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39, Literature and Revolution (1967), pp. 180-187 Published by: Yale University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2929491 . Accessed: 06/03/2012 16:41
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to be publishedby Harvard University Press (Cambridge.indeed it succeeded in abolishing.For example. as againstTrotsky.the greatpoet Boris Pasternak.it is easy to see thatthe cannot. 180 .of itself. The problemof the relationsof avant-garde of and culturaldestinyleads naturally the intelligentsia.Max Nordau. where Lenin. gave to Futurism(which was almostdead support Fascism originally as an avant-garde Platonic.Renato Poggioli and The avant-garde politics* and fashion. who transferred conceptfrom the happenedin medicalpathology the sphereof art). Fitzgerald's translation.on avant-garde in particular. that influenceis almost exclusivelynegative: a regime or conditionwhich it the culturalor artistic societycan easily destroy bringto life.its public. 1962)." sometimes"degenerateart" (withoutrecalling that it was a Jew. The same thing to always showed an Soviet Russia. Il Mulino. Gerald Fitzgerald from Teoria dell'arte d'ai'anguardia (Bologna.Many the to a studyof the relation critics establishthisrelationship such a way thatthe politicalterm in the is the condition. thatsupport less than the supportgiventhe was noticeably Certainly movementwhen it denied its own heritage and turned into an withwhichthat less than the disfavor academy.infinitely efficacious Nazism did movement. where avant-gardism of Mayawiththe suicideof Esenin and was buriedwiththe suicide were the life and work of the kovsky.Everyoneknowshow difficult one Russian artist our own day who was not part of the crowdor of an epigone.what it sometimes called "Jewishart. regime had to ward offany otheravant-garde not tolerate.All the same. in Mr. its artistic and between avant-garde politics. anyway) was hesitant. and short-lived. died in unreserved to antipathy extremism art.and the artistic-cultural conditioned. *Trans. 1968) as The A vant-Garde.There is no doubt that a certainpolitical situationcan exercise a given inart fluenceon art in general.
are allied. Fascism of the epigones of that movement 181 . last and the beginning thepresent At issue. some extent least. triin any culture.This is and cally seems valid. a fashioninstead of creatingor imposingone. is theoretically historically between further to at demonstrated. even if the sentiment timent libertarian in it thinking caprice.ifanything. undera persecuting theyare almostalwaysquestionsof genuinesenopportunistic affair. Pre(really only an analogy or a ciselyon this account. the was mere opportunism. point of the avant-garde's and regime. is in the or down to mere wishful more oftenaccepts.are oftenmerelya necessary These. sphereof politicalopinion that the avant-garde or submitsto. boils frequently regimes. Furthermore. hostility public opinioncan be usefulto it. notso muchan alliance as a coincidence. or again by the prevalenceof reactionary movements the end of the at opinionswithinso many avant-garde of century. in though practicaland social terms Here the connectionto be establishedis. own political opinions and convictions. Italian Futurism logical direction.thatbetweenthe like avant-gardeand democracy.Avant-garde is by its natureincapable of suror but vivingnot onlythepersecution even the protection the official whereasthe state and a collectivesociety. as was all thecultureof the younggeneration thatepoch.revolutionaries in art and revolutionaries politics. instead.This means that the avant-garde. capitalistbourgeoisie. can only flower a climatewhere politicalliberty umphs.this we shall study rather thanideologicalor political.Such a fromthe viewa connectioncan only be determined posteriori. Having admitted of that the relationbetweenavant-garde we must deny the hypothesis art (or art generally)and politicscan be establisheda priori.the hypothesis symbol) that aestheticradicalismand social radicalism. patronageof a totalitarian this.even if it oftenassumes a hostile pose toward democratic art and liberalsociety.Renato Poggioli examples seem to lead us to recognizea The above-mentioned and at betweenavant-gardism the to validity least relative therapport in the following chapter.by the relation Futurismand Fascism. which empiriin erroneous. is whichfurthermore could naturally have workedin an oppositeideowas also nationalFrom the start. in ism.
