Committee on Intellectual Correspondence
Issue No. 2 Spring/Summer 1998 An International Project sponsored by the Suntory Foundation (Japan), the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Arts Policy in a Democracy
n 1965 the United States Congress established the National Endowment for the Arts as an independent agency of the federal government whose mission was declared: To foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts in the United States and to broaden public access to the arts. The initiative was part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society enterprise, the effort to remake America in the areas of health, education, and science as well as to eliminate poverty. Behind it, however, were two other impulses. One was the fabled memory of the depression-era W.P.A. (Works Projects Administration) program of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. The W.P.A. supported many artists, who later became famous in the emergence of abstract expressionism, in creating murals and frescoes on schools and public buildings—similar to those painted by the Mexican muralists such as Orozco and Rivera—and supported many writers in composing the great historical guides to American cities, many of which remain standard to this day. The second impulse was the idea that the United States as a shining new power in the world—there was still the glow of “the American century”—would support the arts as had every great historical power in the past. Thus, populism and cultural greatness joined to undergird this historic step in national policy. Thirty-two years later Jane Alexander, the departing chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, spoke wearily of recurring Congressional attempts “to drive a stake into the heart of federal funding for the arts.” And she called these exorcistic rites—the hearings in the Congress on the appropriations—“a nearly debilitating annual Sturm und Drang that threatens to suck the life out of all arts advocates.” At its peak, in 1992, the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts was $175.9 million; in FY’98 it is $98 million, of which sixty percent goes for direct grants to institutions and individuals and forty percent for grants to state arts councils—surely a small sum compared to the $678 million allotted by the German federal government, as reported in the following pages. The story of this extraordinary change is a complex one—and will be a continuing theme of the Newsletter in subsequent issues. At the heart of the matter is the question that Tocqueville raised (but then, everybody quotes Tocqueville, see page 36) of the tension between egalitarianism and elitism in a democracy that prided itself on departing from older aristocratic cultures, and the contemporary question whether arts in a democracy, where each arts group, particularly minorities, claiming a share of the public purse in the name of diversity, may not simply make a national arts endowment agency a multicultural clearing house. We intend to make this debate a continuing one in our pages. But to provide some comparative perspective, we have asked our colleagues Wolf Lepenies and Masakazu Yamazaki to write reports on cultural policy and its problems in Germany and Japan. These follow below. We hope to continue this in our next x issue with reports on France and the United Kingdom. —Daniel Bell


In This Issue
Arts Policy
Arts Policy in a Democracy The Kulturstaat Japan’s Rising Support of the Arts Being Creative 1 2 3 4 5

Electronic Connections
Online with Books and the Media

Population Implosion 7 Can One “Predict” Population Size? 7

India at Fifty
Snakes and Ladders The Vision of Nehru Tagore and Chaudhuri Post-modern Hinduization Indo Chic: The Rating Game 9 10 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Reports from France and Italy
Communism & Fascism Equivalent? Foucault Undone Nolte and Furet Disputing the United States “Those Were the Days…”

Reports from England
Power to the People, i.e. Women
(continued on next page)

Arts Policy

Fay Weldon: Gender Switch Arguments on Language Policy Robert Gernhardt On Ernst Jünger’s Century Stjob: New Public Media Language The Fall and Rise of Bertolt Brecht Song of the Sirens Romania: Hard Road to Normalcy Mismanaged Cultural Transmission

18 19 20 21 21 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 29 30 32 32

Reports from Germany/E. Europe

Reports from Japan
Paradoxical Sense of Transience Fresh Wind in Japanese Film Furusato: Sociology of Remembrance The New Japanese Literature Su Tong and New Writing in China

Adam Zagajewski Robert Pinsky

Criticism and a Pot of Paint
The Soaking of Clement Greenberg 34 Whistler’s Mother 35

The American Scene
Everybody’s Tocqueville The End of the American Epic? 36 37

On a Single Theme… 38 Susan Sontag on the End of Cinema 40 News from the Republic of Letters 41

When a Sage Dies Cornelius Castoriadis David Rousset Eric de Dampierre Khone Shmeruk George Solti To Read an Obituary 43 43 44 44 45 45 46 8 26 31 42 48

British Reading Room Out of a Time Warp Big, Big Brother Barbies and Ancient Rome

A Report to Our Readers

he prominent role that cultural policy plays in Germany can only be understood in historical perspective. The philosophy of German idealism and the classic literature of Goethe’s Weimar established the idea of a subjective inward Reich [a spiritual realm], which preceded the founding of the German State by more than a hundred years. For a long time it was misunderstood as being itself a political act—that of renouncing politics altogether—and as legitimating a withdrawal from society into the sphere of private life. Germany always took pride in regarding itself as a Kulturstaat, keeping the mere civilization of Western nations at a distance. Even the profound political change of democratization after the end of the Nazi regime did not alter the view that the State bears the major responsibility for all matters of culture. However, there are problems with this view, and they are becoming more and more prickly. First, in the German constitution, the German states (Länder) have been given a prerogative for which probably no word exists in any other language, Kulturhoheit, i.e., a supremacy in cultural matters. The Länder want to preserve their constitutional rights, but in order to finance huge cultural projects, they need help from the federal government. Therefore, a complex relationship between the federal government and the Länder has developed that is becoming unmanageable. Especially in Berlin, the federal government and the local administration find themselves in an impasse over their relative obligations to finance cultural institutions in the new capital. Second, in the East, the unification of Germany is still seen, to a large extent, as a “victory” of the West. Culture has become a refuge for political nostalgia: theaters such as the Volksbühne in the former East Berlin try to preserve in their productions and their outlook, which they regard as a distinct Eastern (“Ossi”) mentality. Culture wars rage: ironically, while the President of the Republic, Roman Herzog, pays tribute to Bertolt Brecht on his hundredth anniversary in the company of his comrades from the old Berliner Ensemble, the conservative Prime Minister of Bavaria claims Brecht, who was born in Augsburg, to be the greatest Bavarian poet of the twentieth century. Third, though all this illustrates the political importance given to culture, the allocation of money is of equal importance. German culture is state-subsidized to an extent that is hardly understandable to visitors from abroad: a good seat in one of the three Berlin operas that may cost $50 is subsidized by the State at no less than $200 per evening. (Production costs are incredibly high, due largely to contracts which the unions refuse to alter). The city of Berlin alone has a yearly cultural budget of almost one billion dollars. At the national level the German taxpayers spend about 10 billion dollars a year on culture: the federal government contributes approximately 5%, the German states about 46%, and the local communities about 49%. About 40% of the cultural budget is spent on theater and music. Revenue from approximately 20 million visitors accounts for only about 13% of the cultural budget for the more than 150 state theaters. The approximately 200 private theaters, with around 10 million visitors a year, as well as many free theater groups receive high public subsidies, too. The limits of this Subventionspolitik, however, have been reached by now. In order to find more private sponsorship, attempts are under way to change German tax laws that give little incentive for spending private money for public purposes. In order to achieve this, Chancellor Kohl has formed a surprising coalition with the Green Party which has advocated such a change most strongly. In the long run, this may imply that the institutions of civil society and individuals will become a second pillar of support for culture although, at present, they still buy


The Kulturstaat and the Cultural Wars Within


Arts Policy
the influence they have by contributing less than 0.2% to the cultural budget. Fourth, equally in matters of culture it has become increasingly difficult in Germany to reach decisions. The heated debate over whether, where, and how to build a Holocaust memorial provides a good example: Some time ago Chancellor Kohl took a casual look at the four models under consideration for the memorial, lingered briefly in front of the model by Peter Eisenman and Richard Serra, and even asked a question. Next day, all German newspapers wrote: Eisenman and Serra win competition for Holocaust memorial. Only those who don’t know that Germany has been a monarchy for quite a while now would be surprised. But, as yet, no final decision has been reached. This may change in September with the next elections. If the Social Democrats and the Greens are able to form a coalition government, cultural policy may be affected. Members from both parties have indicated their willingness to create a federal ministry of culture. But since the German states certainly will not renounce their constitutional rights in all matx ters of culture, we might see culture wars of a new kind. —Wolf Lepenies this area; they have been funding artistic productions for some time. In music, for example, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Takasaki, and other cities have public orchestras. For ten years forward-looking mayors and prefectural governors— for example, in the city of Mito and in the Hyogo and Saitama Prefectures—have led the way in building new theaters and allocating funds for performances. The budgeting for the New National Theater has taken a page from their book—a rare example of local governments initiating a change in central-government policy thinking. Of course, Japan has only taken the first small steps on this new path. National theaters are still grossly underfunded. The situation is especially pathetic when Japan is compared with Europe, which has a long tradition of public support for the arts. For example, in Sweden with a population of nine million, the government disburses ¥19 billion for three national theaters. The Japanese government is providing less than a third that amount for production expenses at the New National Theater. Japan, with a population of over 125 million, should be able to invest ¥200 billion in its national theaters. Berlin has three opera houses, and the state government provided a subsidy of ¥20,000 per seat for every production, a fact that Japanese taxpayers might consider nightmarish rather than enviable. There are a number of reasons for the weakness of modern Japan’s arts administration and for the relative lack of public criticism of this state of affairs. First, rapid industrialization fostered a utilitarian ethic and with it a tendency to view the arts as an extravagance. Anything that did not contribute directly to material prosperity was frowned upon, be it high art or light entertainment. When it came to scholarship and education, the Japanese were very generous. There was no anti-intellectual backlash by ordinary citizens against the government’s lavish funding of schools. Artists, however, responded to official neglect by striking an anti-popular, anti-establishment pose and declaring that government assistance would lead to interference with free expression. Peculiar to modern Japan, another factor contributing to the weak arts administration is the extreme diversity of performing arts and the lack of any that could be labeled a “national art.” In the West, theater is theater. The same actors can perform everything from Sophocles to Samuel Beckett. In Japan, however, Kabuki and modern theater are as different as opera and ballet; each has its own specialized actors and its own audience. It is the same with different genres of music and dance. All in all, more than ten different performing arts vie for support. This has made it difficult for the government to set funding priorities, but it was inclined either to build a multipurpose hall or to provide assistance

he year 1997 may well be remembered as a historical watershed for government arts and culture administration in Japan. That year the New National Theater, Tokyo’s fourth national theater and the first dedicated to modern performing arts, opened its doors. Previously, national theaters had been built for the classical Japanese performing arts: Noh, Kabuki, and the Bunraku puppet theater. The New National Theater provided modern drama, opera, ballet, and a modern dance with their own national venue. An equally momentous development was the government’s decision to defray not only the new theater’s construction and maintenance, but also the costs of production. In the first national theaters—used mainly for Kabuki and Bunraku—the government had paid only the operating costs. The financial authorities’ thinking was that all creative costs should be met from box-office receipts. State support for the arts in Japan comes out of the Agency for Cultural Affairs’s modest budget and from the Japan Arts Fund. The culture agency’s budget grows very little, and the fund’s endowment has not been increased because of recent ultra-low interest rates. Thus the change is a step forward. Local governments are ahead of the central government in


Japan’s Rising Support for the Arts


Arts Policy
for traditional performing arts. If there is one cause for optimism over Japan’s cultural future, it is the public’s relative lack of class-consciousness visà-vis the arts. The Japanese are bemused by recent political controversy in the United States over the National Endowment for the Arts. According to the New York Times in the fall of 1997, some U.S. politicians regard the arts as elitist, and funding the arts with taxpayers’ money is seen as undemocratic. Apparently many middle Americans tend to view the moral freedom of contemporary arts as an elitist challenge. There is a strong streak of anti-elitism in Japan, too, but such sentiment is directed mainly against privileged lifestyles, not against the arts and knowledge. In fact, the artists’ moral and political defiance of the establishment often wins public plaudits. The Japanese language distinguishes between “high art” and “popular arts,” but the line between the two is rapidly blurring. It is symbolic that 50,000 spectators, including the emperor and empress, at the opening ceremony of the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano joined in singing the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9. One reason the arts do not arouse anti-elitist antagonism is that since World War II the distribution of wealth has largely evened out, and upper-class patronage of the arts has disappeared. Postwar society may have disparaged the arts, but the arts never incurred the wrath of a specific class. However, an arts policy is necessary in all postindustrial societies. The arts stimulate people’s imagination and generate works that provide the foundation for the exercise of reason that leads to invention, discovery, and planning. Reason is often guided by a particular orientation and operates within a preset paradigm, but imagination can create new paradigms. If Leonardo da Vinci, in trying to invent a flying machine, had thought in terms of gliding rather than beating wings, even with the technology and resources of his day, he might have been able to develop the glider. History teaches us that ever since ancient Greece, arts and sciences, thought and technology progress in tandem. If they realize that the major function of the arts is to foster imagination, opponents of arts policies in both Japan and America can be persuaded to support them. The Japanese should recognize that the view of the arts as an extravagance represents a belief belonging to an industrial society and that imagination is indispensable to intellectual production in a postindustrial society. And since artists’ anti-popular stance was a rebellion against industrial society’s utilitarianism and puritanical philistinism, there should be no need for such an attitude in future. Americans should remember that the arts, along with sports, have facilitated upward social mobility and have given young people from poor families opportunities to succeed. Imagination is not as susceptible to environmental influences as reason; it has the power to grow regardless of ones parents’ status. Moreover, just as the arts of indigenous peoples have enriched the twentieth-century Western world, the imagination of the poor and oppressed, expressed through the arts, x can surely diversify the mentality of the elite. —Masakazu Yamazaki

Being Creative
n an effort to mobilize support for the arts and the humanities, President Clinton in September 1994 created a President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, chaired by John Brademas, President Emeritus of New York University and a former Congressman who had co-sponsored the original legislation for a National Endowment of the Humanities. The Committee consisted of thirty-two private members and thirteen heads of federal agencies with cultural programs, including “corporate executives, foundation presidents, artists, scholars, and community leaders.” The First Lady, Hilary Rodham Clinton, was the Honorary Chair. In spring 1998, the President’s Committee produced its report, Creative America, and then presented it at seven regional forums for representatives from the arts and humanities to consider its recommendations. While the United States has accumulated a rich reserve of “cultural capital,” Creative America argues that “the health of our cultural life in the twenty-first century will depend on the investments we make today.” So the report calls on public and private agencies to increase funding in support “of the creative individuals who contribute to America’s diverse cultural tradition.” The President’s Commission sees cultural exchanges as strengthening democratic institutions and increasing America’s awareness of its own multicultural heritage. Hence, public-private partnerships offer the greatest potential for innovative developments. American multi-national corporations, it suggests, could support scholarly research on the cultures of foreign countries in which they do business and on American states and regions in which they operate. Central to the report’s recommendations, according to Mr. Brademas, is the call for a Millenium Initiative that will “involve all Americans in preserving our cultural heritage and appreciating creativity through the arts and humanities.” Mr. Brademas stated: “We asked the President and the First Lady to help us realize this ambitious agenda, and they responded enthusiastically by organizing a White House Millenium Council to lead a celebration that will, in the President’s words, ‘honor the past and imagine the future.’” Mr. Brademas concluded that “the recommendations in the report have so many facets—from involving higher education in the improvement of K-12 education to digitizing cultural materials, assessing the nation’s preservation needs, and preserving folklore traditions—that they can be implemented only with the help of every agency, organization, and individual concerned with keeping our cultural investment strong.”
Source: The quotations above are taken from the account of the forum to consider the findings of Creative America in the Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, May/June 1998.



Electronic Connections

Upward and Online with Books and the Media


he Internet and its World Wide Web-sites have, in the last five years, grown at a rate that has been unprecedented in the history of communications. No previous telecommunications advance—not the telephone, the television set, cable television, VCRs, the facsimile machine, not the cellular telephone—has penetrated the public consciousness and secured widespread public adoption so quickly.
Until the 1990s, computers were not linked to each other in any way comparable to the Internet. Today the Internet probably connects 30 million computers and tens of millions of users in more than a hundred countries. Given the exponential growth, connections between 100 million computers is in sight within a few years. New “affinity groups” spring up constantly. On America Online (AOL), one of the largest access services, during a typical evening more than a quarter of a million users log on to one or more of the 8000 “chat rooms” on the service, exchanging 80 million “instant messages” a day. Such phenomena, on a much smaller scale, were typical of “ham radios” and “citizen band” communication in the early days of their founding. And how transient or permanent these phenomena will be remains to be seen. But what is clear are the extraordinary ramifications of the Internet and instant communication on newspapers and weekly news magazines, especially in the competition to be “first” with the latest scandal; of the transformation of periodicals not just as daily or weekly journals but as extensive resource services through Web-sites; the creation of close connections and exchanges between magazines into new electronic networks; and the beginning of scholarly publishing, particularly journals and encyclopedias on CD-ROMs and through electronic media rather than paper. The most striking illustration of the rip-tide effects of the Internet on news is the story of the “Drudge Report.” On a late Saturday night at the end of January, a gossip-monger named Matt Drudge, who has a Web-site on the Internet, published a breathless report that Newsweek magazine had “killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundations.” It was the first hint of the Monica Lewinsky affair. By 2:23 A.M. Sunday morning, the Drudge item was reposted on a half-dozen anti-Clinton talk groups and continued to surface among the excited conversations of Internet news groups, to be picked up by an ABC (one of the major network systems) news program, then by a CBS talk-radio show, and then onto the round-the-clock coverage on CNN and MSNBC (an all-news 24-hour cable network established by NBC), and finally, Newsweek magazine—which had held up the story because at that point it lacked sufficient credibility—posted it on its Web-site before publishing a story it had not been prepared to print. The increasing competition between the media and the macho need to have “the news beat and be first” has intensified the velocity and volatility of news reporting. All the major newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times now have Web-sites on which they post their leading stories the night before their print appearance. Weeklies, such as U.S. News and World Report, will post their major stories on the Internet several days before publication so as not to have their stories “stolen” before their appearance in print. Beyond that the online Web-sites have become an altogether new form of journalism. The Wall Street Journal offers an “Interactive Edition” at $49 a year (or $29 for print subscribers) which provides focused news sections from which a reader can select business news in Spanish and Portuguese, search listings for technical and professional positions, as well as material from other financial magazines such as Barrons and Smart Money. Business Week Online offers daily briefings (it is a weekly magazine), topical collections of stories of interest to specialized audiences, six years of its archives available through a key work index, and online conferences through its chat rooms. In March the demand was so heavy that Business Week was forced to suspend new subscriptions until it could handle the volume of requests. The Times Literary Supplement has issued a CD-ROM (from October 1994 to December 1996, which will be updated annually.) You can search for a word or phrase in the complete text of the TLS and retrieve complete articles and line drawings (price: $470 a year). Subscribers to the TLS now can have access on-line to any issue since October 1994 and even receive their copy of the review “directly to your door.” The Economist’s Web edition is free to its subscribers. More than just a Web-site, it sends free weekly summaries to readers every Thursday by E-mail, a day before the weekly edition is available on the Web and by mail. The Economist’s “screensaver” has a world clock and provides information on upcoming world events tied to a reader’s computer clock, while also bringing detailed statistical analysis of more than sixty countries. And it provides immediate access to more than 6,000 articles. In all these different ways, the Web editions of these magazines go beyond the weekly print sections and are becoming a new and different format from the traditional kind. Whether readers will pay for these extra services remains to be seen. The multiplication of all the Web-sites as well as the widening of resources—not only of the established Nexis (a citation bank for news stories) or Lexis (on legal decisions) but also the back issues of hundreds of newspapers and journals, as well as the volumes in libraries—threaten to create a new Borgesian Tower of Babel. A classics professor recently began


Electronic Connections
searching the Internet for references to Plato and found 40,000 situations, including numerous references to a “suburb of Chicago” and the Spanish word for plate. His solution was to create a site called “The Fourth Tetraology,” to explore Plato’s middle dialogues and three other groups. But then one had to know the key word “Tetraology” to know where to go. Inevitably, “search engines” have arisen as services for subscribers to help classify the different topics available. But then you need to know how search engines work. Using automated software, search engines follow links across the Web and call up pages wherever they can find them. Once a page fits a user’s need, the search engine automatically indexes some or all of the words on the page. Then, when a Web surfer punches in search words, the engine looks up the word on its index and calls up the appropriate Web address. The largest search engine, HotBot, however, indexes only about 34% of the estimated 320 million pages on the Web. One unique effort to facilitate exchanges between like-minded periodicals and research organizations and foundations is the Electronic Policy Network organized by the liberal bi-monthly, The American Prospect. Each of the forty-six members and affiliates, such as the Brookings Institution, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Twentieth Century Fund, have their own Web-sites, presenting their own publications and research reports. But the network also has a “search engine” that allows researchers to search for material on specific subjects and, more ingeniously, has a “virtual magazine” called Idea Central that organizes the outputs of all the members by topic. So Idea Central has ongoing “magazines” on health policy, welfare and families, education, economics and politics, civic participation, media old and new, as well as briefing books such as campaign finanace reform (which include reports broken down by subtopic from seven of its affiliates), and all of these are available on-line through the Internet. The major developments in the scholarly fields are the growth of comprehensive search and retrieval systems and the increasing possibility of publication of journals by electronic means. The most striking illustration of the vast expansion of scholarly search is JSTOR (short for “Journal Storage”), which began in 1996 with a grant from the Mellon Foundation. JSTOR is a database now comprising sixty-four journals in twelve fields, half of which are already accessible. By the year 2000, more than one hundred journals in the fifteen fields will be available on JSTOR database, in cooperation with 200 academic libraries. Thus, there are eleven journals in economics, with the American Economic Review leading off; seven in philosophy, starting with the Journal of Philosophy; eleven in mathematics, with the Annals of Mathematics and the Journal of the American Mathematical Society, etc., including journals in the widely dispersed fields of finance, ecology, Asian studies, and higher education. JSTOR’s search engine allows users to browse and search individual journals, in some instances such as the American Political Science Review going back to 1906, or to perform cross-disciplinary searches of multiple journals in multiple fields. Users can search the full text of articles or search by topic, by authors, or by key words. The world of scholarship, thus, is available at one’s own desk by clicking a mouse. In similar fashion, more detailed materials such as survey data—polls, opinions, voting analysis, and the like—are available on the Survey Data Documentation and Analysis Webpage developed by the Survey Methods Program at the University of California, Berkeley. The Web-site not only calls up the collection of survey questions from, say, ten separate studies, but also can run cross-tabulations on these data to allow a researcher to test some of his or her own hypotheses. The age of print—is it over? For encyclopedias, surely. The Encyclopedia Britannica (EB), the oldest (230 years) and nominally the most prestigious encyclopedia in English, occupied three feet of shelf space with thirty-two volumes, 44 million words, and 72,000 articles and sold for $1500. Now it is on two CD-ROMs which sell for £125 in the U.K. and $125 in the U.S. And a subscription also brings an Internet search service to link up the EB with other sites. The electronic mode has now become the certified route for organizations publishing abstracts of their own research reports. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the largest in the field, publishes annually about 400 working papers, and in the past would publish the quarterly Reporter with several hundred-word abstracts of these papers for those who would wish to order the full paper. The Winter 1997/8 issue is the last to include working paper abstracts. Future issues will only list working paper numbers, titles and authors, but the abstracts will be published only on the NBER Website. That site also will now have a searchable index of over 5,000 working papers issued since 1978, in addition to a macroeconomic history database of over 35,000 time series, as well as the Penn World Tables containing international economic and demographic data. And a book? To paraphrase Getrude Stein, a book, is a book, is a book. No longer. Once published, a book sat for eternity until it crumbled into dust. But James Kugel of Harvard, who has written a book, The Bible as it Was (Harvard University Press, 1997), concludes his preface with a note to readers: Despite all the time spent assembling and checking the material…no doubt errors of commission and omission remain; moreover, texts now being published for the first time or yet to be discovered will likely provide further insights that might have enriched this study. And so I cannot but make a request of my learned readers: I will be most grateful for any corrections or additions that you might be kind enough to pass along, either via the publisher or to me by means of my Web-page,, where I intend to maintain a regularly updated information sheet about this book and related matters….It is my hope that the age of electronic publishing may yet provide a release from the dire sentence of Eccles. 1:15. [A crooked thing cannot be made straight.] x —DB

The age of print— is it over, again?



