Pino Blasone

Nostalgia,
as a Philosophical Mood
1 – Above, Arnold Böcklin, Ulysses and Calypso,
Kunstmuseum, Basel; 1883. Below, a scene from te !reek
film Ulysses’ Gaze, directed b" #eo An$elo%oulos; 1&&'
Nostalgia, or Homesickness
#e term itself ma" sound somewat nostal$ic. (t is an earl" modern one, made u% of
ancient !reek roots) *+,-./0nostos, meanin$ 1return 2ome34, and 567./0algos, 1sorrow4 or
1sufferin$4. 8ri$inall" referred to te %ain a sick %erson feels for is wis to return to is
native land, and to is relevant fear never to see it a$ain, tis neolo$ism was coined b" te
Alsatian student in medicine 9oannes :ofer ;1<<&=1>'?@ in is Medical Dissertation on
Nostalgia, or Homesickness at te Aniversit" of Basel in BwitCerland. Det us read a %assa$e
from it, %ublised in Datin in 1<88, were a word destined to become so successful in te
Euro%ean lan$ua$es was born) Neque vero de nomine deliberanti convenientius occurrit,
remque eplicanda praecisius designans, quam Fostal$ia vocabulum, origine graecum, et
quidem duabus e vocibus compositum, quorum alterum G+,-./ reditum in patriam,
1
alterum H67./ dolorem aut tristitiam signi!icat" ut adeo e vi vocis F.,-I67JI designare
possit tristem animum e reditus in patriam ardenti desiderio oriundum ;1For in trut,
deliberatin$ on a name, did a more suitable one occur to me, definin$ te tin$ to be
eK%lained, more concisel" tan te word Fostal$ia, !reek in ori$in and indeed com%osed of
two sounds, te one of wic is Fostos, return to te native land; te oter, Al$os, si$nifies
sufferin$ or $rief; so tat tus far it is %ossible from te force of te sound Nostalgia to
define te sad mood ori$inatin$ from te desire to return to oneLs native land4@.
1
EK%licitl", te nostal$ia of :ofer is an illness, tat is wen te feelin$ usuall" called
omesickness – in !erman, Heim#e$ – de$enerates into a real %atolo$". :e studied tis
mental disease, wit s%ecial reference to contem%orar" Bwiss mercenaries, $one to carr" on
teir %rofession of arms abroad. #e as%irin$ doctor ad to be learned in classical lan$ua$es
and literatures tou$, so muc as to be ins%ired b" :omerLs %dyssey and b" Al"ssesL
lon$in$ to return to is omeland, te isle of (taca. (n fact, te nostal$ic eK%ression
*+,-MN.* ONIP0n&stimon 'mar, 1da" of te return4, is recurrent in te e%ic %oem. And, Qust
at its be$innin$, we can read about its %rota$onist) R.66S TL U 7L V* R+*-W R5XY* Z67YI [*
\I-S X]N+*,0 ^P*_NY*./ `* -Y a]bc* \Id *+,-.* e-IJPf*, 1e suffered man" sorrows
2algea3 b" sea in is eart,0 stru$$lin$ in order to save is life and to $ain a wa" back
2noston3 to is comrades4 ;lines g='@. Don$ before te term was invented, Al"sses ad
become a m"tic ero of nostal$ia. Also after tat invention, for a lastin$ %eriod te vocable
Heim#e$ continued to be %referred in te !erman usa$e, to desi$nate omesickness. #is is
te case of (mmanuel Kant, still in 1>&8. (n (nt$ropology !rom a )ragmatic )oint o! *ie#,
te %iloso%er sows tat e was achuainted wit :oferLs s%eec and ad reflected on it.
(n (nt$ropologie in pragmatisc$er Hinsic$t, suc is te ori$inal title of te work,
actuall" e writes) Das Heim#e$ der +c$#eizer ,und #ie ic$ es aus dem Munde eines
er!a$rnen Generals $abe, auc$ der -estp$.ler und der )ommern in einigen Gegenden/,
#elc$es sie be!.llt, #enn sie in andere 0.nder versetzt #erden, ist die -irkung einer durc$
die 1ur2ckru!ung der 3ilder der +orgen!rei$eit und nac$barlic$en Gesellsc$a!t in i$ren
4ugend5a$ren erregten +e$nsuc$t nac$ den 6rtern, #o sie die se$r ein!ac$en 0ebens!reuden
genossen, da sie dann nac$ dem sp.tern 3esuc$e derselben sic$ in i$rer 7r#artung se$r
get.usc$t und so auc$ ge$eilt !inden8 z#ar in der Meinung, da9 sic$ dort alles se$r
ge.ndert $abe, in der :$at aber, #eil sie i$re 4ugend dort nic$t #iederum $inbringen
k;nnen ;1#e omesickness of te Bwiss – and, as ( ave it from te mout of an
eK%erienced $eneral, also te iest%alians and Pomeranians from certain re$ions – tat
seiCes tem wen te" are transferred to oter lands, is te result of a lon$in$ for te %laces
were te" enQo"ed te ver" sim%le %leasures of life, aroused b" te recollection of ima$es
of te carefree life and nei$borl" com%an" in teir earl" "ears. jor later, after te" visit
tese same %laces, te" are $reatl" disa%%ointed in teir eK%ectations and tus also find teir
omesickness cured. #o be sure, te" tink tat tis is because ever"tin$ tere as can$ed
a $reat deal, but in fact it is because te" cannot brin$ back teir "out tere4@.
?
1 9. :ofer, Dissertatio medica de Gklmnopqn, oder Heim#e$e, Basel) :ans 9. Bertsce, 1<88, r
((; and 1#eKts and socuments) tedical sissertation on Fostal$ia b" 9oannes :ofer4, trans. u.
K. Ans%ac in 3ulletin o! t$e <nstitute o! t$e History o! Medicine ;Baltimore, tar"land) 9ons
:o%kins Aniversit" Press@, vol. ?, 1&3g, %%. 38w=81.
? (. Kant, (nt$ropologie in pragmatisc$er Hinsic$t, abge!asst von <mmanuel =ant, Köni$sber$) j.
Ficolovius, 18ww, %%. 8<=8>; and (nt$ropology !rom a )ragmatic )oint o! *ie#, trad. x. B.
?
iat Kant %oints out in tis %assa$e is tat omesickness0nostal$ia is often a contrast
between eK%ectation and disillusion; wat is even more im%ortant, tat te dimension of
suc a sentiment or mood is s%atial as muc as tem%oral. Earl", te conce%t evolved to
desi$nate not onl" omesickness for a familiar %lace or for %ersons, wo are related wit
tat %lace ;for instance, in te %dyssey, Al"ssesL desire for omecomin$, and to reQoin is
wife Penelo%e or is son #elemacus@. Also, it was understood as a "earnin$ for te %ast, for
a time wic most of times cannot revive at te %resent or in te future, in its $enuineness
and inte$rit". Buc a memorable %ast ma" be not onl" %ersonal and individual, but
collective or cultural too. #at is wat is eK%ressed b" an artist coeval wit Kant, te Bwiss
9oann :einric jyssli in 1>>8=8w, in a ver" stran$e and emblematic Feoclassical or Pre=
xomantic drawin$, toda" in te Kunstaus of zuric) Der =2nstler verz#ei!elnd vor der
Gr;sse der antiken :r2mmer ;1#e ArtistLs ses%air Before te !randeur of Ancient
xuins4@. #ere, an artist is %ortra"ed wile sittin$ disconsolate near a few fra$ments of a
colossal xoman statue. ie deal wit wat as been called nostal$ia for antihuit", and wit a
realiCed im%ossibilit" to restore or even onl" imitate te true s%irit of classical arts.
:owever, (. Kant did not consider omesickness Qust onl" in a 1%ra$matic4 albeit
1antro%olo$ical4 wa". (n >e!leionen =ants zur =ritik der reinen *ernun!t ;1KantLs
xeflections on te uritihue of Pure xeason4@, edited b" B. Erdmann at Dei%Ci$ in 188g, is
1%oint of view4 $rows more teoretical and almost meta%"sical. Det us translate te
reflection tere numbered 1?wg4, %robabl" written in 1>>>) Die =ritik der reinen *ernun!t
ist ein )r.servativ !2r eine =rank$eit der *ernun!t, #elc$e i$ren =eim in unserer Natur $at?
+ie ist das Gegenteil von der Neigung, die uns an unser *aterland !esselt ,Heim#e$/? 7ine
+e$nsuc$t, uns ausser unserm =reise zu verlieren und andere -elten zu bezie$en ;1#e
critihue of %ure reason is an antidote to a malad" of reason, wic ori$inates in our nature. (t
is te o%%osite of te %ro%ensit" linkin$ us to our faterland, or omesickness. #at is a
lon$in$ to overste% our bounds and to relate ourselves to oter worlds4@. Fo doubt, in tis
a%orism tere is an antici%ation of te transition from Enli$tenment to xomanticism,
altou$ te oriCon is still rationalistic and te 1%ro%ensit" linkin$ us to our faterland4 is
treated – meta%oricall", indeed – as a 1malad"4 in :oferLs fasion, of wic above.
#o our minds, we sould ave %resent te com%leK and not seldom contradictor"
sensitiveness, wic was $oin$ to be te dialectic back$round of an earl" xomanticism and
(dealism. Fot too man" "ears later, in 1>&8=&&, te %oet and tinker jriedric von
:ardenber$ alias 1Fovalis4 will annotate anoter famous and somewat eni$matic
a%orism, in is fra$mentar" Das allgemeine 3rouillon or 1Aniversal Fotebook4) Die
)$ilosop$ie ist eigentlic$ Heim#e$, ein :rieb 2berall zu Hause zu sein ;1Piloso%" is
autentic omesickness, an instinct drivin$ to be at ome ever"were4@.
3
Fo lon$er
omesickness is re$arded as a malad". Fot necessaril" %iloso%" is %erceived as a full
rational activit", but rater like an intuitive %redis%osition, needin$ to be rationaliCed. For is
nostal$ia understood as omesickness in a selfis sense, but rater like a %ulsion toward an
elsewere and an oterness, wat coincides wit te uto%ian as%iration to be at ome
ever"were in a broad acce%tation ;it would be %erfect, if Fovalis ad added 1and in ever"
Douden, uambrid$e, A. K.) uambrid$e Aniversit" Press, ?ww<, %. >1.
