaction. La revue compta parmi ses collaborateurs Marcel Lecomte qui entretint ainsi certains contacts avec le groupe Nougé, Magritte et Scutenalre. Que de sérieux peu "surréaliste" dans tout cela dira-t-on ! Aussi le ludique E.L.T. Mesens fut-il, "très fâché" en traitant ses anciens amis de "petits curés"... Plus tard tout rentra toutefois dans l'ordre surréaliste et Camille Goemans re devint à la grande joie de celui-ci un riche acheteur d'oeuvres de Magritte. Quant à Eemans, il redevint l'ami intime de Mesens et l'on sait que le couple Scutenaire-Hamoir, ainsi que le brave et gentil Colinet, cessèrent de bouder le vieux complice de leur "Bande Bonnot".

Seul le caractériel Marcel Mariën (en raison d'une jalousie d'ordre sentimental!) et ses jeunes séides d'après-guerre ne cessèrent de harceler Eemans de leur hargne, bien que Tom Gutt lui ait toul récemment adressé quelques lettres fort courtoises...

Mais arrêtons ici ces trop brèves el peul-être trop subjectives notes sur les "surréalismes de Belgique". N'empêche qu'en dépit de récentes lois en matière de révisionnisme politique, il conviendrait de pratiquer pas mal de révisionnisme surréaliste en réagissant contre certaines déviations el dérives vers la facilité pseudo- ou néo-dadaïste et la grossièreté pure et simple sous prétexte de faire de l'anti-esthétique el de l'antifascisme.

Et souvenons-nous du fameux pamphlet de Salvador Dali à l'adresse des "cocus du vieil art moderne". Quoique l'on puisse en penser, il ne s'agit pas que d'humour "paranoïa-critique"…

Marc. Eemans

Mai 1995

Uit: Eemans, M. (1995), Une approche des surréalismes de Belgique. Bruxelles: Fondation Marc. Eemans : archives de l’art idéaliste et symboliste.

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lundi, 07 janvier 2013

Un arôme de Magritte

Un arôme de Magritte

par Marc. Eemans 

Il y eut un temps, c'était dans les années soixante, où j'avais l'honneur de participer à des expositions d'art belge à l'étranger organisées par les instances officielles de mon pays. Ce fut d'une part le cas au Gemeentemuseum d'Arnhem et d'autre part au Centraal Museum d'Utrecht, et cela dans le cadre de l'Accord culturel belgo-néerlandais, mais surtout grâce à la bienveillante amitié de feu Monsieur Emile Langui, alors Directeur Général des Beaux-Arts au Ministère compétant de l'époque.

Depuis lors je fus comme frappé d'un certain ostracisme disons d'un ostracisme d'ordre politique, de sorte qu'il n'y eut plus de participation à quelque exposition officielle que ce fût, et voici, oh surprise! Que j'ai eu l'honneur de participer, sans que j'en fusse averti, à l'exposition “L'avant-garde en Belgique, 1917-1929” qui se tient en ce moment (18 septembre-13 décembre 1992) au Musée d'Art Moderne de Bruxelles.

Ostracisme levé? Pas tout à fait, car au lendemain du vernissage une de mes oeuvres appartenant au Musée contemporain de Gand, celui de Jan Hoet, fut enlevée sous prétexte d'une restauration urgente, et cela jusqu'à la fin de l'exposition, les autres oeuvres, commes elles appartenaient à des collections particuliéres, eurent cependant le privilège de ne pas être également décrochées... pour restauration urgente!

Quel deus ex machina intervint dans la levée d'ostracisme et quel autre ordonna l'éloignement d'une de mes oeuvres de cette exposition? Je l'ignore.

Toujours est-il que la notice biographique qui accompagne mon nom n'est pas très tendre à mon égard et me reproche surtout d'oser parler de “balivernes” à propos de certaines oeuvres de Magritte... Je passerai sur certaines assertions gratuites comme “Le surréalisme est le moment du saut quantique entre le met et l'image”. Que signifient ici les mots “quantique” et surtout “saut”? Et puis aussi, pour conclure, “Marc. Eemans est un artiste du fantastique plutôt qu'un explorateur du paradoxe surréaliste”. Me voilà donc qualifié d'”artiste du fantastique” alors que mes exégètes parlent plutôt d'"ïdéalisme magique”, mais surtout qui a jamais osé qualifier le surréalisme de “paradoxe”? Quel comble d'incompréhension et d'absurdité!

Mais revenons à mon délit de “lèse majesté” à l'égard de Magritte, et je lis: “La négation de la raison chez Eemans se manifesta explicitement quelques années plus tard (en 1944) lorsqu'il déclara que le Wallon René Magritte veut nous faire croire que dans ses peintures une pomme est un oeuf ou une clef un nuage et autres balivernes”, et mon biographe d'ajouter: “On peut s'étonner d'entendre quelqu'un -qui connaissait René Magritte personnellement depuis 1926/1927- déclarer que ce dernier parlant de l'image d'une chose, prétendait qu'il s'agissait de l'image d'autre chose. Au contraire, ce qu'affirmait l'oeuvre de Magritte ce n'était pas que ce quelque chose était ou n'était pas, mais ce qui paraît évident n'est pas pour autant exact”.

Merci, grand merci de m'avoir éclairé sur les intentions de Magritte quant à la signification de certaines de ses oeuvres genre “cette pipe n'est une pipe”, et dire que j'ai eu l'impudence de fabriquer un petit multiple avec une vraie pipe, disant “Cette pipe est bien une pipe (hommage à Magritte...”)!

Mais où peut-on découvrir qu'il y ait chez moi quelque “négation de la raison”? Ce n'est pas parce que je mets d'autres facultés au-dessus de la raison dans l'élaboration d'une oeuvre d'art que je nie celle-ci. Ce que j'ai toujours reproché à petits nuages propres à la bande dessinée, bref d'avoir trop rappeler à ce propos la définition qu'en donna Maurice Denis pour affirmer que la peinture n'est pas un jeu de l'esprit ou le lieu de spéculations plus ou moins philosophiques, sémantiques ou structuralistes avec la représentation des choses ou les mots qui les désignent?

Je sais que Magritte était un joueur d'échecs et qu'il aimait déplacer ses “pièces”sur son échiquier, en l'occurence peinture: bilboquets, grelots, chapeaux melon, etc. en des variations infinies selon une fantaisie (ou une logique) que j'appelerai “surréaliste” par commodité de langage, mais que je crois plutôt “dadaïste”.

Qu'on me permette toutefois une anecdote qui m'a été racontée par le peintre Désiré Haine. La scène se passait à une exposition de peintres surréalistes à La Louvière, où René Magritte et Désiré Haine furent témoins d'une petite discussion entre deux gamins devant une peinture de Magritte représentant (déjà!) une pipe, et au cours de laquelle un des deux gamins prétendait que la pipe représentée n'était pas une vraie pipe et qu'on ne pouvait done pas la fumer... Se non è vero!

D'autre part, à propos des recours par trop répété à des mots dans des peintures de Magritte, je citerai Victor Segalen (“Gustave Moreau, maître imagier de l'orphisme”) où il dit : “Ne croyons plus à la valeur des mots ou bien avec défiance : 'Citadelle' est terrible de menace et de sonorité. Mais, fait observer R. de Gourmont, 'mortadelle' est bien plus terrible encore, et c'est un aliment charcutier”.

A part ça, j'avoue que je signerais volontiers de mon nom au moins une cinquantaine d'oeuvres de Magritte – les plus poétiques – et que d'ailleurs une de mes oeuvres exposées au Musée d'art moderne de Bruxelles avait, pour un critique d'art flamand, “un arôme de Magritte”... Ah, mes oeuvres de jeunesse, et l'osmose des premiers balbutiements du surréalisme en Belgique! Sont-ce là les mystères de la “Société du Mystère”?

Marc. Eemans

Overgenomen uit de in eigen beheer verspreide brochure 'Marc. Eemans et le surrealisme, plus particulièrement celui de René Magritte', daterend van 1992.

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dimanche, 06 janvier 2013

Petite histoire surréaliste en marge du legs Hamoir-Scutenaire


Petite histoire surréaliste en marge du legs Hamoir-Scutenaire

par Marc. Eemans 
René Magritte - Portret van Irène Hamoir, 1936.

René Magritte - Portret van Irène Hamoir, 1936.

Etrange confusion d'intention que celle de ces surréalistes bruxellois des années '20 qui entendaient faire de l'anti-peinture alors que René Magritte et Marc. Eemans étaient peintres et que Paul Nougé, Camille Goemans, Marcel Lecomte et Jean (avant de devenir Louis) Scutenaire voulaient faire de l'anti-liltérature toul en ne cessant de pratiquer de la lillérature ... De méme André Souris, Paul Hooreman et Edouard L.T. Mesens s'appliquaient à faire de l'anti-musique tout en composant de la musique…

De tous ces jeunes gens, seul E.L.T. Mesens fut à ce moment le seul à être conséquent avec lui-même en renonçant à la musique, mais pour faire, lui aussi, de la littérature et des collages tout en devenant marchand de tableaux comme son ami et concurrent Camille Goemans.

Tous, ou à peu près tous, entendaient être sérieux comme des papes tout en étant évidemment anti-papistes. Rappelons à ce propos que Paul Nougé est l'auteur d'un livre intitulé "Histoire de ne pas rire" et qu'un beau jour le groupe excommunia André Souris pour avoir dirigé une messe à la mémoire de son défunt mécène. Faut-il dire que ces messieurs maniaient volontiers, tout comme leurs amis français, l'anathème contre tous ceux qui contrevenaient à leur dogme de l'anti-art ?

Mais tout cela ne relève-t-il pas d'une certaine présomption ainsi que d'une bien grande naïveté de penser bien que la plus grande rigueur et probité intellectuelles aient toujours été l'exigence primordiale du groupe surréaliste bruxellois dont l'aîné, Paul Nougé, a toujours été considéré comme le principal maître à penser ?

Certes, tous ces surréalistes n'étaient pas aussi férus de cartésianisme et tous ne se voyaient pas comme des émules du Monsieur Teste de Paul Valéry ou de la rigueur intellectuelle de Jean Paulhan, l'éminence grise de la N.R.F., car pour d'aucuns il y avait des antécédents soit symbolistes, dadaïstes ou futuristes, voire cubistes et abstraits ("plastique pure").

Mals tous étaient par ailleurs hantés de politique gauchiste allant du léninisme stalinien au trotskisme et plus tard même au maoïsme. Ils croyaient ou voulaient mellre leur anti-art au service de la révolution prolétarienne en vouant avec un certain aveuglement leur ferveur révolutionnaire au mythe bolchevik. La plupart demeurèrent jusqu'au bout fidèles à leur utopie gauchiste en dépit des révélations, dès les années '30, sur les horreurs du Goulag. E.L.T. Mesens, peut-être plus lucide que ses amis, lui au contraire, proclamait volontiers que les surréalistes en fait de révolution n'étaient que des "anarchistes sentimentaux" et il ajoutait pour sa part qu'il était "sans dieu ni maître"...

