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Published by: Ediciones Cielonaranja on Aug 13, 2013
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"AHE mature artist whose gradual development has been governed by Goethe's law of " self-culture" knows when it is that the work of his life has achieved its completion. Wagner's Parsifal, Tolstoy's Resurrection, Ibsen's When We Dead Awaken, are lofty twilit summits: the artist has left behind him the whirlwinds of passion, and now lays aside, like Prospero, the symbols of his power and his fame, to enter into the realm of silence. The great master of irony and sagesse has attained the spiritual regions where life, over which thought has been incessantly vigilant, becomes clear and pure, defining its moral perspectives, —like a valley left behind, hid by the mists of the morning, whose rich landscape is beheld, in the peaceful evening, from the heights. More than this: he has already, during his life, met with the reaction that follows all renown. Looked upon as an exception, •—an exception among the Academicians, an exception among the realists, an exception among all the writers of yesterday,— and as such accepted and revered by generations younger than his own, Anatole France had seemed to possess the secret of perpetual literary youth. But it was merely an illusion. Youth is implacable. Youth demands renewal, and accepts no compromise. Every generation brings a new interpretation of life, a new sense of art, and the men of yesterday rarely know how to enter into the spirit of the new times. The reaction was slow in coming, but it came at last. Anatole France could not be the idol of 1914. French hterature of to-day—a passionate, sincere, ideahstic literature, equally eager for subtle ideas and for direct emotions —is the outcome of artistic tendencies radically different from those of the 'eighties. It is even more: it is the outcome of artistic impulses that seem to run counter to those which have been traditionally held as typically French. For this is an idealistic literature in the philosophical sense of the term; not merely in the sense of a more or less religious spirituahsm (which, of

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Anatole France symbolizes—symbolizes supremely—many tendencies opposed to the new ideals.—Anatole France appeared to assume an attitude quite unlike that of modern French youth. since he has known how to give sensuality Its role In life (at least in French life) and even strong words their place In books. but has a passion for none. a sceptic. And the irony running through Anatole France's work. the descriptions of the realists. becomes at last a philosophy of human history. the "incisive" Voltairean prose. would be nothing more than brilliant pageants and hollow magnificences. as is commonly supposed. opening to the splendors of the universe the large Impressionable eyes of Romaln RoUand's Jean-Chrlstophe. Philosophically. thoroughly French as it Is. but an " active " sceptic (even in criticism) . But Irony may be a form of philosophical thought. the heroic couplets of seventeenth century tragedy. as a constantly growing current. of the transcendental conception of life. instead of lazily casting itself into one of the accepted models: the paragraph a la Bossuet.—which. by temperament. If such tendencies are typically French. yet sometimes reminds PRODUCED BY UNZ. and you will find.48o T H E FORUM course. under his technical perfections: that mediocrity born of the absence of the ideal meaning. the revelation of the deep and restless metaphysical temperament in the literature of to-day. the work of Dante and of Shakespeare. Its characteristic savor. sage. a master of all the resources of sagesse that scepticism often brings." A literature in which every subject seeks its own adequate form. towards which all the intellectual forces converge. even gaulois.—he has lived in danger of that essential mediocrity which so often lies at the root in the French writer. the tirade of Hugo. Sceptical.ORG ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED . much less a metaphysician. Ironical. H e is not. Compare him with Camille Mauclair. then. by contrast. without which the Homeric poems and the Attic tragedies. is not lacking either) nor in the sense of a more or less vague and sapless " unrealism. French. an ideologist. In short. then those who see in him a thorough representative of his people are not wrong. Thus his work acquires its original and higher unity. H e knows all the philosophies.

. in his way. I mean. Anatole France's last novel. We have destroyed laldabaoth. And his faith in the moral and intellectual redemption of men. even after the crisis aiBIcting his country may have passed. as if. . Victory is spirit. Anatole France is an idealist. " Let us not conquer Heaven: let It suffice us to be capable of conquering It. Besides. Anatole France seals the revolted archangel's vision with the renunciation of all conquest of power. he were secluding himself within a sad individualism. French. It is in ourselves. yet so generous in its desire for human welfare. now so oppressed. if we have destroyed in ourselves ignorance and fear.ORG ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED . An ideal. as if giving up all public endeavor. . not philosophical.-— therefore. our tyrant. the sadness of seeing a whole life's work in danger of becoming fruitless. It has not been all bays and roses in his public life: fanatic populaces have thrown stones at him. seen in the light of recent events. would not return to his literary tasks. is the ideal motif that gives his work a higher meaning. destructive and useless war. as If a bitter scepticism had replaced the old ironical but active faith. even if not from external conflicts. but an ideal. crowning his ironical philosophy of history.. at any rate. It seems as if the author. his belief in mankind being dead. . The prospect of an unavoidable. he has an ideal. the certainty that the efforts of spiritual liberation would be suspended. victory breeds defeat. as is the case also with Balzac. is. especially for the spiritual freedom of his people. or even with Flaubert. And. H e has bravely fought for the people. that we must attack and destroy laldabaoth.—so ironical.A N A T O L E FRANCE'S VALEDICTORY 481 us of English literature. and only in ourselves. from the pettinesses of internal politics: these are the closing notes of the book. The Revolt of the Angels. but social. . somewhat in the manner of a valedictory." PRODUCED BY UNZ. War breeds war. A melancholy veil of darkness has just fallen over this philosophy. .

Lonely for the other's sake. Let us love and let us take Of each other all we are. 482 PRODUCED BY UNZ.A TENT SONG W I T T E R BYNNER 1 "^ILL we watch the last low star. On some morning with that star One of us shall lie awake.ORG ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED .

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