3 Fo. ?1 in Fovalis, +c$ri!ten, edited b" 9. tinor, 9ena) E. siederics, 1&?3, vol. ((; %. 1>&. jor a
different translation, and numberin$, see Notes !or a >omantic 7ncyclopaedia" Das (llgemeine
3rouillon, edited b" s. iood, Btate Aniversit" of Few {ork Press, ?ww>; %. 1'', fr$. 8'>.
3
time4, but we can %resume tis is im%licit in te !erman voice 2berall@. 8f course, no little
de%ends on wic inter%retation ma" be $iven of tat %ro%aedeutic %rovocation. iitin a
certain ran$e, below we will eKamine bot %ro$ressive and conservative inter%retations.
? – #e actress somiCiana !iordano in te film Nostalg$ia, b" te
xussian director AndreQ #arkovskiQ; 1&83. :ead of 8d"sseus, detail of
xoman co%" from a :ellenistic scul%tural $rou%) tuseo
Arceolo$ico FaCionale, B%erlon$a ;(tal"@; ca. 1
st
centur" A. s.
Nostalgia and Utopia
iat a kind of nostal$ia is FovalisL Heim#e$, tat is to sa" is %iloso%ical
1omesickness4| (f we make a com%arison wit te medievalist uto%ia Die C$risten$eit
oder 7uropa ;1uristendom or Euro%e4, essa"; 1>&&@, easil" we would infer tat is is a
nostal$ia for te %ast.
g
Feverteless, in te same Das allgemeine 3rouillon, we can find
some fra$ments su$$estin$ tat is eKcursions into te %ast are a basis for a %roQection into
te future. toreover, suc a %raised or re$retted %ast is not as istorical as it mi$t seem.
xater, it is filtered trou$ an alternatin$ retros%ective and %ers%ective $aCe, accordin$ to a
t"%ical uto%ian manner of %roceedin$. (n %articular, an a%orism is i$l" si$nificant) Die
)$ilosop$ie ist von Grund aus anti$istorisc$? +ie ge$t vom 1uk2n!tigen und Not#endigen
nac$ dem -irklic$en, sie ist die -issensc$a!t des allgemeinen Divinationssinns? +ie erkl.rt
die *ergangen$eit aus der 1ukun!t, #elc$es bei der Gesc$ic$te umgeke$rt der @all ist
;1Basicall" %iloso%" is antiistorical, since turnin$ from te future, and from its necessit",
toward realit". As te science of te universal sense of divination, it reads te %ast in te
li$t of te future. And tis is te o%%osite of wat istor" is used to4@. Elsewere, Fovalis
g uf. Pauline Klein$eld, 1xomantic uosmo%olitanism) FovalisLs }uristianit" or Euro%eL4, in
4ournal o! t$e History o! )$ilosop$y ;Baltimore) 9ons :o%kins Aniversit" Press@, vol. g<, Fo.
?, ?ww8, %%. ?<&=8g; and te ca%ter 1Kant and Fovalis on te develo%ment of a cosmo%olitan
communit"4, in =ant and Cosmopolitanism" :$e )$ilosop$ical <deal o! -orld Citizens$ip,
uambrid$e, A. K.) uambrid$e Aniversit" Press, ?w1?, %%. 1g&=><.
g
is not even less eK%licit) (lle )$ilosop$ie oder -issensc$a!t der -issensc$a!t ist =ritik? Die
<dee von )$ilosop$ie ist ein +c$ema der 1ukun!t ;1All %iloso%", or science of science, is
critihue. #e idea of %iloso%" 2itself3 is a scema of te future4@.
'
A merit of te "oun$ %oet and tinker is to ave brou$t an element of uto%ia, more or
less undefined, into te conce%t of omesickness or nostal$ia. Fotoriousl", e well knew
and a%%reciated KantLs criticism. #is is not te least reason, w" is %iloso%" intended
as omesickness can be better inter%reted b" referrin$ to Kant, even if wit a %aradoKical
inversion of terms. Fot onl" omesickness is no lon$er %erceived as a 1malad" of reason4.
(t is Qust tis natural or instinctual %redis%osition, wic can work as 1a lon$in$ to overste%
our bounds and to relate ourselves to oter worlds4, instead of te 1%ure reason4 %rivile$ed
b" Kant. (f te %remises are inverted, te desirable outcome ou$t to be te same, for Kant
as well for Fovalis. (n doin$ so, te border between Enli$tenment and xomanticism as
been overste%%ed, and tere is no doubt tat Fovalis is a ferr"man in suc a cultural
ferr"in$. (t is also true, tere is more transcendence tan immanence in te basicall"
%oetical world=view of Fovalis. {et tis is not sufficient, for formin$ an o%inion of im as a
conservative or reactionar" teorist, wereas Kant ad remained an old %ro$ressive one.
ulearl", Kant and Fovalis tou$t differentl" about uman nature and an universalit"
of its attitudes. jor te former, onl" rationalit" can $row %ositivel" universal, wereas for
te latter irrationalit" is not eKcluded from tis %otentialit". (f KantLs 1diurnal4 reflection is
above all concentrated on te conscience, in FovalisL 1nocturnal4 one tere is te advanced
– and o%timistic – intuition of te incidence of an unconscious dimension of te %s"ce.
An"ow, FovalisL conce%t of omesickness ma" well be conciliated wit a cosmo%olitan
and %ilantro%ic oriCon, suc as outlined b" Kant and reliabl" influenced b" a renewed
umanitarian and %olitical 1universal broterood4 %romoted b" jreemasonr". A %ertinent
eKam%le is tat of a scarcel" known (talian %oet of te late 1&
t
, earl" ?w
t
centur") indeed,
even less known as a tinker. :e is tario xa%isardi, in is collection of a%orisms )ensieri
e giudizi ;1#ou$ts and 9ud$ements1@. iat in FovalisL conce%tion mi$t be defined as a
1nostal$ia for te undefined4, in te work of xa%isardi becomes a 1nostal$ia for te
infinite4, even tou$ witout reli$ious determinations or transcendental connotations in a
strict sense. Accordin$ to te Bicilian tinker, te sole %lausible transcendence is tat of te
uman bein$ transcendin$ imself durin$ is eKistence and in te course of istor".
(n )ensieri e giudizi, %iloso%" and reli$ion are linked to$eter in an ori$inal basic
feelin$) 1#e trouble of all loft" s%irits is a will of %enetratin$ te m"ster" of uman
destination. All %iloso%" and reli$ion for sublime souls is reducible to tis sentiment,
wic is like a nostal$ia for te infinite. 2...3 ( love music above oter arts. (t be$ins were
words are at an end. (t is an universal lan$ua$e, for all earts wic love and suffer on eart
;~@. (t raises us from a $re" realit" to te endless and sinin$ em%ire of dreams. (t $ives us
te sentiment and nostal$ia for te infinite4. (n wic main sense suc a omesickness is to
be inter%reted, it a%%ears clearer wen xa%isardi eK%lains is late xomantic ideal, %atriotic
and cosmo%olitan at once) Auando ci diciamo cittadini del mondo, non intendiamo c$e
B’amore della patria sia morto nell’animo nostro, vogliamo dire piuttosto c$e il nostro loco
natio C per noi diventato ampio quanto la terra, c$e tutte le patrie si sono !use in una sola,
c$e il nostro amore si C di!!uso a tutto il genere umano ;1ien we call us citiCens of te
world, tis does not mean tat love for our faterland is dead in our soul. xater, we want to
' uf. savid iood ;translated and edited b"@, Notes !or a >omantic 7ncyclopaedia" Das
(llgemeine 3rouillon, cit.; %%. 1>& and 1'&, fra$ments 1w<1 and 88<.
'
sa" tat our native %lace as $rown as wide as te eart; tat all faterlands ave blended
into one omeland; tat our love as eKtended so far as to embrace te wole mankind4@.
<
(n is essa" 0a poesia !iloso!ica ;1#e Piloso%ical Poetr"4, 18&8@, nearl" in a
%ositivistic fasion xa%isardi asserts tat true %oetr" %roceeds from verit") 0a poesia prende
l’ispirazione da questa veritD, e sull’ale dell’immaginazione e del sentimento, spaziando
ardimentosa sul gran mare della vita, ci !a sentire i dolori e le gioie c$e ci $anno
accompagnato nel !aticoso cammino, presentire tutti quei popoli indistinti di esseri, tutta la
vita non ancora esplorata dell’universo dalla cui sublime nostalgia l’animo umano sarD
perpetuamente tormentato e puri!icato ;1Poetr" is ins%ired b" tis trueness. 8n te win$s of
ima$ination and of sentiment darin$l" s%acin$ on te $reat sea of life, it makes us feel
sorrows and Qo"s wic accom%anied us alon$ our laborious wa". (t $ives us also a
%resentiment of all tose still confused %eo%les of bein$s, or of te universal life not "et
eK%lored, b" te nostal$ia for wic uman souls will be ever troubled and %urified as
well4@.
>
#erefore, suc a %iloso%ical=%oetical nostal$ia is omesickness for te %ast as
well as for te future. Es%eciall", it is not so muc an identitarian selfis mood as rater a
nostal$ia for oterness, aimin$ at convertin$ alienness into alterit". ie ma" even add, it is a
re$ret for te so man" 1oters4 we mi$t ave been, but were never allowed or able to be.
Eiter b" Fovalis or b" xa%isardi, nostal$ic and uto%ian in$redients are miKed in
var"in$ %ro%ortions. (f tere is an ambi$uit", %robabl" tis is due to a %eculiar relation
between te ideas of nostal$ia and uto%ia, in te develo%ment of Euro%ean civiliCation. Bot
terms are earl" modern com%ounds, assembled wit ancient !reek stems. About te
et"molo$" of 1nostal$ia4, we ave alread" seen above. As to 1uto%ia4, ori$inall" tis is te
%artial title of a treatise in form of novel, %ublised in En$land in 1'1<. #e 0ibellus??? de
optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia ;1Dittle book... on te best state of a
re%ublic and on te new island of Ato%ia4@ was written in Datin b" #omas tore, takin$
main ins%iration from te m"t of Atlantis narrated in te dialo$ue :$e >epublic b" Plato.