E.L.T. Mesens partageait par ailleurs, avec ses amis Irène Hamoir, Jean Scutenaire et Marc. Eemans, le privilège d'être tes benjamins de ces would-be révolutionnaires surréalistes. ce qui leur permellait certaines incartades plus ou moins pittoresques comme des visites au cirque ou à la foire du midi où les attiraient surtout les baraques de tir et le musée Spitzner.

Marc. Eemans était le plus jeune du groupe et il est actuellement le seul encore en vie de cette assez hétéroclite "Société du Mystère", comme l'appela un jour Patrick Waldberg. Marc. Eemans était plus particulièrement lié avec Camille Goemans (il avait été en classe avec le frère cadet de celui-ci) et E.L.T. Mesens, dont il avait fait la connaissance vers 1924 au fameux "Cabinet Maldoror'' de Geert van Bruaene. Il avait rejoint le groupe lors de la mémorable "bataille du Casino de St. Josse". Il y avait amené dans son sillage Irène Hamoir, une jeune militante socialiste dont il avait fait la connaissance aux cours du soir de ce qui était à l'époque l'embryon d'un Institut pour Journalistes. La jeune femme était totalement ignorante de touchait à l'avantgarde artistique et liltéraire et plus spécialement du surréalisme. Son nouvel ami eut tôt fait de l'initier et de la convertir au communisme ainsi qu'aux critères du surréalisme au point d'en faire une des trois égéries, avec Georgette Magritte et Marthe Beauvoisin, du surréalisme bruxellois.

Quant à Jean Sculenaire, le dernier venu, il devint un intime de la "Société du Mystère" à la suite de l'envoi de quelques poèmes à Paul Nougé qui les trouva à ce point proches des préoccupations poétiques du groupe qu'il crut à une mystification de son ami Goemans. Le patronyme de l'auteur de l'envoi n'avait-il d'ailleurs pas un parfum de canular avec ce Sculenaire trop visiblement dérivé du flamand Schutteneer (skutteneer = tirailleur) ? Fait était que ces poèmes étaient bel et bien l'oeuvre d'un étudiant en droit de l'Université Libre de Bruxelles. Après plus ample informé, ce jeune inconnu devint bien vite un membre à part entière du groupe avec des affinités plus particulières avec les autres jeunes recrues de celui-ci. Il naquit ainsi une amicale complicité avec Irène Hamoir et Marc. Eemans, jouant à eux trois à la "Bande Bonnot", elle devenant l'anarchiste Rirelle Maitrejean, lui Raimond-la-Science el Eemans Kibaltchiche, le futur Victor Serge, le secrétaire particulier de Léon Trotski. Il faut dire que Scutenaire était obsédé par tout ce qui était marginal depuis le banditisme et la prostitution (songeons au roman "Boulevard Jacqmain" d'Irène Hamoir) jusqu'aux fantassins du "Batt' d'Aff" disciplinaire de l'armée française.

Les Raimond-la-Science et Kibaltchiche bruxellois, faut-il le dire, étaient tous deux amoureux de leur Rirelle Mailrejean, mais au lieu d'épouser la ''Veuve", comme Je fit le Raimond-la-Science parisien, son admirateur bruxellois épousa la Rirette... Après être devenu entre-temps un docte docteur en droit et un vrai fonctionnaire modèle.

Témoins de cet épisode du surréalisme bruxellois sont une "Lettre à Irène sur l'automatisme" d'Eemans, de quoi démentir l'affirmation bien gratuite de Scutenaire selon laquelle les surréalistes bruxellois n'avaient cure de l'"écriture automatique" chère à Breton ; un poème-préface de Sculenaire pour la première exposition personnelle d'Eemans à la galerie "L'epoque" de leur ami Mesens ; une lettre éplorée d'Eemans à Nougé ; une photo de couverture d'un magazine bruxellois d'une Rirelie en maillot de bain, mais le visage caché par une pancarte portant la mention "Miss Week-end". Ajoutons-y une petite dizaine d'oeuvres d'Eemans dans la riche collection de peintures surréalistes du couple Hamoir-Scutenaire ainsi que des photos des anciens complices de la "Bande Bonnot" bruxelloise, prises lors de la présentation de "La Chanson de Roland", de Louis Sculenaire, au 18 de la rue du Président à Bruxelles.

Nous sommes en 1930, Camille Goemans et René Magiitte sont rentrés à Bruxelles, tous les deux pauvres comme Job après l'échec de la galerie Goëmans (sic) de la rue de Seine, à Paris. C'est le moment pour Goemans et Eemans de "prendre congé" de leurs amis et du surréalisme sectaire et fermé à la Nougé, trop souvent en bulle aux pièges du dérisoire el du farfelu, et d'ouvrir l'épisode d'un surréalisme ouvert, occulté (selon le précepte du "second manifeste du surréalisme"), non-dit et apolitique de la revue "Hermès", mais l'histoire de ce surréalisme reste encore à écrire...

Le mariage de Rirette avec son Raimond-la-Science, n'interrompit pas pour autant la profonde affection qui liait Irène Hamoir à son ami "Marco"l Cette amitié dura jusqu'au décès de celle-ci avec pour corollaire qu'elle suivit les conseils de son vieil ami ainsi que d'un autre fidèle des Sculenaire du nom de Luc Canon (fidèle au point d'habiter un Cour Louis Scutenaire, situé à peine à quelques lieues du. village natal de celui-ci) . Irène Hamoir soustraya ainsi son trésor d'Aiibaba de la caverne surréaliste de la rue de la Luzerne aux grilles de tous ceux qui le convoitaient et vous connaissez la suite…

Marc. Eemans

Réf. : Rirette Maîtrejean – “Souvenirs d'anarchie”. Quimperlé, 1988, Editions “La Digitale”.

Uit: Eemans, M. (1995), Une approche des surréalismes de Belgique. Bruxelles: Fondation Marc. Eemans : archives de l'art idéaliste et symboliste.

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lundi, 03 décembre 2012

A Note on the Art of Political Conversion

A Note on the Art of Political Conversion

T.E. Hulme
T.E. Hulme

Some day a wonderful book will be written on the art of persuasion, a new sophistic. One may suppose that psychology will ultimately become as complete a science as geometry and mechanics are now. It will be possible then to predict the effect of an argument on a man’s mind as surely as one can now predict the eclipse of the moon. On the basis of this developed science will be built an infallible set of rules for converting a man to any opinion you like. The mechanism of mind will be as bare as that of a typewriter. You will press the right levers, and the result you want will follow inevitably. The lover will sigh no more, but will consult the manual and succeed—unless the lady be similarly armed. So dangerous will the art be that the knowledge of it must be confined to a special caste, like Plato’s guards, disciplined and trained not to make any malicious use of their power. Or more probably the then prevailing form of government will seize it and make a monopoly of it as they now do of armed force, and used it for their perpetual preservation.

Pending the arrival of this political canvasser’s millennium, one can sketch out the beginnings of the thing. Materials for the art already exist: Schopenhauer’s “Art of Controversy,” Pascal’s “Pensées,” the manuals which the credulous Protestant imagines that the Jesuits are brought up on, and, more recently, James’s “Will to Believe,” and “L’Arte di Persuadere” of the brilliant Italian pragmatist Pezzolini, who would bring all philosophy to the service of such a sophistic.

All these are founded on a recognition of the basic fact of the absolute impotence of a mere idea to produce any change in belief. All conviction, and so necessarily conversion, is based on the motor and emotional aspects of the mind. No intellectual conception has any moving force unless it be hinged on to an emotion or an instinct. In every man’s mind there exist certain fixed instincts and prejudices, certain centers of emotion, tendencies to react to certain words. The expression “center” is not merely metaphorical. In all probability there does exist a corresponding organization of the neurones in the brain. These are the parts of a man’s mind which lead to conviction expressed in action, ballotwise or otherwise. You have got to get hold of these to produce any change. If you can’t do this, then the idea is “dead,” it has no motive power, the most logical presentation will have no effect. There must be in any successful propaganda, then, an element more important than good argument. A good case is the last, not the first part of a successful conversion. In practice men have always known this. Practice remains constant throughout the ages; it is not reserved for any particular century to “discover” anything new about the ways of the human. With theory, however, it is very different. That may be wrong continually, and may, at a definite moment, be put right. In this case it certainly is so. For a long time reason was given a too predominant place in psychology, and to it all other faculties were subordinated. Gradually, during the last 50 years in philosophy, instinct and emotion have asserted their rightful place, until at the present time the reaction has gone so far that the intellect is regarded merely as a subtle and useful servant of the will, and of man’s generally irrational vital instincts. Bergson, Le Roy, Croce, Eucken, Simmel are all anti-intellectualists.

The particular effect of this change of view which concerns me here is that of the difference it makes to the theory of politics. Formerly the prevailing conception was something of this kind—you perfected the mechanism of democracy until each man’s carefully thought-out opinion had its effect. You then, on any particular measure, set out on a campaign of careful argument. Each side stated their reasons to the best of their ability, the elector heard both sides, and recorded his vote accordingly. All this, of course, sounds very fantastical now in the light of what actually does happen at a General Election. But the Bentham-Mill School honestly regarded it as a possible idea. We all recognize this now as fantastical, but what must be substituted for it as a true account of the psychology of the matter? This kind of inquiry would have to go into two parts — an account of the process by which the mass of the electors are converted, and the quite different process in the minds of the intellectuals, The first has been done very completely and amusing by Gustave Le Bon in “Psychology of the Crowd,” and in Graham Wallas’s “Human Nature in Politics.” They recognize quite clearly that the process of conversion here is anything but intellectual.

They show the modern politician frankly and cynically recognizing this, setting out deliberately to hypnotize the elector, as the owners of patent medicines hypnotize the buyers. They don’t argue; they deliberately reiterate a short phrase, such as “Pears’ Soap” or “Pea Food,” until it gets into the mind of the victim, by a process of suggestion definitely not intellectual. But no one has yet given any connected theory of the more interesting part of the subject—the conversion of the “intellectual,” of the leisured middle-class wobbler. Wallas himself somehow leaves you with a suspicion in your mind that he does still think that the “intellectual” is in the position which Mill, in the age of naive belief in reason, imagined him to be—that of weighing arguments, and then calmly deciding a question on its merits. Now, nothing could be grater nonsense. No one can escape from the law of mental nature I have referred to. We are all subject to it. We may be under the delusion that we are deciding a question from purely rational motives, but we never are. Even the detached analyst of the phenomena is himself subject to the law. Conversion is always emotional and non-rational.

Now this does seem to me to be a point of practical importance if it helps us to convert this class. For though the type may not be numerous, it does have, in the end, a big influence in politics. Not very obviously or directly, for in no country do the intellectuals appear to lead less than in ours; but ultimately and by devious ways their views soak down and color the whole mass. The first step is to recognize the fundamental identity of the two processes of conversion — that en masse, and that of the intellectuals; in this respect that mere logical presentment is of very little use. As the modern electioneer sets out on a cynical recognition of the fact to convert the mass, so he should just as directly try to capture the smaller class.