Population Implosion—and Dispersion
ver since the Club of Rome report of 1973 we have nationwide, tax-financed, pay-as-you-go pension programs. grown accustomed to thinking that the world is facing This can be seen in the ratio of persons over sixty-five in the a ticking population “bomb” threatening to undo our population to those of working age. Even under today’s relation with the environment and each other. But over the straightened circumstances the ratio in developed countries is past decade it has become increasingly clear to demographers only five to one, five workers for each retiree; by 2050 it should that the picture is not only more complicated, but perhaps be less than two to one. Again, in some countries it would be utterly different. It is now considered entirely possible that even higher: in Germany and Japan roughly five to three, in within fifty years world popItaly an amazing five to four. ulation will actually decline— But perhaps the most Approaching the Limit? with consequences no less momentous social change In the issue of Science, March 27, 1998, the eminent natmomentous for social life. brought about by such demouralist E.O. Wilson sounds what he believes to be the In The Public Interest of Fall graphic trends—should these claxon of alarm about population: “The global population 1997 demographer Nicholas U.N. estimates prove accuis precariously large, will grow another third by 2020, and Eberstadt reports on the soon rate—is that we would find climb still more before peaking sometime after 2050…. to be published revision of ourselves living in a world Human kind is approaching the limit of its food and water the U.N.’s biennial comwhere most people’s only biosupply.” Are these fears warranted? Here are two reports. pendium, World Population logical relatives would be Prospects, the oldest and largtheir own ancestors, their parest attempt to outline future ents, and their children— demographic trends. After reviewing all the relevant limitaa world without aunts, uncles, and cousins. Throughout human tions of any such demographic projections, he focuses on the history, Eberstadt notes, the extended family has been the prireport’s “low variant,” which the U.N. Population Division mary instrument of socialization. What will occur in families considers “reasonable and plausible.” Taking into account that do not include any biological contemporaries or peers? It x migration, mortality, and fertility, the report calculates that is a disturbing question. —ML in the year 2040 the next generation would be about 30% Source: Nicholas Eberstadt, “World Population Implosion?” The smaller than the current one. Population would reach its Public Interest, Fall 1997. apogee of roughly 7.7 billion at that time and would then decline by 25% with each succeeding generation. On these assumptions, two significant features of depopulation stand out. First, there would be a significant redistribution of the world’s population to the “less developed” nations from the “developed” ones. Today the populations of What makes it so difficult to find limits on human populaEurope (including Russia) and the African continent are tion size? Joel E. Cohen, who heads the Laboratory of roughly equal; by 2050, Africans would outnumber Populations at Rockefeller University, explains: Europeans three to one. On the larger world scene, the popuHow many people can the earth support? In 1679 Antoni van lation ratio between the “less developed” nations to the develLeeuwenhoek estimated not more than 13.4 billion. In 1994, oped nations is four to one; by 2050, it would be seven to one. five authors independently published estimates ranging from Indeed, not a single European state could match even the fewer than three billion up to 44 billion. Between 1679 and 1994 Phillipines in population. at least sixty additional estimates were published, ranging The second feature, which has already been noted in many widely, from less than one billion to more than one thousand countries, is the radical aging of the population particularly in billion. One conclusion is immediate: Many of the answers canthe “developed nations.” The median age (the division by half) not be nearly right—or there is no single right answer. of the world’s population today is twenty-five; by 2050, the Why there is no single right answer becomes clear when the U.N. “low variant” estimate is forty-two. In some countries, methods used to obtain these estimates are examined carefully. the population would be even more aged: Japan’s median age One method assumes that a single factor, usually food, limits would be fifty-three, Germany’s fifty-five. In Italy barely two population size. (That population often grows fastest in the percent of the population would be under the age of five, more poorest countries with the least food and slowest in the than 40% over sixty-five. wealthy countries where food is most abundant does not seem There are reasons to be guardedly optimistic about the to deter those who assume that food limits national populamacroeconomic consequences of this shift, says Eberstadt, tion growth.) The method takes the maximum possible annual since an aging population (assuming it is healthy) is still proglobal food production and divides this by an estimate of the ductive, and can become more so through retraining at later minimum food requirement per person to state the maximum stages of one’s working life. The real challenge would be faced possible number of shares that the food supply could be by the welfare state, which would find it harder to finance


Can One “Predict” Population Size?


divided into, and this number is taken as the maximum number of people the earth could support. Yet this is quite simplistic. The maximum possible food production depends not only on environmental constraints such as soil, rainfall, terrain, and the length of the growing season, but also on human choices, individual and collective, which cultivars are chosen; the technology of cultivation; credit available to farmers; farmer education; infrastructure to produce and transport farm inputs (including irrigation capacity and hybrid seed development); infrastructure to transport, store, and process farm outputs; economic demand for food from other sect ors of the economy; and international politics and markets that affect trade inputs and outputs. Moreover, culture defines what is food. Where a Hindu may see a sacred cow, an American may see a hamburger on hooves. If edibility alone determined what is food, cockroaches would be in great demand. The minimum food requirement depends not only on physiological requirements (about 2,000 kilocalories per person per day), but also cultural and economic standards of what is acceptable and desirable. Not everyone who has a choice will accept a vegetarian diet with no more than the minimum calories and nutrients required for normal growth. Many authors of maximum population estimates recognized the difficulty of finding a single answer by giving a low estimate and a high estimate. This range of low to high medians, from 7.7 to 12 billion, is close to the low and high U.N. projections for 2050: from 7.8 billion to 12.5 billion. Recent population history has rapidly approached the level of many estimated limits, and the U.N. projections of future population lie at similar levels. Of course, a historical survey of estimated limits is no proof that limits really are in this range. It is merely a warning signal that the human population has now entered a zone where limits on how many people the earth can support have been anticipated and may x be encountered.
Source: Joel E. Cohen, “How Many People Can the Earth Support?” Bulletin (of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), March/April 1998. Copyright © 1997 by Joel E. Cohen. Reprinted by permission.


British Reading Room


hen in 1978 Shirley Williams, the Labour secretary of state for education , announced the decision to construct a new British Library—at a site in Euston adjacent to the St. Pancras Station—replacing the fabled old reading room in the British Museum, a cry arose against the cultural vandalism of this move. The sublimely beautiful old domed room, the heart of the library, was dear to those who cherished the images of Karl Marx or Bernard Shaw dozing over their books. But there was also the problem of utility—how such an archaic jewel could be maintained for “modern” purposes. When the utility question first arose, Patrick Gordon Walker, the former Labour education secretary, proposed an extension of the library in adjacent Bloomsbury .He had not figured on the wrath of other Labour M.P.s such as the wily left-wing Barbara Castle and the brawling right-wing Bessie Braddock, who claimed that extension would mean tearing down a few blocks occupied by the poor. What was more important: books or people? And in this they were supported privately by Richard Crossman, the Labour minister of housing. So, Shirley Williams had to carry the load. Move forward to the present. The new British Library has opened, at least the Humanities Reading Room, the first of nine. There will be the Rare Books Reading Room, the Oriental and Indian Collections, the Manuscript Reading Room, and finally the Science Reading Room in mid-1999. So far the project has cost five times its original budget. There is space for only one-third of its 3,500 regular readers, and the new British Library can store only 12 million of the 25 million books originally planned for. And the verdict (one over-awed reader commented to the London Review of Books): “The building is splendid. The entrance hall reaches up through floors of reading rooms; it is crossed over by high walkways and is penetrated from top to bottom by a glazed shaft.” This will contain the King’s Library in a display of leather bindings. The lavishly leather-topped reading desks will be fed books by a computerized retrieval system and equipped for modem and Internet use—assets which may baffle the older nostalgic pen-pushing scholars. The look is smart, comfortable, and conducive to earnest endeavor: marble columns, soft-colored stone on the floor of the entrance hall, blue carpets in the reading rooms, pale oak, leather and brass, soaring walls and curving ceilings awash with light. As with the original reading room, there is a problem of space. A plot had been set aside behind the new library for expansion. But the Treasury wants to sell it, possibly to the Sainsbury supermarket firm. As The Economist comments, “Eventually the Treasury will have to choose between catering for scholars of obscure Asian languages and consumers of even more obscure Asian vegetables.”
Sources: Nicholas Barker, Prospect (London), December 1997.


India at Fifty

India: Snakes and Ladders


n August 15, 1997, India celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its independence. It is a stunning feat in the history of democracy. India is the second most populous country in the world with a population almost reaching a billion persons by the millenium. There are twenty-five states, some of which are larger individually than the populations of Japan, Mexico, or France. Kashmir and Kerala, at opposite ends of the Indian subcontinent, are as different as Sweden and Italy.
There are eighteen official languages, the largest of which, Hindi, the official language, is spoken by about 30% of the population, plus thousands of distinct dialects whose speakers often cannot communicate with one another. There are 3,500 sub-castes with either distinct or subtle differences that often keep the people apart from marriage, jobs, or social intercourse. In the last election, there were 600 million registered voters for the seven national political parties. Yet, except for the short period from 1973 to 1975, when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended the constitution, it has survived as a democracy. In fact, half of the people in the world who live in a democracy live in India. There is also another singular fact noted only by those who recall Sherlock Holmes’s story of the dog that did not bark in the night: namely that of almost all of the one hundred post-colonial regimes in the world in the last fifty years, India has been one of the few that has not experienced a military dictatorship. Its Asian neighbors, from Pakistan to Burma, and almost all post-colonial African nations have had military regimes. India has not. There is also the history. Though Indian nationalists might passionately disagree, English rule in India, going back twohundred years, was a benign force. There was the emphasis on education, initiated by the English utilitarians; the Indian Civil Service as a bedrock of administration; the English judicial system, and the ethos of Sandhurst, the military training school that produced among others Winston Churchill, and created a professional Indian army that stayed out of politics. Today, many of the institutions are eroding and English itself, the language of the educated elite and the national newspapers of India, is under sharp attack politically and culturally, though it continues to gain in the business and technological worlds. In a book with the intriguing title Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India, the writer Gita Mehta uses the board game, for which that is the title, as a metaphor for India. The roll of the dice determines “how many squares a player may move. Starting at the foot of the ladder lets you climb it, sometimes moving thirty squares in a single throw.” Landing on a snake means you have to slide back down “swallowed by past nightmares,” back to square one. The faith ladder that India climbed was created by Jawaharlal Nehru. It was a secular state, one that, as Amartya Sen has written, made it possible to think a nation could integrate Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Parsees, and a massive Muslim population which chose to stay on in India rather than be “exchanged’ into Pakistan. There are in fact, he
writes, almost as many Muslims in India as in Pakistan, and many more than in Bangladesh. But secularism, as Nehru knew, was a sophisticated way of life that might never be appreciated by the masses of Indians. And since people live by myths (when not by religions), in his Discovery of India (Oxford, 1990) Nehru created a fable, as Edward W. Desmond writes, that celebrated the achievements of Mughal emperors and Rajput maharajhas alike, playing down the ceaseless conflict of fratricide. He gave a special place to the visions of ancient emperors like the Buddhist convert Ashoka of the third century B.C. and the Mughal Akhbar of the sixteenth who could be portrayed as having a protosecular outlook in their efforts to harmonize contending religious forces within their empires. But then there are the snakes. The Hindu nationalists see India’s history as as one of a unified culture, the Hindu people the “chosen people of the subcontinent” overcome by alien forces, beginning in the eleventh century, who destroyed temples, forced conversion by sword and imposed an alien culture. For them the glory of the past Hindu civilization based on the Vedas and manly virtues, must be restored as the basis of an Indian political identity, and all other religions and cultures take a secondary place in this scheme of things. Thus the stage is set for the coming years. With its institutional underpinnings, India was cemented politically by Nehru’s Congress Party, which, by the end of the half-century, remained the only national secular party. After the death of Nehru it was held together by a dynasty living on the original charismatic capital, including Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi and her two children Sanjay and Rajiv—one died in a plane accident, the other, like his mother, assassinated by terrorists. Sonia Ghandi, Rajiv’s Italian-born widow, and her two children are now moving to take control of a shattered Congress party against the rising tide of Hindu nationalism exemplified by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been invited for the second time to form a national administration. Since 1947, there have been twelve national elections for the national parliament, but four within the last decade. In the last elections, as various correspondents have reported, the level of violence has been rising. The fateful question is whether the political fragmentation and polarization which now exists in x India may finally result in the end of secular society. —DB
Sources: Amartya Sen, Times Literary Supplement, Aug. 8, 1997. Lloyd & Susanne H. Rudolph, The New Republic, March 16, 1998. Edward W. Desmond, The New York Review of Books, May 14, 1992.


India at Fifty

f all the books published to mark the fiftieth anniversary of India’s emergence as an independent nation, Sunil Khilnani’s The Idea of India (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1997) generated the most introspective and contentious debate. This vibrant account has a bold and striking thesis: India was, at its core, a product of a political imagination. The “possibility that India could be united into a single political community was a wager on the idea: the idea of India.” The idea was given concrete form and practical reality, not by Gandhi, who emerges in these pages as a rather insignificant figure, nor by the other imaginings of India’s past, but by Nehru. At the center of this vision was the idea of a modern state— and all the trappings that entailed. The Nehruvian vision, as Khilnani describes it, centered upon a belief that the state would reform the gamut of social and economic relations that prevented India’s emergence as a modern society and it would provide the locus through which the diverse fabric of India would be woven into a consolidated nation. India, “an ungainly, unlikely, inelegant concatenation of difference,” could not have been sustained as a viable entity without a modern state, and its democracy would be unimaginable outside that institutional setting. “What made democracy viable in India,” Khilnani argues, “is not simply the appeal of the idea, of preexisting cultural and historical predispositions.” As “ideologically unwelcome and paradoxical” as it may seem to inhabitants of the “virtual world of post modernism, it is in fact the continuous stability of the state that has been essential to India’s democracy.” A modern state, envisioned on Nehruvian lines, allowed India to have layered, fluid, and inclusive identity. It defined citizenship on “civic and universalist criteria” and avoided the temptations of a particularistic identity. It allowed all the fundamental agencies and ideas of modernity to also become irrevocably a part of its ongoing history. The secularism it entailed allowed it to accommodate and integrate its religious minorities. Even though Hindu nationalism makes an ominous appearance in the final pages of the book, Khilnani appears confident of the enduring plausibility of the Nehruvian vision that rejected “the state of a singular religion, culture or ethnos—the torrid empty dream of Partition.” It was because of Nehru’s stewardship that India emerged as a parliamentary democracy based on universal suffrage, without religious affiliation and committed to social reform. India would be unimaginable and unsustainable without his vision. At a time when many planks of the Nehruvian vision—its commitment to secularism and state led development, in particular—seem under attack, this book reminds its readers of the extraordinary magnitude of Nehru’s achievement. But despite its verve and stylistic panache, it left many readers unconvinced of its overall balance of judgments. Amartya Sen, in an otherwise generally glowing reception, reminded his readers of the failures of the Indian state’s mission to accomplish most basic goals such as literacy and poverty alleviation, failures that in part stem from misplaced ideological priorities of Nehru’s eco-


The Vision of Nehru

nomic vision. And he pointed out that too much of an emphasis on Nehru’s improvisations led Khilnani to slight the social and cultural linkages that made India’s unity possible. For Bhikhu Parekh and Shashi Tharoor, the book was insufficiently attentive to the complex legacies of the nationalist movement that prepared India for its subsequent democratic experience. Khilnani’s claim that India acquired democracy in a fit of absent-mindedness ignores the depth of consensus forged early on by the nationalist movement and enacted in the practices and sensibilities of its leadership. Indeed, it failed to address the central question which the title of the book suggests. What makes India, India? At some level all modern societies are held together by states. What is it that makes India distinctive? The terrain of much of its politics has been animated by this question as much as anything else; and it has never been clear that Nehruvianism has been able to assuage the anxieties that this question generates. Hindu Nationalism is absolutely right to insist that the setting in which these questions will be debated owes much to Nehru. The extraordinary criticism of Nehru now underx way owes more to him than it acknowledges. —Pratap Mehta
Sources: Amartya Sen, Times Literary Supplement, August 18,1997. Bhikhu Parekh, Independent, August 17, 1997. Shashi Tharoor, Foreign Affairs, February 1998.


Tagore and Chaudhuri

ne of the virtues of a symbolic anniversary is the opportunity to recall, and evaluate, and, when due, praise the giants of the past who have lain in the dust. Such is the instance with Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet and recreator, in effect, of its literature. Tagore won the Nobel prize in 1913 for his collection of poetry, Gitanjali, which was embraced by W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound but today, as Amartya Sen writes, “is in near-total eclipse in the rest of the world.” In mid-1997, an anthology of Tagore’s work and a selection of letters were published. These volumes were the occasion for a remarkable essay spread across nine pages of The New York Review of Books by Amartya Sen, himself a Bengali and a world-class economist who was recently named Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Tagore was not only an immensely versatile poet, but also a short story writer, novelist, playwright, painter (some of whose abstractions are beginning to receive attention,) as well as the composer of the Indian national anthem. He wrote widely on literature, politics, culture, and philosophy. But it is as a moral figure that Tagore commands attention. In respect to the present, what stands out is Tagore’s condemnation of Indian nationalism and the realization (as Ziauddin Sardar writes in The New Statesman) that “the spirit of violence,” which “lay dormant in the psychology of the west has now come to the fore and drained India of its moral autonomy.” Tagore established a school at Santinketan, near Calcutta, as an “Abode of Peace,” dedicated to exorcising that spirit. Some of the most charming sections of Sen’s essay are devoted to this school, since, he writes, he was educated there, his courses


India at Fifty
moving openly from classical Western thought to the culture of China or Japan “in sharp contrast with the cultural conservatism and separatism that has tended to grip India from time to time.” And, as Sen writes sweetly, the filmmaker Satyajit Ray was also an alumnus of Santinketan and made several films based on Tagore stories. As Ray wrote in 1991: “Santinketan made me the combined product of East and West that I am.” If Rabindranath Tagore was the complete Bengali who became the citizen of the world, Nirad C. Chaudhuri was the acerbic Bengali who became the last Englishman of the empire. In 1951, at age fifty-four, Chaudhuri published his first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian. It was dedicated to the memory of the British empire, “because all that was good and living within us was made, shaped and quickened by the same British rule.” It was reviled and denounced in India, yet, with its cadences of classical British prose and the picture it drew of the displaced colonial Indian incapable of living in his forefather’s way but unable to find a place in the new Indian landscape, it has been acclaimed as one of the great books of the twentieth century. This was followed by a second installment of his autobiography, Thy Hand, Great Anarch!, a volume uncompromising in its intellectual elitism, including an unwillingness to translate quotations from Latin and Greek. In 1970, Nirad Chaudhuri migrated to England. Now, at age one hundred, he has published a volume, Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, the three being individualism, nationalism, and democracy. As Amit Chaudhuri writes, “it is a record of his growing disillusionment with the unvisited Yarrow, the country of his imagination, after it became the country of his domicile.” But the book is not a rant but a set of epigrammatic observations on mass culture and the decline of English life. Since this is an anniversary and “cultural amnesty” has become the order of the day, Chaudhuri has now received official recognition from the department of culture—apparently willing to overlook his reference to India as “a land of barbarians.”x —DB
Source: Amartya Sen, The New York Review of Books, June 26, 1997. Ziauddin Sardar,, The New Statesman, August 29, 1997. Pankaj Mishra, Prospect, November 1997. Amit Chaudhuri, The Spectator, January 17, 1998.

of modern science appears with high frequency in the discourse of Hindu fundamentalist parties. The Hindu right has proclaimed the twenty-first century a “Hindu century” on the theoretical grounds made respectable by left critics of science. In this context, the Hindu nationalists have been able to position themselves as the true defenders of non-Western ways of knowing. Themselves leading the charge for “decolonizing knowledge,” the Hindu fundamentalist parties began to replace modern mathematics with so-called “Vedic mathematics” in public schools. One of the first acts of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after coming to power in the state of Uttar


Post-modern Hinduization

s a one-time biologist, science writer, and a partisan of science-for-the-people movements in India and the United States, writes Meera Nanda in Dissent, “I have watched with increasing unease the transnational alliance that has emerged around the idea that the rationality of modern science encodes Western and imperialistic socialcultural values, and is therefore inimical to the interests of non-Western peoples. The alliance brings together some of the most avant-garde scholars in U.S. universities with the neopopulist, cultural-nationalist, ‘postcolonial’ intellectuals from the third world, most notably India.” Indeed, the cluster of ideas that postmodernist intellectuals deploy to deconstruct the supposedly Eurocentric assumptions

Pradesh in 1992 (one of the poorest states in India, but the largest with 120 million people) was to make the study of Vedic mathematics compulsory for high school students. Explicitly stating an interest in “awakening national pride” among students, the government-approved textbooks replaced standard algebra and calculus with sixteen Sanskrit verses proclaimed by their author, Jagadguru Swami Shri Bharati Krishna Tirathji Maharaj, the high priest of Puri, to be of Vedic origin. Prominent Indian mathematicians and historians who have examined these verses believe that there is nothing Vedic about them, and that the Jagadguru has tried to pass off a set of clever formulas for quick computation as a piece of ancient wisdom. But that has not stopped BJP and other revivalist cultural movements in India from equating Jagadguru with Ramanujan—the great Indian mathematician, the subject of the recent book by Robert Kanigal The Man Who Knew Infinity—in their hagiographies of Indian knowledge systems. Hinduization is not limited to mathematics alone. History curricula have always been favorite targets of religious nationalists. Under the growing influence of religious nationalists in the state and central governments, the earlier emphases on secularism is being reversed. New history textbooks celebrate all things Hindu (including the caste system), propagate the myth of India as the original home of the “Aryan race,” and deplore all “foreigners,” including the Muslims. The history of Indian science and technology is not exempt. It is described as an unfolding of the Hindu genius, although material accomplishments (ancient technologies, for example) are emphasized over the penchant for critical inquiry that exists in some Indian traditions.
Source: Meera Nanda, “The Science Wars in India,” Dissent, Winter 1997.