Diterall" meanin$ 1no=%lace4 or nowere, Ato%ia is te name of an island were te autor
fancies an eKem%lar" model of societ" to ave been establised. (f Atlantis was fi$ured as
eKisted in a remote %ast, Ato%ia is %retended to eKist at te %resent, but mi$t well be
ima$ined in te future. iic time, it does not matter so muc. iat matters is nostal$ia
for sometin$ wic essentiall" eKists in our ima$ination, but could be realiCed or ou$t to
be imitated in %art at least. (n sum, nostal$ia and uto%ia are com%lementar" faces of one
coin, wic modernit" is. #eir a%%arent antinom" belon$s to te same cultural dialectic.
< t. xa%isardi, )ensieri e giudizi, %ostumousl" edited b" A. #omaselli, Palermo) !. Pedone
Dauriel, 1&1'; %%. 33, g?=g3, >3=>g. (n te lecture 0a religione di *ittorio (l!ieri, ;1#e xeli$ion
of vittorio Alfieri4, in )rose, poesie e lettere postume, edited b" D. vi$o=jaCio, #urin) A.
jormica, 1&3w; see te iebsite tt%)00it.wikisource.or$0wiki0Da•reli$ione•di•vittorio•Alfieri@,
te eminent la" caracter of tat reli$iosit" is claimed, and a$ain it is %roclaimed tat te
nostalgia dell’in!inito 1is a troublin$ and and eKaustin$ fever of ever" sublime eart4.
> t. xa%isardi, 1Da %oesia filosofica4, in )rose, poesie e lettere postume, o%. cit.; re%orted at te
iebsite tt%)00it.wikisource.or$0wiki0Da•%oesia•filosofica.
<
3 – taria uallas as tedea in te film Medea b" Pier Paolo Pasolini,
(tal", 1&<&; and (rene Pa%as as Penelo%e in te television series
%dissea b" j. xossi, P. BcivaCa%%a and t. Bava, (tal", 1&<8
Nostalgia and Boredom
xeliabl" like 9oannes :ofer, inventor of te neolo$ism, we cannot com%letel" for$et
te %dyssey as a m"tic antecedent, even if at :omerLs times te voice 1nostal$ia4 did not
eKist in te form we ave inerited. #enn"son, !raf, Pascoli, Kavafis, Beferis, KaCantCakis,
Bor$es...) after sante Ali$ieri, not a few %oets variousl" ima$ined tat Al"sses, te
arcet"%al nostal$ic ero, wen finall" back at (taca, b" time sank into boredom and $ot
affected b" a kind of nostal$ia contrar" to omesickness intended in a literal sense. Amon$
tem, a %iloso%er too, te venetian tassimo uacciari in is book 0’(rcipelago. #is wide
1arci%ela$o4 is but te old tediterranean Bea, were Euro%ean civiliCation ad its brot of
culture. uacciariLs alle$or" is so stran$e, tat it could not ave arisen but in a %iloso%ical
mind. )er absurdum, e ima$ines tat Al"sses sets sail a$ain and at last arrives to Ato%ia ;in
te ori$inal narration b" #omas tore, te traveller was named :"tlodaeus, 1nonsense
dealer4@. #is s"ncretic Al"sses s"mboliCes te 8ccidental civiliCation, at te turnin$ %oint
of modernit". #e autor leaves us dubious about weter te Ato%ia, were is sailor
landed, is an actual one or instead a d"sto%ia, tat is uto%ia in a ne$ative acce%tation. iat
is interestin$ for us is a com%arison between te two literar" islands) if (taca re%resents a
nostal$ia for te %ast, Qust as omesickness, Ato%ia alle$oriCes a sort of nostal$ia for te
future, for an elsewere wic mi$t be a dan$erous nowere.
8
8 uf. t. uacciari, sections 1si naufra$i e uto%ie4 and 1( rei4 in 0’(rcipelago, tilan) Adel%i,
1&&>; %%. <3=&1, and, in %articular, %%. &3 and followin$. xeliabl" wit allusion to a different
istorical and %olitical conteKt, some diffidence toward realiCed uto%ias is eK%ressed also b" te
Polis %oetess i. BC"mborska in er %oem 1Ato%ia4, in te 1&>< collection -ielka liczba01A
Dar$e Fumber4) 1jor all its carms, te island is uninabited,0 and te faint foot%rints scattered
on its beaces0 turn witout eKce%tion to te sea4 ;trans. B. Bara€cCak and u. uavana$ in
)oems Ne# and Collected BEFGHBEEG, Ban sie$o, ualifornia) :arcourt, (nc., 1&&8; %. 1>3@.
>
Accordin$ to te late medieval sante, in te <n!erno of is Divine Comedy, te
inhuietude wic makes Al"sses set sail a$ain is a still unsatisfied and im%ious curiosit" to
eK%lore and to discover. {et, for most aforementioned %oets, tat restlessness is strictl"
associated to boredom, in te eKistential connotation wic first te jrenc %iloso%er
Blaise Pascal ascribed to suc a mood. #is survivor and disillusioned Al"sses does not find
is 1omesickness cured4 as Kant rasl" su%%osed of is contem%orar" veterans, but is
boredom is a transition from tat omesickness to a new – or, more likel", metamor%osed –
1malad"4. Fow, our $eneral conteKt is varied enou$ and te $round is %re%ared, for
%assin$ to eKamine omesickness and ennui, as te" are combined in te %iloso%" of
tartin :eide$$er. (n Die Grundbegri!!e der Metap$ysik??? ;1#e jundamental uonce%ts of
teta%"sics...4, 1&?&=3w@, te !erman controversial tinker moves from a huotation from
is com%atriot Fovalis, even tou$ tis startin$ %oint sounds more like a %reteKt, and is
ar$uin$ from it is so transcendental, as to easil" a%%ear a bit retorical or tendentious.
Det us read a first, ironical, %assa$e) Novalis sagt einmal in einem @ragment" IDie
)$ilosop$ie ist eigentlic$ Heim#e$, ein :rieb 2berall zu Hause zu seinJ? 7ine merk#2rdige
De!inition, romantisc$ nat2rlic$? Heim#e$ K gibt es dergleic$en $eute 2ber$aupt noc$L <st
das nic$t ein unverst.ndlic$es -ort ge#orden, selbst im allt.glic$en 0ebenL Denn $at nic$t
der $eutige st.dtisc$e Mensc$ und (!!e der 1ivilisation das Heim#e$ l.ngst abgesc$a!!tL
Und Heim#e$ gar als die 3estimmung der )$ilosop$ieM N???O -as ist damit K )$ilosop$ie
ein Heim#e$L ;1(n a fra$ment of is, Fovalis told) }Piloso%" is autentic omesickness,
an instinct drivin$ to be at ome ever"wereL. An odd definition, obviousl" xomantic. (s
still ere an"tin$ like omesickness| (s not tis word no lon$er intelli$ible, even in
ever"da" life| :as it not been re%ealed lon$ a$o, b" te cit" man of our a$e, te a%e of
civiliCation| :ow ma" it be a determination of wat %iloso%" is| 2~3 iat does it mean,
%iloso%" as omesickness|4. #is ail of huestions introduces te listener into a
conservative clime, im%l"in$ a Qud$ement on te %resent as de%rived of omesickness, for
avin$ lost an" memor" of te ori$ins. #us, as its main current task %iloso%" ou$t to
remind tat 1a%e of civiliCation4 of is uman bein$, and of te Bein$ in itself at once.
Det us $o on readin$, and translatin$) Novalis erl.utert selbst" Iein :rieb 2berall zu
Hause zu seinJ? 7in solc$er :rieb kann )$ilosop$ie nur sein, #enn #ir, die p$ilosop$ieren,
2berall nict zu Hause sind? -onac$ ste$t das *erlangen dieses :riebesL 2berall zu Hause
zu sein – #as $ei9t dasL Nic$t nur da und dort, auc$ nic$t nur 5eden %rts, an allen
nac$einander zusammen, sondern 2berall zu Hause sein $ei9t" 5ederzeit und zumal im
Ganzen sein? Dieses Pim !anCenQ und seine G.nze nennen #ir die -elt? -ir sind, und
so!ern #ir sind, #arten #ir immer au! et#as? -ir sind immer von 7t#as als Ganzem
angeru!en? Dieses Pim GanzenQ ist die -elt ;1Fovalis imself s%ecifies) }an instinct, drivin$
to be at ome ever"wereL. Piloso%" can be intuited as sometin$ like tat, onl" if we
%iloso%iCers do not feel at ome ever"were. iat is te aim of suc an instinct| #o be at
ome ever"were, but wat does tis mean| Fot banall" ere or tere, nor in all %laces
simultaneousl", or in one after te oter. xater, to be at ome ever"were stands for bein$
ever and at one time inside te wole) a bein$ inside t$e #$ole we call world, in its
%erce%tion of entiret". ie eKist. (nsofar as we eKist, almost we live in a %erennial state of
eK%ectanc" for a call b" sometin$ like a wole, a woleness wic is but te world4@.
:eide$$erLs omesickness is a nostal$ia for te absolute, altou$ tis is not %ro%osed
in an" reli$ious form but in te sense, somewat ambivalent indeed, of a transcendental
immanence. And suc sould be te main effect of te innate %ro%ensit", in uman bein$s,
8
to overcome teir own limits. {et a nostal$ic inclination like tat is inter%reted as turned
toward an alle$ed ori$inal %ast, more tan oriented to a %ro$ressive future. Even were te
autor seems to int at a future %ers%ective, it a%%ens not witout a deal of ambi$uit". Bo
muc, tat tose, wo wanted to discern some ancient $nostic influences in is tou$t, ma"
a%%ear not torou$l" wron$) Da$in, zum +ein im Ganzen sind #ir in unserem Heim#e$
getrieben? Unser +ein ist diese Getrieben$eit? -ir sind immer sc$on irgend#ie zu diesem
Ganzen !ortgegangen oder besser unter#egs dazu ;1#e bein$ as a wole) tere is were
our omesickness drives. #is restlessness is our autentic bein$. Bomeow, we ave
alread" de%arted toward tat wole. (t is better to sa", alwa"s we are on te wa" to it4@.