There must be two quite different methods of attack, for what attracts the one repels the other. Great words empty of sense, promises of Elysium a few years ahead, have been, and always must be, the means by which the mass can be stirred, but they leave the few very cold. In this case, sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, for the only resemblance is the fact of appetite. Now, here seems to me to be the weakens of the Unionists. They emphatically do not provide any sauce for the gander. They practice the other art well enough, the art which Graham Wallas analyzes — that of manipulating the popular mind by advertisement and other means. But the smaller one they neglect, for no one can seriously think that Mr. Garvin is fit food for the adult intelligence. I have in mind a particular minor variety of this class: the undergraduate who, arriving in London, joins the Fabian Society. Now there is nothing inevitable in this. He may imagine that an intellectual process landed him there. Nothing of the kind. The Fabian Society provides him with the kind of stuff to fit in with his complex prejudices, and the Conservatives do not. He is merely a Socialist faute de mieux. The emotions involved are fairly simple—an insatiable desire for “theories,” the vague idea to be “advanced,” and the rest of it. There is no reason in the nature of things why the other side should not cater for this. In France, Action Française has made it rather bête démodée to be a Socialist. The really latest and advanced thing is to be a Neo-Royalist. They serve their victim with the right kind of sauce. So successful has this been that Jaurès recently warned his followers against the cleverness of the bourgeoisie.

To get back, however, to the main position. I take the view for the time being that we are not concerned with truth, but with success. I am considering the problem that should present itself to the acute party entrepreneur—did such a mythical person exist—how can this particular type of people be converted? Here is the type; how can it be caught? They must be converted exactly as everyone else is—by hitching on your propaganda to one of their centers of prejudice and emotion. But the difficulty comes in the analysis and discovery of these centers. They must be there, but they are complex and elusive, and sometimes unknown even to the subject himself. Here is where the difference comes in between this and the other sophistic. The problem in the case of the laborer is not so much to find these centers as to get hold of them before the other man does and to stick to them. Some day, I surmise, all this analysis will be done for us in a neat little manual.

But meanwhile, I can give data for the future compiler of such a book by analyzing one of these typical complexes, which I found embedded in my own head and influencing my politics without my knowing it. I probed my mind and got rid of it as I might of a tumor, but the operation was a violent one.

It came about from watching my own change of mind on the subject of Colonial Preference. I was, I suppose the typical wobbler, for while politically inclined to be a Protectionist, yet, as a pupil of Professor Marshall’s, theory pulled me in the opposite direction. Now, amid the whirlwind of that campaign of argument, I noticed that two apparently disconnected and irrelevant things stuck in my head had a direct influence on my judgment, whilst the “drums and tramplings” of a thousand statistics passed over me without leaving a trace. The one was a cartoon in Punch—Mr. Chamberlain landing at Dover and being passed quickly by the Customs officer: “There is no bother here, sir; this is a free country.” The other was an argument most constantly used at the time, I imagine, by Sir Edward Grey, and recently revived by a supposedly Conservative paper which does most of its thinking in its heels. “To attempt,” he said, “to bind the Empire together by tariffs would be [a] dangerously artificial thing; it would violently disturb its ‘natural growth.’ It was in opposition to the constant method which has made us a successful Colonial power. Let other nations fail through trying to do things too directly.” This had a powerful effect on me, and I imagine must have had on a great many other people; for this reason: that whereas we all of us had a great many emotions and nerve-paths grouped round the idea of Empire, these were by this argument bound up with Free Trade. It seemed to bring Preference in conflict with a deeply seated and organized set of prejudices grouped round the word “free” and “natural,” for the moving force of the cartoon and Grey’s argument were the same. This may look like an intellectual decision, but it isn’t. I could not, at the time, have formulated it as definitely as I do now. It was then just a kind of vague sentiment which, in the intervals of argument, pulled one in a certain way. This was so because, as I have maintained, conviction is in the end an emotional process. The arguments on each side were so numerous that each one inhibited the slight effect the other might have had, and in the resulting stalemate it was just odd little groups of emotions and prejudices, like the one indicated, that decided one.

Now this is only a prejudice—why should one have a definite distrust of any constructive scheme, and think that leaving it to nature was so much better and so much more in the English tradition? Looking at it from an a priori standpoint, it seems probable that a definite policy directed towards a certain end will gain that end. Examples are all around us to prove it—that of German unity in particular. There was no leaving it to nature there. Yet, in spite of its absurdity from a reasonable point of view, this idea of what is “natural” and “free” remained a fixed obsession. It was too deep-seated to be moved by any argument, and had all the characteristics of one of those complex prejudices which I said must be analyzed as preliminary to the art of conversion. It has all kinds of ramifications, and affects opinion in many directions, on conscription, for example, and a score of other matters. It can be traced back from its origin in the disputes of rival schools of medieval physicians scholastically inclined. Berthelot has analyzed the influence of these medical doctrines on politics. It can be seen particularly well in Quesnay, at the same time a doctor and an economist, from whom Adam Smith borrowed the theory of free exchange. It can be followed through Adam Smith, Coleridge, and Burke to the formation of the political theory of laissez-faire which dominated the 19th century. This theory of politics — and, of course, it is this which produced the personal prejudice which influenced me — may be considered as a kind of Hippocratic theory of political medicine whose principal precept in the treatment of the social “body” is that on no account must the “natural” remedial force of nature be interfered with.

Now, once I had got the theory out fairly and squarely before me, had seen its origin and history, its influence over me had gone. It was powerful before because I really didn’t know that it existed. The thing that most interested me was how it got so firmly fixed in my mind-center without my knowing it; and here comes really the only practical part of this paper. In my own case, the prejudice, I ma certain, had been formed in this way—the histories I had been brought up on, while never stating this view as a theory, had yet so stated all events in our Colonial history as to convey it by suggestion. Always the English were shown as succeeding as by some vague natural genius for colonization or something of that kind. Never by a consistent constructive effect. The people who did make definite plans, like the French under Colbert, and later the Germans, were always represented as failing. Now, this was the reason that the idea was so embedded in one. If it had been presented definitely as a theory, it would have been destroyed by argument. It became an instinct because it was suggested to one in this much more indirect and subtle way.

It took me years to get rid of the effects of this. For when an idea is put into your head in this indirect way, you are never conscious of its existence. It just silently colors all your views. Born with blue spectacles, you would think the world was blue, and never be conscious of the existence of the distorting glass. Ideas insinuated like this become in the end a kind of mental category; the naïve person never recognizes them as subjective, but thinks they lie in the facts themselves. Here, then, is my practical point. This kind of thing is dangerous. One is handicapped, as far as clear-thinking about politics goes, by being educated in Whig histories. It takes strenuous efforts to get rid of the pernicious notion implanted in one by Macaulay, say. My remedy would be this—prevention. I should adopt for secondary schools what was recently proposed as a solution of the religious difficulty in primary ones. Let there be so many hours set apart for history each week, and let each political party be allowed to send in their own historian. The first step towards this must be the writing o a definitely Tory history. The Whigs have too long had it their own way in this sphere. I can give a definite example of a recent successful accomplishment of this kind of thing in Charles Maurras’s history of the French Monarchy, which is converting scores of young Republicans.

After all, there is nothing ridiculous in the idea itself. It only appears so because it is a logical, definite application in a small scale of a process which is taken as a matter of course in greater ones. All national histories are partisan, and designed to give us a good conceit of ourselves. We recognize that even while we laugh at the American school-books and the Belgian accounts of the Waterloo campaign. But we are not familiar with the same process in small affairs inside the nation. But it is coming rapidly. I can mention Howell Evans’s history of Wales, recommended recently by the Welsh Education Council, which ends up with a panegyric of the late Budget. Or take Mrs. Richard Green’s history of Ireland, now being sold at half-price to all secondary schools of a Nationalist character. It is definitely written to convince the Irishman that his country was not civilized by the English conquest, but had itself, in earlier times, the most cultured civilization in Europe. It is done by a careful selection and manipulation of old manuscripts. It goes flat against the known facts, for the poet Spenser described them as naked barbarians. But what does that matter? It fulfills its intention. Anyone who still has a lingering dislike of this frankly partisan type of history is under the influence of an opposite ideal. He would prefer an impartial record of facts. But this ideal standard by which he condemns the party history does not exist. True, there has been a school of scholars who definitely took it as their ideal — the modern Cambridge historians. But I remember the late Dr. Emil Reich telling me that the greatest triumph of his life took place in a room at Cambridge, when, after an argument on this very subject, he was able to take down from the bookshelves a well-known Jesuit history of the Elizabethan persecutions which contained nothing but facts, no biased comment or theory, but which, at the same time, produces an extreme anti-Protestant effect. According to his own account, this entirely silenced them.

No, the whole thing is impossible. No history can be a faithful mirror. If it were, it would be as long and as dull as life itself. It must be a selection, and, being a selection, must inevitably be biased. Personally, I don’t regard this as a disagreeable necessity; I like the idea. After all, who would care an atom about the past were it not a reservoir of illustrations to back up his own social theories and prejudices? For purposes of political argument, I myself specialize in the history of the 4th century, for no casual opponent knows enough to contradict me. If I rashly illustrated them from the French Revolution, everyone can remember enough facts to back the opposite view.

Originally published in the Commentator, Feb. 22, 1911; March 1, 1911; March 8, 1911.

T.E. Hulme (1883-1917) was an English poet and critic whose books include Speculations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art and Notes on Language and Style.