India at Fifty

Indo Chic: The Rating Game
n the months before and just after the fiftieth anniversary of India’s (and Pakistan’s) freedom, a gusher of articles, exhibits, photographs, and special issues of magazines all appeared in what Somini Sengupta characterized in The New York Times as “Indo chic.” “Indo chic,” she writes, “is not limited to the highbrow, however. Consider the kitsch appeal of Hollywood cinema—Bombay’s flourishing movie industry. Or among American teenagers, the madness over the ancient Indian and North African art of body painting, known as mehndi, now sold as do-it-yourself kits at Urban Outfitters.” The apogee of Indo chic, appropriately, was the special double fiction issue of The New Yorker which carried about twenty-five articles (only four of which were fiction, the rest literary reflections, journals, and the like).One of the interesting features was a group photograph of eleven Indian writers, men and women, who had never been gathered before for a common picture-taking and who, as Bill Buford, the editor of the issue, remarks, unlike every other literary milieu, did not know each other personally. The major essay is by Salman Rushdie, whose novel Midnight’s Children in 1981, according to editor Buford, made it possible “to be an Indian novelist.” (Where, one may ask, was V.S. Naipaul hiding?) Rushdie concentrates almost entirely on Indian writing in English and says that “to my own considerable astonishment” there is only one Indian writer in translation who he would place on a par with the Indo-Anglican, namely Saadat Hasan Manto, an immensely popular Urdu writer of low-life fiction, who wrote a masterpiece entitled Toba Tek Singh, a parable of the partition of India in which it is decided that lunatics, too, must be partitioned—Indian lunatics to India, Pakistani lunatics to Pakistan, etc. But his review of Indian literature has led Rushdie, as he admits, to a “single—unexpected and profoundly ironic—conclusion,” namely—and this is the bomb that he has thrown: The prose writing—both fiction and non-fiction—created in this period by Indian writers working in English is…a stronger and more important body of work than most of what has been produced in the eighteen “recognized” languages of India, the so-called “vernacular languages.” Admittedly, says Rushdie, he did his reading only in English, “and there has long been a genuine problem of translation in India.” But he reiterates his conclusion that “the true Indian literature of the first postcolonial half-century has been made in the language the British left behind.” One can imagine the exclamations of outrage in the eighteen “recognized vernacular languages.” The most startling essay in the issue is a long sympathetic account by Amitav Ghosh, professor of anthropology at Columbia University, of the Indian National Army and its


The surprising rehabilitation of Subhas Chandra Bose...

leader, Subhas Chandra Bose, whose 40,000-man army fought with the Germans and the Japanese against the British during World War II. Bose, a Cambridge-educated Bengali, and competitor with Gandhi and Nehru for the leadership of the independence movement, had broken with Gandhi, who felt that no worthwhile end could be achieved by the use of morally compromised means. “For Bose no means were unacceptable so long as they contributed to the overthrow of the Raj.” Bose arrived in Southeast Asia on July 2, 1943, after travelling from Germany by submarine. In Singapore’s Cathay Theatre, he took over the leadership of the Indian National Army, adopting a military style of dress complete with jackboots and taking the title of “Netaji” or “Leader,” and created a “government in exile.” Moving to Rangoon, at the end of 1943, he joined the Japanese assault on India, with about 9,000 troops. The effort failed. On August 19th, after the collapse of the Japanese, Bose boarded a plane at Da Nang, in Vietnam, which crashed near Taipei later that day. Bose suffered extensive burns and died. But the aura of mystery that surrounded his death—news of which reached India only later—spawned a host of conspiracy theories and a cult of adulation that faded only slowly. The bulk of Ghosh’s essay deals with today’s survivors of Bose’s army and a military court-martial which tried many of the officers. But the centerpiece, inevitably, is Subhas Chandra Bose. What is striking in the essay is Ghosh’s failure to discuss the dilemmas of other colonial and revolutionary leaders who led independence movements. In Burma, Aung San, “the father of the country,” had joined the Japanese, only to decamp when he feared becoming their stooge. (He was assassinated after independence and is revered for that role and as the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, now under house arrest in Rangoon.) In Indonesia, Sukarno had initially joined the Japanese against the Dutch, and he, too, broke away. In Palestine, elements of the extreme “Stern Gang,” including Yitzhak Shamir, later Israel’s prime minister, flirted briefly with the idea of supporting Germany against the British. But for Shamir, as for left-wing revolutionaries in many countries, the final decisive issue was German fascism. Ghosh’s essay does not discuss the issue of fascism. Given the decline of the Nehruvian vision, the re-appraisal of Subhas Bose is emerging. “All the wishful thinking about what India might have been gets projected onto Subhas Bose now,” Partha Chatterjee, a prominent historian, stated. “He’s become a symbol of all the alternative possibilities in modern India.” The final turn, as Mr. Ghosh reports: “In January, the government of India formally ‘rehabilitated’ Bose, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of his birth with much official fanfare. But for some Indians the official celebrations served only to x reinforce the ambivalence surrounding his memory.” —DB
Source: The New Yorker, June 23 and 30, 1997,


Reports from France and Italy

Were Communism and Facism Equivalent? Two Debates—Two Views
he publishing event of the year in continental Europe was without a doubt The Black Book of Communism, a three-inch thick, 800-page reference work on the “tragedy of planetary dimensions” that began with the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917. The book has sold 170,000 copies in France alone and is now apearing in translation in virtually every other major European language.
The book is divided into five sections documenting the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union, Comintern activities in the inter-war period (including Spain), the East European experience, Asia, and the “Third World,” including Latin America, Africa, and Afghanistan. The title echoes The Brown Book of Nazi Terror which was published in the mid-1930s by Willi Muenzenberg and written largely by Arthur Koestler and Otto Katz, who ironically, was hanged by the Communist regime after the Slansky trial in 1952 where Katz “confessed” to being a Gestapo agent. The book has been controversial both for what it says and because of the European political context in which it has appeared. The book was originally conceived as a compendium of recent research into the global Communist experience written by respected regional specialists. However, the book’s editor, historian Stéphane Courtois, a former Communist and currently editor of the review Communisme, added a preface without consulting his collaborators, and it is this text that has attracted the most attention. In it, Courtois asserts that not only was there no essential difference between Leninism and Stalinism, but also that the criminal essence of Communism renders it indistinguishable from Nazism. He points out that the systematic elimination of certain social classes and ethnic groups began in the Soviet Union well before the Nazis took power, and asserts that while the latter claimed roughly 25 million victims, those of global Communism reach “nearly 100 million.” This figure has been judged to be inflated even by his own research team which also objected to many of his formulations, including the phrase “class genocide” and the following sentence: “the starvation of a kulak child in the Ukraine, deliberately brought about by the Stalinist regime, has the same ‘value’ as the starvation of a Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto by the Nazi regime.” Several of the book’s authors have publicly distanced themselves from this preface, though not from the rest of the volume. The book has also been controversial in France and Italy because Communist and ex-Communist parties currently share power in coalitions there. Leaders of opposition parties, like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy and Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, have taken to carrying the book around and discussing it with reporters whenever possible. This strategy has had little resonance in Italy, where the main ex-Communist Party changed its name to “democratic socialist” several years ago and has become a rather centrist left party. In France, however, the situation has embarrassed the Jospin socialist government, which was forced to defend in parliament the patriotism of its doctrinaire coalition partners. Still, these parties have come under criticism in both countries for failing to confront their past. For example, Salidro Viola, editorialist at the left-wing La Repubblica, has called on the new “democratic socialists” to end their “deafening silence” before the “infamous, bestial carnage perpetrated by the Communists after 1917.” A similar but more refined debate has also just been published by the French journal Commentaire, a periodical inspired by Raymond Aron. It involves the late historian François Furet, author of a recent history of the twentieth century (Le Passé d’une illusion, 1995), and Ernst Nolte, the controversial German historian of fascism (see “Furet vs. Hobsbawn”, CIC Newsletter, Issue No. 1). Nolte was asked by the Italian journal Critica Liberale to respond to Furet’s book and out of this grew a correspondence that lasted until Furet’s untimely death last summer. The nine letters published there constitute an extraordinary exchange about the historical and moral relation between communism and fascism. In his last book Furet considered several of the theses that have been associated with Nolte’s work: that the period 19171945 was a time of ideological “civil war” between communism and fascism in Europe; that Lenin’s policies prepared the way for Mussolini, then Hitler; and that therefore Nazism was not a unique product of German culture, but an indirect result of a social revolution that began with Bolshevism. This “genetic” approach by Nolte to postwar history is seen by Furet in a generally favorable light, and they agree on the role of “antifascism” in clouding the real challenge of communism since the ‘30s. But Furet also criticizes Nolte’s attempt to develop a “rationale” (which Nolte says is not an excuse) for Nazi anti-Semitism in a perceived Jewish affinity for communism and other universal, anti-German ideologies. Furet called these charges “shocking and false.” In Nolte’s response and the letters that follow, two central issues emerge, that of the “exceptional” and the “rational” in history. Nolte argues that politics in our century grew in reaction to the nineteenth century capitalist experience and has been dominated ever since by messianic, universalistic ideas, beginning with the “grandest illusion,” communism, to which fascism was a pale response and imitation. Furet points to the existence of an anti-modern literature in Europe long before 1914, running back to the Counter Revolution, a point Nolte accepts (even suggesting that the French activist of the 1930s, Charles Maurras, not a German,



Reports from France and Italy
may have been the first fascist). He also charges Nolte with underplaying the economic and political factors—economic depression, military defeat—that shaped different fascisms in Italy and Germany, to which Nolte responds that greater weight should be given to the fact that Mussolini was a close reader of Lenin, and Hitler a close reader of Mussolini. And in any case, Nolte argues, the important point is that fascism like communism was an essentially new response to a crisis of modern bourgeois life and not the mature fruit of a distinctly German tradition. This brings them to the issue of German anti-Semitism and whether it can be accounted for “rationally” in a genetic history of twentieth-century political history. Nolte insists on the point, arguing that it was Hitler’s reading of anti-semitic literature linking Judaism and Bolshevism, coupled with an objectively large Jewish participation in left-wing movements, that decisively turned his war against the latter into a war against the former. He speaks here of a “causal nexus” and writes: “I think the ‘final solution’ cannot be intelligible without reference to ‘Jewish messianism’ as such, and as Hitler and his adepts conceived it.” Furet retorts that it is precisely such language that gives Nolte’s readers the impression that he is exculpating Nazism or, worse, blaming its victims. To argue that the Gulag preceded Auschwitz is true but meaningless; furthermore, the Jews were attacked in Germany as a “bourgeois” class long before 1917. The real issue, Furet concludes, is why Germany made Jews into the scapegoats for every aspect of the modern world it wished to reject, producing utterly irreconcilable images of “Jewish influence.” The correspondence concludes on this theme of anti-modernism, a subject on which Nolte has clear and strong feelings. He applauds the workers movements leading up to the Communist revolutions for resisting the march of the competitive capitalist economy and states that without such resistance “we would have to despair for humanity.” And even today he sees “a concrete menace: that unfettered capitalism, dominating the whole world, will create a vacuum that will be filled by an ‘anti-fascism’ that simplifies and mutilates history, just as the economic system is standardizing the world.” At this point it becomes clear that Nolte uses the equation of communism and fascism to advantage, since the “rationale” behind both movements was the resistance to the forces of modernity. Readers will here be reminded of Martin Heidegger’s statements before the war about the threats of modernity and technology, and after the war about the equivalence of East and West. And in fact Nolte devoted an entire book to the Heidegger case (Martin Heidegger, Politik und Geschichte im Leben und Denken, 1992), explaining and justifying the philosopher’s early enthusiasm for Nazism and his x later disappointment. —ML
Sources: Stéphane Courtois, et al., Le Livre noir du communisme [The Black Book of Communism], Paris: Robert Laffont, 1997. François Furet and Ernst Nolte, “Sur le fascisme, le communisme et I’histoire du XXe siècle” [On fascism, communism, and the history of the twentieth century], Commentaire, Fall-Winter 1997-98.

lmost forty years ago, Michel Foucault published his Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (Plon, 1961). For Foucault, madness was a disease “invented” by bourgeois civilization to label and put away in asylums those who elected to live out the chaos that “we” refused to confront in ourselves. Madness, he said, became “silenced.” Instead of a debate about our natures, it became a therapy. The “ship of fools” became a hospital, an instrument of social control in the name of the Enlightenment. It was a view that found an immediate and large echo in the writings of the psychiatrist R.D. Laing, the classicist Norman O. Brown, and Frankfurt School theorists, such as Herbert Marcuse, who denounced the “freedom” of bourgeois society as “repressive sublimation.” It was a view that became the leitmotif of the sixties, and established itself as an orthodoxy in counter-culture psychology and academic sociology. Yet, it was a tumescent view that never sat well with sober-minded historians, even those with radical sympathies such as Lawrence Stone, who wrote an early attack on Foucault’s views in The New York Review of Books. Now, a massive work by five British historians, The History of Bethlem (Routledge, 1997) may prick the Foucault balloon. Bethlem—the infamous London mental asylum, which celebrated its 750th anniversary last fall—might just seem the place that exemplified Foucault’s thesis, remarks Leo Carey. (Bethlem gave us the word “bedlam,” the colorful catchall for pandemonium, chaos, and insanity.) Yet according to the book’s coauthors—Jonathan Andrews, Asa Briggs, Roy Porter, Penny Tucker, and Keir Waddington—Bethlem Hospital was a place of considerable humanity. What they found was that inmates were treated with decency and respect throughout most of its history, but more importantly in respect to Foucault’s argument, as against the lock-em-up and throw-away-the-keys picture chronicled by Foucault, Bethlem remained open to the public through most of the eighteenth century. “Unlike the silent mad in the Foucault model, the mad in Bethlem were talking politics and they were talking religion,” says Roy Porter, professor of the social history of medicine at London’s Wellcome Institute. Paradoxically, professionals today are increasingly wary of throwing open asylum doors. Too often, de-institutionalization becomes a way for governments to cut funding, disgorging onto the streets a stream of helpless individuals too confused even to beg. As Porter observes acidly, “There’s no community and no care.”
Sources: Leo Carey, “Bedlam Bound,” Lingua Franca, Feb.1998. An exchange between Lawrence Stone and Michel Foucault, The New York Review of Books, March 31, 1983.


Foucault Undone


Reports from France and Italy

Nolte and Furet: A Comment on Historical Method


ore than ten years ago, the German historian Ernst Nolte had stirred a heated debate in Germany by comparing the crimes of the Bolsheviks to those of the Nazi Regime and by insisting that German National Socialism had been, to a large extent, a reaction to the Communist threat. In France, the recent publication of the Livre Noir du Communisme has resulted in a similar quarrel over the legitimacy of historical comparisons. In a long footnote in his last book Le Passé d’une illusion: Essai sur l’idée communiste au XXe siècle, the late François Furet examined Ernst Nolte’s hypotheses in critical affirmation. Furet considered it Nolte’s merit to have broken a taboo when he violated the ban on comparing Stalinism and National Socialism. Furet shared Nolte’s conviction that, to explain the emergence and development of the two murderous ideologies of our century, a “historical-genetic method” was needed that went beyond the purely formal comparisons of two totalitarian regimes. Critically and “sadly”, however, Furet noted in his book that Nolte had decisively weakened the impact of his assertions by viewing the Jews as Hitler’s organized opponents. A correspondence with Ernst Nolte ensued after the publication of Le Passé d’une illusion; it was abruptly broken off by Furet’s early death. Though Furet joined the plea for a historical-genetic method as the prerequisite for understanding Communism and National Socialism, he opposed replacing the search for historical roots and causes with simple chronology. That Lenin, for instance, came to power earlier than Mussolini and much earlier than Hitler does not justify attributing a merely reacting character to Fascism, much less to National Socialism. Intentionally or unintentionally, such an attribution must arouse a certain sympathy and cannot avoid coming close to apologetics. Drieu la Rochelle, the French fascist, already formulated this argument in 1939-40 in a racist form: since the German always contains a Slav, his reaction to Russian totalitarianism always assumes the same destructive forms. Furet distanced himself from the hypothesis of imitation that Nolte had put forward with polite words and decided arguments: Fascism is not an answer to Communism. Rather, both ideologies—Communism as the ideology of

totalitarian universalism and Fascism or National Socialism as the ideology of totalitarian particularism—are reactions against the bourgeois-liberal world, against the “demo-liberal century,” which both Mussolini and Charles Maurras date from 1789. Additionally: anti-semitism is older than the October Revolution, and the German Right did not have to wait for the rise of Communism before despising democracy. In a few sentences, Furet makes it clear that Nolte’s historical-genetic method is based on a truncated view of history that loses sight, for example, of the role played in the formation of the German Right and especially of the National Socialists by the tradition of anti-semitically intensified cultural pessimism, which goes back far into the nineteenth century. Furet possesses the even-tempered view of the “longue durée,” that historical consciousness in France which even today takes, on all sides of the ideological spectrum, the inclusion of the Middle Ages into French national history for granted and which is the adjunct of a culture of memory that, even in the present, creates identity across all partisan boundaries. In contrast to this long-ranging culture of memory, German public opinion and German historiography are obsessed with coming to grips with the recent past that, as a rule, does not unite but separates the political camps. Although it was precisely Nolte who wanted to embed German history in the vast panorama of the European civil wars and thus, in a certain sense, wanted to denationalize and de-emotionalize that history, in comparison with Furet’s selfcritical composure, Nolte always seems excited and apoplectic. It was not Ernst Nolte but François Furet, a French historian, who enabled the Germans to examine Communism and its results with an intensity comparable to that directed toward National Socialism. East Germany’s joining the Federal Republic of Germany necessitated such an examination: x Communism is now part of a common German history. —Wolf Lepenies
Source: Wolf Lepenies, excerpt from a lecture entitled “The Past and Future of German-French Relations” at the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation in Munich, March 11, 1998. Parts of this talk appeared in Berliner Zeitung, April 4/5, 1998 (


