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Index: Notes & Comment

Artaud in Ireland.

Peter O’Brien: ‘Is it possible, entre-deux-guerres, to be more insightful than to imagine and begin planning for the coming apocalypse from the western precipice of the continent? And is there a safer place in Europe during the years of World War II than a lunatic asylum? Artaud spent the entire span of that second war in various asylums. When France was occupied by the Nazis, various of Artaud’s friends ensured that he was transferred to the psychiatric hospital at Rodez, in south-central France, well inside Vichy territory.’

Ibsen’s new drama.

By JAMES A. JOYCE. TWENTY YEARS HAVE passed since Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House, thereby almost marking an epoch in the history of drama. During those years his name has gone abroad through the length and breadth of two continents, and has provoked more discussion and criticism than that of any other living man. […]

The new life of Whistler.

Walter Sickert: ‘If Whistler has himself left, in an interesting and passionately felt life-work, a contribution to our better understanding of the visible world, he has also done another thing. He has sent the more intelligent of the generation that succeeds him to the springs whence he drew his own art — to French soil. ‘

Whistleblower Lit.

Anthony Howell: ‘We live in bewildering and depressing times. Recently, Labour’s victory in the local election was spun as a defeat in all the mainstream papers, even those papers that are supposedly inclined towards socialism. The BBC, which used to host satirical programmes and intense contrarian debates, is now perceived simply as a mouthpiece for government, with prospective employees routinely vetted by our secret services to ensure they adhere to the government line. ITV is little better. Gone are the vivid days of “Spitting Image”.’

1922, that liminal point.

Alan Wall: ‘he significance of the year 1922 is beyond question. Kevin Jackson in Constellation of Genius calls it Year One of modernism, and Ezra Pound took to dating his letters from the date of completion of Ulysses. This was the end of the Christian era. Yeats had already remarked, after watching Ubu Roi: “After us, the Savage God.” ‘

Jeffrey Kripal and the secret body.

A Fortnightly Review of Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions by Jeffrey J. Kripal University of Chicago Press 2017 | 448pp | $45.00 £34.50 By JAMES GALLANT. JEFFREY KIRPAL HAS devoted a substantial part of his academic career to what he sometimes calls, in ironic deference to modern skepticism, “impossible” […]

Looking back in anger.

Alan Wall: ‘Kitaj was obsessed all his life with Cézanne, and Cézanne certainly believed that everything needed in life and art was here, right before us, but we had to learn to see with utter integrity, and that meant ridding ourselves of false visual conventions. It is not the subject-matter of art that makes it lofty, but its method of perception. ‘

Literature, operationalized.

Chloë Hawkey: ‘After I smiled and granted that I was enchanted, I was left with the what? What does this mean to my life or to Franco Moretti’s? This deepens my understanding, in a very technical sense, of the text, but does it enrich the experience I have reading in it? And does it enrich the life I lead once I’ve capped my pen and returned the book to the shelf?’

Of cars, carpets, and chemistry.

John McEwen: ‘The art panjandrum and collector David Sylvester called him ‘a fifties man’. For Mills, the fifties meant the ‘wonderful’ Festival of Britain and later the arrival of Expresso coffee bars. They reverse its reputation as a dreary post-war interlude.’

A charming sense of novelty.

Christopher Landrum: ‘Machiavelli writes that legitimate governance, by either a prince or a republic, tends to accomplish new things for their people. This is because illegitimate governance is so common that its opposite always feels quite remarkable. But these new things, in order to be effective for the people, must resemble the previous things––even if their resemblance is completely contrived. For it is only the tyrant who tries to make everything appear so new that nothing resembles the old.’

Dreaming of nerve cells.

Charles Vecht, MD: ‘Freud and Cajal had much in common and were close contemporaries. Both came from simple backgrounds out of the mainland of their country, and shared an early interest in neuroanatomy. Also, they were productive and creative writers. Nevertheless, the scientific rigor that Cajal attributed to reproducible observations made him critical of Freud’s theories.’

The Utopian Animal.

David Eisenberg: ‘Owing to the failures of the Enlightenment, which were evinced by the barbarities that persistently accompanied reason’s advance, the rational animal was forced to exit the stage. In his place stands the inhabitant of the present age: the utopian animal.’

The rediscovery of the unique.

H. G. Wells: ‘Science is a match that man has just got alight. He thought he was in a room—in moments of devotion, a temple—and that his light would be reflected from and display walls inscribed with wonderful secrets and pillars carved with philosophical systems wrought into harmony. ‘

Arthur Rimbaud.

Francis Gribble: ‘Fame of a sort had come to him. An increasing coterie had come to recognise the merit of his verse — helped thereto, perhaps, by the scandalous association of his name with Verlaine’s. His memory was destined to be kept alive by a bronze bust, which the German invaders were destined to steal for the sake of copper. But he neither foresaw this tribute nor would have been much elated if he had foreseen it, the call of the East having, long since, upset his scale of values.’

Ringing the changes.

Paul Scott Derrick: ‘Berengarten’s book rings its own personal set of changes on the ‘Book of Changes’. He has constructed a brilliantly complex poetic sequence – or sequence of sequences – that grows out of the wisdom of the Chinese past, implicit in the structures and images of the Chinese language, and will extend its subtle tentacles of words into the minds of future readers. ‘