dimanche, 02 décembre 2012

Wyndham Lewis: Radical for the Permanent Things

Wyndham Lewis: Radical for the Permanent Things
by Stephen Masty
Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), dead for more than half a century, may still take celestial delight in remaining so frustrating: he certainly tried hard enough.
Firstly, his enormous breadth of talent overwhelms today’s overly-specialised critics in their imposed pigeon-holes: some still call him England’s greatest Twentieth Century portraitist and draughtsman, his substantial shelf of novels could keep another league of critics busy, and his volumes of social criticism a third. Next, nobody could be so marvellously abrasive without lots of practice, so whomever you adore from the first half of the Twentieth Century, Lewis said something snarky about him at least twice. Lastly, he had an almost magnetic attraction to being politically-incorrect, giving any sniffy modern who has not read Lewis a good excuse to dismiss him out of hand. So he is largely ignored: a big mistake.
When Lewis is recalled apart from his paintings it is usually for his invective. In one book, he devoted a whole chapter called “The Dumb Ox” to Ernest Hemingway, who went berserk after reading it in the famous Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris, smashed a vase and ended up paying thousands of francs (but he got even and described Lewis as having the eyes of “an unsuccessful rapist”). Virginia Wolfe was scared to show her face in Oxford or Cambridge, the students were so impressed by the drubbing she got from Lewis. James Joyce’s “Ulysses” he described as “a suffocating moeotic expanse of objects” that would remain among the canons of literature, “eternally cathartic, a monument like a record diarrhoea” (if I go “halves” will anyone help get this carved in stone?).
While his best friends, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, called Lewis, respectively, “the only English writer who can be compared to Dostoevsky,” and “the most distinguished living novelist,” he said the former lacked even “a trace of originality,” and accused the latter of “dogmatic insincerity.” However the context is lost to me, they remained friends nevertheless, and this entertaining gossip is still only the “People Magazine” of literary criticism, a nutrition-free distraction.
The man who taught Marshall McLuhan everything he knew about “the global village” (except for the phrase itself), Wyndham Lewis remains desperately timely in his critiques of the youth-cult and its cultural effluvia, the treachery of capitalism, the paucity of well-manipulated bourgeois democracy, and above all the dumbing-down of Western culture and society. If by your friends we shall know ye, think of T. S. Eliot, Roy Campbell and Russell Kirk: in other words he was a conservative defender of The Permanent Things although an ultra-radical, avant-garde modernist, as contradictory as that sounds at first.
Born to an English mother and an American Civil War-hero father on a yacht off Nova Scotia, (Percy) Wyndham Lewis was later to write a novel in which, perhaps unique in literature, the heroine kills herself out of sheer hatred for Canada. Educated at Rugby School and The Slade School of Art, he painted and drew for several small groups attempting to forge Modernism out of the artsy-craftsy movements of the late Victorian era, culminating in Vorticism.
The Vorticists, England’s first indigenous avant-garde movement, were captivated by Cubism and were among the earliest to embrace abstraction, often with industrial themes. Vorticism rebelled against a populist fin-de-siècle fashion for the feminine, the floral and the facile but its thrusting and very masculine techno-optimism died in the trenches of the Great War along with some its talented members.
Its flat, mechanistic images were fine teething-material for Lewis’s draughtsman’s eye and unerring hand, and Vorticism proved a good marketing platform for the ambitious young artist at a time when various Modernist movements seemed to run a dime a dozen: Cubism, Futurism, Tubism, Suprematism, Expressionism, Verismus (may I stop now?) all trying to cram art into an ideological suitcase that was, of course, fully branded, wholly marketable and potentially lucrative. Ultimately, after a stint as an artilleryman, Lewis returned home and moved on, while Vorticism became what veteran art-critic Brian Sewell calls “in the history of western art, no more than a hapless rowing-boat between Cubism and Futurism, the Scylla and Charybdis of the day.”
Vorticism’s inspirations had been far from only graphic and Lewis developed them into a more coherent and visceral rejection of perceived decadence, with antecedents including Hegel and Nietzsche: the former in a belief that art is generated by a conflict resembling the dialectic, differing little from Eliot’s more sophisticated assertion that art progresses through clash but may achieve union, through tradition, with the timeless. Influenced by the latter, Lewis rejected the bourgeois effect on art, which today one might call “dumbing down.”

As Lewis began to write more and paint less, he looked beyond graphic art to see larger forces at work including science, united against individualism and excellence, and this separates him from futurist-utopians of the day such as H. G. Wells. He became, in effect, an anti-Modern Modernist, writing:
“The puritanical potentialities of science have never been forecast. If it evolves a body of organized rites, and is established as a religion hierarchically organized, things more than anything else will be done in the name of 'decency.' The coarse fumes of tobacco and liquors, the consequent tainting of the breath and staining of white fingers and teeth, which is so offensive to many women, will be the first things attended to.”
Russell Kirk described their mutual friend, the poet Roy Campbell, as “a hot hater” and Lewis fit the description to the letter, so his objections are often clearer than his beliefs. But Lewis was, fundamentally, a conservator of social dynamism in the same sense that Eliot believed that modern art could be well-applied to defend The Permanent Things.
Even then, the Left’s thus-far relentless Long March to Cultural Revolution identified modernist reforms only with revolution, chiefly through an overly-simplistic notion that new graphics or literary styles somehow had to go hand-in-hand with new, ideologically-driven systems. Hence the startling originality of Lewis on canvas, or Eliot in print, must have confounded Leftist aesthetes who perhaps rarely fathomed how modernism can be part of traditionalism. As both men knew, Western values and vigour are worth conserving, not the delivery-mechanisms.
Propelled by his excellent choice in enemies but still a child of his age, Lewis echoed Oscar Wilde in charging Revolution with the high-crime of being a bore:
“Revolutionary politics, revolutionary art, and oh, the revolutionary mind, is the dullest thing on earth. When we open a ''revolutionary'' review, or read a ''revolutionary'' speech, we yawn our heads off. It is true, there is nothing else. Everything is correctly, monotonously, dishearteningly ''revolutionary'.' What a stupid word! What a stale fuss!”
Yet Lewis, in his diagnostic skills a political sophisticate, saw revolution as a mere con-job by ruling elites, part of the intentional process of dumbing-down that strengthened control. He wrote:
“A sort of war of revenge on the intellect is what, for some reason, thrives in the contemporary social atmosphere...The ideas of a time are like the clothes of a season: they are as arbitrary, as much imposed by some superior will which is seldom explicit. They are utilitarian and political, the instruments of smooth-running government.”
Lewis would have regarded today’s simplified political bifurcation, so essentially American, as hopelessly naive: Capitalism good, Socialism bad. He complained that, “In the democratic western countries so-called capitalism leads a saturnalia of 'freedom,' like a bastard brother of reform.” He deplored:

“a new familiarity and a flesh-creeping homeliness entirely of this unreal, materialistic world, where all sentiment is coarsely manufactured and advertised in colossal sickly captions, disguised for the sweet tooth of a monstrous baby called the Public, the family as it is, broken up on all hands by the agency of feminist and economic propaganda, reconstitutes itself in the image of the state."

The forces of feminisation, homogenisation and dumbing-down were many, while true artists manned the last barricade. Whether by cheap products, cheap art or cheap politics, the herd was stampeded by its clever masters, chiefly under the banner of equality:
“The intelligence suffers today automatically in consequence of the attack on all authority, advantage, or privilege. These things are not done away with, it is needless to say, but numerous scapegoats are made of the less politically powerful, to satisfy the egalitarian rage awakened.”
Lewis flirted briefly with Italian Fascism as a means of redirecting society away from self-centred decadence, but soon found that Mussolini’s vainglorious strutting and attempting to replicate Roman glory were retrograde, backward-looking. Briefly in the early 1930s, he thought that Hitler might be a force for peace and cultural reinvigoration but he denounced Nazism in one book and Anti-Semitism in another, even though years before he had fictionalised Jewish characters unflatteringly. The twin verdicts may be that, as so many others, he entertained views now wholly and happily anathema, but he never feared to reverse himself honourably; a better record than many of his adversaries who pimped for Stalin until much later or unto the bitter end.
Meanwhile, Lewis had a remarkable gift for seeing far down the socio-ideological train-track.
In his 1928 “The Doom of Youth,” he described a cult that plagues us yet. A society that destroys faith in the hereafter can live only for earthly life, taking refuge from death in an unnatural fixation with youth and protracted adolescence; hence maintaining the appearance of youth until it becomes ludicrous. Since real youths lack experience, achievements and contacts, “official” public youths will be older and older. Politicians, he predicted, will jump onboard with bogus youth-wings, nevertheless controlled by middle-aged party-apparatchiks; presupposing the Hitler Youth Movement and even the fat, balding and comically-inept, 50-year-old, KGB “youth representatives” sent to international youth conferences to mingle with real Western and Third World teenagers into the 1980s. On to then-trendy monkey-gland treatments, more complicated cosmetics and foundation-garments, real and fake exercise regimens and the rest, until nowadays where in any Florida geriatric home (“God’s waiting-room,” my dad calls it) are toothless, pathetic wrecks hobbling around dressed as toddlers.
Lewis was by no means a systematic philosopher, he was an artist; but his draughtsmanship alone can imply an insistence on precision in thought. Taking art seriously, he saw creativity as a moment of intense thought looking ahead and essentially prescriptive, creating something needed and new yet influenced by tradition.
In his 1927 “Time and Western Man,” he attacked a decadent and romanticised aesthetic that sapped modern creativity of its forward-looking dynamism. Yale critic Kirsty Dootson explains Lewis and:
“...the 'time-cult,' which he perceived to be the dominant philosophy of the early twentieth century promulgated by Henri Bergson...and practised by authors such as James Joyce and Gertrude Stein. Lewis condemned the demonising of 'space' due to the rise of the 'time-mind' as, for him, Bergsonian time stood for all that is degenerate in art: flux, change, romanticism, the crowd and the unconscious, whereas space represents all that is desirable: stability, fixity, classicism, the individual and consciousness...The former separates us and keeps us still, while the latter binds us all together and keeps us constantly moving.”
Time can be a muddle and a cul-de-sac: is the child the father of the man?  The focus turns inward to the self, its influences, conflicts and reactions, and can lead to navel-gazing, solipsism, inertia and paralysis. Space describes the road ahead, even though the artist travels with the essential baggage of values, culture and tradition that influence his every act.
Lewis’s friend Roy Campbell, says Professor Roger Scruton, “began to see the three aspects of the new elite—sexual inversion, anti-patriotism, and progressive politics—as aspects of a single frame of mind. These three qualities amounted, for Campbell, to a refusal to grow up.” For Lewis, the time-cult enabled the process.
A prescient collaboration between Lewis and Campbell resulted in “Satire and Fiction,” a 1930 pamphlet promoting the former’s savage, satirical novel “The Apes of God.” There the authors argue that satire becomes impossible in a rootless age lacking normative behaviour, for satire mocks things against an unstated but presumed cultural norm: Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” would not have succeeded satirically had Georgian Englishmen actually approved of eating Irish babies. Without shared values, satire cannot function: forty-two years later, Terry Southern remarked belatedly that satire became impossible after Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the same decade Lewis returned to painting, establishing his reputation as being perhaps England’s greatest portraitist of the last century. Walter Sickert put him in an even bigger league as “the greatest portraitist of this or any other time.”
Critics attempt to analyse his ingredients of success, some saying that his draughtsman’s attention to detail, or his hybrid of portraiture and caricature, provided the impact. It may be something different augmented enormously by his technical mastery, namely his rare ability to perceive essences of character in those whom he portrayed. The sense of melancholy in his portrait of Eliot, so callously overlooked by the Royal Academy in 1938, is sometimes said to be modern Britain’s finest portrait. Or his picture of the aristocratic and aquiline Edith Sitwell in a cold room, wearing a vast turban and surrounded by her old books, is another example of many. The sparse sketch of a handsome and oddly lissome, young Roy Campbell, drawn with the disciplined, concise lines of a Japanese master of sumi-e brushwork, is one more.
Russell Kirk met Lewis in London circa 1950-1951, living in a condemned flat in Notting Hill that the artist referred to wryly as “Rotting Hill.” He soon gave up his job as art-critic for The Listener (clever it was, uniting his graphic-eye and writing skills for a radio-review magazine) because he began to go blind due to a pituitary tumour. Dr. Kirk memorialised him in a chapter of “Confessions of a Bohemian Tory,” recalling that the old lion feared sightlessness slamming shut a door that would nevermore be opened.
Lewis died in 1957, within a few months of his friend Roy Campbell who was 19 years his junior, and almost eight years before T. S. Eliot. Lewis was long interested in Catholicism but never converted, and his ashes are buried in London’s Golders Green Cemetery.
Besides his startling graphic talent and his socio-political prescience, Lewis deserves the attention of Imaginative Conservatives by blasting the still-prevalent notion that modern art needs be the private preserve of the Leftist, the revolutionary, the meddler and the moon-calf. He lived what he preached with relentless vigour, and in that sense his portrait-bust sits comfortably beside that of T. S. Eliot: two radical-conservatives, modernist-traditionalists and indefatigable champions of The Permanent Things.
Stephen Masty lives in Kabul and London.