Reports from France and Italy

Disputing the United States
rance did not become a focus of intellectual interest in the United States until just after World War II. But for at least two centuries, French thinkers and writers have peered at the United States as if it were a crystal ball and they were discerning their own future. From Chateaubriand and Tocqueville down to Sartre and Baudrillard, the image of l’Amérique or l’outre-Atlantique has been the privileged focus of French selfanalysis. Works in this line have generally fallen into two categories: admiring treatments of the American frontier mentality, so often compared to French notions of hierarchy and bureaucracy; and critical treatments of the aggressive yet ephemeral quality of American life. With the end of the Cold War, however, all the standard clichés about America are being revised— or rather, retranslated into new idioms. As three recent controversies bear out, America remains at the center of the French imagination, but in a new and somewhat oblique light. The first controversy was set off by the publication in French of a new book by the American physicist Alan Sokal (of the “Sokal Affair”) and the Belgian physicist Alain Bricmont. Their Impostures intellectuelles (Odile Jacob, 1997) is a relentless examination and critique of the writings of a number of French intellectuals who discuss science or use scientific language and metaphors to write about other matters. Their straightforward approach, which employs “damnation by quotation,” leads them to conclude that most of what is reputed to be a critique of science in France is, they say, based on ignorance, imprecision, and superficiality. The weekly Nouvel Observateur (Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 1997) devoted a large dossier to their charges and asked in the title, “Are Our Philosophers Imposters?” This has led to some angry responses by the authors so charged, among them the sociologist Jean Baudrillard, the feminist theorist Julia Kristeva, and Bruno Latour, the leader of “science studies” in France. What is striking is how nationalistic these remarks are in tone. A reviewer of Baudrillard’s new book complains of “American censors” who cannot appreciate l’esprit français, while Julia Kristeva speaks darkly of “disinformation” put out as part of an anti-French political-economic campaign led by Americans. (She also excuses her scientific and mathematical mistakes in an early book by relating that she was only twenty-five years old when she wrote it and had the flu.) As for Bruno Latour, whose work has a large following in AngloAmerican “science studies,” he claimed in Le Monde that Sokal’s charges are part of a subtle campaign by the scientific wing of the American military-industrial complex to regain its importance after the end of the Cold War. A different sort of dispute has been swirling around American feminism in France. The French stereotype of Americans as sexual puritans has proven difficult to dislodge, and recent debates over affirmative action, sexual harassment, date rape, homosexuality, and pornography have only reinforced the image. They have also led to a new, quasi-nationalist feminism that celebrates a “French model” of healthy sexual relations that comport with its republican political


tradition, and stands in contrast to highly politicized American feminism that, it is argued, erases important gender differences in its rush towards equality. Elisabeth Badinter’s XY: On Masculine Identity (translation Columbia University Press, 1995) is one book in this line, as is Gilles Lipovetsky’s recent La troisième femme (Gallimard, 1997). But the most hotly debated book is surely Mona Ozouf’s Woman’s Words: Essay on French Singularity (translation University of Chicago Press, 1998). In a series of portraits of French women from Madame du Deffand to Simone de Beauvoir, Ozouf offers an account of how modern French gender relations grew out of a court society that gave women great liberty while preserving their distinctiveness, and combined these aristocratic habits with democratic principles. This position, bolstered by Ozouf’s long and vociferous epilogue on American feminism, has been generally well received in France but has attracted heavy criticism from American historians such as Lynn Hunt and Joan Scott for anachronism and complacency. (See their responses in the symposium devoted to Ozouf in Le Débat, November-December 1995.) In a recent article in New Left Review (Fall 1997) Joan Scott has further argued that the new querelle des femmes is not about American experience at all, but is actually part of an internal French political dispute about the “parity movement” that is demanding equal representation for women in decision-making bodies, especially elected assemblies. Yet the most highly charged term in French-American intellectual relations today is surely “multiculturalism,” which bears directly on the French immigration problem and, on its face at least, seems utterly opposed to French civic principles of universal human rights and equality before the law. Concerned by the exaggerated image of American identity politics held by his fellow French intellectuals, political scientist Denis Lacorne, perhaps the most respected American specialist in Paris, set out to tell the history of American debates on this topic. His recently published La Crise de l’identité américaine [The crisis of American identity] (Fayard, 1997) is, despite its slightly racy title, an extremely sober look at the history of American immigration politics that focuses on the transformation of religious and political notions of toleration into a new ethnic and racial separateness. Although these trends worry Lacorne, who favors affirmative action but would limit it to African-Americans, in general he thinks that the American example works admirably well and that France might draw some guarded lessons from it in coping with its own unacknowledged diversity. But to judge by a symposium on the book, again in Le Débat (“L’avenir du multiculturalisme,” Nov.Dec. 1997), this middle position pleases neither side in France, neither those who fear for the purity of the republic nor those who suspect every critic of America of harboring a reactionary political agenda. When it comes to comparing France and the United States, it appears that certain things just can’t be said x today. And they can’t be whistled either. —ML


Reports France and Italy

“Those Were the Days….”
he thirtieth anniversary of May ‘68 is upon us. To judge by the number of articles that have already appeared about it in the European press, three decades distance may be just enough to begin judging the “events” with the correct mix of historical perspective and mature autobiographical reflection. It also provides an opportunity to begin comparing and contrasting the ‘68 events as they played themselves out politically and culturally in different places. As a faux cabaret song of that time put it: “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end….” In its contribution to this literature, the editors of the Italian journal MicroMega chose to emphasize the personal element by asking three well-known figures from different countries—the German filmmaker Edgar Reitz, the Italian writer Nadia Fusini, and the American activist Angela Davis – to reflect on how it feels today to look back on what they were then. Reitz and Fusini recount roughly the same narrative: how the euphoric utopian atmosphere of the sixties ended in political disappointment in the early seventies, to be followed by a more violent dénouement in the late seventies. But here the similarity ends. Reitz, among whose films is the highly influential epic Heimat, emphasizes that the German ‘60s can only be understood as a delayed reaction of a younger generation to the experiences of Nazism and war, and to their parents’ silence (Sprachlosigkeit) about them. “In ‘68 the silent phase ended in Germany, and after came the time for much talk.” Reitz’s own brush with the “events” was short. He recounts how Ulrike Meinhof, later of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, began to frequent the studio where he was making a film and raised so many questions about its relation to the events in the street that eventually filming had to be abandoned, done in by political discussion. But this euphoria quickly dissipated in the face of political earnestness and theoretical dispute, and the mood turned completely black in the violent period that began with the Meinhof prison escape in 1970 and the murder of the German industrialist Martin Schleyer in 1977. “Nobody smiled in those days,” he writes. Today what he misses most is not the euphoria but the sense of collegial solidarity, all the more necessary now that “the Germans have again become the people of authority.” What Fusini also remembers about the years following ‘68 was “a sense of enormous unhappiness.” Born into a left-wing family that named her after Lenin’s wife Nadia, Fusini became a Maoist early on, feeling that she was carrying on the struggle of her father against the despised bourgeoisie. Then came delusion, as the movements in the streets descended into organized terror, teaching her that every society, even a just one, would require order and self-sacrifice. She moved into


the university, only to discover that open admissions had transformed it into a large parking lot for lost souls, alienating them further from Italian society rather than integrating them. When the University of Rome exploded in 1977, the mood was bitter and destructive, not hopeful or playful as in ‘68. In the end, she still feels lucky to have been part of the ‘68 generation rather than the one that followed since “among our thousand stupidities and ridiculous undertakings, we also put on a drama that still had rules of unity, we wrote a piece of history fundamentally traditional in its development.” That opportunity has been lost. Angela Davis does not write about her thoughts or feelings in ‘68, or even about her politics. She writes about her hair. “That” hair: the enormous “afro” hairdo that transformed her from an obscure professor of philosophy in California into a poster-child for the rage of youth. It has been a bitter and humiliating experience, she says, to learn that just one generation after the events of ‘68 all that remains of her militancy in public memory is a photograph with that hair, which recently reappeared in the New York Times Magazine fashion supplement accompanied by the blurb “Politics Becomes Fashion.” The political story began in 1969 when Davis was dismissed from the University of California at Los Angles for her membership in the Communist Party and ended with her on the run from the police for the alleged smuggling of a gun into prison for George Jackson, which resulted in the murder of a judge and a prison guard. (She passes quickly over these details.) By then she was on the FBI “Most Wanted” list and her famous photo, which soon appeared in Life magazine, was now pasted up in every post office in the country. Not surprisingly, she got a haircut and began wearing makeup, an effective disguise at the time. But when her autobiography was published in 1974, her editor (the soon to be famous writer Toni Morrison) encouraged her to return to the Afro, a request she refused. Since that time, Davis notes bitterly, her political and fashion influence have developed in inverse relation. While her brand of left politics finds fewer and fewer adherents even among American blacks, more young people have begun aping her style, down to the sunglasses, earrings, and fatigue jackets—all of which, she notes, can be bought at any Army-Navy supply store. Most frustrating to her was a photo-montage that recently appeared in the magazine Vibe, showing the actress Cynda Williams sporting an afro in a mock FBI photo under the titles “Free Angela” and “Angela Davis, revolutionary of fashion.” x History need not even repeat itself to become farce. —ML
Source: “Sessantotto” [Sixty-eight], MicroMega, May 1997.


England and Feminism

Power to the People, i.e. Women
provocative excerpt in the New Statesman from Natasha Walter’s book The New Feminism has aroused fresh debate in England about the once and future life of feminism: what has been achieved, what still urgently needs to be done in the century to come. This is Walter’s argument and question: in a world where women are striding into the corridors of power, does a movement for women’s rights still have a place? Her answer is emphatically affirmative: the gains of feminism have been enormous, but they were largely directed at the personal or cultural level rather than the pervasive social and economic inequalities that still exist. The new feminism, Walter argues, must be pragmatic, inclusive, and above all aimed at the imperative political objective of unequivocal, unrestricted, uncompromised equality. By equality she means “equal rights and equal opportunities,” equality of power and play in the workplace and the political arena. Too many feminists in recent years, she believes, especially the American contingent, have concentrated on personal and psychological issues at the expense of larger, more unyielding political and economic problems. Feminists have paid too much attention to the way women dress or talk or make love, at the expense of confronting the bitter challenge of inequality. Walter, the daughter of a well-known English anarchist and polemicist, Nicholas Walter, stresses two important facts about feminism today: One, it is no longer an exclusively middle-class, professional-women’s movement. Her wide-ranging survey of women in Great Britain revealed a much larger and wider involvement. Two, she found that young women today are reluctant to identify with a movement that is now seen as man-hating, politically correct, and ideologically puritanical. (Walter does not in the least object to painted toe-nails and other kinds of self-decoration. The gaudier the merrier.) Feminism should no longer seek to control women’s personal or sexual lives, Walter feels. Pragmatism, not principled purity, should be the mark of the new feminism. In response to Walter’s thesis, the New Statesman assembled a diverse panel of fourteen women (and one man)—writers, journalists, administrators, a few of the 120 female MP’s now in the 659-member House of Commons, and even two teenagers (seventeen and nineteen respectively) who applaud the charismatic and glamorous personalities of the Spice Girls as examples of young feminism today. (Natasha Walter also admires the Spice Girls.) Most of the respondents registered rather tepid agreement with Natasha Walter’s ideas, though they would probably yawn their assent to the review by the journalist Ann Leslie, a week later in the New Statesman who found it all too Blairly sweet, reasonable, and dully written. As Leslie could not resist sniping, “Feminism as a subject has, frankly, become boring.” It’s old hat to “old” feminists, she thinks, and the young generation feels that “feminists who whine on constantly about female oppression are sad creatures who should go get a life”—and another Spice Girls CD? But Elaine Showalter, professor of English at Princeton and one of the doyennes of American literary feminism, dissented


from this condescension. In her review of The New Feminism, Showalter praised Walter’s gutsiness and—for a startling reason—her defense of Margaret Thatcher as “a woman who normalized female success.” Curiously, not one of the New Statesman panel had mentioned this astonishing fact about Walter’s book, not even Anne Applebaum, the conservative columnist for the Daily Telegraph, who flatly denied that inequality between men and women any longer exists today. Showalter strongly agreed with Walter’s sobriquet for Thatcher as “the great unsung heroine of British feminism.” Apparently, political power, in a surprising shift for contemporary feminists, has replaced politically correct idealism as the goal of a new generation and century. But a nagging question remains. What does Walter mean by equality and inequality? This is the question impatiently asked by Mary Margaret McCabe, a professor of philosophy, in her review of The New Feminism. She takes Walter to task for relying on slogans rather than thoughtful distinctions: “…what on earth is involved in equal treatment? Are we talking here of the allocation of rights, or of the distribution of goods? Are we talking about the equality of equals, or of equality tout court?” x —Pearl K. Bell
Sources: Natasha Walter, New Statesman, January 16, 1998. Ann Leslie, New Statesman,January 23, 1998. Elaine Showalter, review of The New Feminism, The Guardian, February 8, 1998. Mary Margaret McCabe, review of The New Feminism, Times Literary Supplement, March 20, 1998.

Fay Weldon: Gender Switch
n the current debate about the status of feminism, it was left to the witty and prolific English novelist Fay Weldon, characteristically defying the received wisdom though she is a dedicated feminist, to take a different tack altogether. Writing in The Guardian (December 21, 1997), Weldon declared that “it’s left to me to speak for men.” By the late ‘90s, there is a “gender switch.” It is now the men who complain of being slighted, condemned by virtue of gender to automatic insult by women. Young men of the ‘90s, Weldon points out, complain that they are in a hopeless double bind. They earnestly care for the good opinion of women, but if they show sensitivity, they are despised as wimps. If they keep a stiff upper lip, they are derided for their insensitivity. Women treat young men as sex objects, but if a man makes sexual overtures, he is accused of harassment. Remember, she warns, that men are people, too, and we must try to see them as persons first and of a certain gender second, as once we beseeched men to do for us. —PKB



Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe

The Arguments on Language Policy
1.Mono or Multi?
English is today’s limgua franca. Also, it is increasingly the first foreign language taught in German and French schools. But different conclusions can be drawn from these two facts. Should educational policies reinforce or counteract these tendencies? nglish, as Joseph Hanimann reports, is increasingly chosen as the first foreign language course in schools in spite of contrary efforts in the South of Germany. Even in Switzerland where both German and French are national languages, a few cantons in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland only offer French as a second foreign language and start foreign-language training with English. Claude Allègre, the French secretary of education, regards a knowledge of English as absolutely essential and wants to make the choice of it as first foreign language compulsory. At present, about 10% of French pupils still choose German as first foreign language, partly as a way to gain access to better schooling since the teaching of German has largely replaced Latin and Greek at elite schools. Some people expect that the teaching of German in French schools will rapidly decline without this elite bonus if it may only be chosen as a second foreign language. Allègre and most French German teachers argue that the introduction of English teaching at an early stage will liberate all other language studies from unequal competition. In France, tri- (or more) lingualism is on the political agenda, as a much debated issue because language-conscious Frenchmen are worried that the increasing use of pidgin English in international communication between technocrats will trigger a general atrophy of language. They argue that without an active policy promoting multi-lingualism in Europe—not only at the educational but also at the bureaucratic level— European languages including English will suffer real damage.
Sources: Joseph Hanimann: “Adieu, deutsche Sprache” [Good bye, German language], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 1, 1998.


n his address to the convention of German scholars of romance languages and literature, Harald Weinrich, the first foreigner in France to chair romance languages and literature at the Collège de France in Paris, takes on some of the objections to the cultivation of multi-lingualism and linguistic diversity, and rejects them by using an analogy with arguments for the active preservation of bio-diversity and to some of the less visible lessons we may only be able to learn from a study of romance languages and literature (“Romanistik”). The acquisition of several romance languages and the study of the literature written in them make demands on students’ time which nowadays seem out of proportion to the costs involved in the study of other subjects. Economics and cost benefit analysis, then, serves as the basis for this reduction in time. Weinrich, however, argues for an educational and cultural policy actively supporting the languages and for an engage-


2. Economy and Ecology

ment of scholars defending the values in their discipline. The reading of novels serves as an example. The novel has been the leading genre in literature for at least 150 years. But considerations of the time budget of students have led to the reading of shorter texts in schools and universities. Such a focus on short stories and extracts from larger works resulting from adaptations to economic arguments can only exert a damaging and unfortunate influence on the reception of literature. Reading long novels in foreign languages and learning some of the nine romance languages, or even only some of the four main romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese), is undeniably a time consuming task. A high time-investment may well be a prerequisite for any fruitful study of this discipline. Capital and time are scarce resources, and the results of these calculations cannot be denied. Their validity can only be challenged by showing that they need a complementary ecological argument. Weinrich here draws upon an analogy borrowed from biologists. They argue for the preservation of bio-diversity even if special efforts to save almost distinct species involve considerable costs. Weinrich defends linguistic diversity and multi-lingualism as values which need not be justified as the most economic means to other ends. In addition, their high valuation may be justified as the more rational choice in the long run, avoiding the later cultural costs. Just as in nature, short-term profits often risk environmental damage which in a long-term perspective may cause much higher costs. The present disregard of the philosophies of science by rhetoric and linguistics may be such an additional factor leading to the spread of a virus or risk endangering future knowledge production in a linguistic mono-culture. There may even be a specific lesson, especially accessible in romance languages, literature, and cultures, contradicting the presupposition that the most economic use of scarce goods, like time, is always the most rational way to reach a desired goal. The oral and written forms of politeness in the western world are widely viewed as a romance specialty and resource. All forms of politeness involve an un-economic use of time, a more indirect approach to whatever one is aiming at, an extra few minutes not absolutely required by the task at hand. According to Gracián, this extra effort “costs little but earns much.” According to Schiller the first maxim of politeness is to “preserve foreign freedom.” The German expressions for “to preserve” and for “beautiful” (schonen and schön) according to Weinrich have the same linguistic roots. Literature as part of written communication may teach us something about the more indirect, more protective, more beautiful, and more polite forms of behavior and lifestyles. The multiple forms of politeness and the study of romance languages and literature indicate a connection between un-economic slowness and culture. —MB
Source: Harald Weinrich, “Von den schönen fremden Freiheit der Sprachen” [On the beautiful foreign freedom of languages], Süddeutsche Zeitung, October 4, 1997.


Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe

Robert Gernhardt—A German Lewis Carroll?
hich lines from poetic writing in Germany during the last thirty years will be preserved in memory? Gustav Seibt, one of Germany’s leading critics who asked himself this question, bets that as long as the kind of architecture it refers to exists, it will be the poem, “After he walked through Metzingen” by Robert Gernhardt:
Nachdem er durch Metzingen gegangen war Dich will ich loben: Häßliches, du hast so was Verläßliches. Das Schöne schwindet, scheidet, flieht fast tut es weh, wenn man es sieht. Wer Schönes anschaut, spürt die Zeit, und Zeit meint stets: Bald ist’s soweit. Das Schöne gibt uns Grund zur Trauer. Das Häßliche erfreut durch Dauer. After he walked through Metzingen I want to praise you: ugliness, because of your relentlessness. Beauty will fade, depart, take flight it almost hurts, when it’s in sight. Who looks at beauty, feels time run, time always means: soon you’ll be gone. Beauty comprises a reason for sadness. Something reliable in the ugly imparts gladness.


in using rhyme and other older poetic rules earnestly today. But he also claims to need rules because the comical element always involves some rule breaking. According to Seibt, Gernhardt has mastered all forms of poetry, even more recent ones like those of Jandl. Dieter A. Zimmer expresses the same judgment in claiming that there is almost no other German poet for whom the poetic tradition has been as present as for Gernhardt whose best poems, in Zimmer’s view, test different forms of poetry. They listen for wrong sounds and reach surprising results, such as his poem which applies the Dante sound to a present everyday theme and succeeds. The essays in Text und Kritik show us Gernhardt the hugely prolific writer and cartoonist who has also written prose throughout his life as well as more melancholic poems recently. But at the center of these essays, we find again and again Gernhardt the poet writing in a tradition of light verse, a poet who titles his Reclam collection of poems Reim und Zeit [Rhyme and Time] by changing only two letters in Heidegger’s title Sein und Zeit [Being and Time], a poet who, for example, can even bring his omnipotence fantasies into a persuasive, acceptable, and funny form in a poem called “Prayer,” the poem highlighted at the end of this collection of essays:
Lieber Gott, nimm es hin, daß ich was Besond’res bin. Und gib ruhig einmal zu, daß ich klüger bin als du. Preise künftig meinen Namen, denn sonst setzt es etwas. Amen.

Not only Seibt but many others regard Gernhardt as a major presence in German poetry. Recently Gernhardt has been canonized: the journal Text und Kritik devoted one issue to him, Reclam, the publishing house of most classical literary texts, published selections of his past work, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung celebrated Heine’s 200th birthday by publishing a series of poems by Gernhardt. Such accolades may be due a writer who just celebrated his sixtieth birthday, co-founded the satirical magazine Titanic, and has been loved for his cartoons and comics, as well as for his nonsense and light verse, a genre which brings to mind poets such as Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, but no German poets of equal fame. This did not impede Gernhardt from inventing a tradition for himself. Actually, he claims that most poems may be read adequately as comic poems by anyone able to differentiate between the sound pattern of a poem and its intention. Intentions may fail, and where a poem does not manage to make us forget for a moment its rules of form, there almost certainly will be something funny. Children writing poetry usually begin with funny nonsensical wordplay before they construct sound-patterns and try to control the sense these sound-patterns make. For Gernhardt there is a comical effect

God, do not refuse to see that I’m something extraordinary. And concede without ado that I am brighter than you. Praise in future my name then, or you’ll be in trouble. Amen.

Sources: Robert Gernhardt, Reim und Zeit, Stuttgart, 1996 Robert Gernhardt, Text und Kritik, Nr. 136, 1997. Gustav Seibt, “Wer Schönes anschaut, spürt die Zeit” [Who looks at beauty, feels time run] Berliner Zeitung, December 13, 1997. Dieter E. Zimmer, “Der heiße Tag: Das Summen wilder Bienen” [The hot day: the humming of wild bees], Die Zeit, November 14,. 1997.


Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe

On Ernst Jünger’s Century
Ernst Jünger, who died in February at age 101, was probably the most controversial figure in German intellectual life in this century. A man who praised war as the testing ground of manhood and mocked the Weimar Republic for its “decadent values,” he saw the world as battles between beetles and insects. He was praised by Hitler, yet attacked by the SS. His writings raise one of the most troublesome questions of morality. Does “greatness” as a writer excuse an anti-humanist point of view? The same questions can be raised about Martin Heidegger, the extraordinary German poet Gottfried Benn (who felt some sympathies for the Nazis, at least for a short while), and the Communist playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht. We deal with this question in a number of reports and lead off with some reflections (abridged from a longer essay) by our colleague Wolf Lepenies. hommes de lettres in their country. But my objection is that what is surprising is not that these literary people adapted to the occupation, but rather that they wrote well even as “collabos.” In Nazi Germany, the German language put up decided resistance—against the majority of speakers and writers; there is no National Socialist literature of any rank. Ernst Jünger did not always write equally well; there are trivial and even kitschy passages in his work. But he did not adjust his language to fit Nazi rule. Not that Auf den Marmorklippen [On the Marble Cliffs] is a work of resistance—Jünger would have been the last to agree with this interpretation—or that the SS defamed him is what honors him the most, but that his language remained self-confident and independent. One never sees the best pens in the service of bad things, Jünger once wrote. But this depends on the language the pen writes.