&
All tat %resu%%oses a dissatisfaction wit te %resent, an"wa") na", wit te s%ecific
one wic modernit" is. (n its turn, suc a discontent $enerates an eKistential boredom,
wic in te best of cases ou$t to be at te basis of a renewed %iloso%ical wonderin$ and
researc. #at is w" boredom, omesickness and %iloso%ical s%eculation, ma" be
mutuall" associated or concatenated. :eide$$er %uses as far as to draw a %arallel between
boredom and omesickness) :ie!e 0ange#eile K ein Heim#e$? Heim#e$, ein Heim#e$...
;1see% ennui – a omesickness. :omesickness, a omesickness...4@.
1w
#e term obsessivel"
re%eated betra"s some %ersonal solitude, even more tan a tendenc" to transcend uman
finitude. Fot b" cance, te subtitle wic te editor as $iven to te course of lectures we
are dealin$ wit is -elt – 7ndlic$keit – 7insamkeit ;1iorld, jinitude, Bolitude4@.
Andoubtedl", te autor did not feel at ome or felt uneas" wit te world, suc as it was
istoricall" determined. Anfortunatel" or not, %artl" tat world is ours, still at %resent.
& t. :eide$$er, Die Grundbegri!!e der Metap$ysik? -elt – 7ndlic$keit – 7insamkeit, edited b" j.=
i. von :errmann, jrankfurt on tain) v. Klostermann, 1&83; %%. >=8. jor a more literal
translation, see :$e @undamental Concepts o! Metap$ysics" -orld, @initude, +olitude, trans. i.
tcFeill and F. ialker, Bloomin$ton) (ndiana Aniversit" Press, 1&&'; %%. '=<.
1w t. :eide$$er, Die Grundbegri!!e der Metap$ysik???, o%. cit.; %. 1?w.
&
g – Mnemosyne, $ranite statue b" te contem%orar" Forwe$ian
scul%tor jredrik K. B. ;www.fredrik=kb.com@; and marble statue of
Eros, xoman im%erial %eriod, about A. s. 1&w) tuseum of jine
Arts, Boston ;said to ave been found at Daodiceia in B"ria@
Eros and Mnemosyne
8ter times or in oter subQects, te discontent ma" arise not so muc for a world
wic one was trown into like b" a cast of dice, but rater for oneLs self, suc as
eKistentiall" determined. (n order to eKem%lif", a$ain we like to resort to te back$round
fi$ure of Al"sses, as revisited not b" %iloso%ers but b" %oets. #e best known scene of
im as a nostal$ic ero is on a farawa" sore, wile scannin$ te oriCon and wee%in$
because of is desire to return ome and to is wife.
11
But in te sonnet %dyssey, 3ook
:#entyH:$ree, 9or$e D. Bor$es su$$ests tat Al"sses, once back ome, $ot nostal$ic for is
nomadic self) 1Fow in te love of teir own bridal bed0 #e sinin$ hueen as fallen aslee%,
er ead0 A%on er kin$Ls breast. iere is tat man now0 io in is eKile wandered ni$t
and da"0 8ver te world like a wild do$, and would sa"0 :is name was Fo 8ne, Fo 8ne,
an"ow|4. And, in te sonnet <n <t$aca, Andrew Dan$ insinuates tat Al"ssesL discontent
for is sedentar" self is miKed wit te nostal$ia for anoter woman or, better, a n"m%) Qust
tat ual"%so, wo ad lon$ detained im in te isle of 8$"$ia. {et, most im%ortant is ow
11 :omer, %dyssey, Book ', lines 81 and followin$. Even if it te definition is older, te conce%t of
1nomadic self4 as been a%%lied to te caracter of Al"sses, Qust as inter%reted b" 9. D. Bor$es,
b" Bvetlana Bo"m in :$e @uture o! Nostalgia ;Few {ork) Basic Books, ?ww1; %. 'w@
1w
te %oet eKtends te meta%or, so tat te Fo 8ne of Bor$es – and of :omer – mi$t be
an"one of us) 1#ou too, t" aven $ained, must turn tee "et0 #o look across te sad and
storm" s%ace,0 {ears of a "out as bitter as te sea,0 A, wit a eav" eart, and e"elids
wet,0 Because, witin a fair forsaken %lace0 #e life tat mi$t ave been is lost to tee4.
1?
(f bot %iloso%ers and %oets are interested in nostal$ia, less often in uto%ia,
%aradoKicall" we ma" notice tat not rarel" it is te %oets wo brin$ back te $eneral to%ic
from te eavens of abstraction down to a more concrete and %ersonal $round, even wen
tis is not so muc a stead" one as rater a 1storm" sea4. (t is also true, not a few critical
tinkers move from te free creativit" of %oets or of fictional writers. (f uacciari does it
referrin$ to sante Ali$ieri or #omas tore, and :eide$$er is ins%ired b" Fovalis, in
Di!!erence and >epetition te jrenc %iloso%er !illes seleuCe %roceeds from tarcel
Proust and is narrative >esearc$ o! 0ost :ime. (f literaril" is referent and startin$ %oint is
Proust, %iloso%icall" e traces back to :enr" Ber$son, (mmanuel Kant or even Plato, but
we ma" reliabl" su%%ose some %s"coanal"tic ascendenc" too. A ver" nice %assa$e sounds
emblematic) toute rRminiscence est Rrotique, quLil sLagisse dune ville ou dLune !emme? CLest
tou5ours SrTs, le noumCne, qui nous !ait pRnRtrer dans ce passR pur en soi, dans cette
rRpRtition virginale, MnRmosyne? <l est le compagnon, le !iancR de MnRmosyne ;1ever"
reminiscence is erotic, weter we deal wit a town or wit a woman. (t is alwa"s Eros, te
noumenon, wo makes us %enetrate tis %ure %ast in itself, tis vir$inal re%etition wic
tnemos"ne is. Eros is te %artner, te betroted of tnemos"ne4@. 8ut of meta%or, tere
cannot be nostal$ia or omesickness witout reminiscence. {et tere is no reminiscence
witout a selective feelin$, susce%tible of deliverin$ and restorin$ memories from
for$etfulness or removal, witin an individual or collective unconscious. (n ancient !reek
m"tolo$", tnemos"ne was te $oddess of memor"; Eros, te $od of love and desire.
Foneteless, into is meta%oriCation seleuCe introduces a tird, eK%licitl" jreudian,
$ooseberr" or anta$onist. :e is but #anatos, dishuietin$ daemon of deat.
13
ie ma"
deduce tat tnemos"ne is not seldom found in front of a coice, between te nostal$ic
remembrance %romoted b" Eros and a dissolvin$ oblivion of te self wic #anatos – as
%resumed instinct of deat – stands for. (n te island of 8$"$ia, also Al"sses found imself
involved in a dramatic dilemma like tat. (n fact, ual"%so ad %romised im te $ift of
immortalit". :e was srewd enou$, as to mistrust an immortalit" devoid of umanness, as
too similar or identical wit deat, wereas e was not so 1modern4, as to huibble about te
%ossibilit" tat te real life once enQo"ed in (taca mi$t ave been an unre%eatable
condition. #us, we know, te :omeric ero cose is nostos wit no a%%arent esitation. (n
case e did not, most %robabl" we were not ere to discuss about 1nostal$ia4. {et tere as
been a modern %oet, te (talian !iovanni Pascoli, in is %oem c"cle :$e 0ast *oyage, wo
1? 9. D. Bor$es, 18d"sse", Book #went"=#ree4, trans. x. jitC$erald in +elected )oems BEUVHBEWG,
edited b" A. uoleman, Few {ork) vikin$, 1&&& ;from 18disea, libro vi$•simo tercero4, in te
collection of %oems 7l otro, el mismo, Buenos Aires) Emec•, 1&<g@; and 1(n (taca4, first
%ublised in A. Dan$, 3allades and >$ymes, Dondon) Don$mans, !reen ‚ uo., 1&11, %. 3?.
Dan$Ls %oem is eK%ressl" ins%ired b" a letter wic te ancient !reek writer Ducian of Bamosata,
in is fantastic novel vera :istoria, ima$ines sent to ual"%so b" te soul or sadow of Al"sses,
from te (sland of te Blest) evidentl", tat is to mean, a nostal$ia stron$er tan deat.
13 !. seleuCe, Di!!Rrence et rRpRtition, Paris) Presses Aniversitaires de jrance, 1&<8 ;and ?w11@; in
%articular, %%. 11', and 1g' and followin$. uf. Di!!erence and >epetition, trans. P. Patton, Few
{ork) uolumbia Aniversit" Press, 1&&g; %%. 8', and 1w& and followin$.
11
fancied tat at last te old sailor returned to ual"%soLs isle Qust in time for meetin$ wit is
deat, wile te mournin$ n"m% could notin$ but wra% is cor%se wit er lon$ air.
1g
At tis %oint, we sould wonder a$ain weter (taca, Ato%ia and 8$"$ia are mere
islands – verisimilar or not, ere it does not matter –, or te" ave a s"mbolic value above
all. ie ave alread" discovered, or believed to discover, tat (taca re%resents te
omesickness for te %ast, for a real %ast, wereas Ato%ia alle$oriCes a huasi nostal$ia for
te future, for a %ossible even wen im%robable one. Fow, a new %roblem is) wat ma"
8$"$ia stand for| 8nl" %oets can answer a huestion like tat, so sowil" idle. A. Dan$ as
su$$ested tat 8$"$ia is omesickness for te lost 1life tat mi$t ave been4. !. Pascoli
as insinuated tat it is a %resentiment of te deat itself, or, worse, a wis for te
dissolution of a troubled self. (f we consider it well, te sole 1fair forsaken %lace4 were
tese events can a%%en at te same time, or were tnemos"ne – te memorial
consciousness – ma" be contested between Eros and #anatos, is but te unconscious.