Eliot, Pound, and Lewis: A Creative Friendship

Eliot, Pound, and Lewis: A Creative Friendship


It may be a source of some pride to those of us fated to live out our lives as Americans that the three men who probably had the greatest influence on English literature in our century were all born on this side of the Atlantic. One of them, Wyndham Lewis, to be sure, was born on a yacht anchored in a harbor in Nova Scotia, but his father was an American, served as an officer in the Union Army in the Civil War, and came from a family that has been established here for many generations. The other two were as American in background and education as it is possible to be. Our pride at having produced men of such high achievement should be considered against the fact that all three spent their creative lives in Europe. For Wyndham Lewis the decision was made for him by his mother, who hustled him off to Europe at the age of ten, but he chose to remain in Europe, and to study in Paris rather than to accept the invitation of his father to go to Cornell, and except for an enforced stay in Canada during World War II, spent his life in Europe. The other two, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, went to Europe as young men out of college, and it was a part of European, not American, cultural life that they made their contribution to literature. Lewis was a European in training, attitude and point of view, but Pound and Eliot were Americans, and Pound, particularly, remained aggressively American; whether living in London or Italy his interest in American affairs never waned.

The lives and achievements of these three men were closely connected. They met as young men, each was influenced and helped by the other two, and they remained friends, in spite of occasional differences, for the rest of their lives. Many will remember the picture in Time of Pound as a very old man attending the memorial service in Westminster Abbey in 1965 for T.S. Eliot. When Lewis, who had gone blind, was unable to read the proofs of his latest book, it was his old friend, T.S. Eliot who did it for him, and when Pound was confined in St. Elizabeth’s in Washington, Eliot and Lewis always kept in close touch with him, and it was at least partly through Eliot’s influence that he was finally released. The lives and association of these three men, whose careers started almost at the same time shortly before World War I are an integral part of the literary and cultural history of this century.

The careers of all three may be said, in a certain way, to have been launched by the publication of Lewis’ magazine Blast. Both Lewis and Pound had been published before and had made something of a name for themselves in artistic and literary circles in London, but it was the publication in June, 1914, of the first issue of Blast that put them, so to speak, in the center of the stage. The first Blast contained 160 pages of text, was well printed on heavy paper, its format large, the typography extravagant, and its cover purple. It contained illustrations, many by Lewis, stories by Rebecca West and Ford Maddox Ford, poetry by Pound and others, but it is chiefly remembered for its “Blasts” and “Blesses” and its manifestos. It was in this first issue of Blast that “vorticism,” the new art form, was announced, the name having been invented by Pound. Vorticism was supposed to express the idea that art should represent the present, at rest, and at the greatest concentration of energy, between past and future. “There is no Present – there is Past and Future, and there is Art,” was a vorticist slogan. English humour and its “first cousin and accomplice, sport” were blasted, as were “sentimental hygienics,” Victorian liberalism, the Royal Academy, the Britannic aesthete; Blesses were reserved for the seafarer, the great ports, for Shakespeare “for his bitter Northern rhetoric of humour” and Swift “for his solemn, bleak wisdom of laughter”; a special bless, as if in anticipation of our hairy age, was granted the hairdresser. Its purpose, Lewis wrote many years later, was to exalt “formality and order, at the expense of the disorderly and the unkempt. It is merely a humorous way,” he went on to say, “of stating the classic standpoint as against the romantic.”

The second, and last, issue of Blast appeared in July, 1915, by which time Lewis was serving in the British army. This issue again contained essays, notes and editorial comments by Lewis and poetry by Pound, but displayed little of the youthful exuberance of the first – the editors and contributors were too much aware of the suicidal bloodletting taking place in the trenches of Flanders and France for that. The second issue, for example, contained, as did the first, a contribution by the gifted young sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska, together with the announcement that he had been killed while serving in the French army.

Between the two issues of Blast, Eliot had arrived in London via Marburg and Oxford, where he had been studying for a degree in philosophy. He met Pound soon after his arrival, and through Pound, Wyndham Lewis. Eliot’s meeting of Pound, who promptly took him under his wing, had two immediate consequences – the publication in Chicago of Prufrock in Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine, and the appearance of two other poems a month or two later in Blast. The two issues of Blast established Lewis as a major figure: as a brilliant polemicist and a critic of the basic assumptions and intellectual position of his time, two roles he was never to surrender. Pound had played an important role in Blast, but Lewis was the moving force. Eliot’s role as a contributor of two poems to the second issue was relatively minor, but the enterprise brought them together, and established an association and identified them with a position in the intellectual life of their time which was undoubtedly an important factor in the development and achievement of all three.

Lewis was born in 1882 on a yacht, as was mentioned before, off the coast of Nova Scotia. Pound was born in 1885 in Hailey, Idaho, and Eliot in 1888 in St. Louis. Lewis was brought up in England by his mother, who had separated from his father, was sent to various schools, the last one Rugby, from which he was dropped, spent several years at an art school in London, the Slade, and then went to the continent, spending most of the time in Paris where he studied art, philosophy under Bergson and others, talked, painted and wrote. He returned to England to stay in 1909. It was in the following year that he first met Ezra Pound, in the Vienna Cafe in London. Pound, he wrote many years later, didn’t greatly appeal to him at first – he seemed overly sure of himself and not a little presumptuous. His first impression, he said, was of “a bombastic galleon, palpably bound to or from, the Spanish Main,” but, he discovered, “beneath its skull and cross-bones, intertwined with fleur de lis and spattered with star-spangled oddities, a heart of gold.” As Lewis became better acquainted with Pound he found, as he wrote many years later, that “this theatrical fellow was one of the best.” And he went on to say, “I still regard him as one of the best, even one of the best poets.”

By the time of this meeting, Lewis was making a name for himself, not only as a writer, but also an artist. He had exhibited in London with some success, and shortly before his meeting with Pound, Ford Maddox Ford had accepted a group of stories for publication in the English Review, stories he had written while still in France in which some of the ideas appeared which he was to develop in the more than forty books that were to follow.

But how did Ezra Pound, this young American poet who was born in Hailey, Idaho, and looked, according to Lewis, like an “acclimatized Buffalo Bill,” happen to be in the Vienna Cafe in London in 1910, and what was he doing there? The influence of Idaho, it must be said at once, was slight, since Pound’s family had taken him at an early age to Philadelphia, where his father was employed as an assayer in the U.S. mint. The family lived first in West Philadelphia, then in Jenkintown, and when Ezra was about six bought a comfortable house in Wyncote, where he grew up. He received good training in private schools, and a considerable proficiency in Latin, which enabled him to enter the University of Pennsylvania shortly before reaching the age of sixteen. It was at this time, he was to write some twenty years later, that he made up his mind to become a poet. He decided at that early age that by the time he was thirty he would know more about poetry than any man living. The poetic “impulse”, he said, came from the gods, but technique was man’s responsibility, and he was determined to master it. After two years at Pennsylvania, he transferred to Hamilton, from which he graduated with a Ph.B. two years later. His college years, in spite of his assertions to the contrary, must have been stimulating and developing – he received excellent training in languages, read widely and well, made some friends, including William Carlos Williams, and wrote poetry. After Hamilton he went back to Pennsylvania to do graduate work, where he studied Spanish literature, Old French, Provencal, and Italian. He was granted an M.A. by Pennsylvania in 1906 and a Fellowship in Romantics, which gave him enough money for a summer in Europe, part of which he spent studying in the British museum and part in Spain. The Prado made an especially strong impression on him – thirty years later he could still describe the pictures in the main gallery and recall the exact order in which they were hung. He left the University of Pennsylvania in 1907, gave up the idea of a doctorate, and after one semester teaching at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, went to Europe, to return to his native land only for longer or shorter visits, except for the thirteen years he was confined in St. Elizabeth’s in Washington.

Pound’s short stay at Wabash College was something of a disaster – he found Crawfordsville, Indiana, confining and dull, and Crawfordsville, in 1907, found it difficult to adjust itself to a Professor of Romance Languages who wore a black velvet jacket, a soft-collared shirt, flowing bow tie, patent leather pumps, carried a malacca cane, and drank rum in his tea. The crisis came when he allowed a stranded chorus girl he had found in a snow storm to sleep in his room. It was all quite innocent, he insisted, but Wabash didn’t care for his “bohemian ways,” as the President put it, and was glad for the excuse to be rid of him. He wrote some good poetry while at Wabash and made some friends, but was not sorry to leave, and was soon on his way to Europe, arriving in Venice, which he had visited before, with just eighty dollars.

While in Venice he arranged to have a group of his poems printed under the title A Lume Spento. This was in his preparation for his assault on London, since he believed, quite correctly, that a poet would make more of an impression with a printed book of his poetry under his arm than some pages of an unpublished manuscript. He stayed long enough in Venice to recover from the disaster of Wabash and to gather strength and inspiration for the next step, London, where he arrived with nothing more than confidence in himself, three pounds, and the copies of his book of poems. He soon arranged to give a series of lectures at the Polytechnic on the Literature of Southern Europe, which gave him a little money, and to have the Evening Standard review his book of poetry, the review ending with the sentence, “The unseizable magic of poetry is in this queer paper volume, and words are no good in describing it.” He managed to induce Elkin Mathews to publish another small collection, the first printing of which was one hundred copies and soon sold out, then a larger collection, Personae, the Polytechnic engaged him for a more ambitious series of lectures, and he began to meet people in literary circles, including T.E. Hulme, John Butler Yeats, and Ford Maddox Ford, who published his “Ballad of the Goodley Fere” in the English Review. His book on medieval Latin poetry, The Spirit of Romance, which is still in print, was published by Dent in 1910. The Introduction to this book contains the characteristic line, “The history of an art is the history of masterworks, not of failures or of mediocrity.” By the time the first meeting with Wyndham Lewis took place in the Vienna Cafe, then, which was only two years after Pound’s rather inauspicious arrival in London, he was, at the age of 26, known to some as a poet and had become a man of some standing.

