duced to transient quarters in a hotel and indesperate straits, he wrote to Furst, “I findit hard enough to read a book, even in Ital-ian..
don’t even know where to keepthe books. There’s no room for them in thehotel and at the office they’re stolen. WhenI go home, if you can call it that, I have tobe a nurse, not reader.”Thus the celebrated poet entreated theobscure Americasi to rescue
and Furst,fluent in French and German as well asEnglish and Italian, agreed to grind outreviews of authors as radically differentas Joyce Cary and Ivy Compton-Burnett,Julien Green and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Healso produced critical evaluations in Ital-ian of Oscar Wilde and George BernardShaw. In fact, Furst was
learned Mon-tale had to caution him to tone it down anotch or
“Don’t display too muchknowledge of English and American lit-erature,” Montale wrote him. “You shouldshow an average knowledge which couldbe attributed to me.”Although Montale paid Furst for hisefforts, he never publicly acknowledged
the recognition hatmight have made
“negro” a full citizenin the republic of letters. What’s worse,Montale appears to have been two-timingFurst. As it was in
itwas in his literary life; he just couldn’t re-mainmonogamous. He had a second ghost-writer, a woman, who translated English-language books into Italian and let Montalesign
name to them.he
contains an essayon “Reading Montale,” but it does notmention the contretemps that erupteda decade ago when the novelist and
ilmmaker Mario Soldati, friend to bothMontale and Furst, published a book de-tailing their relationship. In his volumeof reminiscences, (“BarrenBranches”), Soldati excoriatedMontale forhis failure to credit Furst. At the same time,
of Milan published severalletters from Montale to Furst that corrobo-rated the story and divided opinion in Ital-ian arts and letters. Marco Vallora noted inthat both Alexandre Dumasand Luigi Pirandello had followedsimilar ghostwriting practices; Albert0Moravia wrote
that‘‘it is difficult to justifl Montale’s conduct,whatever the circumstances in which hefound himself.”Many might object that this debate isan inconsequential sidebar. But nobodyappears to have seriously researched thesubject by following up journalistic reve-lations a decade old.
a detailed chronol-
Galassi notes that Montale often aver-aged a hundred articles annually, a flabber-gasting number for a deadline-phobicpoet.It wouldn’t simply be interesting, t wouldbe intellectually responsible to determineexactly how much of Montale’s prose Furstproduced.Moreover, publication of Galassi’slandmark volume of translations invitesa reassessment of Montale’s own transla-tions. Surely anyone who translated Shake-speare, Yeats, Eliot and Faulkner deservesclose reading. How good was Montale’swork? How,good and how much was ac-tually his ghostwriter’s work?Even assuming that Montale wroteevery word of every poem published inhis name; scholars should do a textualanalysis and set this issue to rest. Whydon’t the worker bees in what RichardHoward refers to as the “academic cottageindustry” of Montale criticism comparethe great man’s verse with the poetry ofhis obscure friend?
ARTHUR C. DANTO
f we think
a historical period as defined by what the French have usefullydesignated a mentaliti-a shared set
attitudes, practices’and beliefs-thenperiods end when one mentaliti’givesway to another. Something like this hap-
1962, when Abstract Expressionism came to an end-not necessarily
becausethe movement was internally ex-hausted but because a new artistic
was in place. And thesetend to rewrite he history of art in their
Marcel Duchamp and John Cage,who would at best have been marginal tothe Modernist aesthetic to which AbstractExpressionism subscribed,became the gen-erative figures of the new period. Picasso,who had cast
daunting a shadow overModernist artistic practice, was now es-teemed primarily for having invented col-lage.
everyone, of course, crossed theboundary into the new at once.There were many in the art world-artistsas well as critics-who continued to framethe meaning of art in terms of thein which they had grown up. They were in,one might say, but not
the new period.It is possible that the new artistic mentalitywas but part of a larger one-that of thesixties. If that is true, then the transform-ing forces hat explain he uprisings of 1968must already have been operative in artis-tic precincts in the early years of the decade.Although 1968 s often explained with ref-erence to a revulsion against the VietnamWar, this reverses the direction of causal-ity: That revulsion is explained by the new(What explains theitself?
have no idea!)The new surfaced in
when the artistic practices of a loosely struc-tured group of American, European andJapanese artists began to be referred to asFluxus. The name was invented by GeorgeMaciunas, the prophet if not the founderof the movement, and it expressed a dis-satisfaction with the kind of compartmen-talization of artistic endeavors made ex-plicit
the writings of Clement Greenberg.Under Modernist imperatives, Greenbergclaimed in a famous essay, each mediummust aspire to a pure state of itself, ex-punging any borrowings from other media.Fluxus works, by exuberant contrast, dis-regarded the borderlines between music,writing, theater and the visual arts,
Fluxus art was in principlea kind of And the ideaof artistic purity was not the only erst-while value demoted by Fluxus. Its
wasephemeral and irreverent, often trivial andtypically took the form of a joke.What Maciunas designated proto-Fluxus works were createdin he late fifties,when Abstract Expressionism was at itspeak,
existed before its practition-
ers were conscious of themselves as form-ing a movement. The two co-existed for some years. The difference inattitude and practice, however, would havemade it difficult o imagine that the conceptof art was wide and elastic enough to ac-commodate the characteristic expressionsof them both. The paradigm Abstract Ex-pressionist work would be a large, heroiccanvas aflirming the agony
creation andthe tragic view of life, such
Bamett New-man’s painting