Modernity and Morals
as art instruction in school to blame? In any case, I long believed there was a close and almost natural connection between artistic Modernism and democratic convictions. This belief was strengthened by the sequence in which I read some important books. When The Magic Mountain first cast its spell on me, I did not yet know that Thomas Mann had written the conservative, nay even reactionary, Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen [Reflections of an Apolitical Man] in the middle of the First World War; Ezra Pound was, for me, the brilliant editor of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and not the seduced author of the Pisan Cantos, and Weinhaus Wolf did not become a poor piece of German prose because Gottfried Benn spoke on the radio to celebrate the Nazis’ seizure of power as an evolutionary necessity. Only gradually did the truth come to light: in its core, artistic Modernism was by no means democratic; rather, it had a politically authoritarian orientation and, in many painful cases, its representatives were easy prey for totalitarian seducers. In Germany, an influential posture was connected with longing for the South, the reception of antiquity, and fantasies of an eternal Rome. “Latinity” was the code word. Those who finally felt repulsed by Germany’s National Socialists could still succumb to the fascination of Italian Fascism. After 1934, the year of the “Röhm Putsch,” which opened the eyes of many sympathizers, Gottfried Benn and Ernst Jünger were examples of German intellectuals who would have gladly remained Fascists, if the Nazis had only permitted it.


Good-bye to All That


Bouillon de Culture


ierre Hébey, the Parisian attorney, has written a fascinating book about the Nouvelle Revue Française under German occupation. This was the time when Jean Paulhan, with the gentle pressure of Gaston Gallimard, passed the editorial work to Drieu la Rochelle to secure the magazine’s survival. In “Bouillon de culture”, Hébey and the other French participants in the broadcast, including Bernard Pivot as the host, are surprised at the extent of the collaboration of the

short stroll starting behind the backs of the colleges leads from Cambridge to Grantchester. If one arrives there in the summer at tea time, one could imagine that Bloomsbury is in flower again. Victoria Sackville-West, Vanessa Bell, and Virginia Woolf seem to picnic on the banks of the Cam, surrounded by admirers wearing summer flannel and making impressions with their coolness and hauteur. In Grantchester, one can buy momentos of Rupert Brooke, who fell in Greece in 1915. Reading his poems—the British Museum preserves the manuscript of The Soldier, written in 1914:” If I should die, think only this of me, / that there’s some corner of a foreign field / That is forever England”—or the autobiography of Robert Graves, or, in France, the numerous hymns to Lieutenant Charles Péguy, who fell in September 1914 at the beginning of the Battle of the Marne—heureux ceux qui sont morts dans les grandes batailles—all these show what a “normal” book Ernst Jünger’s In Stahlgewittern [In Storms of Steel] was: in the First World War, bellistic euphoria and the fascination of battle and struggle were a European disease. The Germans were not particularly in the forefront. The situation changed in the Second World War, and it becomes painfully visible how underdeveloped and unpopular skepticism remained toward a form of politics that continued to pursue its ends with military ferocity…. Robert Graves was as courageous and firm as Ernst Jünger, and like him experienced the most extreme terror. How much would have been spared Europe in this gory century if those who returned from the First World War had made the title of Graves’s memoirs the guideline of their future politics: Goodbye to All That!

Changing Places
he image is lasting: together, the German Chancellor and the French President visit Ernst Jünger. It is not their fragility that make Ernst Jünger and François Mitterand seem kindred souls. This photo, which thus attains symbolic character, clearly shows that, to this day, France and Germany repre-



Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe
sent two forms of political culture that differ in their relationship to literature. German politicians, too, write books, but they are not as a rule political authors, much less hommes de lettres. In France, a well-written book is still a billet d’entrée into politics, while in Germany a brilliant style always arouses suspicion that the author cannot be taken seriously and that he is unsuitable for politics, since he has too much time for the inconsequential. If a German politician visits a meritorious author, admiration or condescension always plays a role. In France, this alternative does not exist: homme de lettre and homme politique are closely related and encounter each other on the same plane. Both know: How easily we could change places!

Stjob: The New Public Media Language of Russia
ussia now has the freest, politically incorrect public language—at least within Europe. Freedom from censorship has led to the creation of a new public media language: Stjob. It is predominant in TV reporting and in newspapers such as Commersant Daily or Moskowskij Komsomolez, which have been newly founded or rejuvenated after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. As Sonja Margolina reports, this powerful new public media language is not only free from any legal constraint, but it is also a sensitive indicator of the sociological conditions and an expression of the strengthened Russian society liberated from the overpowering authority of the state. It develops, even, free of any laws protecting minorities or individuals from media attacks. “Stjob,” the word for this new language style, is, according to Wladimir Jellistratow’s Dictionary of Moscow Jargon (1994), derived from slang terms meaning “to whip,” “to chatter,” “to have sexual intercourse,” or, as an adjective, meaning “strange” or “stupid.” “Stjob” employs many sexual allusions, underworld jargon, and quotations that invoke the context from which they have been taken, this invocation of subcultures providing a sort of semi-explanation trivializing the new conditions and reducing them to the traditional and familiar. In this language deplorable states of affairs look like the changing masks of an eternal order as in Bakhtin’s carnival, confirming Tschernomyrdin’s by now proverbial motto “We wanted to make it better, but the result is always the same.” This style suggests the superiority of the public media in comparison to the Russian conditions, but at the same time only reproduces rhetorically these conditions. The underworld jargon, especially, is not only widely disseminated by the media but is used in the Duma where fortysix of its members were previously convicted; it is also used because it mimics present conditions and what is called “bandit markets.” Some intellectuals have tried to point out the dangers in the widespread use of “stjob” which obliterates the limiting lines between legal and illegal economic and political action, but the style is even finding its way into school books. —MB
Source: Sonja Margolina, “Die Vergaunerte Zunge” [Underworld Jargon: The Criminalized Tongue], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 19, 1998.


Domestic Animals and Explosives
ew insights into Ernst Jünger’s work arise when his writings are compared with those of the philosophical anthropologist Arnold Gehlen (1904-1976), which exhibit similarities to Jünger’s thought even in specific figures of style and argumentation. That in the heydey of National Socialism, Gehlen, much more than a fellow-traveller but an active propagandist for the Nazis, made a theory of milieu the basis of his anthropology is no less disturbing than the stubbornness with which Ernst Jünger took political positions only after aesthetic predecisions. Self-discipline and conscious inhibition are Gehlen’s key categories, and they turn up in similar form in Jünger. Finally, the two share their valuation of second nature, which is not at all identical to civilization: Jünger, too, observes primarily in order to classify. His glance always takes in nature as a terrarium or herbarium. In this connection, it is significant that Gehlen’s concept of nature artificielle takes up the thread of Georges Sorel, one of Jünger’s intellectual forebears. And a surprising sentence like the following, which Gehlen formulated in 1941 in his primary work Der Mensch, could have found its place in Jünger’s early work: “In direct, first nature there x are neither domestic animals nor explosives.”
Sources: Wolf Lepenies, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, March 25/26, 1995. (On the occasion of Ernst Jünger’s death, French and Spanish translations of the article appeared in Le Monde, February 20, 1998, and in El País, March 7, 1998.)



Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe

The Fall and Rise of Bertolt Brecht
he one hundredth birthday of Brecht caused a flood of Among the many recent voices who have said something on articles and heavily influenced this year’s theater and Brecht, that of Wolf Biermann belongs to a great bard and poet television programs. His TV presence has been record and that of György Konrád to a famous Hungarian writer and breaking: Such a large show of work by one writer on German sociologist who has become a continuous presence in German television is unprecedented. Brecht also experienced a heightpublic debate since Konrád became President of the Academy of ened visibility in print: Suhrkamp published a new edition of Arts in Berlin. Biermann moved to the GDR in 1953 and lost his Brecht in thirty volumes, another edition of selected works in GDR citizenship in 1976 against his will while on a concert tour six volumes, and still sells the old twenty-volume edition in West Germany. Konrad was a dissident of a “socialist brother alongside many individual titles. Among the recent books on country” of the former GDR. Brecht, the 1300-page Brecht Chronik by Werner Hecht is sure here you do not find any contradictions you are to become a standard reference work. The scandal that John sure to find something else: boredom. One cerFuegi exposed—that many of Brecht’s plays were written, tainly cannot call Brecht boring. With this stateoften with unacknowledged collaborators—created a short stir ment György Konrad invites the visitor to enter the Brecht but was quickly put aside by most critics. exhibition at the Berlin AcadThis is all very surprising in emy of Arts in its accompanyview of Brecht’s varying forSong of the Control Chorus ing catalogue. tunes. In the 1950s and ‘60s What baseness would you not commit Passing beyond good and Brecht’s presence in East and To root out baseness? evil, we see the artist, Konrad West German theaters was If, finally, you could change the world tells us, as an ultra-moral natoverpowering. In the ‘60s and What task would you be too good for? ural phenomenon. Today we ‘70s it was impossible to go Who are you? can read Brecht and leave our through school without learnSink down in the slime worldview and the question ing about epic theater. Things Embrace the butcher as to whether we agree or dischanged during the ‘70s, and But change the world: it needs it! agree with what we read at in the ‘80s it became fashionFrom Bertolt Brecht’s The Measures Taken (translated by the cloakroom. able to refer to the general Eric Bentley) justifying the murder of an emissary who threatThe only play Konrad menboredom felt by oneself or the ened the mission by displaying compassion for a victim. tions is Die Massnahme [The public with regard to Brecht. Measures Taken], written in Today, more attention is being 1930. In this Lehrstück, his tenth play, Brecht presented the paid to Brecht, the poet and stage director. And the practice of Bolshevik value hierarchy up to its final consequences, where the stage director is being used to relativize some of the dicta compassion, feeling, opinion, solidarity, the human, the of Brecht, the theater theoretician. autonomy of the person, are all subordinated to the task one Brecht was and is contentious. Many voices of now famous has been given by the party, and where the individual’s claim writers and literary critics responded to the media and to autonomy or to our pity is regarded as a weapon in the defined their relation to Brecht and his work at his one hunhands of the class enemy. dredth birthday. These voices vary from those such as the Gustav Seibt, in an editorial on Brecht and the coldness of Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson who find him absolutely this century, characterizes Die Massnahme as the most perdespicable, to Michael Rutschky in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung suasive attempt to provide insight into the psychic mechawho sees him now as a latter-day dandy, to someone like nisms of the communist utopia. The members of the RAF (the Werner Hecht whose Brecht Chronik provides us with even German terrorists in the 1970s) still referred to sentences from more information on Brecht’s everyday life than we have on this play in support of their case. Goethe. While not many want to embrace the whole Brecht, But what has not been put into words cannot be discussed and which parts of Brecht get chosen varies however from person cannot be changed, as Kurt Drawert says, interpreting Brecht’s to person—the only common element being the selectivity poem “Schlechte Zeit für Lyrik [A bad time for poetry].” and decisiveness with which the choice is being made. And As an introduction to Brechtian poetology, Wolf Biermann perhaps a certain not all-inclusive tendency to deflate Brecht’s takes two lines from Brecht which had been misquoted by the fame as a playwright or to focus attention on the early Brecht Berliner Zeitung and analyzes the poetic motives and decisions and a few fragmentary plays, but to value him first and forex which made Brecht write them exactly as he did. Brecht, for most as one of the major German poets of this century. —MB example, often breaks a line at a moment when there are two Sources: Weekend cultural sections, Berliner Zeitung, Frankfurter possible continuations of a sentence, one expected by the Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, reader, the other surprising and chosen by Brecht. One of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel, February 7, 1998. characteristics of Brecht’s style is small changes of banal, trite


1. As Poet Not Playwright

2. Konrád and Biermann



Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe
expressions which he transforms into something surprising and markedly expressive. This way of creating the largest possible effect out of a minimal cause is hard to translate into other languages. That is, as Biermann says, the reason why some foreigners, having read Brecht in translation, find it incomprehensible that Germans x are so impressed by some poems which seem trite. —MB
Sources: György Konrad, “Geleitwort” [Preface] in 1898/Bertholt Brecht/1998: ‘... und mein Werk ist der Abgesang des Jahrhunderts’, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1998

Wolf Biermann, “Nichtige Wichtigkeiten über Brecht” [Small matters of great importance about Brecht], Berliner Zeitung, February 7/8, 1998. Gustav Seibt, “Brecht und die Kälte des Jahrhunderts” [Brecht and the coldness of the century], Berliner Zeitung, February 7/8, 1998. Kurt Drawert, “Gute Zeit für Lyrik” [Good times for poetry], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 7, 1998.

The Song of the Sirens
Gottfried Benn and Bertolt Brecht are the presumed polar political opposities in twentieth-century German writing. Brecht, of course, was pro-communist, albeit in a complex cynical manner. Benn, today largely neglected outside Germany, occupied a position comparable to Ezra Pound’s. He was a modernist whose experiments with language and forms of verse did for poetry what the Expressionists did for painting. Yet in his espousal of a kind of atavistic tribalism, he declared, when the Nazis came in, for the “new State” and for a while occupied a leading position in the official Union of National Writers until, in 1936, the Nazis declared his early work to be immoral and “a stench.” Benn withdrew into a mood of negation, rejecting all ideals and politics, a mood summed up in an autobiography, The Double Life, published in 1950, defending his—and the German people’s—errors. The discussion in Germany today of the century of Ernst Jünger has prompted renewed questions about the ideological impact of literary works and the relation of politics to aesthetics. These themes in an influential essay by Frank Schirrmacher, an editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, come to a surprising conclusion.


recht and Benn (together with Rilke) are widely regarded as the most eminent German poets of the twentieth century. One indicator of their status in the German literary cannon is their representation in anthologies of German poetry, for example in the Frankfurter Anthologie, itself a remarkable publishing venture and an outcome of a conscious effort to cultivate the reading of poems in these bad times for poetry. Since the 1970s the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has once a week reprinted a German poem together with an interpretation especially solicited for this occasion

from various critics or present day writers. Once a year these poems and interpretations have been collected in successive volumes of the Frankfurter Anthologie together with an index to the poems in the latest and all preceding volumes in print. Altogether this collection has grown under the general guidance of the literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki to more than one thousand poems. Going by the number of poems of individual writers in this collection, Goethe, Heine, Rilke, Brecht, and Benn far outdistance all the others. Both Benn and Brecht belonged to a generation which during their lifetime changed everything, rethought everything, rewrote everything, and had a strong belief in the totality of art and in the changebility of life. Both died in the summer of 1956, bringing the self-experiment of the European consciousness after 1900 to an end. The epoch had begun with self-experiments not only in science and technology, but also in literature where ideologies, thought systems, and social change became experimental arrangements as means for selfknowledge, for writing exact protocols of self-experience. We have become used to reading artistic and literary forms of the first half of the twentieth century as experiments of pictures, expression, and content. Literature—poetry in the first place—moved through all forms filling in all white spots in the map of the aesthetic imagination. But this experiment was also, as Schirrmacher argues, an experiment with consciousness formed by literary language. Even the two major ideologies of the century were, Schirrmacher says, nothing else but a literal translations of text into reality. The core motivation of this desire was that what is being written and read should become reality. Both Brecht and Benn seem to be extreme variations of an experiment that failed politically and succeeded aesthetically. Both were prophets who lived long enough to see the terrible fulfillment of their dreams. Both suffered in the end under a self-justification complex which made them point to the laws of history. Both believed themselves to be utterly different from the other and did not recognize the status of the other until their end. Both carried literature to an unsurpassed height and exposed the subject in their poems to experiences and experiments which have become the inner voice of an uninterrupted debate within the self of their readers. Trust the inner voice—this message once gave modernity its strength. If one reads what Brecht, Benn, and their generation did, thought, believed and wrote, one learns to distrust one’s own inner voice, which is also the voice of their poems. This voice is now broken, this voice which attracts and x destroys, this song of the sirens which still pursues us.
Source: Frank Schirrmacher, “Der Gesang der Sirenen: Vor vierzig Jahren starben Gottfried Benn and Bertolt Brecht” [The Song of the Sirens: Forty years ago both Gottfried Benn and Bertolt Brecht died)], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 14, 1996.

Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe

Romania: On the Hard Road to Normalcy
The theme of the Leipzig book fair this spring was Romania. The fair’s highlight was a speech by the philosopher and Romanian foreign minister on security, Andrei Plesu, who with his brilliant rhetoric and sovereign manner seemed to capture an audience more quickly than the books exhibited. fter two dictatorships and the repressive government of president Illiescu, the situation has begun to change since 1996. The feeling that Romania— although surrounded by Slavonic countries—really belongs to the West because of its romance language has had its effects, too, on the selfimage of the country. Romanians believe that it is part of their self-image to believe that there is no other country in the world so concerned about the image other countries have of it. The progress of the work of the team preparing the Romanian country pavilion at the Leipzig book fair was therefore attentively followed by the Romanian Press; the cultural weekly Dilemma even devoted a special issue to it. The book fair was seen as a singular opportunity to disseminate some information about Romania which went beyond typical clichés. The secretary of culture provided financial support for the translations into German and English of Romanian works of literature and history. Much of this help goes into the translation of classical Romanian writers. The situation of the young Romanian authors is still difficult. They not only have to compete with a flood of translations from English and Western European languages, but also the legal protection of authors’ rights has just been introduced although it is not yet fully implemented. A high inflation rate has raised book prices to forbidding heights, and Romanian literature is only published in small press runs by the more than 2,000 publishing houses, only thirty of which are represented in the publishers’ association. Besides translations, the most successful genre are essay collections of Romanian essayists and cultural journalists; these provide access to the cultural journals which are too expensive to buy. In these volumes of collected essays, the huge battles about the identity of Romania can be followed. Outside Romania famous Romanian writers are almost exclusively emigrants, many of whom are not even identified as Romanians by the reading public in the West. Some of the Romanian writers and critics living in Germany have recently taken on a mediator’s role, which may prove quite helpful. But, as Andrei Plesu says, mentalities change slowly and the country has only just made a start. Under Ceaucescu, once a year each writer had to type a page from one of Ceaucescu’s talks and bring it to the police together with his typewriter to get a permit allowing him to use his typewriters during the next twelve months. That is, perhaps, part of the explanation as to why Ro-mania did not have a Samisdat literature. It is in the nature of books that they open the pass to other books. Contrary to the nature of books, Romania has long been a country in which the attempt was made to make only one book the sole text, the sole inhabitant of souls and libraries. Normalcy is now gradually returning. But, as Plesu said, in Leipzig there still were also all the unwritten books of those who had lost all courage to write or who had died in prison before they could give what they could have given. Now some writers have become publishers and some parliamentarians or, like Plesu, foreign ministers. Until a new political class develops, Romanian intellectuals feel obliged to take on political responsibilities. This has at least two advantages: The Romanian intellectuals do not take themselves too seriously, and they feel bound by x ethical values. —MB
Sources: Joseph Croitoru, “Nachdenken übers uneinige Land: Auf dem schwierigen Weg in die Normalität” [Thinking about the divisions in the country: On the hard road to normalcy], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 24, 1998. Andrei Plesu, “Die Überlebenden: Aus Andrei Plesus Rede zur Eröffnung der Leipziger Buchmesse” [The survivors: Excerpt from Andrei Plesu’s talk at the opening of the Leipzig book fair] Der Tagesspiegel, March 28, 1998. “Wir tun alles, um uns der Welt zu öffnen.” [We do everything possible, to open up to the world] (An interview with Andrei Plesu), Der Tagesspiegel, March 28, 1998.



Reports from Germany and Eastern Europe

A Mismanaged Cultural Transmission
Through its English edition the Budapest Review of Books, “a critical quarterly of the social sciences” edited by Gábor Klanizay and Zsófia Zachár, wants “to make the debates within the Budapest intellectual milieu accessible outside it.” It is a product of the Hungarian book market where, because of cut-throat competition, one third of over 3,000 newly founded private book publishing firms have collapsed; the rest publish over 8,000 titles a year, although some have a print run of only 500 copies. hat happens to a well known English introductory sociology textbook when it crosses the British Channel and the Hungarian border? Jósef Böröcz discusses this question in a review of Anthony Giddens’s Szociológia (Budapest, 1995). This is one of two textbooks on this theme in the Hungarian market (the other is by the Hungarian sociologist Rudolf Andorka). Böröcz finds transmogrification of the material presented “into a distinct sociological situation comedy.” From the few passages on Hungary and Eastern Europe in this book, the Hungarian student will learn that “‘Eastern Europe’ is one and indivisible”, that Central Europe does not exist, and that there is hardly anything the British or North American student needs to know about Central Europe in order to pass Giddens’s exam. He will be able to infer by implication from the almost complete lack of references for the remarks on Eastern Europe that it has “not been the subject of systematic, reliable, professionally acceptable social scientific scrutiny, not even in the purely descriptive sense.”. What is the Hungarian student supposed to do? Forget what he knows better or echo Kundera’s “Life is elsewhere?” Böröcz focuses his review “on the two components of this daring act of scholarly recontextualization.” First he considers “how the text fits into its original context; second, ”he relates “some ironies as they emerge as Giddens, this stranger”—an expression derived from Simmel—“ambles through the wild, wild world of Hungarians today.” Looking from Hungary at Giddens’ sociology within the English context he finds in it some of the defects: Sociology as a discipline was tainted with [?] by its founding condition. “In this regard, the main responsibility of today’s sociologists is to understand our discipline as a selective self-reflection of western European modernity and to try to overcome this defect of birth.”x Source: Jósef Böröcz: “Sociology is Elsewhere,” Budapest Review of Books, English edition, Fall 1997.