It was Pound, the discoverer of talent, the literary impresario, as I have said, who brought Eliot and Lewis together. Eliot’s path to London was as circuitous as Pound’s, but, as one might expect, less dramatic. Instead of Crawfordsville, Indiana, Eliot had spent a year at the Sorbonne after a year of graduate work at Harvard, and was studying philosophy at the University of Marburg with the intention of obtaining a Harvard Ph.D. and becoming a professor, as one of his teachers at Harvard, Josiah Royce, had encouraged him to do, but the war intervened, and he went to Oxford. Conrad Aiken, one of his closest friends at Harvard, had tried earlier, unsuccessfully, to place several of Eliot’s poems with an English publisher, had met Pound, and had given Eliot a latter of introduction to him. The result of that first meeting with Pound are well known – Pound wrote instantly to Harriet Monroe in Chicago, for whose new magazine, Poetry, he had more or less been made European editor, as follows: “An American called Eliot called this P.M. I think he has some sense tho’ he has not yet sent me any verse.” A few weeks later Eliot, while still at Oxford, sent him the manuscript of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Pound was ecstatic, and immediately transmitted his enthusiasm to Miss Monroe. It was he said, “the best poem I have yet had or seen from an American. Pray God it be not a single and unique success.” Eliot, Pound went on to say, was “the only American I know of who has made an adequate preparation for writing. He has actually trained himself and modernized himself on his own.” Pound sent Prufrock to Miss Monroe in October, 1914, with the words, “The most interesting contribution I’ve had from an American. P.S. Hope you’ll get it in soon.” Miss Monroe had her own ideas – Prufrock was not the sort of poetry she thought young Americans should be writing; she much preferred Vachel Lindsey, whose The Firemen’s Ball she had published in the June issue. Pound, however, was not to be put off; letter followed importuning letter, until she finally surrendered and in the June, 1915, issue of Poetry, now a collector’s item of considerable value, the poem appeared which begins:

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table …

It was not, needless to say, to be the “single and unique success” Pound had feared, but the beginning of one of the great literary careers of this century. The following month the two poems appeared in Blast. Eliot had written little or nothing for almost three years. The warm approval and stimulation of Pound plus, no doubt, the prospect of publication, encouraged him to go on. In October Poetry published three more new poems, and later in the year Pound arranged to have Elkin Matthews, who had published his two books of poetry to bring out a collection which he edited and called The Catholic Anthology which contained the poems that had appeared in Poetry and one of the two from Blast. The principal reason for the whole anthology, Pound remarked, “was to get sixteen pages of Eliot printed in England.”

If all had gone according to plan and his family’s wishes, Eliot would have returned to Harvard, obtained his Ph.D., and become a professor. He did finish his thesis – “To please his parents,” according to his second wife, Valerie Eliot, but dreaded the prospect of a return to Harvard. It didn’t require much encouragement from Pound, therefore, to induce him to stay in England – it was Pound, according to his biographer Noel Stock “who saved Eliot for poetry.” Eliot left Oxford at the end of the term in June, 1915, having in the meantime married Vivien Haigh-Wood. That Fall he took a job as a teacher in a boy’s school at a salary of £140 a year, with dinner. He supplemented his salary by book reviewing and occasional lectures, but it was an unproductive, difficult period for him, his financial problems increased by the illness of his wife. After two years of teaching he took a position in a branch of Lloyd’s bank in London, hoping that this would give him sufficient income to live on, some leisure for poetry, and a pension for his wife should she outlive him. Pound at this period fared better than Eliot – he wrote music criticism for a magazine, had some income from other writing and editorial projects, which was supplemented by the small income of his wife, Dorothy Shakespear and occasional checks from his father. He also enjoyed a more robust constitution that Eliot, who eventually broke down under the strain and was forced, in 1921, to take a rest cure in Switzerland. It was during this three-month stay in Switzerland that he finished the first draft of The Waste Land, which he immediately brought to Pound. Two years before, Pound had taken Eliot on a walking tour in France to restore his health, and besides getting Eliot published, was trying to raise a fund to give him a regular source of income, a project he called “Bel Esprit.” In a latter to John Quinn, the New York lawyer who used his money, perceptive critical judgment and influence to help writers and artists, Pound, referring to Eliot, wrote, “It is a crime against literature to let him waste eight hours vitality per diem in that bank.” Quinn agreed to subscribe to the fund, but it became a source of embarrassment to Eliot who put a stop to it.

The Waste Land marked the high point of Eliot’s literary collaboration with Pound. By the time Eliot had brought him the first draft of the poem, Pound was living in Paris, having left London, he said, because “the decay of the British Empire was too depressing a spectacle to witness at close range.” Pound made numerous suggestions for changes, consisting largely of cuts and rearrangements. In a latter to Eliot explaining one deletion he wrote, “That is 19 pages, and let us say the longest poem in the English langwidge. Don’t try to bust all records by prolonging it three pages further.” A recent critic described the processes as one of pulling “a masterpiece out of a grabbag of brilliant material”; Pound himself described his participation as a “Caesarian operation.” However described, Eliot was profoundly grateful, and made no secret of Pound’s help. In his characteristically generous way, Eliot gave the original manuscript to Quinn, both as a token for the encouragement Quinn had given to him, and for the further reason, as he put it in a letter to Quinn, “that this manuscript is worth preserving in its present form solely for the reason that it is the only evidence of the difference which his [Pound’s] criticism has made to the poem.” For years the manuscript was thought to have been lost, but it was recently found among Quinn’s papers which the New York Public Library acquired some years after his death, and now available in a facsimile edition.

The first publication of The Waste Land was in the first issue of Eliot’s magazine Criterion, October, 1922. The following month it appeared in New York in The Dial. Quinn arranged for its publication in book form by Boni and Liveright, who brought it out in November. The first printing of one thousand was soon sold out, and Eliot was given the Dial award of the two thousand dollars. Many were puzzled by The Waste Land, one reviewer even thought that Mr. Eliot might be putting over a hoax, but Pound was not alone in recognizing that in his ability to capture the essence of the human condition in the circumstances of the time, Eliot had shown himself, in The Waste Land, to be a poet. To say that the poem is merely a reflection of Eliot’s unhappy first marriage, his financial worries and nervous breakdown is far too superficial. The poem is a reflection, not of Eliot, but of the aimlessness, disjointedness, sordidness of contemporary life. In itself, it is in no way sick or decadent; it is a wonderfully evocative picture of the situation of man in the world as it is. Another poet, Kathleen Raine, writing many years after the first publication of The Waste Land on the meaning of Eliot’s early poetry to her generation, said it

…enabled us to know our generation imaginatively. All those who have lived in the Waste Land of London can, I suppose, remember the particular occasion on which, reading T.S. Eliot’s poems for the first time, an experience of the contemporary world that had been nameless and formless received its apotheosis.

Eliot sent one of the first copies he received of the Boni and Liveright edition to Ezra Pound with the inscription “for E.P. miglior fabbro from T.S.E. Jan. 1923.” His first volume of collected poetry was dedicated to Pound with the same inscription, which came from Dante and means, “the better marker.” Explaining this dedication Eliot wrote in 1938:

I wished at that moment to honour the technical mastery and critical ability manifest in [Pound’s] . . . work, which had also done so much to turn The Waste Land from a jumble of good and bad passages into a poem.

Pound and Eliot remained in touch with each other – Pound contributed frequently to the Criterion, and Eliot, through his position at Faber and Faber, saw many of Pounds’ books through publication and himself selected and edited a collection of Pound’s poetry, but there was never again that close collaboration which had characterized their association from their first meeting in London in 1914 to the publication of The Waste Land in the form given it by Pound in 1922.

As has already been mentioned, Pound left London in 1920 to go to Paris, where he stayed on until about 1924 – long enough for him to meet many people and for the force of his personality to make itself felt. He and his wife were frequent visitors to the famous bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. run by the young American Sylvia Beach, where Pound, among other things, made shelves, mended chairs, etc.; he also was active gathering subscriptions for James Joyces’ Ulysses when Miss Beach took over its publication. The following description by Wyndham Lewis of an encounter with Pound during the latter’s Paris days is worth repeating. Getting no answer after ringing the bell of Pound’s flat, Lewis walked in and discovered the following scene:

A splendidly built young man, stripped to the waist, and with a torso of dazzling white, was standing not far from me. He was tall, handsome and serene, and was repelling with his boxing gloves – I thought without undue exertion – a hectic assault of Ezra’s. After a final swing at the dazzling solar plexus (parried effortlessly by the trousered statue) Pound fell back upon the settee. The young man was Hemingway.

Pound, as is well known, took Hemingway in hand, went over his manuscripts, cut out superfluous words as was custom, and helped him find a publisher, a service he had performed while still in London for another young American, Robert Frost. In a letter to Pound, written in 1933, Hemingway acknowledged the help Pound had given him by saying that he had learned more about “how to write and how not to write” from him “than from any son of a bitch alive, and he always said so.”

When we last saw Lewis, except for his brief encounter with Pound and Hemingway wearing boxing gloves, he had just brought out the second issues of Blast and gone off to the war to end all war. He served for a time at the front in an artillery unit, and was then transferred to a group of artists who were supposed to devote their time to painting and drawing “the scene of war,” as Lewis put it, a scheme which had been devised by Lord Beaverbrook, through whose intervention Lewis received the assignment. He hurriedly finished a novel, Tarr, which was published during the war, largely as a result of Pound’s intervention, in Harriet Shaw Weaver’s magazine The Egoist, and in book form after the war had ended. It attracted wide attention; Rebecca West, for example, called it “A beautiful and serious work of art that reminds one of Dostoevsky.” By the early twenties, Lewis, as the editor of Blast, the author of Tarr and a recognized artist was an established personality, but he was not then, and never became a part of the literary and artistic establishment, nor did he wish to be.

For the first four years following his return from the war and recovery from a serious illness that followed it little was heard from Lewis. He did bring out two issues of a new magazine, The Tyro, which contained contributions from T.S. Eliot, Herbert Read and himself, and contributed occasionally to the Criterion, but it was a period, for him, of semi-retirement from the scene of battle, which he devoted to perfecting his style as a painter and to study. It was followed by a torrent of creative activity – two important books on politics, The Art of Being Ruled (1926) and The Lion and the Fox (1927), a major philosophical work, Time and Western Man (1927), followed by a collection of stories, The Wild Body (1927) and the first part of a long novel, Childermass (1928). In 1928, he brought out a completely revised edition of his wartime novel Tarr, and if all this were not enough, he contributed occasionally to the Criterion, engaged in numerous controversies, painted and drew. In 1927 he founded another magazine, The Enemy, of which only three issues appeared, the last in 1929. Lewis, of course, was “the Enemy.” He wrote in the first issue:

The names we remember in European literature are those of men who satirised and attacked, rather than petted and fawned upon, their contemporaries. Only this time exacts an uncritical hypnotic sleep of all within it.

One of Lewis’ best and most characteristic books is Time and Western Man; it is in this book that he declared war, so to speak, on what he considered the dominant intellectual position of the twentieth century – the philosophy of time, the school of philosophy, as he described it, for which “time and change are the ultimate realities.” It is the position which regards everything as relative, all reality a function of time. “The Darwinian theory and all the background of nineteenth century thought was already behind it,” Lewis wrote, and further “scientific” confirmation was provided by Einstein’s theory of relativity. It is a position, in Lewis’ opinion, which is essentially romantic, “with all that word conveys in its most florid, unreal, inflated, self-deceiving connotation.”