8$"$ia re%resents te nostal$ia for an inner arena, were all memories are %otentiall" alive,
but were a tacit stru$$le is fou$t for decidin$ wic of tem are wort" of survivin$ and
wic are destined to te deat of oblivion, in order to $ive us te im%ression of a continuit"
of our selves. Fostal$ia is not onl" omesickness for a missin$ %lace or a dear %erson. (t is
also instrument and warrant" for an identit" of te self, or for a functional illusion of it.
8r, else, we mi$t wonder if to know wic island, and wat a kind of nostal$ia, is a
matter of real im%ortance. Buc is te actual huestion, tat ual"%so erself %uts to Al"sses
in te dialo$ue :$e <sland, wic anoter (talian %oet and novelist, uesare Pavese, ima$ines
set in te isle of 8$"$ia. Prior to te de%arture of te sailor from tere, se asks, tr"in$ to
talk im into remainin$) 1iat do "ou care, if te island is not tat, "ou were searcin$ for|
:ere an"tin$ never a%%ens. 9ust a %iece of eart and a oriCon. {et, tis is were "ou can
live for ever4. But Al"sses does not can$e is will to leave. #en, ual"%so resorts to an
ironical ar$ument) 1#e %ast does not return. Fotin$ resists te la%sin$ of time. {ou saw
te ocean, te monsters and te El"sium. After all tat, are "ou sure to succeed in
reco$niCin$ "our ouse|4. And Al"sses answers) 1{ou said it, ( carr" m" island inside of
me4. At last, te n"m% in love formulates a %remonition, wic sounds like a curse) 1{ou
will find it so can$ed, as to a%%ear lost and mute. 9ust a sound of sea amon$ te rocks, or a
tread of smoke. Fone will be able to sare tis wit "ou, and "our ouse will look like te
face of an old $u", since "our words ave $ot a sense, wic is oter tan teirs. #en "ou
will feel alone, worse tan in te midst of sea. 2...3 iat did, till now, "our dishuiet
wanderin$ mean|4. And Al"sses re%lies) 1(f ( knew it, alread" ( ad sto%%ed and sta"ed4.
1'
#e $oddess knows, and te mortal ero as be$un to learn, tat te isle e carries in
is mind as an ima$e of destination as no name, and tat is omesickness is nostal$ia in
itself or – we mi$t even sa" – a nostal$ia of nostal$ia. ses%ite tis awareness, Al"sses
must $o on, for tere is no oter %lausible wa". Even a disillusion in (taca would be better,
1g !. Pascoli, 1ual"%so4, in 1DLultimo via$$io4, in )oemi conviviali, Bolo$na) zanicelli, first
%ublised in 1&wg. uf. 1ual"%so4, in 1#e Dast vo"a$e4, in 0ast *oyage" +elected )oems o!
Giovanni )ascoli, trans. s. Brown, x. 9ackson, B. #omas; Dos An$eles) xed :en Press, ?w1w.
1' u. Pavese, 1DLisola4, in Dialog$i con 0eucX, #urin) Einaudi, first %ublised in 1&g>. uf. 1#e
(sland4, in Dialogues #it$ 0eucX, trans. i. Arrowsmit and s. B. uarne=xoss, Boston) Eridanos
Press, 1&8&. uf. also a %oem written in 1&>? b" te xussian %oet 9ose% Brodsk", ƒƒ8d"sseus to
#elemacusLL ;in Collected )oems in 7nglis$, trans. !. D. Kline, Few {ork) jarrar, Btraus ‚
!irouK, ?www; %. <g@) 1#o a wanderer te faces of all islands0 resemble one anoter4.
1?
tan te illusion of 8$"$ia. As an eK%erienced man, e as a lot of $ood and bad hualities,
eKce%t te %resum%tion to feel $odlike. As an eKce%tional one, e is rater an anta$onist of
$ods ;suc as te 18d"sseus4 of Pavese is, in some FietCscean sense@. And, as %ros%ected
b" ual"%so at least, immortalit" is a %arod" of tat %redis%osition of men to transcend teir
limits, wic in Al"sses is develo%ed to a $reat de$ree. :owever, is nostal$ia of nostal$ia
makes im not merel" a 1transcendental4 but also a trans$ressive fi$ure ;suc as sante, in
is <n!erno, ad well $uessed@. 8f course, in te !reco=xoman culture oter fi$ures of
nostal$ia were not wantin$. 8ne of tem is te unluck" musician 8r%eus, so nostal$ic for
is beloved Eur"dice, as to confront te $ods of deat in teir underworld, in order to
%ersuade tem b" means of is art to let er return to life on eart. (n is work +pirit o!
Utopia, te !erman tinker Ernst Bloc as meta%oriCed about tis m"t) Die +eele #eint
in uns und se$nt sic$ $in2ber, setzt Gott und den :raum8 #as aber das Dunkel der Nac$t
vor sic$ $er5agt, #ie %rp$eus die +c$atten, ist rein aus der +eele geboren und $at nic$ts als
diese innerste 7uridike zum 1iel ;1#e soul wee%s inside us and "earns be"ond, %osits !od
and te dream; but wat te darkness of ni$t cases before itself, like 8r%eus cased te
sades, is born %urel" of te soul and as notin$ but tis inmost Eur"dice as its $oal4@.
1<
' – An$elica Kauffmann ;or circle of@, )enelope -eeping over t$e
3o# o! Ulysses) iolveram%ton Art !aller", A. K.; ca. 1>>&. 8n te
ri$t, 9oann :. jyssli, :$e (rtist’s Despair be!ore t$e Grandeur o!
(ncient >uins) zyric Kunstaus, BwitCerland; 1>>8=8w
Archetypal Nostalgic Ladies
(n %ractice, a %rotot"%e turns into arcet"%e tanks to a lon$ literar" – and sometimes
artistic – work. iereas te former can be onl" %assivel" co%ied or imitated, te latter is
1< E. Bloc, 1Piloso%ie der tusik4, in Geist der Utopie, tunic and Dei%Ci$) suncker ‚
:umblot, 1&18; %. ??>. uf. 1#e Piloso%" of tusic4, in :$e +pirit o! Utopia, trans. A. A.
Fassar, Btanford, ualifornia) Btanford Aniversit" Press, ?www; %. 1<w ;we ave ado%ted tis
translation, wit a few triflin$ can$es@.
13
susce%tible to influence and orient te %iloso%ical reflection. seleuCe would sa" tat it is
:abitus – te abit, in te sense of cultural %ractice – wic makes suc a difference, alon$
wit Eros and tnemos"ne. jor certain, also a nostal$ic arcet"%e ma" de$rade into
stereot"%e, tat is a vain re%etition. 8n te contrar", it remains active and not rarel" acts in
an uneK%ected wa", wen is able to renew itself accordin$ wit times and %laces. #is is te
case of Penelo%e, te :omeric s%ouse of Al"sses. ie are used to tink of er as a model of
lo"alt" and %atience, nostal$ic for er lon$ absent usband. (f e is a restless ero – we
mi$t sus%ect, in more tan one meanin$ –, se is eroicall" firm in er determination. {et
we cannot eKclude tat even, or es%eciall", a eroine like er could meet wit a bitter
disillusion. #at is wat as been insinuated b" a !reek %oet, {annis xitsos, in is %oem
written in 1&<8 and titled )enelopeLs Despair. #is des%air is as intolerable as er o%e ad
been unsakeable, durin$ te absence of Al"sses and er waitin$ for is return ome.
#e %dyssey ad told tat is first decisive act, wen e was back at ome, is a terrible
slau$ter of te self=interested suitors of Penelo%e and of te servant maids wo were
com%romised wit tem, in order to take a$ain full %ossession of is ro"al mansion and to
recover is %ower over is famil" and te realm of (taca. 9ustified or not, suc as it ad
a%%ened, tat violence %rovokes fear and orror in te soul of te hueen, sowin$ er an
Al"sses so discre%ant from te memor" of im se ad Qealousl" %reserved in er eart.
#rou$ te silent tou$ts of Penelo%e, xitsosL verse %ortra" te ver" moment wen tat
ima$e is broken, so wretcedl" tat te bri$t 1da" of te return4 converts into a dark 1ni$t
of te return4) 1ias it for im, ten, tat seLd used u% twent" "ears,0 twent" "ears of
waitin$ and dreamin$, for tis miserable0 blood=soaked, wite=bearded man| Be colla%sed
voiceless into a cair,0 slowl" studied te slau$tered suitors on te floor as tou$ seein$0
er own desires dead tere. And se said }ielcome,L0 earin$ er voice sound forei$n,
distant. (n te corner, er loom0 covered te ceilin$ wit a trellis of sadows; and all te0
birds seLd woven0 wit bri$t red tread in $reen folia$e, now,0 on tis ni$t of te return,
suddenl" turned asen and black,0 fl"in$ low on te flat sk" of er final endurin$4.
1>
ie are also used to tink of anoter eroine, in our cultural erita$e, more as a tra$ic
tan as a nostal$ic one. Be is tedea, so often o%%osed to Penelo%e as a ne$ative female
eKam%le. Anlike Penelo%e, se was a forei$ner) na" a barbarian, accordin$ to te ancient
!reek %erce%tion. (n bot tra$edies wic te !reek Euri%ides and te Datin Beneca
dedicated to er, nostal$ic ints to a des%erate im%ossibilit" of $oin$ back to er countr" of
ori$in – te uolcis, toda"Ls !eor$ia – are not lackin$. Be is te t"%e of te eKile, mostl"
for er own fault tou$. {et tere was a xoman %oet of te im%erial a$e, !aius valerius
jlaccus, wo wrote an incom%lete %oem, titled (rgonautica after te e%ic wit te same
name, com%osed b" te :ellenistic %oet A%ollonius of xodes. (n te verse of jlaccus, a
"oun$ tedea is %ortra"ed, wile in love wit te !reek navi$ator 9ason. Alread" durin$ er
vo"a$e from uolcis to !reece on te Black Bea, an inci%ient sentiment of omesickness is
well described) 1Awa" on te summit of te %oo% beind te vi$ilant steersman tedea
clun$ to te knees of tinervaLs $ilded ima$e; tere sittin$ wit er robe cast about er e"es
se still was wee%in$, solitar", tou$ se Qourne"ed wit te :aemonian %rinces, and
unsure of te wedlock tat was to be. jor er te coasts of te Barmatian sea feel %it", for
1> {. xitsos, 1Penelo%eLs ses%air4, in >epetitions, :estimonies, )arent$eses, trans. E. Keele",
Princeton, Few 9erse") Princeton Aniversit" Press, 1&&1; %. &1 ;from „ IR+7*f,… -…/
†…*Y6+R…/, in te collections of %oems †‡-PY/, ˆRI*I6‰aYM/, ŠM7\6JTfNI, Atens) Šedros,
1&8?@.
