Friday, October 05, 2007

Movin' like a shadow above

"How then do you become Napoleon? There is always one escape: into wickedness. Always do the thing that will shock and wound people. At five, throw a little boy off a bridge, strike an old doctor and break his spectacles -- or, anyway, dream about doing these things. Along those lines you can always feel yourself original. And after all, it pays! It is much less dangerous than crime."

(George Orwell offers some insights into the politics of surrealism and Dalí).


nnyhav said...

There was among many 20th-century left-wing intellectuals a profound disquiet with and revulsion at Surrealism. Simone Weil fiercely attacked Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp, among others, as enablers of Fascism. Similarly, Orwell decries Dalí: "Marxist criticism has a short way with such phenomena as Surrealism. They are ‘bourgeois decadence.’ But though this probably states a fact, it does not establish a connection.

Walter Benjamin makes the connection, through Baudelaire, through Dada, and particularly through Louis Aragon, of a Marxist and anti-Fascist nature. Not that Dali is high on my list, while Orwell is, but the article, and its application to DH, are more readily tagged ‘bourgeois decadence.’

J said...

I trust Orwell on this more than I do the french left. Weil's claim, however, seems a bit harsh (or at least conjecture).

nnyhav said...

Benjamin was German leftish, as was much of Dada (e.g. GGrosz, visavis the necrophilic); but anyway, twas Baudelaire that kept Poe from obscurity. It happens that I'm reading WB's Arcades Project, last night ending the convolution on Artificial Illumination on an excerpt (via Baudelaire) from Poe's Philosophy of Furniture, also featured herein.

J said...

Breton mentioned EAPoe as a spiritual daddy too, didn't he: the surrealist of adventure, or something. Surrealism's a big tent, or was. Not sure if, say, Hegel, Marx, Poe and the symbolistes, and then Doc Freud are too comfy together in Chapel Perilous though.

I read the cliffsnotes to the Frankfurtians on occasion. Adorno has a certain bureaucratic sublimity--and he's probably right sometimes, too. Benjamins I have not really studied, though he was reportedly one of the hipper FF'ers (didn't he experiment with mescaline at one point?). At the same time WB appears to be a bit of a theologian and we here at Contingencies swore off on Kierkegaard and Co years ago.

Aragon is interesting. However he's sort of reviled by some in the Sur. biz: he did join up with Uncle Joe, did he not? Breton himself probably did not care for that move.

I have a collection of Grosz drawings that amuse me.

nnyhav said...

Whilst on EAPoe & morbidity:

J said...


You probably are aware of another theory: that some Baltimore thugs actually mugged EAP. Assuming Poe was sort of sickly, alcoholic, perhaps opium addict, impoverished, and not exactly Jack Dempsey, he would not be too much trouble. Then he was in a near coma for a few days (imagine Poe free-associating near-Mort......whoa)

We have thought of writing some EAP related stuff, but sort of stymied. I don't care for the PoMo stuff on "Purloined letter" overly much. My fave Poe is maybe a bit gothy-ghoulish: like "Masque of the Red Death", Cask of Amontillado, FOTHOUsher, Hopfrog, Pit and Pen., etc. Not so into the poesy, but some's ok (I like the "Conqueror Worm"). His rips of Hawthorne too fairly dread, and quite more powerful than most Americun bellelettists realize, methinx.

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