The ultimate consequence of the time philosophy, Lewis argued, is the degradation of man. With its emphasis on change, man, the man of the present, living man for the philosophy of time ends up as little more than a minute link in the endless process of progressive evolution –lies not in what he is, but in what he as a species, not an individual, may become. As Lewis put it:

You, in imagination, are already cancelled by those who will perfect you in the mechanical time-scale that stretches out, always ascending, before us. What do you do and how you live has no worth in itself. You are an inferior, fatally, to all the future.

Against this rather depressing point of view, which deprives man of all individual worth, Lewis offers the sense of personality, “the most vivid and fundamental sense we possess,” as he describes it. It is this sense that makes man unique; it alone makes creative achievement possible. But the sense of personality, Lewis points out, is essentially one of separation, and to maintain such separation from others requires, he believes, a personal God. As he expressed it: “In our approaches to God, in consequence, we do not need to “magnify” a human body, but only to intensify that consciousness of a separated and transcendent life. So God becomes the supreme symbol of our separation and our limited transcendence….It is, then, because the sense of personality is posited as our greatest “real”, that we require a “God”, a something that is nothing but a person, secure in its absolute egoism, to be the rationale of this sense.”

It is exactly “our separation and our limited transcendence” that the time philosophy denies us; its God is not, in Lewis’ words “a perfection already existing, eternally there, of which we are humble shadows,” but a constantly emerging God, the perfection toward which man is thought to be constantly striving. Appealing as such a conception may on its surface appear to be, this God we supposedly attain by our strenuous efforts turns out to be a mocking God; “brought out into the daylight,” Lewis said, “it would no longer be anything more than a somewhat less idiotic you.”

In Time and Western Man Lewis publicly disassociated himself from Pound, Lewis having gained the erroneous impression, apparently, that Pound had become involved in a literary project of some kind with Gertrude Stein, whom Lewis hated with all the considerable passion of which he was capable. To Lewis, Gertrude Stein, with her “stuttering style” as he called it, was the epitomy of “time philosophy” in action. The following is quoted by Lewis is in another of his books, The Diabolical Principle, and comes from a magazine published in Paris in 1925 by the group around Gertrude Stein; it is quoted here to give the reader some idea of the reasons for Lewis’ strong feelings on the subject of Miss Stein:

If we have a warm feeling for both (the Superrealists) and the Communists, it is because the movements which they represent are aimed at the destruction of a thoroughly rotten structure … We are entertained intellectually, if not physically, with the idea of (the) destruction (of contemporary society). But … our interests are confined to literature and life … It is our purpose purely and simply to amuse ourselves.

The thought that Pound would have associated himself with a group expounding ideas on this level of irresponsibility would be enough to cause Lewis to write him off forever, but it wasn’t true; Pound had met Gertrude Stein once or twice during his stay in Paris, but didn’t get on with her, which isn’t at all surprising. Pound also didn’t particularly like Paris, and in 1924 moved to Rapallo, a small town on the Mediterranean a few miles south of Genoa, where he lived until his arrest by the American authorities at the end of World War II.

In an essay written for Eliot’s sixtieth birthday, Lewis had the following to say about the relationship between Pound and Eliot:

It is not secret that Ezra Pound exercised a very powerful influence upon Mr. Eliot. I do not have to define the nature of this influence, of course. Mr. Eliot was lifted out of his lunar alley-ways and fin de siecle nocturnes, into a massive region of verbal creation in contact with that astonishing didactic intelligence, that is all.

Lewis’ own relationship with Pound was of quite a different sort, but during the period from about 1910 to 1920, when Pound left London, was close, friendly, and doubtless stimulating to both. During Lewis’ service in the army, Pound looked after Lewis’ interests, arranged for the publication of his articles, tried to sell his drawings, they even collaborated in a series of essays, written in the form of letters, but Lewis, who in any case was inordinately suspicious, was quick to resent Pound’s propensity to literary management. After Pound settled in Rapallo they corresponded only occasionally, but in 1938, when Pound was in London, Lewis made a fine portrait of him, which hangs in the Tate Gallery. In spite of their occasional differences and the rather sharp attack on Pound in Time and Western Man, they remained friends, and Lewis’ essay for Eliot’s sixtieth birthday, which was written while Pound was still confined in St. Elizabeth’s, is devoted largely to Pound, to whom Lewis pays the following tribute:

So, for all his queerness at times–ham publicity of self, misreading of part of poet in society–in spite of anything that may be said Ezra is not only himself a great poet, but has been of the most amazing use to other people. Let it not be forgotten for instance that it was he who was responsible for the all-important  contact  for James  Joyce–namely  Miss Weaver. It was his critical understanding, his generosity, involved in the detection and appreciation of the literary genius of James  Joyce. It was through him that a very considerable sum of  money was put at Joyce’s disposal at the critical moment.

Lewis concludes his comments on Pound with the following:

He was a man of letters, in the marrow of his bones and down to the red rooted follicles of his hair. He breathed Letters, ate Letters, dreamt Letters. A very rare kind of man.

Two other encounters during his London period had a lasting influence on Pound’s thought and career–the Oriental scholar Ernest Fenollosa and Major Douglas, the founder of Social Credit. Pound met Douglas in 1918 in the office of The New Age, a magazine edited by Alfred H. Orage, and became an almost instant convert. From that  point on usury became an obsession with him, and the word “usurocracy,” which he used to denote a social system based on money and credit, an indispensable part of his vocabulary. Social Credit was doubtless not the panacea Pound considered it to be, but  that Major Douglas was entirely a fool seems doubtful too, if the following quotation from him is indicative of the quality of his thought:

I would .. make the suggestion … that the first requisite of a  satisfactory governmental system is  that it shall divest itself  of the idea that it has a mission to improve the morals or direct  the  philosophy of  any of  its constituent citizens.

Ernest Fenollosa was a distinguished Oriental scholar of American  origin who had spent  many years in Japan, studying both Japanese and Chinese literature, and had died in  1908. Pound met his widow in London in 1913, with the result that she entrusted her  husband’s papers to him, with her authorization to edit and publish them as he thought  best. Pound threw himself into the study of the Fenollosa material with his usual  energy, becoming, as a result, an authority on the Japanese Noh drama and a lifelong student of Chinese. He came to feel that the Chinese ideogram, because it was never entirely removed from its origin in the concrete, had certain advantages over the  Western alphabet. Two years after receiving the Fenollosa manuscripts, Pound published  a translation of Chinese poetry under the title Cathay. The Times Literary Supplement  spoke of the language of Pound’s translation as “simple, sharp, precise.” Ford Maddox  Ford, in a moment of enthusiasm, called Cathay “the most beautiful book in the  language.”

Pound  made other translations, from Provencal, Italian, Greek, and besides the book of  Chinese poetry, translated Confucius, from which the following is a striking example, and  represents a conception of the relationship between the individual and society to which Pound attached great importance, and frequently referred to in his other writing:

The men of old wanting to clarify and diffuse throughout the empire that light which comes from looking straight into the heart and then acting, first set up good government in their own states; wanting good government in their states, they first established order in their own families; wanting order in the  home, they  first disciplined themselves; desiring self-discipline, they rectified their own hearts; and wanting to rectify their hearts; they sought precise verbal definitions of their inarticulate thoughts; wishing to attain precise verbal definitions, they sought to extend  their knowledge to the utmost. This completion of knowledge is rooted in sorting things into organic categories.

When things had been classified in organic categories, knowledge moved toward fulfillment; given the extreme knowable points, the inarticulate thoughts were defined with  precision. Having attained this precise verbal definition, they then stabilized their hearts, they disciplined themselves;  having attained self-discipline, they set their own houses in order; having order in their own homes, they brought good  government to their own states; and when their states were  well  governed, the empire was brought into equilibrium.

Pound’s major poetic work is, of course, The Cantos, which he worked on over a period of more than thirty years. One section, The Pisan Cantos, comprising 120 pages and eleven cantos, was written while Pound was confined in a U.S. Army detention camp near Pisa, for part of the time in a cage. Pound’s biographer, Noel Stock, himself a poet and a  competent critic, speaks of the Pisan Cantos as follows:

They are confused and often fragmentary; and they bear no relation structurally to the seventy earlier cantos; but shot through by a rare sad light they tell of things gone which somehow seem to live on, and are probably his best poetry. In  those few desperate months he was forced to return to that point within himself where the human person meets the outside world of real things, and to speak of what he found there. If at times the verse is silly, it is because in himself Pound was often  silly; if at times it is firm, dignified and intelligent, it is because  in himself Pound was often firm, dignified and intelligent; if it  is fragmentary and confused, it is because Pound was never  able to think out his position and did not know how the matters with which he dealt were related; and if often lines and  passages have a beauty seldom equaled in the poetry of the twentieth century it is because Pound had a true lyric gift.

As for the Cantos as a whole, I am not competent to make even a comment, much less to  pass judgment. Instead I will quote the distinguished English critic Sir Herbert Read on  the subject:

I am not going to deny that for the most part the Cantos present insuperable difficulties  for the impatient reader, but, as Pound says somewhere, “You can’t get through hell in a hurry.” They are of varying length, but they already amount to more than five hundred pages of verse and constitute the longest, and without hesitation I would say the greatest, poetic achievement of our time.

When The Waste Land was published in 1922 Eliot was still working as a clerk in a  London bank and had just launched his magazine, The Criterion. He left the bank in 1925 to join the newly organized publishing firm of Faber and Gwyer, later to become Faber  and Faber, which gave him the income he needed, leisure for his literary pursuits and  work that was congenial and appropriate. One of his tasks at Fabers, it used to be said,  was writing jacket blurbs. His patience and helpfulness to young authors was well known–from personal experience I can bear witness to his kindness to inexperienced publishers; his friends, in fact, thought that the time he devoted to young authors he felt had promise  might have been better spent on his own work. In spite of the demands on his time and  energy, he continued to edit the Criterion, the publication of which was eventually taken  over by Faber. He attached the greatest importance to the Criterion, as is evidenced by the following from a letter to Lewis dated January 31, 1925 which is devoted entirely to  the Criterion and his wish for Lewis to continue to write regularly for it, “Furthermore I  am not an individual but an instrument, and anything I do is in the interest of art and literature and civilization, and is not a matter for personal compensation.” As it worked  out, Lewis wrote only occasionally for the Criterion, not at all for every issue as Eliot had proposed in the letter referred to above. The closeness of their association, however, in spite of occasional differences, may be judged not only from Eliot’s wish to have something from Lewis in every issue, but from the following from a letter to Eliot from  Lewis:

As I understand with your paper that you are almost in the position I was in with Tyro and Blast I will give you anything I have for nothing, as you did me, and am anxious to be of use to you: for I know that every  failure of an exceptional attempt  like yours with the Criterion means that the chance of  establishing some sort of critical standard here is diminished.

Pound also contributed frequently to the Criterion, but at least pretended not to think much of  it–“… a magnificent piece of editing, i.e. for the purpose of getting in to the  Athenaeum Club, and becoming permanent,” he remarked on one occasion. He, by the  way, accepted some of the blame for what he considered to be Eliot’s unduly cautious approach to criticism. In a letter to the Secretary of the Guggenheim Foundation, written  in 1925 to urge them to extend financial assistance to Eliot and Lewis, he made the  following comment:

I may in some measure be to blame for the extreme caution of his [Eliot’s] criticism. I pointed out to him in the beginning that there was no use of two of us butting a stone wall; that he’d  never be as hefty a battering ram as I was, nor as explosive as Lewis, and that he’d  better try a more oceanic and fluid method of sapping the foundations. He is now respected by the Times  Lit. Sup. But his criticism no longer arouses my interest.