1g
er, as se sails b", siana wee%s were #oas ruled. Fo lake, no river of Bc"tia but mourns
for er as se %asses; te si$t of er, wo late was hueen of so man" realms, stirred te
:"%erborean snows; even te tin"ae now cease teir murmurin$, and now consent to take
er. Bcarce lifts se er ead at close, if ever, of some feast tat er dear 9ason s%reads
imself, wile e %oints out tat now te" %ass uarambis wit its %all of cloud, now D"cusL
kin$dom, and as oft be$uiles er si$s b" biddin$ er stand to see te ills of #essal"4.
18
#essal" is te !reek re$ion, wic was omeland to 9ason. As to tedea, a $reat
%roblem to er will become im%ossibilit" of bein$ at ome) neiter in te ado%tive town of
uorint, nor in er moterland or elsewere. Fot less tan Qealous" and will of reven$e on
er dislo"al usband, tat was a motive for er insanit" and for er %artl" self destructive
crimes. At last, even in Atens te %rincess and sorceress ad to feel stran$er, eK%osed to a
risk of bein$ banned a$ain, wat actuall" later a%%ened. 9ust in Atens, se fell a victim to
te worst kind of re$ret, tat for er sons se erself ad killed. At least, tis is te stor"
wic a Britis %oetess of te victorian a$e, Au$usta savies iebster in er %oem Medea in
(t$ens, as told us. (n er delirium, a middle=a$ed tedea %resumes to s%eak to te $ost of
9ason, fresl" dead) 1#ou, mock me not. iat if ( ave ill dreams,0 Beein$ tem loate me,
fl" from me in dread,0 ien ( would feed m" un$r" mout wit kisses|0 iat if ( moan in
tossin$ fever=tirsts,0 ur"in$ for tem wom ( sall ave no more,0 :ere nor amon$ te
dead, wo never more,0 :ere nor amon$ te dead, will smile to me0 iit "oun$ li%s
%rattlin$ }toter, moter dearL|0 iat if ( turn sick wen te women %ass0 #at lead teir
bo"s; and ate a cildLs "oun$ face|0 iat if – !o, $o; tou mindLst me of our sons;0 And
ten ( ate tee worse; $o to t" $rave0 B" wic none wee%s. ( ave for$otten tee4.
1&
(n realit", instead of a more common difficult" in rememberin$, it is an im%ossibilit"
to for$et wic is now added to tedeaLs achuired inca%acit" for feelin$ at ome an"were.
Be cannot feel at ease even in an" time, were er memor" %uses er back like into a dark
corner. Bome mi$t obQect tat bot inter%retations, of {annis xitsos concernin$ Penelo%e
and of Au$usta iebster re$ardin$ tedea, are too modern for avin$ some arcet"%al value.
#en, not onl" let us recede somewat into te %ast, but let us can$e cultural area, albeit
once more witin a tediterranean oriCon. At least, because Euro%ean civiliCation was a
s"ntesis of different contributions. (t is so tat we meet wit a tird, unluck", female
nostal$ic fi$ure. (n tis case, se is neiter !reek nor 1barbarian4, but biblical and
evan$elical. (ndeed, neiter te 8ld nor te Few #estament re%ort er name. 9ust onl" in te
9ewis eKe$etic Midras$ se is $iven te name Edit or, better, (dit) te 1coicest4. {et let
us read te Book of !enesis, 1&)?<) 1As DotLs wife looked back, se was transformed into a
%illar of salt4; and 9esusL words accordin$ to Duke, 1>)3?=33) ‹*…N.*Y_Y-Y -Œ/ 7]*IM\•/
oŽ-. •/ VS* •…-‰,‘ -c* a]bc* I’-.“ RYPMR.M‰,I,XIM 2or ,”,IM, as a variant3, ^R.6‡,YM
I’-‰*, \Id [/ •* ^R.6‡,YM, •f.7.*‰,YM I’-‰* ;1xemember DotLs wife. ioever tries to
%reserve 2or 1to save43 is life will lose it, and woever loses it will revive is soul4@.
iat did DotLs wife $lance back at| At er town of Bodom, destro"ed b" a catacl"sm
as a divine %unisment to its dissolute inabitants, eKce%t Dot, is wife and dau$ters, wo
18 v. jlaccus, (rgonautica, trans. 9. :. toCle", uambrid$e, tassacusetts) :arvard Aniversit"
Press; Book 8, lines ?w?=1<.
1& A. iebster, 1tedea in Atens4, in )ortraits, Dondon) tacmillan ‚ uo., 18>w and 18&3; far
more recentl", in )ortraits and %t$er )oems, edited b" u. But%in, Peterborou$, 8ntario,
uanada) Broadview Press, ?www, %%. 1<&=>> ;lines ?>w=83@.
1'
were esca%in$ for avin$ teir lives saved. (n er %oem Yona 0ota01DotLs iife4, te Polis
%oetess iis–awa BC"mborska wonders about all %ossible motives wic made tis 1arcaic4
woman look back, trans$ressin$ a divine %roibition at risk of er own life. (t turns out
evident tat te most uman or umane ones are omesickness and %iet") %be5rzaZam si[
podobno z cieka#o\ci?] (le pr&cz cieka#o\ci mogZam mie^ inne po#ody?] ??? ;1#e" sa" (
looked back from curiosit".0 But ( could ave ad reasons oter tan curiosit".0 ...4@.
?w
(s
nostal$ia a %revalent selfis feelin$, contrastin$ wit te biblical memento 1vanit" of
vanities, all is vanit"4, or ma" it be a virtual form of altruism| Fot too obviousl", it de%ends
on circumstances. (n is novel +laug$ter$ouseH@ive, te Fort=American Kurt vonne$ut
eK%resses a sarcastic o%inion but lar$el" sareable, if onl" we tink of te istorical event,
wic is startin$ %oint and back$round of is narrative ;te devastatin$ bombin$ of
sresden, in !erman", durin$ te Becond iorld iar@) 1DotLs wife, of course, was told not to
look back were all tose %eo%le and teir omes ad been. But se did look back, and (
love er for tat, because it was so uman. Bo se was turned into a %illar of salt4.
?1
And, we
mi$t add, wo is wo failed to %reserve is life but revived is soul) Dot, or is wife|
< – A scene from te BraCilian=jrenc=(talian film %r!eu
?w i. BC"mborska, 1—ona Dota4, first %ublised in :#&rczo\^ Fo. &, Krakow, Poland) (nst"tut
Ksi˜™ki, 1&>3; %%. '=<. uf. 1DotLs iife4, in +ounds, @eelings, :$oug$ts" +eventy )oems by
-isla#a +zymborska, trans. t. 9. Kr"nski and x. A. ta$uire, Princeton, Few 9erse") Princeton
Aniversit" Press, 1&81; %%. 1'&=<?.
?1 K. vonne$ut, +laug$ter$ouseH@ive ;first %ublised in1&<&; let us notice tat te bombin$ of
:ambur$ in 1&g3 ad been actuall" desi$nated as 18%eration !omorra4@, Few {ork) xandom
:ouse, 1&&1; %%. ?1=??. (nstead, in a tale b" Elie iiesel, te same ima$e is referred to te FaCi
$enocide of te 9ewis %eo%le of Euro%e in te same %eriod; tat is 1DotLs iife4, in -ise Men
and :$eir :ales" )ortraits o! 3iblical, :almudic, and Hasidic Masters, xandom :ouse, ?ww3 and
?ww& ;read at %. 38) 1All ( know is tat ( understand DotLs wife better tan im. jor at times one
must look backward – lest one run te risk of turnin$ into a statue. 8f stone| Fo) of ice4@.
1<
negro01Black 8r%eus4, directed b" tarcel uamus in 1&'&
Nostalgia for the Language
Bo often nostal$ia is an ambivalent mood, tat it ma" seem like contested b" o%%osite
but com%lementar" feelin$s) in a s%atial sense, between tose wic in !erman are called
Heim#e$ and @ern#e$ ;1omesickness4 and, literall", 1lon$in$ for te farawa"4@, or, in
jrenc, mal du pays and $orreur du domicile ;1omesickness4 and 1orror of ome 2life34,
a "%erbolic eK%ression coined b" te %oet uarles Baudelaire@; on a tem%oral level,
between a conservative and a %ro$ressive attitude, or re$ret for te %ast and o%e in te
future; more in $eneral, between an introverted and an eKtroverted inclination and,
ultimatel", between illusion and disillusion. toreover, mainl" tanks to te intuitions of
%oets, we ave striven to focus on a %erce%tion of nostal$ia not so muc as a selfis, but
rater as a %otential altruistic sentiment. (n doin$ so, we ave tried to $ive an inter%retation
of FovalisL in%ut, 1Piloso%" is autentic omesickness, an instinct drivin$ to be at ome
ever"were4, somewat alternative to tat $iven b" :eide$$er. ie mi$t dare sa", a
nostal$ia for te oter – be it a real oterness, or a sim%le elsewere –, is ever better tan for
te same old self. #at is a d"namic device in te individual %ersonalit" or in a collective
identit", and a critical control in our cultural belon$in$. #o a certain eKtent, it also
determines wat we usuall" deem to be an 1o%en mind4 or, on te contrar", a narrow one.
Before returnin$ to a %iloso%ical sore from te isles of literature or te caves of
%s"colo$", we want to concentrate on a cou%le of huotations more, from xussian %oets.