on the left extreme as the Italian movement was on the extreme right." he himself as had attempted do in The Twelve. the predominantly of But politicalphase of Surrealism not last long.as. Only in the case of those avant-gardes in flowering a climate of continuousagitation. does such a coinciding seem to make itself permanent. Sometimesit may. The and politicalrevoof of equivocal survival the myth a parallel artistic lutionwas also favored the modernconceptof cultureas spiritual by civil war: hence Mayakovsky's postulatethatthe pen should be put 182 . But to as moreoften are dealingwithan extremist we pose or fashion. There is the reason why the coincidingof the ideology of a given avant-garde movement and a givenpoliticalparty onlyfleeting is and contingent. In otherwords. whichat its beginning was subversive and radical in politics." an ideal of the tabula rasa which spilled over fromthe individualand artisticlevel to that of the collectivelife. for example. though ephemeral. in one of itsphases at least. least partlyout of at love of adventure by attraction the nihilistic or to elements contained within thosepoliticaltendencies.aspiresto realizewhatthe Dadaists called "the demolition job.Yale French Studies The same thing happenedin theultimate phase of Russian Futurism. in the case of Mayakovsky'sdeclaringhimself"on the left of the 'Left Front'" in orderto oppose the groupand the reviewso named. to We mustnotforget thatItalian Futurists and FrenchSurrealists embraced Fascism and Communism. respectively. in the case of Blok proclaiming thatthe new art oughtto express"the musicof the revolution. sincere. therewere otherswho resolvedthe dissension by abandoningCommunismand remaining faithful Surrealism.as may be seen fromthebrieflifeof did the reviewLe Surrealisme la revolution.the identification artistic withthe of revolution an social revolution now no more than purelyrhetorical. empty is commonplace(as seen at the startof thisessay). modern Mexican painting(which one might hesitateto call avant-garde without reservation).a sentimental be as illusion. Such coincidencesand analogues of a spiritualkind also determined the Communism the Surrealists. In everyavant-garde movement. therewere among the et If followers themovement of some like Aragonwho abandonedSurrealism for Communism. fact.
only an avantof for garde caricatureof D'Annunzianismproperlyso called. whichexis plainsthe D'Annunzianism Marinetti.Enough to recallthetitles reviews of like The Egoist.thenamesof movements theRussian Severyanin's like the egofuturism. syncretic mixed up.Besides.such are purely ideologicalor idea-oriented (unconcerned currents the French called unaninisme as and populisme. outcastand outlaw.as the above termsdemonstrate. whichaim to delineatethetypicalpsyche of the modernartist. positionand attitude disdain: rebel and his of revolutionary. is no less suggestive It that the same pseudo-definitions come to be applied. workcalled I by the poet who the dedicatedthe tragedyVladimirMayakovskyto himself. isticmoment neverabsentfromavant-gardism. here we must notice that the seriousnessand of sincerity the avant-garde's political orientation in directprois portion a givengroup'spersonalinvolvement a genuineintellecto in cannotbe of merely tual elite. Sometimes such individualism onlybiographicaland psychological.That does notmean thattheorientation and collateral marginal importance hence the difficulty impossior of which movements thoseculturalcurrents bility callingavant-garde withform).to the intelligentsia too. Actually. the it producesin such cases the egocentricity doctrinaire and egotismof certain works. example. Sometimesconscious. personalismdear to the English cenacle of poets underHenryTreece's leadership.fugitive poete maudit and (why not?) beatnik. often hostile.expatriate and emigre.Renato Poggioli on equal footing withthe sword. only omnipresent the or recurring within avant-garde theleastpolitiis the politicalideology cal or the most antipolitical all: libertarianism of and anarchism. These we see in thevery beginnings theAmericanleft-wing of literary and in the revivalsof more recenttimes afterthe disavant-garde The individualillusionment Communist Trotskyite of or sympathies. as in the Mayakovskypoem. Sometimes politicalorthodoxy forcesthis sentiment expressitselfin spurious to and forms.bohemianand deracine.especiallyin rightist work.It is or significant these pseudo-definitions used indiscriminately that are by rightist and leftist criticism. it is even though does not destroy groupor sectarianpsychology. fromsuch conceptsderive all thoseterms. "To a 183 .or groups. organs.
