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Index: Commentary on Art and Literature

The Good Writer Hašek.

Stephen Wade: ‘Hašek shows a world of rigid maintenance of all the power structures which make and sustain the social world of the Empire, but he shows it from the bottom. If we look at such a rigid world of apparent moral enforcement and social hierarchy from a standpoint of a non-person, then the absurdity will show.’

Immanuel Kant and the origin of the dialectic.

Tronn Overend: ‘The phenomena of the natural world are objects of experience. Things for us, can be known by us because they conform to our concepts. This is a point made much later by philosophers of science, such as Karl Popper. In his language, theoretical interpretations are logically prior to observations. Kant’s way of expressing this point can be seen as a paraphrase of Popper. ‘In natural science…there is endless conjecture, and certainty is not to be counted upon.’’

On Elegance.

Michail Farmer: ‘Because literary elegance is so connected with the experience of the reader, it is also finely tuned to the demands of the moment, and in this sense it is closely associated with manners, which, as Emily Post puts it, “are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” Elegance assumes the intelligence and good will of the reader and strives to meet them with the same qualities.’

Brodsky’s Travels: Leningrad to Venice.

Jeffrey Meyers:’Two early Russian poems, included in the 1973 Penguin edition of Selected Poems introduced by W.H. Auden, provide a poignant contrast to his later Venetian poems. In 1962, Brodsky visited the former Königsberg in East Prussia, which had become the Russian Kaliningrad after the war, and was shocked to see Kant’s city still devastated and ruined.’

On Gathering and Togethering.

Richard Barengarten; ‘In terms of heritage, tangible and intangible, the protective and projective celebration of poetry in the present is action for and on behalf of the future. Past, present and future are treasured together in the Medellin Poetry Festival.’

The poet as essayist.

Alan Wall: ‘When George Oppen wrote ‘Of Being Numerous’ in the 1960s he was a writing a consciously, formally democratic verse. It fragments and recombines. It celebrates the ‘shipwreck of the singular’. The ‘I’ has been fractured. It is no more an isolated entity, a singularity that commands its world.’

The Weimar Republic and critical theory.

Tronn Overend: ‘In 1925, [Adorno’s] life took an interesting turn. Having met Alban Berg in Frankfurt, he decided to become a student of musical composition, and follow him to Vienna. There, over three years, he became seduced by The Schoenberg Circle.’

Theodora’s complaint.

Paul Cohen: ‘Here is the paradox at the root of Judæo-Christian-Islamic iconoclasm. God may make a human image, but man must not. The ambitions of artists push them to join, or even compete with, God as a creator, but one of the most fundamental Commandments of the faiths—right up there with “Thou shalt not kill”—forbids it.’

Laura Riding’s many modes.

Peter Riley: ‘There is no escape from the demands of the process, there is no access to the open air, there is no viewing of earthly space. Everything is held in an existential and interpersonal vice from which it cannot escape, but which has its own rewards.’

Macanese Concrete

Peter McCarey: ‘But here’s the thing: a poem can explain itself, a concrete object can’t. Like a garden it allows the visitor to wander — without imposing an interpretation — except when the helpful glosses do just that, and in the process turn an autonomous object into the illustration of an explanation, which seems a shame.’

Castaways in Cairo: An Exercise in Bibliographic Archæology.

Raphael Rubinstein: ‘The few pieces I’ve read by [Yvonne] Laeufer are intriguing, especially a 1927 article where she celebrates Arab music and takes Western music critics to task for their ethnocentrism. Is she a lost writer worth recovering?’

Labyrinth of artifice.

Simon Collings: ‘Some of the invention in Simó’s film perhaps derives from Buñuel himself. Always cagey about his Communist affiliations, the director would for many years deny he’d ever been a party member. In 1939 he wrote a short ‘autobiography’, a curriculum vitae intended to support his search for work in the USA where he had fled at the outbreak of the Second World War.’

A Note on Inscape, Descriptionism and Logical Form.

Alan Wall: ‘They have achieved a significant form that grafts them on to one another, as though they were organically related, or at least symbiotically fused. The space between them ceases to be homogeneous, and becomes shaped instead. Homology signifies a shared origin in function and development. For example, pectoral fins, bird wings, and the forelimbs of mammals – all are homologous, whereas bird wings and insect wings are merely analogous.’

Meandering through la Belle-Époque.

Anthony Howell: ‘The impression must include everything, like a poem; the scene it conveys authenticated by each and every sense. Realising this, through Huysmans’ stimulating reviews, I began to wonder about literary impressionism. Who could be considered an impressionist poet? Verlaine? For me, like Marie Cassat, much of the time, he’s a bit wishy-washy.’

The latest event in the history of the novel.

Paul Cohen: ‘A central concept of postmodern literary theory is intertextuality: a recognition of the highly complex relationships among literary works. One could consider Remainder to be the emblematic novel of the age of intertextuality.’