What Pound, of course, wished to “sap” was not the “foundations”of an ordered society,  but of established stupidity and mediocrity. The primary aim of all three, Pound, Eliot  and Lewis, each in his own way, was to defend civilized values. For Eliot, the means to  restore the health of Western civilization was Christianity. In his essay The Idea of A Christian Society he pointed out the dangers of the dominant liberalism of the time, which he thought “must either proceed into a gradual decline of which we can see no end, or reform itself into a positive shape which is likely to be effectively secular.” To attain,  or recover, the Christian society which he thought was the only alternative to a purely secular society, he recommended, among other things, a Christian education. The purpose of  such an education would not be merely to make people pious Christians, but primarily, as he put it, “to train people to be able to think in Christian categories.” The great mass of any population, Eliot thought, necessarily occupied in the everyday cares and demands of life, could not be expected to devote much time or effort to “thinking about the objects of faith,” their Christianity must be almost wholly realized in behavior.  For Christian values, and the faith which supports them to survive there must be, he  thought, a “Community of  Christians,” of people who would lead a “Christian life on its highest social level.”

Eliot thought of “the Community of Christians” not as “an organization, but a body of  indefinite outline, composed of both clergy and laity, of the more conscious, more spiritually and intellectually developed of both.” It will be their “identity of belief and  aspiration, their background of a common culture, which will enable them to influence and be influenced by each other, and collectively to form the conscious mind and the conscience of the nation.” Like William Penn, Eliot didn’t think that the actual form of  government was as important as the moral level of the people, for it is the general ethos of the people they have to govern, not their own piety, that determines the behaviour of  politicians.” For this reason, he thought, “A  nation’s system of education is much more  important than its system of government.”

When we consider the very different personalities of these three men, all enormously  gifted, but quite different in their individual characteristics–Pound, flamboyant, extravagant; Eliot, restrained, cautious; Lewis, suspicious, belligerent–we can’t help but wonder how it was possible for three such men to remain close friends from the time they met as young men until the ends of their lives. Their common American background no doubt played some part in bringing Pound and Eliot together, and they both shared certain characteristics we like to think of as American: generosity, openness to others, a fresher, more unencumbered attitude toward the past than is usual for a European, who,  as Goethe remarked, carries the burden of the quarrels of a long history. But their close association, mutual respect and friendship were based on more than their common origin on this side of the Atlantic. In their basic attitude toward the spirit of their time, all three were outsiders; it was a time dominated by a facile, shallow liberalism, which, as Eliot  once remarked, had “re- placed belief  in Divine Grace” with “the myth of human  goodness.” Above all they were serious men,  they were far more interested in finding and expressing the truth than in success as the world understands it. The English critic  E. W.  F.  Tomlin remarked that a characteristic of  these three “was that they had mastered their subjects, and were  aware of  what lay beyond them. The reading that went into Time and Western Man alone exceeded the life-time capacity of many so-called ‘scholars.’” The royalties Lewis earned from this book, one of the most important of our time, which represented an immense amount of work and thought of the highest order, didn’t amount to a pittance, but Lewis’ concern, as he put it toward the end of his life, was for “the threat of extinction to the cultural tradition of the West.” It was this mutual  concern, on a very  high level, and an utterly serious attitude toward creative work that  brought them and held them together.

Why did Pound and Eliot stay in Europe, and what might have happened to them if they had come back to this country, as both were many times urged to do, or to Lewis if he had  gone to Cornell and stayed over here? In Pound’s case, the answer is rather simple, and was given in essence by his  experience in Crawfordsville, Indiana, as a young man, and the treatment he received following the war. There is no doubt that in making broadcasts on the Italian radio during wartime he was technically guilty of treason; against this, it seems to me, must be weighed the effect of  the broadcasts, which was zero, and his achievement as a poet and critic, which is immense. One can’t expect magnanimity from any government, and especially not in the intoxication of victory in a great war and overwhelming world power, but one might have expected the academic and literary  community to have protested the brutal treatment meted out to Pound. It didn’t, nor was there any protest of his long confinement in a mental institution except on the part of a few individuals; his release was brought about largely as a result of protests from Europe, in which Eliot played a substantial part. When, however, during his confinement in St.  Elizabeth’s, the Bollingen prize for poetry was given him for the Pisan Cantos, the liberal establishment reacted with the sort of  roar one might have expected had the Nobel Peace Prize been awarded to Adolf Hitler.

Lewis spent some five years in Toronto during World War II, which, incidentally, provided him with the background for one of his greatest novels, Self Condemned. He was desperately hard up, and tried to get lecture engagements from a number of  universities, including the University of Chicago. A small Canadian Catholic college was the only representative of the academic institutions of North America to offer this really great, creative intelligence something more substantial than an occasional lecture. Since his death, Cornell and the University of Buffalo have spent large sums accumulating Lewis material-manuscripts, letters, first editions, drawings, etc. When they could have done something for Lewis himself,  to their own glory and profit, they ignored him.

The American intellectual establishment, on the other hand, did not ignore the Communist-apologist Harold Laski, who was afforded all the honors and respect at its  command, the  Harold Laski who, in 1934, at the height of Stalinism–mass arrests, millions in slave labor camps and all the rest–had lectured at the Soviet Institute of Law.

Following his return to England the Labour government gave Lewis, “the Enemy” of socialism, as he called himself, a civil pension, and the BBC invited him to lecture regularly on modern art and to write for its publication, The Listener. He was even  awarded an honorary degree by the University of Leeds. Can anyone imagine CBS, for  example, offering a position of any kind to a man with Lewis’ unorthodox views, uncompromising intelligence, and ability to see the world for what it is, the Ford  Foundation offering him a grant, or Harvard or Yale granting him an honorary degree? Harold Laski indeed yes, but Wyndham Lewis? It is inconceivable.

The following taken from letters from Ezra Pound, the first written in 1926 to Harriet Monroe, and the second in 1934 to his old professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Felix Schelling, puts the problem of the poet in America as he saw it very graphically:

Poverty here is decent and honourable. In America it lays one open to continuous insult on all sides.  . . Re your question is it any better abroad for authors: England gives small pensions; France provides jobs.  . . Italy is full of ancient libraries; the  jobs are quite comfortable, not very highly paid, but are  respectable, and can’t much interfere with the librarians’ time.

As for “expatriated”? You know damn well the country wouldn’t  feed me. The simple economic fact that if I had returned to  America I shd. have starved, and that to maintain anything like the standard of living, or indeed to live, in America from 1918  onwards I shd. have had to quadruple my earnings, i.e. it wd. have been impossible for me to devote any time to my REAL work.

Eliot, of course, fared much better than Pound at the hands of the academy. As early as  1932 he was invited to give the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard, many universities honored themselves by awarding him honorary degrees, he was given the  Nobel Prize, etc. One can’t help but wonder, however, if his achievement would have been  possible if he had completed his Ph.D. and become a Harvard professor. He wrote some  of his greatest poetry and founded the Criterion while still a bank clerk in London. One can say with considerable justification that as a clerk in Lloyd’s Bank in London Eliot had more opportunity for creative work and got more done than would have been possible had he been a Harvard  professor. It was done, of course, at the cost of intensely hard  work–in a letter to Quinn in the early twenties he remarks that he was working such long  hours that he didn’t have time either for the barber or the dentist. But he had something  to show for it.

It is impossible, of course, to sum up the achievement of these three men. They were very much a part of the time in which they lived, however much they rejected its basic assumptions and point of view. Both Lewis and Eliot described themselves as classicists, among other reasons, no doubt, because of the importance they attached to order; Lewis  at one time called Pound a “revolutionary simpleton,” which in certain ways was probably justified, but in his emphasis on “precise verbal definitions,” on the proper use  of language, Pound was a classicist too. All three, each in his own way, were concerned  with the health of society; Eliot founded the Criterion to restore values; in such books as  Time and Western Man, Paleface, The Art of Being Ruled, Lewis was fighting for an intelligent understanding of the nature of our civilization and of the forces he thought were undermining it. The political books Lewis wrote in the thirties, for which he was violently and unfairly condemned, were written not to promote fascism, as some simple-minded critics have contended, but to point out that a repetition of World War I would  be even more catastrophic for civilization than the first. In many of his political judgments Pound was undoubtedly completely mistaken and irresponsible, but he would  deserve an honored place in literature only for his unerring critical judgment, for his ability to discern quality, and for his encouragement at a critical point in the career of each of such men as Joyce, Hemingway, Eliot, Frost, and then there are his letters–letters of  encouragement and criticism to aspiring poets, to students, letters opening doors or asking for help for a promising writer, the dozens of letters to Harriet Monroe. “Keep on remindin’ ’em that we ain’t bolsheviks, but only the terrifyin’ voice of civilization, kultchuh, refinement, aesthetic perception,” he wrote in one to Miss Monroe, and when she wanted to retire, he wrote to her, “The intelligence of the nation [is] more important than the comfort of any one individual or the bodily life of a whole generation.” In a letter to H. L. Mencken thanking him for a copy of the latter’s In Defense of Women, Pound remarked, almost as an afterthought, “What is wrong with it,  and with your work in general is that you have drifted into writing for your inferiors.” Could anyone have put it more precisely? Whoever wants to know what went on in the period from about 1910 to 1940, whatever he may think of his politics or economics, or  even his poetry, will have to consult the letters of  Ezra Pound–the proper function of  the artist in society, he thought, was to be “not only its intelligence, but its ‘nostrils and  antennae.’” And this, as his letters clearly show, Pound made a strenuous and, more often than not, successful effort to be.

How much of  Lewis’ qualities were a result of his American heritage it would be hard to say, but there can be no doubt that much in both Pound and Eliot came from their  American background. We may not have been able to give them what they needed to realize their talents and special qualities, they may even have been more resented than  appreciated by many Americans, but that they did have qualities and characteristics which were distinctly American there can be no doubt. To this extent, at least, we can  consider them an American gift to the Old World. In one of Eliot’s most beautiful works,  The Rock, a “Pageant Play written on behalf of the forty-five churches Fund of the Diocese of London,” as it says on the title page, there are the lines, “I have said, take no thought of the harvest, but only of perfect sowing.” In taking upon themselves the difficult, thankless task of being the “terrifying voices of civilization” Eliot and his two friends, I am sure, didn’t give much thought of the possible consequences to themselves,  of what there “might be in it for them,” but what better can one say of anyone’s life than “He sowed better than he reaped?’’

Originally published in Modern Age, June 1972. Reprinted with the permission of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Henry Regnery (1912-1996) was an American publisher.


lundi, 26 novembre 2012

Marc. Eemans: Artikelen/Articles


Marc. Eemans: Artikelen/Articles

sur: http://marceemans.wordpress.com/