its existentialism reveals its avant-garde character preciselythrough agonisticand nihilistic tendenciesand by its own awarenessof how difficult is forindividualistic anarchistic it and nostalgiato coexistor within collectivism modernlife. would call fora too lengthy discussion. much metaas as metapolitically.and conversely. survive the of This difficulty derivesfrom whatwe mightcall the untimeliness of anarchistic ideology within contemporary civilization: untimeliness."And what is the ultimate bourgeoisrevolutionary politicalterms?"he in "an anarchist."and which at least apparently contradicts cultof theZeitgeist. are withoutknowingit. culturally Apropos of this. from ideologicalviewpoint. Caudwell defines Surrealist.who have also best sensed the connection between"culture"and "anarchy"in our time (usingthatformulation quite another in wayfrom Matthew Arnold's)." whichwe answerslapidarily. future the masses. More mysticalthan the first.Yale French Studies Cut-Throat. From theliterary viewpoint immediate its is precedent naturalism. fuseswiththe cultof the anonymous multitude. shall later call "historical alienation. But the problemof the avant-garde's historical function. might reactionary ideologists be met oftenenough in certainzones of to avant-gardism nothingbut anarchists." question. the avant-garde artist mostpreoccupiedwiththe ego. It is preciselyas a function this theoretical of and practicalindividualism thatthe recent movement existentialism of shows itself to be avant-garde. Analowe withequal facility deduce thatthe gously. oftenfelicitously emphasizedby leftistcritics." where the poet's personal pride.surelya leftist philosophy in art. more philosophicalthan the second. From thisuntimeliness. the that Perhapsthisis whyChristopher is. the expressionism. has alreadyreached: in the avant-garde unconsciously functions a reactionary way. even though appeals to ancientand eternalcultural it sourcesand demonstrates relative a indifference revolutions the to in field form of and technique. our only remaining 184 .his certainty that he will personallysurvivebeyond death even into the distantfuture.and in the limitsof this essay. mayderivetheconclusionthat the we in as Sartre. as "the ultiAfterthe rhetorical mate bourgeoisrevolutionary.
as Caudwell succeededin proving means of an examination the reason by of behind the adherenceof many English poets in his generationto Communism. and antilibertarian. totalitarian is.Renato Poggioli task is the sufficiently modestone of resolving some of the contradicand anarchy. intellectuals due precisely the ambivaand is to lenceof an unwittingly anarchistic mentality: one hand. leftist ideologies.Thus the withdrawals into individualsolitudeor into a circleof the few elect.his own movement. in turn.we affirm But thatthe anarchistic ideal is congenialto avant-garde psychology.avant-garde of In 185 .theoppositedesire.belied by its displaysof the plebeian spirit.by which thatdestruction servesfuture construction. into the quasi-ritualist postureof aristocratic protest. like the gestures plebeian. and writer."In the same way. his and his own mission to the social palingenesis the future. thesetendencies beingturned againstthe whole of bourgeoissocietyratherthan againstculturealone. attraction Church of Moscow exercisesfor so the the manyartists. In the sameway.in the historical and social dimensions the present. we the the prevalenceof the anarchistic mentality does not contradict precedingclaim that the Communistexperiment continuesto exercise a particular fascination the avant-garde for mind. equally owing to thetortured awarenessof theartist's situation modem societyin a situation shall describelater as "alienation. intellectualist of theavant-garde militate a party actionand agitation. hostileto anyindividual exceptionor idiosyncracy.are.and superficially sympathizes with. of a destructive impulse.anarchistic. in to of while the agonistic and Futurist impulsesinduce him to accept the idea of sacrificing own person. Besides.this adIn herenceis owed to the extensionof antagonistic and nihilistic tendenciesintothepoliticalfield. neither one nor the otherserves to denywhat was said above concerning eminently the aristocratic natureof avant-gardism a nature not. writers.even though this experiment par excellence. otherwords.theactivist impulseleads theartist.on theother hand. terroristic of and revolt. otherwords. the desire on to see realized. tionsthatseem to derivefrom linkbetweenculture the We recognizethatthe avant-garde more oftenconsciouslyadheresto.