#e former is from te %oem <t$aka b" 9ose% Brodsk", were e fancies tat Al"sses, once
back in is countr", is ardl" able to reco$niCe it and to make %eo%le reco$niCe im, even
is son #elemacus) 1{our son as $rown tall) e is a sailor imself0 and e looks at "ou as
if "ou were scum.0 And te lan$ua$e te" all sout in0 is a futile labor, it seems, to
deci%er4.
??
#went" "ears after, even te lan$ua$e as sensibl" can$ed. 8r, more
realisticall", te veteran is no lon$er used to ear and to understand it in its fluent s%eec.
Buddenl", te %oet diverts our attention from te nostal$ic $aCe to a omesick, and
disillusioned, earin$. {et, tere is no doubt, ere wat reall" matters is te lan$ua$e. #is
could ave been also written, if onl" Al"sses ad lived in a later e%oc, like so man"
refu$ees, eK%atriates or mi$rants, still at %resent. Fo lon$er is native idiom sounds familiar
to im, nor does e feel a$ain at ome – we are Qust %ara%rasin$ :eide$$er, after Fovalis –
in is own lan$ua$e, te same 1moter ton$ue4 e ad lon$ and tenaciousl" ke%t in mind.
#e latter huotation is from a %oem dedicated to 0ot’s -i!e a$ain, b" Anna Akmatova.
Be ima$ines tat te voice of te an$el, an inner one more tan a divine messen$er, ad
s%oken differentl" to Dot and to is wife. jrom te Bible, we know wat te an$els said to
Dot. Accordin$ to te %oetess, DotLs wifeLs an$el so told er) 1(tLs not too late, "ou can still
look back00 at te red towers of "our native Bodom,0 te shuare were once "ou san$, te
s%innin$=sed,0 at te em%t" windows set in te tall ouse0 were sons and dau$ters
blessed "our marria$e=bed4. (n tis sort sehuence of nostal$ic memories, te first
im%ressive ima$e is tat of te woman erself sin$in$ in an o%en urban s%ace, be it a a
?? 9. Brodsk", 1(taka4 ;1&&3@, trans. z. t. #orlone in 1ulassical t"t in 9ose% Brodsk"4, in
Classical and Modern 0iterature, vol. ?3, Fo. 1, uolumbia, tissouri) Aniversit" of tissouri,
se%artment of ulassical Btudies, ?ww3, %%. &'=11g; see also eKcer%t in )oetry !or +tudents, vol.
3', jarmin$ton :ills, tici$an) !ale, uen$a$e Dearnin$, ?w1w, %. 1<w.
1>
shuare or a court"ard. #is time, we do not deal so muc wit te meanin$, as rater wit
te sound of lan$ua$e) in te s%ecific case, te resonance of er own voice, from a familiar
%ast. ie do not know or care wic ton$ue Bodomites s%oke. (t is not im%ortant, because
wat matters for DotLs wife – ere, we ad better em%lo" classical !reek words – is not a
rational logos but te sentimental p$on'. (n tis inverted view, te p$on' $ives a sense of
dee%ness, or works as an ins%irin$ int. (t is tis p$on', wic $rows te meanin$ful albeit
dece%tive voice of er an$el, and makes DotLs wife turn back. And Akmatova concludes)
1io will $rieve for tis woman| soes se not seem0 too insi$nificant for our concern|0
{et in m" eart ( never will den" er,0 wo suffered deat because se cose to turn4.
?3
#e best female – and dissident – %u%il of :eide$$er was :anna Arendt, wo ad to
eK%atriate from te FaCi !erman" earlier to jrance, later to A. B. A. #us, er most mature
works of critical %olitical teor" are in En$lis, er ado%tive lan$ua$e. ie mi$t sa" tat
ere te roles are inverted, wit res%ect to Dot and is wife, because :anna esca%ed from
te catastro%e, wereas tartin – incidentall", er lover too – not merel" cose to remain in
teir omeland. Above all, e was connivin$ wit tose, wo ad determined te
catastro%e itself and carried it on, until its eKtreme and tra$ic consehuences. ses%ite all
tat, te 9ewis dau$ter to !erman %iloso%" never ceased to turn er $aCe back at er
ste%moter land and to feel omesick for er moter ton$ue, logos and p$on' bot included.
For, for tis, was se transmuted into a statue of salt. At most and at times, se became te
butt of direct or indirect %olemics. (nterviewed in 1&<g b" te !erman Qournalist !ynter
!aus, se declared) 1iat remains| #e lan$ua$e remains. 2~3 ( ave alwa"s consciousl"
refused to lose m" moter ton$ue. ( ave alwa"s maintained a certain distance from jrenc,
wic ( ten s%oke ver" well, as well as from En$lis, wic ( write toda". 2~3 ( write in
En$lis, but ( ave never lost a feelin$ of distance from it. #ere is a tremendous difference
between "our moter ton$ue and anoter lan$ua$e. 2...3 #e !erman lan$ua$e is te
essential tin$ tat as remained and tat ( ave alwa"s consciousl" %reserved4.
?g
(n realit", ArendtLs attacment to er moter ton$ue is not onl" a matter of affection.
Be %reserves it not so muc as a com%onent of er identit", but rater – in a :eide$$erian
st"le – like a tool for er inter%retation of te world. #e lan$ua$e, as an emotional filter,
but also te re%ositor" of a collective wisdom, useful in eKtractin$ and constructin$ a sense
of eKistence. (t is also true, alread" some !reek tinkers, after Aristotle in is )olitics,
distin$uised te logos, a rational discourse wic is universal and can be translated, from
te p$on' as a %eculiar s%eec de%endin$ on different lan$ua$es.
?'
Para%rasin$ Fovalis
once more, tus we ma" obQect tat one can feel %iloso%icall" at ome in ever" lan$ua$e
e knows or learns; na", tat so is inter%retative s%ectre ma" become ricer, emotionall"
?3 A. A. Akmatova, š›œ›•ž Ÿ¡ž01DotLs iife4 ;1&??=?g@, trans. B. KunitC and t. :a"ward in
)oems o! (k$matova, Boston) Dittle, Brown ‚ uo., 1&>3; %.>>.
?g :. Arendt, 1}iat xemains| #e Dan$ua$e xemainsL) A uonversation wit !ynter !aus4, in
Essa"s in Anderstandin$, 1&3w=1&'g" @ormation, 7ile, and :otalitarianism. trans. 9. Kon, Few
{ork) Bcocken Books, 1&&g ;from 1ias bleibt| Es bleibt die tutters%race4, in Gespr.c$e mit
Hanna$ (rendt, edited b" A. xeif, tunic) Pi%er, 1&><@; %%. 1?=13.
?' (n !reek, 6+7./ and ¢f*‰. uf. :ermes #risme$istus, Corpus Hermeticum, #reatise £(( ;1About
te uommon tind4@, ua%ter 13. jor an En$lis translation, see Hermetica" :$e Greek Corpus
Hermeticum and t$e 0atin (sclepius, edited b" B. P. uo%enaver, uambrid$e, A. K.) uambrid$e
Aniversit" Press, 1&&'; %. g<.
18
too. (s it not wat we are strivin$ to do, im%erfectl" tou$ and confidin$ in te readerLs
indul$ence, in tis ver" moment| (n one sense, suc an as%iration and im%erfection itself is
omesickness for wicever lan$ua$e, 1tat mi$t ave been4 and onl" accidentall" was
not %art of our own selves) a nostal$ia for a %otential oterness, in its i$er eK%ression.
jinall", some mi$t wonder about te indul$ent an$el or demon, wo wis%ered to
DotLs wife accordin$ to Akmatova. ias e deceitful, or sim%l" unwar" of te
consehuences of is aCardous su$$estion, and im%otent to %revent tem| :as e
disa%%eared at all| (ndeed, we meet wit an analo$ue fi$ure in a renowned %assa$e of te
:$eses on t$e )$ilosop$y o! History – or %n t$e Concept o! History –, written durin$ te
Becond iorld iar b" te !erman %iloso%er and critic ialter BenQamin. Dike DotLs wife,
or else 8r%eus, e is turned backward. {et te obQect of is nostal$ic attention is neiter a
town nor a woman, but our istor" itself. jor tis, e is also called 1An$el of :istor"4) 1A
2Paul3 Klee %aintin$ named An$elus Fovus sows an an$el lookin$ as tou$ e is about to
move awa" from sometin$ e is fiKedl" contem%latin$. :is e"es are starin$, is mout is
o%en, is win$s are s%read. #is is ow one %ictures te an$el of istor". :is face is turned
toward te %ast. iere we %erceive a cain of events, e sees one sin$le catastro%e wic
kee%s %ilin$ wrecka$e u%on wrecka$e and urls it in front of is feet. #e an$el would like
to sta", awaken te dead, and make wole wat as been smased. But a storm is blowin$
from Paradise; it as $ot cau$t in is win$s wit suc violence tat te an$el can no lon$er
close tem. #e storm irresistibl" %ro%els im into te future to wic is back is turned,
wile te %ile of debris before im $rows sk"ward. #is storm is wat we call %ro$ress4.
?<
?< i. BenQamin, 1#eses on te Piloso%" of :istor"4, trans. :. zon from 1¤ber den Be$riff der
!escicte4 ;written in 1&gw; later %ublised in Gesammelten +c$ri!ten, ( ?, jrankfurt on tain)
Burkam%, 1&>g@, in <lluminations, Dondon) jontana, 1&&?; %. ?g&.
1&
> – Above, Etruscan=:ellenistic
terracotta bust of Ariadne, Paris) tus•e
du Douvre; earl" 3
rd
centur" B. u.