Out of a Time Warp



ngland, the Blair government has decided, has an image problem: it is seen as a frump, as rooted in the past, and too bound to tradition. Besides, the U.S. is claiming the twenty-first century as the American century because of its information industries and telecommunications. The New Britain cannot allow all these to go unchallenged. Thus, says the Blair government—in considering a Panel 2000—England needs to be “rebranded” and sold in a high-gloss campaign to display its new vigorous and vibrant energy. The effort is described by John Lloyd in the New Statesman: The inspiration for re-branding comes from constituencies new Labour has made its own (the cynical would say the constituencies made new Labour). These are the advertising world; the new think-tanks; and the consultancies, design agencies, creative business and architectural practices, which now arrange and plan and mount so many of the events and projects and diversions of our life and, in doing so, mobilize a promiscuous profusion of insights culled from academia: modern fiction, media studies, tabloids, advertising, focus groups, the cinema, and religion. The summation of this work came in a report last September by Mark Leonard for the Demos think-tank, whose director is Geoff Mulgan, an adviser to the Prime Minister. His report was an extraordinarily effective blend of what had gone before, of the cool with the patriotic, a clear-eyed concentration on strengths defined in glowing terms, while insisting that these were different from the negative images of pride and arrogance. “A gulf,” wrote Leonard, “has opened up between the reality of Britain as a highly creative and diverse society and the perception round the world that Britain remains a backward-looking island immersed in its heritage.” This effort to project Britain by stripping it of some of its traditional symbols is now well advanced; its most recent indicator is British Airways’s dropping of the national colors from the tail of its planes—to the distress of Lady Thatcher—in favor of the cool, anti-establishment Virgin Airlines brand of Richard Branson. None of the reports mention the flushed exuberance of Carnaby Street and Fulham Road in the 1970s, which projected the image of Britain as a swinging society, a scene flaunted by Michelangelo Antonioni in his film Blow-up. Like the model Twiggy, that might be too thin and quirky. As Lloyd, however, concludes, “Rebranding Britain is serious business, and will become more so as other countries hit back with their version of modernity. We approach an era of global image wars—which is better than the real thing, of course.”
Source: John Lloyd, “Cool Britannia Warms Up,” New Statesman, March 13, 1998.


Reports from Japan

The Paradoxical Sense of Transience
In Japan, Saigo no Shogun [The Last Shogun], a novel by the late Ryotaro Shiba, has been made into a year-long television drama and is scheduled to be published in English this spring. Although Shiba has an enormous following in Japan, he is little known abroad. Masakazu Yamazaki attributes this to other cultures’ inability to relate to the Japanese “paradoxical sense of transience.”
s the twentieth century draws to a close, the phrase “the end” is being used to characterize a great variety of turning points. Starting with “the end of the cold war” and “the end of history,” people sometimes even speak of growing cosmopolitanism as the loss of national boundaries, that is, the beginning of “the end of nationhood.” In his delineation of historical turning points, the novelist Ryotaro Shiba focuses on the ends of eras. The awareness that human lives and eras have ends lays bare the fundamental truths of human existence. People who feel that turning points mark the beginning of eras set up illustrious goals and live under their influence, whereas those who see the same turning points as the end of eras display a dispassionate spirit that is not moved by the illusions of the times. Tokugawa Yoshinobu, as depicted in The Last Shogun, typifies the character of a figure who is conscious of the final phase of an era. Yoshinobu, the last shogun in the Tokugawa dynasty’s 250-year rule, contributed to one of Japan’s great turning points when he transferred administrative power to the Meiji government in 1868. By nature, Yoshinobu lacked ambition. His immensely ambitious father had great hopes for him, but Yoshinobu, at the mercy of other people’s excessive drive, was, like Hamlet, incapable of what might be called an irrational passion for action. Yet, Yoshinobu was bright and intelligent. At a time when Japanese ideology was being rent asunder, he was able to understand the emperor-centered philosophy and advocated the restoration of imperial rule and the concept of the nationstate grounded in modern Western thought. A person with internal motivation, such as a desire to be freed of suppression or dissatisfaction, can easily choose an ideology. But Yoshinobu had no such motivation, and because of his intelligence, he was unable to make himself a follower of any school of thought. Most importantly, however, he was a man of many talents who was never bored. Conversely, this meant that he could never become enthusiastic about anything in particular. People who lack a sense of purpose have no need to attach meaning to their actions and so make no distinction between major and minor matters. Moreover, because they do not envision a future into which they should plunge themselves, they completely immerse themselves in the present. I have called this attitude a “paradoxical sense of transience.” A sense of transience means not only that a person sees everything in the world as


impermanent, but also that the individual is unable to discern an ultimate purpose in the world and in life. Incompetent people who have this sense degenerate into nihilism; capable individuals who have it, however, possess a fundamental certainty that makes them put everything into the here and now. Japan has the tradition of this sense of transience. One may say, in fact, that transience is distinguished from the transcendental, which underlies much of Western thought. Their victory in the Russo-Japanese War at the end of the Meiji Period, for example, meant for many Japanese intellectuals the end of a shared sense of national purpose since they had attained their purpose: the establishment of Japan as a respectable modern state. Consciously or unconsciously, the Japanese began to realize that what they had thought to be a national identity was merely an illusion. One way out of the uncertainty caused by a lack of a sense of purpose is aestheticism. This aestheticism is found in novels of Junichiro Tanizaki and Yasunari Kawabata whose characters live only in the present. Western literature also has many similar figures who express a feeling of impermanence. But based upon the same sense of transience, there are also people who, paradoxically, live more actively than idealists. The novelist Ogai Mori wrote stories at the end of Meiji period in which people do their daily boring, useless jobs with impeccable efficiency and diligence, but still see themselves as others view them. While Western culture has many figures who express a feeling of impermanence, there are few in modern times who exhibit this paradoxical sense of transience and live more actively than idealists. Because this paradoxical sense of transience has been difficult for people in other cultures to understand, Shiba’s novels have not been introduced abroad. Throughout the world, ideologies providing people with a facile sense of purpose are breaking down, and the inclination to look at eras in their final phase is beginning to gain acceptance. The paradoxical sense of transience that has its beginnings in Japan may attain larger understanding in the next century. Just as perhaps the great Ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the Edo period—the prints of the “floating world”—have found widespread acceptance in the West today, Shiba’s novels may be recorded among the world’s great literary works. x —MT
Source: Masakazu Yamazaki, “Jidai o Owari No So de Miru, [Looking at eras in their final phase],” Shokun, February 1998.


Reports from Japan

A Fresh Wind in Japanese Film
Born in 1944, Saburo Kawamoto has commented widely on topics including film, literature, and urban culture. In this look at the world of film, he notes that although the Japanese market is flooded with foreign productions, Japanese movies have not seen a drop in quality. This is evidenced by the popularity enjoyed by Masayuki Suo’s Shall We Dance? following its release in New York. Independent films produced by small companies have in recent years reached new heights of excellence. What are some of the characteristics of these films?
apan has its share of large, long-established film studios, but in recent years smaller-studio independent productions—or “indies,” as they are called in the United States—have attracted attention with their quality. Independent films are a powerful expression of the individuality and will of the director, and are well-received at foreign film festivals. Last year’s festival at Cannes saw two Japanese films receive laurels: Shohei Imamura’s Unagi [The Eel] took one of two Golden Palms awarded, and Naomi Kawase won a Golden Camera, a prize for cinematography given to a first-time director, for her Moe no Suzaku [Suzaku]. Also in 1997, Takeshi Kitano won the Venice International Film Festival’s Golden Lion grand prize for his Hana-bi, and Jun Ichikawa took the director’s prize at the Montreal World Film Festival for his work, Tokyo Yakyoku [Tokyo Lullaby]. Suzaku tells the tale of one family, set against the backdrop of a village in the mountains near Nara. The word “suzaku” refers to one of four Chinese gods, and the film’s title suggests a “verdant village under the god’s protection.” The village in question is populated mainly by the elderly left behind as the forestry industry stagnates; the father of the family depicted in the film has lost his job and watches his very existence wither away. The movie, however, is no overbearing socialist piece with rural depopulation and the decay of the family as its main themes. Instead, Suzaku takes an intimate approach to the villagers and paints a careful, tender picture of life in their hamlet. One of the more touching scenes in the film depicts an elderly neighbor bidding farewell to the village where he has lived all his life before he enters a nursing home. This sort of scene can easily be overdone, but Kawase chooses a cool, quotidian portrayal. Both the person heading for the nursing home and the people seeing him off are elderly; they merely look at one another and bow deeply. The viewer is astonished by the depth of this form of goodbye: Has a bow ever seemed so beautiful, so much more eloquent than words? Born in 1969, Naomi Kawase is a young director, who displays a calm style that places great importance on form. She does not ask her cast for exaggerated performances, avoids brash music for her soundtracks, and pares spoken lines to a minimum. Instead she tells her story through the poetic language of the sound of the wind, the light of the sun, and the green of the trees. She has created a movie of “quiet”—a trait shared by many of the independent films of recent years. In Kitano’s Hana-bi, the director himself plays the main character, a police detective, who—like his wife—scarcely utters a word throughout the film. But this does not keep the couple’s love from coming across very clearly. The lead in


Imamura’s The Eel, too, is silent as he plays a hermit after his release from prison, where he had been incarcerated for killing his adulterous wife. The influence of the old masters—Yasujiro Ozu and his contemporaries—looms large behind all these “quiet” movies. If the 1980s were a raucous era, both economically and culturally, then the 1990s may well be an era of stillness. This definition recognizes speech as but one form of self-expression and is also a reaction to the blaring noise of omnipresent video games. But there remains one gaping difference between the era of Ozu and the other giants of film and today: society has grown infantile. There are no adults any more. In the present era, behavior has become superficial, and attitudes lack dignity and authority. It is the adult atmosphere found in older Japanese films that Jun Ichikawa and the other new directors are trying to bring back in their works. Ichikawa in particular selects subdued themes for his films; through his directing style, devoid of flashiness, he creates a changeless backdrop for his tales that allow the viewer to breathe the air of a more mature era. While the booming bubble economy of the 1980s saw an emphasis placed on constant change, in this decade—now that the bubble has burst—film creators have come to reject that protean time. The recent wave of independent films places a high value on the quality of changelessness. Ichikawa’s Tokyo Lullaby is set in an old shopping district at the edge of a newly developed area of town. Similarly, the detective in Hana-bi takes his dying wife on trips to quintessentially Japanese vacation spots like the foothills of Mt. Fuji and the old city of Kamakura. Japan’s society has become urbanized at an incredible rate, and true interpersonal communication is now infrequent and shallow. As individuals seek some way to connect themselves with new urban communities, they look to the unchanging scenes present within a constantly changing Japan. They can reuse aspects of the past in their attempt to restore the individual. The adult, as portrayed by Ichikawa, is a polar opposite of the lone individual locked within the context of the city. Tokyo Lullaby depicts an adulterous, triangular relationship, but the three players are all fully mature adults acting against a backdrop of changelessness; this brings a miraculous sense of harmony to their overall relationship. One final common characteristic found in the new independent films becomes clear when a family is depicted. One member of the family—a parent or a child, a husband or a wife— vanishes during the course of the movie. The “disappearing wife” is seen most often. The husband, however, does not come directly to grips with the fact that his wife is vanishing; he merely watches her go. All that remains in the end is the


Reports from Japan
memory of the time they spent together. In Federico Fellini’s last film, La Voce della Luna (1990), there is a line that goes “to live is to remember.” This describes perfectly the thoughts of a husband as he watches his wife vanish. Reality is transformed into something evanescent, and memory becomes the true reality. Taking this construct even further, this memory may not even be true, but may instead be a recollection of a past that should have been. The question is how to perceive this reversal of reality and memory. Is it to be labeled a sort of fin-de-siècle illness? Or is memory itself a new community for the people of the modern age—to be affirmed as a means to recreate the individual? x —MT
Source: Saburo Kawamoto, “Nippon Eiga no Atarashii Kaze” (A Fresh Wind in Japanese Film), Asteion, Spring 1998.

“Furusato”—Sociology of Remembrance
Born in 1949 in Osaka, Ryuzo Uchida studied at Kyoto University and the University of Tokyo, spent some time at Yale University, and currently teaches at the Tokyo University. A sociologist specializing in modern societal theory and media issues, he notes in this essay that the concept of furusato, the nostalgic rural “home” which repeatedly appeared in songs sung at schools, from the 1868 Meiji Restoration onward, does not so much refer to a particular place as to an abstract notion that can be at once everywhere and nowhere. This, he says, has subtly colored the outlook of those who live in cities, where human relations tend to anonymity. he recently fashionable philosophical debate on “the politics of memory” seems to have arrived at a dead end. The “politics of memory” movement is concerned with exposing the various hidden political aspects of the process whereby collective memories and traditions have been built up historically to construct, strengthen, and maintain the identity of a modern state and society. It is certainly true that “memory” as a form of collective mentality has served as a concealed emotional wellspring in the construct of the nation-state, and even as a force behind an exclusive and malicious racism. But within this kind of construct, the role of memory has in fact tended to be minimized. The domain of memory must be subjectified not on the level of the kind of political symbolism and imagery involved in the creation of the nation-state, but as something created from within, grounded in human perception and perspectives, and given concrete depth by various mechanistic relationships. To exemplify this “mass memory” in Japan, Uchida analyzes the songs of the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras (the three periods named for emperors from the late nineteenth-century to the postwar periods), in particular those known as “Education Ministry Songs,” which were supposedly those most steeped in political rhetoric. The songs prescribed by the Education Ministry have often been the subject of controversy, since they are a characteristic medium for imparting state ideology to students. This is true but looking beyond the surface func-

tions of the songs, one can also find them as expressing something of society’s unconscious impulses, and at the same time feels that the societal factors underpinning these impulses must also be understood. A good example is the old and universally known Japanese song “Furusato” [“My Old Home”], an archetypal Education Ministry’s approved song. In this song, which appears to ring with emotion, no particular “home” is specified; the words refer only to “this mountain” or “that river,” so that a general, abstract symbol of furusato is created that can be applied anywhere. The effect is to erase the differences between and individuality of villages in a process of generalization. By proposing a sense of lost furusato that is everywhere and nowhere, this song generates a reproducible image that can fill the abstract void that has formed within society. This empty, abstract space defies all perspective and is thus capable of relativizing even the “space” of the nation; it cannot be confined to the tiny framework of the nation-state. The formation of a new kind of perception was made possible by technological innovation. Even if the song “Furusato” served as a means of social mobilization of the masses, it was not simply mobilization at the ideological level geared to particular political goals and the ancient community mentality. It was a renascent expression of social sensitivity among people who, in relating not so much to the state as to capitalism, had x lost a basis for their existence. —KW
Source: Ryuzo Uchida, “Furusato no Kioku [Memories of Home]”, Daikokai, No. 20, 1998.


The New Japanese Literature
Born in 1954, Mitsuyoshi Numano graduated from Tokyo University and studied at Harvard University. He currently combines teaching activities at his alma mater with his role as a translator of contemporary Russian and Polish literature. He analyzes the significance of writing literary works in Japanese, which is a minor language from the international perspective. he environment for Japanese literature is changing dramatically. A significant number of non-Japanese have a deeper knowledge of Japanese culture than most Japanese, and there are even foreign authors who write novels in Japanese. Conversely, there are also Japanese authors who have crossed Japan’s linguistic and cultural borders to write in other languages. This is reflected in the emergence of a new tendency to view Japanese literature not as a unique phenomenon isolated from world literature, but rather as part of world literature. This transition in Japanese literature is symbolized by the Nobel Prize acceptance speeches of Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburo Oe, which were separated by an interval of twenty-six years. Kawabata’s 1968 Nobel Prize was awarded for his Japanese aesthetics, so different from those of the West. This is clearly expressed in the title of his acceptance speech: “Japan, the Beautiful, and Myself.” The title of Oe’s 1994 speech was “Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself.” By this he meant that the



Reports from Japan
essential task of Japanese writers was not to discover a “beautiful Japan” with which they could identify, but rather to create a literature that would be open to the rest of world by recognizing the ambiguity of their own standpoints. As has been suggested by Oe in his sympathetic comments on the works of Milan Kundera, a Czech writer who defected to France, a work written in a minor regional language can have greater universal power than works written for distribution in more widely spoken languages. Oe has certainly demonstrated this fundamental paradox of language and literature in his works. Another writer who deserves recognition in relation to the international characteristics of Japanese literature is Kobo Abe, whose works seem to have no nationality. Abe’s dislike of tradition and his foresight—including his early interest in Creole—should be fully recognized today, now that we have gone beyond criticism of Orientalism and deconstruction. Interestingly, the global scope of Abe’s work has been inherited in the context of Japanese literature by foreign writers who are skilled in Japanese, such as Hideo Levy and David Zappetti. The emergence of writers who were not born Japanese but write in Japanese has, according to Levy, destroyed the modern myth that Japan has maintained a monolithic identity of race, culture, and language. It has also released Japan from the bonds of the ethnic homogeneity ideology. Levy is constantly aware of the distance between classical and modern, America and Japan, and he has honed his Japanese through the practical use of language across these distances. In this way, he has also provided the Japanese with a dramatic new power. Swiss-born Zappetti has created a literary world in which he recasts the literature of Junichiro Tanizaki in a modern context in the style of Haruki Murakami. Instead of simply lapsing into Japanese lyricism, he is seeking to transcend one border after another. He has demonstrated the potential to create new a literary style not despite being a foreigner, but because of it. At the other extreme from Levy and Zappetti are Minae Mizumura, who writes bilingual novels in Japanese and English, and Yoko Tawada, who writes in both Japanese and German. Mizumura’s unique novels have Japanese mingled with English in lines that run from left to right. (Japanese is normally written in vertical lines.) Mizumura lived in American society for about 20 years from her teens onwards. During that time she expanded her imaginings about Japan until she became more fascinated with things Japanese than Japanese living in Japan. By writing about the gulf between her imagined Japan and the real thing, she has created a remarkable mechanism for commenting indirectly on contemporary Japan. Tawada has written fantasy novels that are deeply imbued with elements of Japanese folklore, as well as numerous stories about searching for one’s self when in danger of falling headlong into a foreign culture. Her Kakato o Nakushite (Losing My Heels) won the 1991 Gunzo Literary Prize for New Writers. Her elegant style, rich with unique physiological perceptions, perfectly matches her uncertain identity. When we look back over world literature in the twentieth century, it becomes apparent that a significant number of writers have worked across multiple ethnic groups and used multiple languages. Examples include Samuel Beckett, Joseph Brodsky, Elias Canetti, Milan Kundera, Vladimir Nabokov, and Salman Rushdie. In the manner of these cross-border authors, Levy, Zappetti, Mizumura, and Tawada are releasing the people of Japan from the Japanese framework, or releasing foreign readers from the preconceived notion of the exotic beauty of the orient. In this way, they are exploring paths to x link Japanese literature with world literature. —KW
Source: Mitsuyoshi Numano, “Sekai no Naka no Nippon Bungaku: Arata na Aidentiti o Motomete” (Japanese Literature in a Global Context: Seeking a New Identity), Asteion, Summer 1998.