withtheanarchistic are capable of proimpulsesand the attraction that fascination of ducinga morbidconditionof mysticalecstasy. a societythat forbidsthe showingin its own public galleries of those works by the young Picasso which are now state-owned. Be that as it may. of a culturaland spiritualatmospherewhich makes the flowering of that art.When Fascism and Nazism fell. by and 186 .while ideological of spirit sympathies a Fascist natureseemto negatetheavant-garde or to preventits growingand developingin any social or political can ambienceat all .which preventsthe the avant-garde artist from realizing thathe wouldhave neither reason society. simulis of psychologitaneously messianicand apocalyptic. it remainsalways true that. digenousproduct. The forceof these callyifnotideologically.Communist sympathies favorit. preventing the import of foreign productsof that art or the exhibitionof a rare or accidental inalmostunwillingly. even when restricted marginaland private forms. Only a few of those avantand garde artistswho.That condition prenor thechance to existin a Communistic ventsself-criticism self-knowledge. far-sighted acquisitionsof certain collectorsof the ancien regime. adherenceto more or less orthodoxsocialistideals was ratherthan by clear motivated an obscure anarchistic sentiment by Marxistthinking.or old. only within bourgeoisand capitalistsociety. with the enthusiastic approbationof a select public. a spirit. A totalitarian order opposes avant-gardeart not only by official and concrete acts.Adherenceto a Communist ideologydoes not impede Picasso fromfreelyrealizing. embraced the Trotskyite doctrine permanent of revolution have taken into account that their new. for example. thingcompatible. through yearswhenthespiritual of twogreatEuropean nations the life was suffocated the tyranny oppressionof those two regimes.Yale French Studies Communism the fruit an eschatologicalstate of mind. no avant-gardework created in secret and silence. his needs as a him as an artist creator and innovator:stillit is not enoughto justify in the eyes of thatSoviet societyto which avant-garde is anathart ema. deluded by Moscow. but also by first all creating. or at least not hurtit.unto thinkable even more thanmaterially impossible.
From now on we cannot believe that other masterpieces exist. Aestheticand formal formity. in fact.Boris Pasternak. paintings hiddenin attics.a pluralism thatsuffices make theneworderless totalitarian to and monolithic. the Russia of the artistic "thaw.Renato Poggioli came to light.especiallyas a poet. This negative at art truth.statuesstashedaway in kitchens. even prerevolutionary ones. affected thatpluat is by ralismwhichdistinguishes moderncultureof the bourgeoisworld the .ifnot morehazardous. than political or ethical transgression. rein turned traditional to literary artistic and forms."more than any other.an almostnatural incapacityto permitevasions or to admit exceptions. It has beensaid thatevery but is in manuscript a letter a bottle. Withthatnovel. least to some extent.has been constrained accept compromises to with the national and religious If spirit. The realityof this state of affairs was fullyproved in the exemplarycase of Doctor Zhivago. to Actually. is even moreabsolutein thecase of SovietRussia thanit was in Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany. to expressa conscientious objectionwhichwas not thatof an artist of a man. What characterizes totalitarian a stateis. thisis solely because thereculture. avant-garde is notyettotally art dead in Poland. least as far as avant-garde is concerned."1 than moral conconformity even more mandatory is even more than ideological. was the last avant-garde artistsurviving Soviet Russia. The only country but behindthe curtainwhereresidues of aestheticprotestare still displayedis Poland. thatonly in meansitsfateis entrusted timeand fortune. perhaps transgression certainly is more arduous there. themodern world we cannot help doubting closed the existenceof manuscripts in chests.who up untilthen.unlessperhapsthose once visibleand misunderstood.it is not paradoxical to maintain that in Russia today. preciselybecause that "people's democracy. 187 .
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