Below, (riadne U, oil on canvas b" te
En$lis %ainter !eor$e j. iatts ;181>=
1&wg@) %rivate collection
Afterword: the rre!ersi"le
iat ave te" in common, suc turned backward fi$ures like 8r%eus, DotLs wife
and te an$el of Klee and BenQamin| 8r%eus and DotLs wife sare teir $rief for a loss, and
te trans$ression of an alle$ed divine interdiction. {et all of tem sare a re$ret, wic is
caused b" sometin$ irreversible) res%ectivel", te untimel" deat of Eur"dice; te
catacl"smic destruction of te cul%able Bodom; te uman determined catastro%es in
modern istor". Even te an$el cannot 1awaken te dead, and make wole wat as been
smased4. :e can onl" re%resent an emblematic monition and a weak aus%ice, in order tat
tose catastro%es will be not re%eated. Actuall", all tese are eKtreme eKam%les of wat we
ma" call nostal$ia for te irreversible, after vladimir 9ank•l•vic in is <rreversibility and
nostalgia.
?>
(ndeed, te jrenc tinker maintained tat, if we consider it well, all true
omesickness is nostal$ia for wat is irretrievable. And, in a narrow meanin$, e is reliabl"
ri$t. 8f course, tat as a lot to do wit te irreversibilit" of time, or wit a %ossible
remorse for coices we made or omitted in te %ast, but cannot owever be corrected in its
?> v. 9ank•l•vic, 0’irrRversible et la nostalgie, Paris) jlammarion, 1&>g.
?w
consehuences, because te" concurred to confi$ure our %resent state in an indelible wa".
xater tan a linear develo%ment of time, a one wa" – and Bor$esian – lab"rint) tis
is te %ertinent ima$e, we can find in a tale in form of letter b" Antonio #abucci, titled <t’s
Getting 0ater (ll t$e :ime ;it is te title of te tale, as well as of te fictional e%istolar", in
wic te %iece of narrative is included@. #e (talian novelist resorts to a female caracter
more, borrowed from ancient !reek m"tolo$". #is time, se is neiter te (tacan
Penelo%e nor te uolcian tedea, but Ariadne, abandoned b" te Atenian #eseus on te
Ae$ean island of FaKos. Anlike tedea, te uretan %rincess could not be considered a
barbarian, at least for er civiliCation was older tan te :ellenic itself. {et tis Ariadne is a
modern, or, better, an atem%oral eroine. Dike te classical one in te %oetical %recedent of
te Heroides b" te Datin 8vid, se too writes er o%eless letter to is far awa" – or,
%era%s, alread" dead – dislo"al ero) 1( ad "ou find "our wa" out of a lab"rint, and "ou
ad me $o into one witout tere bein$ an" wa" out for me, not even te ultimate one. jor
m" life as %assed, and ever"tin$ eludes me witout te %ossibilit" of an" link tat mi$t
lead me back to m"self or to te cosmos. ( am ere, te breeCe caresses m" air and ( am
flounderin$ in te ni$t, because ( ave lost m" tread, te one ( $ave "ou, #eseus4.
#is %roverbial AriadneLs tread becomes te link between te nostal$ia for te self
and one for te infinite, te s"mbol of a contradictor" corres%ondence. {et it is te secret of
a reversibilit" of te irreversible too, sometin$ wic is %ossible onl" in te uman
discourse, never in realit" tou$. Fot less tan #abucci, com%reensibl" 9ank•l•vic was
sce%tical about. As a realistic or resi$ned tinker, is o%inion was tat suc a kind of
discourse is but te illusor" com%ensation of a consolator" ima$ination, a conce%t not
unknown nor useless in te %s"coanal"tic reflection tou$. 8n te oter and, e tou$t
tat also a s%atial inhuietude, suc as te 8d"sseian damnation or %ro%ensit" to wander,
ma" well be a vain Pascalian divertissement or diversion from te insoluble %roblem of
irreversibilit" of time. As for us, after Fovalis as well as after DeibniC, we can dare ar$ue
tat if reall" a %ol"edral %aradoK like tat is inscribed in uman souls some relevant
1sufficient reason4 mi$t eKist. ulearl", tis ou$t to be not te reversibilit" of time in itself,
but rater te orientation wic a simulated aim like tis can im%rint in te activit" of
uman bein$s. A tension to transcend teir limits, even if witin an immanent frame, wat
sometimes ma" assume a connotation of s"mbolic revolt a$ainst a banaliCin$ rationalit".
#ere is an irreversibilit" wic seems to be less irretrievable tan oters, an"wa".
#is a%%ens wen tat irreversibilit" is strictl" associated wit a re$ret or a remorse) wit
te doubt tat tin$s mi$t ave $one oterwise, somewat better of course, if onl" we
would or could act in a different wa". (n tis etical sense, te (ngelus Novus01Few An$el4
of BenQamin is a i$er and even more realistic fi$ure tan te ancient 8r%eus. :is revolt
a$ainst an alle$ed rationalit" of istor" looks more advanced tan te mere refusal of
ineluctabilit" of deat b" 8r%eus, even if 8r%eusL instrument is te ma$nificent illusion
of an immortaliCin$ %ower of art. ParadoKicall", te %olitical consciousness of te 1An$el of
:istor"4 is more com%atible wit te re%ulsion for a %atriarcal unhuestionabilit" of
reli$ion b" te arcaic DotLs wife. #at is because, in bot alle$ories of te (ngelus Novus
and of DotLs wife, tere is an element wic is lackin$ in te le$end of 8r%eus and
Eur"dice. #is is an albeit %roblematic 1nostal$ia for te future4, be it our %ro$ressive one
or te biblical 1Promised Dand4, a return to Eden for one cosen %eo%le. For can we for$et,
our %ro$ressive dream is $randson to tat ad b" Abraam and Dot, in %art at least.
(f tis world cannot be reversed – na", at most can be destro"ed –, it is susce%tible of
?1
bein$ im%roved accordin$ to uman nature, a com%onent of wic – now, we ma" be better
aware of it – is 1autentic omesickness, an instinct drivin$ to be at ome ever"were4.
Anfortunatel", in suc a "%otetical nature not onl" o%%osite but also far less
commendable com%onents coabit, so tat it ma" a%%ear com%osite or dissociated worse
tan com%leK. (n certain circumstances, some of tose re=emer$e in teir worst eK%ression,
wic easil" become a source of same or obQect of an attem%ted removal in our memor".
(ncontestabl", one of tese events was te FaCi %ersecution and $enocide of te 9ews in
Euro%e, durin$ te Becond iorld iar. ie ave seen above ow Kurt vonne$ut, in is novel
+laug$ter$ouseH@ive, a%%lied te biblical e%isode of DotLs wife to te u$e sufferance of te
%o%ulation under te Allied bombin$s of !erman towns. iit all te more reason, in a tale
b" Elie iiesel, te same ima$e is referred to te so called :olocaust. #at is 1DotLs iife4,
in -ise Men and :$eir :ales" )ortraits o! 3iblical, :almudic, and Hasidic Masters.
Feverteless, iieselLs conclusion sounds ver" similar to wat we ave read written b"
vonne$ut) 1All ( know is tat ( understand DotLs wife better tan im. jor at times one must
look backward – lest one run te risk of turnin$ into a statue. 8f stone| Fo) of ice4.
?8
iat does it mean| #at between vonne$ut and iiesel some conver$ence was
understood, in omolo$iCin$ te sufferin$s of %ersecutors and %ersecuted, wit a confusion
of roles and res%onsibilities ;an analo$ue car$e was made a$ainst :anna Arendt, wen
se wrote on :$e 3anality o! 7vil@| Fo, for certain. xater, it was te $aCe of DotLs wife,
wic was so sar% and far=si$ted, as to discern ever" uman bein$ as wort" of
com%assion per se, before tan as an indiscriminate subQect of cul%abilit". (n so doin$,
alread" se was 1at ome ever"were4, even better tan an idealist like er usband in is
nomadic huest for a 1Promised Dand4. Fot onl" se was a disobedient, turned backward
lad", but also a %otential subverter of a %rimitive and des%otic conce%tion of divinit". (f not
a literal reversion, ers mi$t ave been a dan$erous subversion. :er conversion into a
%illar of salt seems to ave been sometin$ like a %reventive, and deterrent, %unisment.
#us, we can read 9esusL sentence too, 1xemember DotLs wife4, in a li$t oter tan tat
%revalentl" ado%ted. An inter%retation of er motivation, as mere curiosit" or omesickness,
is reductive as well. Foneteless, let us take leave huotin$ a few nostal$ic verse once more
dedicated to er, b" !ar" 9. iiteead) 1Btandin$ in tat wasted landsca%e,00 se must ave
seemed a statue erected tere0 as a tribute to uman frailt", wite, cr"stalliCed,0 er ead
turned back as if in lon$in$ to be te $irl00 se ad been in te cit" se ad known4.
?&
?8 E. iiesel, 1DotLs iife4, in -ise Men and :$eir :ales" )ortraits o! 3iblical, :almudic, and
Hasidic Masters, xandom :ouse, ?ww3 and ?ww&; %. 38.
?& !. 9. iiteead, 1DotLs iife4, in te collection of %oems ( Glossary o! C$ickens, Princeton,
Few 9erse") Princeton Aniversit" Press, ?w13 ; %%. >=8. (f iiteead %erceives te motivation of
DotLs iife as omesickness, an inter%retation of it as curiosit" is found in voltaire, :oleration
and %t$er 7ssays ;1>''; trans. 9. tcuabe, Few {ork) !. P. PutnamLs Bons, 1&1?, %. 111@. (n te
ca%ter 18n te (nter%retation of te 8ld #estament4, te jrenc (lluminist ironicall" writes)
1#e crime tat !od %unises ere is orrible; let tat suffice us. DotLs wife was can$ed into a
salt statue for lookin$ beind er. Det us curb te im%ulses of curiosit"; in a word, let te stories
of :ol" irit serve to make us better, if te" do not make us more enli$tened4.
??
8 – Above, %oto=%ortrait of te
%iloso%er :anna Arendt as a "oun$
woman, in 1&33. Below, book cover
illustration of A%ril {amasaki,
>emember 0otLs -i!e, and %t$er
Unnamed -omen o! t$e 3ible, El$in,
(llinois) jait ¥uest, 1&&1
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& – #e %iloso%er ialter BenQamin, %oto$ra%ed b" !is¦le jreund
at Paris; late 1&3ws. 8n te ri$t, (ngelus Novus, oil and watercolor
b" te Bwiss %ainter Paul Klee, 9erusalem) (srael tuseum; 1&?w
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