Su Tong and the New Writing in China
The young pace-setters of the contemporary Chinese literary scene have broken new ground with their nonideological ethnicity and their boldly experimental use of language. Zhang Jing, a scholar of comparative literature and culture, singles out Su Tong’s work 1934 nian di taowang [1934 Escapes] for special praise. Born in China in 1953, Zhang came to Japan in 1985, earning his doctorate at the University of Tokyo. He currently teaches at Kokugakuin University. n the mid-1980s a group of highly talented young writers jolted the Chinese literary scene with works marked by startlingly original story lines and language. Written in a florid style that breaks violently with the past, these novels captivate readers with their half-realistic, half-fantastic stories born of the authors’ fertile imagination. The works of these young writers opened up a new realm of language, utterly different from the tradition that had prevailed since Lu Xun, and launched what amounted to a rebellion against modern literature. Members of the generation that lived through the Cultural Revolution found it extremely difficult to throw off the shackles of ideology, but these younger writers easily crossed that hurdle and were able to approach literature as an isolated linguistic phenomenon. Free from ideological fetters, they were able to pour all their energies into constructing highly original linguistic worlds. Another factor in the development of their literature was the pronounced influence of modern Latin American literature. These writers found that they had much more in common with Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges than with Marcel Proust or James Joyce. Their spiritual dialogue and communion of sensibilities with these Latin American contemporaries helped them to discover the rich literary possibilities of matters close to home and thus to open up new territory in subject matter and develop a more deeply expressive style. One of the most brilliant of these young writers is Su Tong. His 1934 Escapes is a masterpiece that has secured a permanent place in the history of contemporary literature. The story concerns an ordinary peasant household and relates their births and partings, their joys and sorrows. The protagonist



Reports from Japan
Shen Baonian, the narrator’s grandfather, marries a woman named Jiang, but then flees the village, claiming that his new wife is destined to bring ill luck to those around her. In town, he builds a profitable business making bamboo utensils. Hearing of his success, the other men of the village follow suit and leave their homes, and Shen Baonian’s eldest son begins an apprenticeship under his father. When the protagonist’s mistress Huanzi becomes pregnant, however, he sends her to live with his wife. Huanzi has a miscarriage, whereupon she disappears with Jiang’s one remaining child, the father of the narrator. Shen Baonian is eventually caught in a trap laid by his employees, falls ill, and dies. Throughout this narrative the author interweaves scenes with hidden import—a mysterious death in the home of a wealthy man, the spread of an epidemic, the divinations of a sorcerer, stolen glimpses of sexual liaisons—and the story gradually falls into place like the pieces of a puzzle. One superb feature of the book is the shifting time frame of the narrator, who speaks both as a contemporary of the reader and from the standpoint of one who directly witnessed events that occurred in the past. When he “witnesses” his own father’s birth and his grandfather’s liaisons, his vantage point is on a plane with the characters involved; his is by no means the omniscient, omnipotent God’s-eye view narrators so often adopt. The unique world of the novel springs from the intertwining of these two space-time frameworks. Sustaining this world is a highly refined literary style that leaves a powerful impression on the reader. Su Tong restructures and transmutes accepted modes of expression in a perilous and pathfinding experiment that instantly expands the expressive possibilities of contemporary Chinese. In addition to its richly poetic style, the novel is notable for its subject matter. Chinese fiction was long burdened by the obligation, imposed by the political circumstances in which it arose, to treat subject matter appropriate to the ideology it espoused. Until recently, modern Chinese novels tended to adhere to a simple formula of justice fighting villainy, prosperity against poverty, oppression versus resistance, and so forth. Even when they focused on an earlier historical era, as 1934 Escapes does, they tended to be consciously retrogressive or nostalgic. Su Tong’s writing, however, never lapses into ideological didacticism. 1934 Escapes is set in a peasant village sixty years ago for this reason: In order to grasp the present in its raw, naked form, we need to focus our attention on our primitive customs—our forgotten experiences and culture—in all their varied manifestations. Centering on a mysterious curse, the story drifts among folk customs, superstitions, and accidental occurances, and in the process highlights the raw conflict and struggle of human life. The indomitable spirit of people living amid the squalor and ugliness of the pre-modern era, the futility of human works when in the end we find ourselves powerless despite all our efforts to live heroically—to shed light on such themes, the author reveals to the reader, through vivid use of language, the mystery of folk beliefs and the ethnic essence of a people. Rejecting the kind of “absolute truth” or ideology that can accept the existence of only one reality and working in a literary dimension utterly different from that of their predecessors, Su Tong and his contemporaries have used the native ethnic mentality of a people to probe and portray the sources of contemporary humanity’s spiritual drift at the deepest levels of the psyche. That is why their works connect with the raw passions of contemporary readers and leave a deep and x lasting impression. —MT
Source: Zhang Jing, “Toki Hanatareta Minzoku no Sozoryoku, [The Ethnic Imagination Set Free]”, Asteion, Spring 1998.


Big, Big Brother
ou probably have never heard of the Axicom Corp., a giant information service tucked near the rolling Ozark foothills in Arkansas. But chances are that Axicom knows quite a lot about you. Twenty-four hours a day, Axicom electronically gathers and sorts information about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions. Telephone numbers and real estate records. Car registrations and fishing licenses. Customer surveys and demographic details. Axicom can determine whether you own a dog or a cat, enjoy camping, read the Bible or lots of other books. It can pinpoint your occupation, the car you drive, your favorite vacations. And by analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card and who is unlikely to buy a personal computer. What Axicom does is perfectly legal—bringing together an array of facts from scattered sources. The practice is known as “data warehousing” or “data mining.” In a flash, data warehouses can assemble electronic dossiers that give marketers, insurers, and, in some cases, law enforcement officers a comprehensive look into the needs, life-style, and spending habits of individuals. The number of data warehouses, large and small, using faster computers and the Internet, now exceeds 1,000— a ten-fold increase in five years. These include retailers such as Sears, Roebuck, gift shop firms such as Hallmark Cards, and insurance companies such as All State. And there are the information service companies such as Metromail and R.L. Polk, but few are as large as or as powerful as Axicom. Firms like Axicom are under few obligations to divulge their files to consumers. So this explosion of data warehousing has sharpened the ethical, legal, and political questions about an individual’s right to privacy in an increasingly “open” society
Source: Washington Post Weekly Edition, March 23, 1998.



Transatlantic Poetry

Adam Zagajewski: From History to Mysticism
n the title poem of a new volume by the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski, Mysticism for Beginners, the author takes us to an Italian hill town, Montepulciano in Tuscany, where among the quiet beauty of the place (“the dusk erasing the outlines of medieval houses,”) he confesses his belief that the world given to our senses may not be all there is, that all this: and any journey, any kind of trip, are only mysticism for beginners, the elementary course, prelude to a test that’s been postponed The phrase “mysticism for beginners,” comes from the cover of a book on the lap of a German tourist, ironically, perhaps another New Age guide “higher spiritual awareness.” The contrast between the serious, straightfoward declaration of a mystical premise and the ironic trivialized context in which the word “mysticism” appears, writes Jaroslaw Anders, point to the central question of Zagajewski’s poetry in a culture in which ideas of mystery and mysticism are most likely associated with The X-files or The Celestine Prophecy. Or, to reverse the question: Can serious poetry survive without mystery and ecstasy; can it be sustained by irony alone, which the poet in “Long Afternoons”calls, “the gaze/that sees but doesn’t penetrate.” This is the question that is now the resting point for a poet who began with politics and history, during a condition of


struggle, and found that realm empty as the ground for poetry. Zagajewski was born in Lvov in 1945 and emerged as one of the leading voices of Solidarity in 1974 with the publication of The Unrepresented World, a critical manifesto which, as Stanislaw Baranczak wrote in The New Republic “stirred up one of the greatest controversies in postwar Polish culture” by attacking those who fled from politics in their writing and did not join him and a kindred group of young writers in their ironic defiance, their weapons of choice, in exposing ideological rant. Zagajewski espoused what he called “critical realism,” a theme which became the manifesto of the group. Yet Zagajewski parted ways—poetically, not politically— with his friends. As he wrote later, cultural struggle against a collectivist idea tends to impose a rigidity of its own.“ To be a Pole,” he wrote, “to participate in the work of Polish literature, is practically the same as becoming a member of a religious order with very strict rules.” Zagajewski left for Paris, where he has lived to this day. In this flight from a politically engaged view of poetry, indeed, the antinomy between politics and poetry, or between history and art, or between the collective and the private, as Adam Kirsch has remarked, has been the main burden of his mature work. These concerns are pronounced in his book Solidarity/ Solitude, a collection of essays that appeared in 1990. Solidarity, here, is the political movement, solitude the retreat

Robert Pinsky: Poetry “Soaked in the Cells of Life”


obert Pinsky is the Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress, the ninth in that designation since the appointment of Robert Penn Warren in 1986. (Previously, poets were called consultants and included Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Robert Lowell, and Elizabeth Bishop.) The effort is to raise the public awareness of poetry and give it a new status in American life. Pinsky may be the first, however, to lead poetry in a different direction from his predecessors. He is, as Cal Bedient has observed, “of a generation that exposed the arbitrariness of both tradition and rebellion,” and so seeks to establish new poetic forms. He also believes that poetry is appreciated best when read aloud because the act “engages the mind and body in a genetically primary sensation that involves a column of air in the trunk and the production of syllables,” a sensation that “causes comfort and alertness.” So he has initiated a set of public performances including his own reading of poems on the Public Broadcasting System for ceremonial and other occasions. And he is sufficiently intrigued with technology and digital culture to serve as the poetry editor of the weekly Internet magazine Slate, while continuing to teach at Boston University. Yet Pinsky is far from the populist street vendor of blank verse while jingling rings on his toes. He is a poet’s poet with a mastery of complex, technical modes, with a freedom and

fluidity that has brought him the approbation of his peers. The author of five books of poetry, Pinsky came to the attention of a wider literate audience with a stunning verse translation of Dante’s Inferno in 1994. Translating Dante is the most difficult challenge for a major poet. The speech is simple and direct yet has the weight of gravitas. The verse form is the terza rima which Dante invented, a set of interlinked lines that control the rhyme sequences and gives the narrative a strong forward sweep. What Pinsky did, as Bernard Knox pointed out (in the New York Review of Books) was to preserve Dante’s pattern through the systematic use of rhyme by the same consonant sounds—however much the vowels differed. It was a method drawn from Yeats, “a master of such consonantal rhymes.” Thus, Pinsky created such rhymes as swans/stones rather than the “hard rhyme” but full combination as bones/stones. It was an outcome that created a freshness and rhythm in a contemporaneous expression, yet maintaining a sense of the original narrative form. (And since Pinsky wants poetry to be read aloud, he has recently written a “theatrical” version of the Inferno with different voices speaking the anguished laments in the cantos.) This reworking of forms to “soak in the cells of life,” (to use the phrase of Cal Bedient) characterizes Pinsky’s latest collection, The Figured Wheel. And it is the thread of an extended


Transatlantic Poetry
to the world of epiphanous experience. He acknowledges the force of that “piercing sense of community..that half legendary country of Poland..all that is social, common and collective.” Yet, “not everything belonged to everybody…we also experience things which social groups will never know.” His writing, again, is an attempt to diagnose the deformities of a poetry under too much public pressure, a poetry that feels a duty to participate in politics. Poetry, then, becomes a calling in a zone of solitude, of “immobility which is necessary for writing perfectly achieved poetry.” This is the background, then, for the turn to mysticism. But it is not a mysticism of a doctrine or a system of a single truth. He is, as Adam Kirsch writes, paradoxically “a mystic poet of the liberal imagination,” seeking to catch the elusive moments between an ecstasy that is more intellectual than emotional or spiritual, and an irony that is more emotional than detached. It is the “sensuous apprehension of thought,” which T.S. Eliot once praised as the true measure of poetic achievement. As Jaroslaw Anders concludes: Zagajewski is…a very modern mystic, one who realizes that the mystical pursuit is essentially a contradictory one: Endless postponing of the ‘test’ as the title poem suggests, is often a part of the course. It is his mixture of skepticism and passion that makes him one of the most interesting poets of his generation writing in any language.
Sources: Jaroslaw Anders, L. A. Times Book Review, Feb. 1, 1998. Adam Kirsch, The New Republic, March 23, 1998. Edward Hirsch, essay introducing six poems by Zagajewski, Doubletake, Fall 1997.

Mysticism for Beginners by Adam Zagajewski The day was mild, the light was generous. The German on the cafe terrace held a small book on his lap. I caught sight of the title: Mysticism for Beginners. Suddenly I understood that the swallows patrolling the streets of Montepulciano with their shrill whistles, and the hushed talk of timid travelers from Eastern, so-called Central Europe, and the white herons standing-yesterday? the day before?like nuns in a field of rice, and the dusk, slow and systematic, erasing the outlines of medieval houses, and olive trees on little hills, abandoned to the wind and heat, and the head of the Unknown Princess that I saw and admired in the Louvre, and stained-glass windows like butterfly wings sprinkled with pollen, and the little nightingale practicing its speech beside the highway, and any journey, any kind of a trip, is only mysticism for beginners, the elementary course, prelude to a test that’s been postponed.

appreciation of Pinsky’s poetry in Salmagundi. We print here extracts from Bedient’s essay leaving out some of the detailed examination of particular poems but providing an appreciation of Pinsky’s style: A typical new Pinsky poem has no address—it floats, emigrates, circles back, is unable to rest in a single interiority of substance or subject. The title of the show-stopper among the new poems, “Impossible to Tell,” underscores the near-impossibility Pinsky now finds himself in (and this is his distinction) when he writes a poem. It is the purest achievement to have come so far from all provinciality, to know the genuine complexity of the relations between the particular and the general, to know it along the tangled nerves. An extreme fluidity of form—loose or complex, meandering or braided—is peculiarly, if not solely, American. “Song of Myself” and Moby Dick remain the greatest instances. Gertrude Stein and Marianne Moore, Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery—the examples are numerous. But each new invention within the form has, of course, its own character and meaning. Pinsky’s is most like Melville’s and Whitman’s in motive, most like Melville’s in anguish—yet new. It is haunted by the limit at which the universal is deaf to everything. The poem “Voyage to the Moon” knows both the heart’s penchant for catastrophe—the richest stories have heaviness in them, grief, ruin—and that it wants, even so, for the world to “go on ending endlessly….”

In his work from The Want Bone on, Pinsky is often where the heart of Western literature itself most monsters up its richness. He has gone to the “riven hub.” His hands are on the potter’s wheel of “passions” and “misfortunes,” which, in their rapid whirl, come to have much the same feel. “Voyage to the Moon” is the sweetest of monsterings, the most entrancing expression of his Freudian realism about the realism of the heart. Climaxing its fluid interminglings of weight and flotation, rage and love, war and peace, the poem allows us at the end the simultaneous recognition of the heart’s destructiveness and its dream of happiness…. Maker and Breaker with his crown of glass In spikes like icicles, his violent paws Of metal, his many arms, his orbs and swords
Doubled like his reflection in the moat Around the palace of the Moon—where now The pair have landed with their little dog.

That spiked heaviness should have risen to the Moon is, of course, reason to expect the worst. But we knew to expect that, we “in the pack” who, when “The black captain strangles his wife,” “applaud and applaud, the sound of our hands/ In a fluttering mass around that heavy act.” Meanwhile, to have allowed the pair of lovers to reach the Moon, “with their little dog,” is an almost heart-breaking gift.
Source: Carl Bedient. Salmagundi, Fall/Winter 1997.


Criticism and a Pot of Paint

The Soaking of Clement Greenberg
n the hey-day of “abstract expressionism,” the period from the mid-1950s through the 1970s, the champion of those artists and, in consequence, the arbiter of taste in the art market was Clement Greenberg. The dominance of this style was so high, in fact, that a left-wing critic, Serge Guilbaut, charged that New York had “stolen” the crown of the art world from Paris, as a plot of American imperialism, instigated by Nelson Rockefeller and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). A strange charge in that during the first decade after World War II, MOMA had ignored the abstract expressionists in its major shows, and this had led to manifestations and the picketing of the museum by the artists. Yet it was Greenberg’s powerful assault that led to the changes in the judgements of other critics, the art dealers, and market, and finally the opening of the museums to these painters. For Greenberg, abstract expressionism was exemplified by the drip painting of Jackson Pollack, the pools of color of Mark Rothko, the monochromatic darkness of Barnett Newman. Since Pollack could not represent the external world, wrote Greenberg, he turned instead to his self. Ironically, Pollock’s style, and his flinging of the pot of paint onto the raw canvas was more attuned to the phrase “action painting,” coined by Harold Rosenberg, than to the layered impasto of Willem de Kooning, whom Rosenberg had championed. The publication this year of Clement Greenberg: A Life by Florence Rubenfeld is the first full-length biography of Greenberg since his death in 1994, though there have been critical studies of Greenberg’s criticism by Donald Kuspit, and a four volume collection of Greenberg’s writing, still ongoing, edited by John O’Brian (University of Chicago Press). These volumes have become the occasion of a set of re-appraisals of Greenberg, most notably, by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. Clement Greenberg was born in 1909 and became known as one of the first generation of “the New York intellectuals,” which included among their number Lionel Trilling, Sidney Hook, William Phillips, Philip Rahv, Harold Rosenberg, Mary McCarthy, and other of the so-called Partisan Review circle. Greenberg’s first job, before World War II, was in the Customs Service. Not so strange—such jobs were the “fate” of most of the New York intellectuals, a few of whom were instructors in colleges for long periods (Trilling was an instructor at Columbia for fourteen years before being promoted) or were supported by their wives, who were schoolteachers. Clement Greenberg started an editorial career along with Nathan Glazer on the Contemporary Jewish Record, a journal pub-


lished by the American Jewish Committee during the war, which became transmuted in 1945 as Commentary magazine, where he was joined by his younger brother Martin, a translator of Kleist and other German writers. Like many of his contemporaries, Greenberg in his early years was a Marxist, and the major focus of attack was the use of culture as a commodity. Greenberg made his first reputation with an essay, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” which appeared in the Partisan Review in 1939. This foreshadowed Dwight Macdonald’s later ridiculing of “middlebrow” culture and the inflated style which the French call pompier and Susan Sontag’s later description of “camp” which, parodying lowbrow style, becomes a badge of mockery. In turning to art criticism, Greenberg became influential first in the pages of The Nation and then, after leaving the magazine (he accused The Nation’s front section of being proStalinist), in the pages of the Partisan Review and Artforum. Greenberg has been characterized (by Marxist critics such as T.J. Clark) as a “formalist” and by Adam Gopnik of espousing a “decorative presence.” Gopnik defines this: “The most radical and most original possibility for renewal, he felt, could be found in the most decorative, feminine and complacent-seeming corners of modern art, particularly the art of Matisse and Monet.” Both views, I think are wrong—Gopnik’s wildly so. The starting point for abstraction was the realization, increasingly, of the loss of “interior distance” in painting. One sees this in Munch’s use of foreshortening, where the young girl at the edge of a bed is “pushed up” at the viewer or in Vuillard, where the patterning of the woman’s dress in the foreground repeats or is suggestive of the wallpaper in the background. Much of this is summed up in the famous phrase of Maurice Denis: “We must close the shutters.” There can no longer be “illusionist painting.” It is all on the surface. It is a theme that was explored in lectures by Meyer Schapiro (only now appearing posthumously) and that view clearly influenced Greenberg. The idea of “the decorative” as a replacement is wrong. Decoration, as Schapiro pointed out many times, though it eliminates the figurative, as in Islamic art, is repetitive and finite in its patterns and thus has no capacity for surprise. What characterizes art, he insisted, is it capacity for surprise. And this is what is evident in the paintings of Pollack or the luminosity of Rothko, which is not at all decorative. And Greenberg was not a “formalist,” if by formalism one means the exploration of an underlying structural principle


Criticism and a Pot of Paint
of a genre, as in the sonata form in music or perspective in painting. What he championed was materiality and texture, the centrality of the paint, not an image on the canvas, or later, as in the innovations of his protégé Helen Frankenthaler, the staining and soaking of unprimed canvas with paint. Greenberg did seek to trace an historical lineage for this mode of abstraction by linking this style to Monet and especially to Monet’s water lily paintings which encircled the walls of the Jeu de Paumes in Paris. As with Monet, what abstract expressionism signaled was the end of the easel painting most sought after by the nineteenth-century bourgeois collectors. Greenberg became known for his brawling style of life, a feature of celebrity often more appealing for its notoriety than for any detailed confrontation with his judgments. In his “theory,” as I have indicated, Greenberg was not original and was popularizing some of the ideas of Meyer Schapiro. Yet he did have an “eye” for particular painters. In the “first generation,” he championed Pollock, Rothko, and Newman. Their banner, he insisted, was carried on by the color-field painters such as Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis. And, as a final round, he promoted Jules Olitski and Larry Poons. Thereafter, for almost twenty years, he was silent. Abstract expressionism was overtaken by the minimalists such as Judd, Morris, and Flavin, with their spare geometric forms that come to final singularity with Sol LeWitt. The geometric forms were given roman-candle color by Frank Stella. Johns restored images, such as his flags and beer cans, but placed the stamp of materiality and impasto on his canvasses. And Andy Warhol trumped them all by combining avantgarde, kitsch, and camp in his phosphorescent silk-screen portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the epicene likeness of Mao Zedong. In the end, avant-garde art, so-called, has become the most (financially) rewarding speculation of them all. Modern harsh, atonal, or mathematical serial music finds no listeners because of its difficulty. Modern art, however, has no such problem. Avant-garde art can be sold before and after. “That’s my latest painting on the wall,” said the Duchess. And she need not x even know that it was a poem. —Daniel Bell
Sources: Florence Rubenfeld, Clement Greenberg: A Life, Scribner, 1997. Adam Gopnik, “The Power Critic,” The New Yorker, March 16, 1998.

n News From the Republic of Letters (see page 41) the art restorer Sarah Walden has persuasively subverted the conventional view of Whistler’s portrait of his mother as a Norman Rockwellish act of filial piety. In a literally eyeopening analysis of Whistler’s most famous painting (formally titled “Arrangement in Grey and Black: A Portrait of the Artist’s Mother”), Walden, who spent many months in her London studio restoring the work for the Louvre, found mystery and ambivalence in the painting rather than the filial devotion which has long been the accepted view of the


Whistler’s Mother

Mother, as she calls it. Everything about the Mother, Walden observes, “seems shrouded in uncertainty”—what the artist intended to convey and, most important, how he went about the actual transfer of vision to canvas. To begin with an obvious part of the mystery, Walden asks why this nominally all-American portrait hangs not in New York or Washington but in Paris (it was recently moved from the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay). When the Mother was first exhibited in the United States in 1881, ten years after Whistler had painted it, it caused no stir. No one wanted to look at it, much less buy it for the $1500 Whistler hoped to get. Eventually it was acquired by the French government for $1000. Yet by 1932, when the Mother came back to America, on loan from the Louvre to an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art, it had a triumphal tour and was viewed by adoring millions during the year and a half it travelled to cities all over the country. It even inspired a threecent postage stamp in honor of Mother’s Day, though the imposition of flowers on an empty corner of the original image infuriated many American artists at the time. To the ordinary American museum-goer, the painting was seen as a celebratory portrait of themselves, though in its early years it had been embraced by French aesthetes, astonishingly, as a prime example of dandyism and decadent sophistication. For Americans, much later, it was converted into “a symbol of plain, puritanical homeliness.” What Walden finds intriguing about the attitude toward the painting, among other things, is the neglect of its stylistic qualities in favor of its corny symbolism. What Walden points out is that Whistler’s painterly training had all along been erratic and inadequate. His most impressive technical effects were achieved in etching, where he could work at the tonal atmospheric variations of light and dark, black and white, that interested him the most. Because of his limited experience with oils, however, the Mother was painted on almost raw canvas, which Whistler scoured and blotted and scraped as though he were preparing the ground of an etching. On to the raw canvas he brushed highly diluted paint, which had beautiful effects initially but deteriorated in rapid order. For the restorer the problems were all but insurmountable: Yet the effects of time and air and dust have not, in Walden’s view, seriously diminished the mysterious beauty of the portrait and its style. Though most Americans insist on beholding in this familiar work only sentimental homage to the great institution of motherhood, it has for Walden a far more evocative strangeness and power and even foreshadows many aspects of twentieth-century American painting. At one point when she was doing the most limited restoration possible, the Mother, Walden tells us, found itself in her studio next to Ingres’ great portrait of Napoleon and “the pinched little widow from South Carolina held up remarkably well in this company, somehow retaining her own comx manding presence.” —PKB
Source: Sarah Walden, “Secrets of an American Masterpiece,” News from the Republic of Letters, No. 3, 1998.


The American Scene

Everybody’s Tocqueville
Many, many Europeans have visited the United States, from Mrs. Trollope to Charles Dickens to Lord Bryce, and written acidly or solidly about this country, but no one has been cited, quoted, featured, mentioned, affirmed, applauded, or claimed more widely, deeply, or broadly than Alexis de Tocqueville. Over historical time he has been hailed by the left and right and center, and all parties in between. How could this be? Professor James Kloppenberg tells us why. We abridge here his article. he first American edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America was published in 1838 with a preface written by the Whig attorney John C. Spencer who identified the multi-dimensionality of Toqueville’s analysis as one of the two reasons for the immediate flurry of interest in the book. The second reason, which John Bigelow expanded in his 1889 introduction of the reprint, was that “it was the first book written about the United States by any European of repute that was a spirit of disparagement and detraction.” In his 1995 book, Self Rule: A Cultural History of American Democracy, Robert Wiebe, cataloguing the numerous traveler’s accounts written by Europeans in the early nineteenth century, wrote that the typical portrait of Americans placed them somewhere between pigs and dogs in their appetites and habits. Toward the turn of the century, the book which had been wildly praised and widely adopted as a textbook, fell out of fashion—and out of print. The explanation was, apparently, the growing emphasis of historians and social commentators on conflict in American life, as indicated by the almost complete lack of interest in Tocqueville by the most prominent progressive historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles A. Beard. The resurgence of American interest in Tocqueville dates from the publication of George W. Pierson’s landmark study of Tocqueville and Beaumont in America in 1938 and the subsequent republication of several editions of Democracy in America in the mid- to late 1940s. This wave crested twice, initially carrying the arguments of Tocqueville’s first volume into American political discourse, then extending the subtler arguments of his second volume into broader and deeper assessments of American society and culture. Americans in the 1930s and 1940s were searching for explanations of how European democracies such as Germany and Italy could have gone so wrong and how the Soviet Union could have devolved so rapidly from a utopian experiment into a dangerous dystopia. Democracy in America seemed to offer a clue—or rather many clues. The first was Tocqueville’s warning that in the quest for equality the


voices of dissent were stifled by an oppressive conformism, and the second, the fear of an all powerful centralized government or a combination of the two that seemed ominously familiar in the 1940s. The concomitant disillusion with radicalism in the 1950s, as indicated by Daniel Bell’s book The End of Ideology, may have signaled a turning away from Marx. Whereas American thinkers in the first half of the twentieth century might have looked toward Jefferson and those embracing conflict theory in the 1930s toward Marx, a new generation looked instead to the less comforting but apparently more incisive thought of Max Weber, who made his first appearance in the late 1940s in translation and replaced the faith in an allembracing philosophical system with a pervasive skepticism of ideological politics. As an idea of American democracy emerged as a normative concept in both the critical and celebratory studies of American consensus produced in the early years of the Cold War, Tocqueville was everywhere. Perhaps Tocqueville’s deepest impact registered in sociology, thanks to the dramatic success of David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd (1953), hailed by academic specialists and the popular press alike as the key to understanding modern America. Riesman littered his books with quotations from Tocqueville, whose insights into the dangers lurking beneath prosperity framed and informed the book’s analysis. Beyond the shift form nineteenth-century “inner-directed” to postWorld War II “other-directed” individuals, Riesman held out an ideal of “autonomy” for those strong enough, and far-seeing enough, to embrace the ironic sensibility he seemed to derive from, and to identify with, the wisdom of Tocqueville. The defense against mass culture, and the shield that protected American from the tyranny of the majority, could be found through careful study of Democracy in America. Throughout the 1950s and long 1960s, which ended only in 1974 with the resignation of Richard Nixon and America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, Tocqueville was a staple in the curriculum of American universities. For conservatives such as Robert Nisbet at Berkeley (or Vincent Starzinger at Dartmouth


The American Scene
College), Tocqueville was a sober prophet who saw through the promise of material prosperity and egalitarian ideals to the hollowness at the core of modern democratic cultures that had lost touch with the values of tradition and authority. For members of the New Left, Tocqueville was the scourge of conformism, a sober prophet who saw through the promise of material prosperity and egalitarian ideals to the invisible oppression that Herbert Marcuse was laying bare in books like One Dimensional Man and Essay on Liberation. In the last decade and a half the “Tocqueville” that has emerged is both the one associated with the decline of community and the rich “associational” life of voluntary organizations in the U.S. This cuts across the older definitions, at least intellectually, of “left” and “right” in the scholarly world and has become a staple of political rhetoric. In the intellectual world, this includes the group associated with Robert Bellah in the project that became Habits of the Heart; Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who has savaged the absurdities of Rights Talk, to use the title of her unclassifiable book; historians such as Thomas Bender, whose studies of community and public life have helped keep alive Tocqueville’s own insights into American democracy; those political activists allied with Senator Bill Bradley who share the reasons for his dissatisfaction with both the Democratic and the Republican parties; political theorists such as William Galston, who served for several years as a domestic advisor in the Clinton White House; Jane Mansbridge, who has shown the breadth of social scientists’ dissatisfaction with the reductionist attribution of all human behavior to self-interest; and Jean Bethke Elshtain, who argues in her recent book Democracy on Trial that Americans’ growing cynicism about politics, the absence of civic mindedness, and a destructive obsession with right have sapped the mutual respect, empathy, and understanding that are necessary for the survival of a democratic community. The first President of the United States to quote Tocqueville was Dwight D. Eisenhower (whose speech writer was Malcolm Moos of Johns Hopkins.) Since then his words have appeared in the speeches of every President and any politician aspiring to portentous greatness. Thus, Newt Gingrich, addressing the Republican Party National Convention in San Diego on August 13, 1996, praised the contributions of churches and neighborhood organizations and concluded that nothing less than “the moral case for lower taxes” is to be found in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. And the President who quoted Tocqueville most frequently was Ronald Reagan, whose speechwriters, like Gingrich, detached Tocqueville’s emphasis on civil society from his emphasis on the ideal of reciprocity. In fact, probably the only things Pat Buchanan and Hilary Rodham Clinton, individualists and communitarians, have in common is their willingness to place Tocqueville on their banner. Tocqueville himself foresaw his fate. In a contemporary letter to his friend Eugene Stoffels (printed in the 1899 Bigelow edition), Tocqueville wrote: “I please many persons of opposite opinions, not because they penetrate my meaning, but because, looking only to one side of my work, they think they find in it arguments in favor of their own convictions. But I have faith in the future, and I hope that the day will come when all will see clearly what only now a few suspect. The life of Tocqueville in America, already reflecting the circuitous path of democratic theory and practice over a century and a half, seems destined to continue indefinitely. That interest persists, however, for reasons that owe more to Americans’ irresistible urge to simplify Tocqueville’s ideas than a willingness to acknowledge his ambivalence or to keep in focus the multiple dimensions of his complex analysis of American x democracy. In that sense, most Americans are equal.
Sources: James T. Kloppenberg, The Tocqueville Review, 1996, vol. XVII, no. 2. (The Tocqueville Review is the journal of The Tocqueville Society, a bilingual French-American scholarly society based in Paris and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and not to be confused with the Alexis de Tocqueville society, a Republican-oriented organization based in Virginia.)

The End of the American Epic?
merica is awash in new epics: long poems about the Battle of the Alamo, historical novels about the Civil War, movies about the experience of slavery. But in what sense can it be said that American experience today has an epic character? This is the question posed by Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer in a recent issue of the quarterly The Public Interest. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, the closest America comes to possessing an epic poem, is an attempt to see the whole of our democratic experience through the eye of a single human being, who sings the “Song of Myself.” But in Glazer’s view the myths that dominated the traditional American epic have become eroded. The old myths took up the American idea or creed or experiences that defined the nation as a whole: the winning of the West, manifest destiny, the Civil War, imperialism, the World Wars. Its epic characters were pioneers and warriors. In more recent times this kind of optimistic epic has faded in the face of more pessimistic myths concerning group diversity—racial, ethnic, sexual—and their claims for recognition. Some maintain that the challenge of this diversity is itself a fit subject for epic treatment, but Glazer doubts “whether the improving of group relations can replace the conquest of a continent as the subject of epic.” Americans may be able to live without an epic sense of their experience, but can they escape the demands of the epic form? —ML
Source: Nathan Glazer, “American Epic: Then and Now.” The Public Interest, Winter 1998.




On a Single Theme…
In this section we select a number of periodicals which have published single issues on some unifying theme, thus providing a summing up or reference point for readers. that raises the question: what is living, and what is dead, in the idea of culture? What is it, and how can we know it? The contributors here do not focus on epistemological issues exclusively. Instead, several raise the provocative question of whether the phenomenon of place-rooted cultures is simply disappearing in the jumble of globalization and so-called “popular culture.” Among the notable articles is one by Greenblatt, the “father” of new historicism, who holds Geertz up as an example of how prizing interpretation — whether of literature or entire cultures – need not lead to abandonment of the empirical world or to the belief that there is “nothing outside the text.” A more critical view of Geertz’s concept of culture is given by anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod in her article on popular television in Egypt, where she argues that television is just one technology rendering obsolete the notion of cultures as localized communities in a shared web of meaning.
“The Fate of Culture: Geertz and Beyond.” Representations, (Berkeley), Summer 1997.

Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, devotes its Winter 1998 issue, its fortieth anniversary, in homage to its founder Gerald Holton. The issue leads off with a paper by Holton on a theme that he has made his own in recent years, “Einstein and the Cultural Roots of Modern Science.” Holton recounts his efforts to understand a paradox: the “rebellious” role of Einstein in science and his other persona as a cultural traditionalist. It is the first aspect that has received most of the biographical attention, while the second has been largely ignored. A paper by Peter Galison, historian of science at Harvard, deals with “The Americanization of the Unity of Science.” The unity of science is a theme associated with the Vienna Circle, the fabled founders of logical positivism, which included Moritz Schlick, Otto Neurath, and Rudolf Carnap. Galison’s paper traces the effort to recreate the movement on American soil, after the war, largely through the efforts of Philip Frank, the philosopher of science at Harvard. Lorraine Daston, director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, provides a fascinating account of the time when the rift opened between art and science and when science began to distrust the imagination. It was “the newly erected divide between the objective and the subjective—the very words first enter dictionaries as a pair in German, French, and English in the 1820s and the 1830s….” Where in the eighteenth century artists and scientists had seen no conflict in embracing both standards simultaneously, a century later the chasm had forced an either/or choice in the way perceptions were judged.
“Science in Culture,” Daedalus, (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Winter 1998.

Parnassus Poetry in Review
The issue, edited by Herbert Leibowitz, is a garland of essays, poetry, movie stills, and interviews, threaded loosely on the theme of “cinematic poetry.” Stuart Klawans points out that this emphasis on imagery was used by the French to assert artistic distinction. David Yezzi employs the concept in a review of the book Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema by Andrei Tarkovsky, the great Russian filmmaker, whose religious films were often disfigured by authorities. Mindy Aloff writes a fascinating account of the relation of the film about Pablo Neruda, Il Postino, to its original source, the novel Ardiente Paciencia [Burning Patience]. There is a conversation with the German filmmaker Werner Herzog, and a lament for the cinema by Susan Sontag, extracts of which appear on page 40.
“The Movie Issue,” Parnassus Poetry in Review, (New York), Vol. 22, Nos. 1 and 2.

Representations is a cross-disciplinary journal started a dozen years ago at the University of California at Berkeley by the literary theorist Stephen Greenblatt and the art historian Svetlana Alpers to deal with the questions of “reality” and its representations. Greenblatt has moved to Harvard but remains its editorial chair. The journal is now edited actively by Carla Hess, the French historian. Often the journal runs special thematic issues, and the latest one is devoted largely to the work of one person, Clifford Geertz. Clifford Geertz of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton is without question the most important living anthropologist in the English-speaking world. Over the years his writings on the nature of culture have encouraged an “interpretive turn” in anthropology that still distinguishes it from the other social sciences. As Geertz nears retirement, the editor’s representations have offered up a Festschrift of sorts,

Spring 1997 inaugurates Intertexts as a journal of comparative literature to be published twice a year. The “statement of purpose” indicates that it will probe the spaces between literature and society as well as stray beyond nationally defined boundaries (“subvert” and “deconstruct” are the predictable code words). The first issue focuses on Latin American and Latina women writers. Women, says the journal, write notoriously out of bounds; otherwise they tend not to write at all. And intellectually adventurous Latin American women are often (in)famously aligned with supra-national, or PanAmerican causes. Patriotism and patriarchy sound more than etymologically connected in a Romance language. Rosemary Feal claims to Latin-Americanize “queer theory” by appropriating the North American reading practice for texts that feature lesbian subjects elsewhere, for example in the Barcelona of Cristina Peri Rossi’s Uruguayan heroine. And


Debra Castillo explores the mutual cruelties of a heterosexual affair between a Salvadoran refugee and his Sanctuary worker in Mother Tongue by Demetria Martinez. Other essays feature the fate of traditional women in a changing world, the interrupted identifications between reader and addressee, and a fresh reading of the founding text for Latin American feminists: the nun Sor Juana’s seventeenth-century refusal to heed her confessor and stop writing.
“Claiming Voices, Seizing Spaces: Latin American and Latina Women Writers,” Intertexts (Texas Tech University), Spring 1997.

3000 in Russian, and is now required reading in many East European law faculties. (Subscriptions: EECR, Nador u. 11, 1051 Budapest, Hungary. E-mail:

Another important English-language journal on East Europe, the glossy monthly Transitions, is currently edited by former New York Times bureau chief Michael Kaufman and edited in London and Prague by the Institute for Journalism in Transition. It has an enormous range, as can be seen in the recent Special Book Issue (February 1998), and contains reports on crime novels and science fiction in Russia, self-censorship in Slovakia, Czech best-sellers, Czeslaw Milosz’s recent poetry, and Ukranian post-modern fiction. (Subscriptions: IJT, Washingtonova 25, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic. E-mail:

Foundation Saint-Simon
The Foundation Saint-Simon is a new and unique French institution. Currently directed by Pierre Rosanvallon, it is an assembly of leaders in business, the civil service, the university, and the press, which meets frequently for non-partisan discussions of public policy issues. This report on the condition of the French welfare state arises from the Foundation’s discussions and occasional papers. It examines how France – and indeed all European nations – might find a way to reform its welfare state in a manner consistent with its social-democratic traditions. The report focuses mainly on the sclerotic, bureaucratized education system, unemployment assistance, health, and retirement benefits. Its main argument is that equity and not equality should govern the reform of social programs, which would imply greater flexibility in education and fewer middle-class breaks in other programs.
“Pour une nouvelle république sociale,” Foundation Saint-Simon, (Paris), 1997.

Modern Language Notes
The rehabilitation of Raymond Aron in France in the 1980s has been followed by that of Albert Camus. Several critical works have appeared in recent years, most notably Olivier Todd’s monumental biography, now in (truncated) English translation: Albert Camus: A Life (Knopf, 1997). This special number devoted to Camus reflects the new interest in his work and includes worthwhile articles on the Algerian background to his work, his politics, and humanism, and his relation to Sartre.
“Camus 2000,” Modern Language Notes, (Baltimore),Sept. 1997.


Government and Opposition
One of the least studied aspects of liberal democratic politics is the role of political opposition. Yet this question has become increasingly important as liberal-democratic regimes have spread and been transformed throughout the globe: from Africa, where they are new; to the East Bloc, where they are a distant memory; to Western nations such as Italy and Spain, which had no postwar alternation of government; and to Japan and Mexico, which are still dominated by single parties. This issue of Government and Opposition is a survey of the state of political opposition in all these regions and also contains a theoretical article on the function of opposition by Jean Blondel of the European University in Florence.
“The Repositioning of Opposition,” Government and Opposition, (London), Autumn 1997.

The sea invites endless fascination from Homer’s Odyssey to James Agee’s Permit Me Voyages, the restless accounts of wanderings marked by changes of fortune. It is a recurrent theme of weary editors often in need of a topic to fill their pages. Yet the special issue of Granta is the exception. It is full of stories and travel accounts, ruminations and fantasies by the likes of James Hamilton-Patterson, Orhan Pamuk, the tireless Paul Theroux, Haruki Murakami, and Neal Ascherson, the British journalist whose book Black Sea is a superb account of the area, with the deadest and the most fertile locales in the world, which divides Europe and “the other.” It is best read on a voyage or on “the shore of a sounding sea.”
“The Sea,” Granta, (Cambridge, England), Spring 1998.

East European Consitutional Review
Since the East European revolutions of the last decade, many publications devoted to developments in this region have been founded. One significant English-language journal deserves special note: the quarterly East European Constitutional Review, which is published by New York University Law School and the Central European University. It offers an excellent guide to recent developments in the internal politics of Eastern Europe and publishes useful comparative and country-by-country studies. Recent issues have been devoted to constitutionalism in Poland and the problem of crime across the region. The review publishes 4000 copies in English and

Limes is a geopolitical review published simultaneously in Italian and French. Although modeled after the American Foreign Affairs, its issues are entirely thematic and, besides articles, also contain useful maps and statistical dossiers. The fall issue is on the “new Africa.” The review takes an obligatory look at the role of the Great Powers in recent African conflicts but then turns to examine the growing autonomy—or “selfconquest”—of the continent. There are several articles on ethnic issues in different nations, as well on as the new roles of South Africa and the North African states as regional powers.
“Afrique. La Fin du bas empire,” Limes, (Paris) , Fall 1997.



Susan Sontag on the End of Cinema


usan Sontag is one of the most astringent and brilliant cultural critics in the United States, as well as being a novelist, filmmaker and theatre director. Her passionate views have aroused marked hostility at different times, from right and left. But more importantly, she has honed a sensibility which is the stamp of a distinctive mind. She is neither avant-garde nor traditionalist—nor is it easy to summarize her complex views and enthusiasms. In the special issue of Parnassus on poetry and movies, Ms. Sontag has written an eloge on “A Century of Cinema.” We can only print here some excerpts which we hope will not “flatten” the nuanced exposition and the essay’s historical detail. “Cinema’s hundred years seem to have the shape of a life cycle: an inevitable birth, the steady accumulation of glories, and the onset in the last decade of an ignominious, irreversible decline. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more new films that one can admire. But such films won’t simply be exceptions; that’s true of great achievement in any art. They have to be heroic violations of the norms and practices which now govern movie-making everywhere in the capitalist and would-be capitalist world—which is to say, everywhere. And ordinary films, films made purely for entertainment (that is, commercial) purposes, will continue to be astonishingly witless; already the vast majority fail resoundingly to appeal to their cynically targeted audiences. While the point of a great film is now, more than ever, to be a one-of-a-kind achievement, the commercial cinema has settled for a policy of bloated derivative film-making, a brazen combinatory or re-combinatory art, in the hope of reproducing past successes. Every film that hopes to reach the largest possible audience is designed as some kind of remake. Cinema, once heralded as the art of the twentieth century, seems now, as the century closes numerically, to be a decadent art. “Perhaps it is not cinema which has ended…but only cinephilia—the name of the very specific kind of love that cinema has inspired. Each art breeds its fanatics. The love that cinema inspired, however, was special. It was born of the conviction that cinema was an art unlike any other: quintessentially modern; distinctively accessible; poetic and mysterious and erotic and moral—all at the same time. Cinema had apos-

tles (it was like religion). Cinema was a crusade. Cinema was a world view. Lovers of poetry or opera or dance don’t think there is only poetry or opera or dance. But lovers of cinema could think there was only cinema. That the movies encapsulated everything—and they did. It was both the book of art and the book of life…. “No amount of mourning will revive the vanished rituals— erotic, ruminative—of the darkened theatre. The reduction of cinema to assaultive images, and the unprincipled manipulation of images (faster and faster cutting) to be more attentiongrabbing, has produced a disincarnated, lightweight cinema that doesn’t demand anyone’s full attention. Images now appear in any size and on a variety of surfaces: on a screen in a theatre, on home screens as small as the palm of your hand or as big as a wall, on disco walls and mega-screens hanging above sports arenas and the outsides of tall public buildings. The sheer ubiquity of moving images has steadily undermined the standards people once had both for cinema as art at its most serious and for cinema as popular entertainment…. “Predictably, the love of cinema has waned. People still like going to the movies, and some people still care about and expect something special, necessary from a film. And wonderful films are still being made: Mike Leigh’s Naked, Gianni Amelio’s Lamerica, Fred Kelemen’s Fate. But one hardly finds any more, at least among the young, the distinctive cinephilic love of movies, which is not simply love of but a certain taste in films (grounded in a vast appetite for seeing and re-seeing as much as possible of cinema’s glorious past). Cinephilia itself has come under attack, as something quaint, outmoded, snobbish. For cinephilia implies that films are unique, unrepeatable, magic experiences. Cinephilia tells us that the Hollywood remake of Godard’s Breathless cannot be as good as the original. Cinephilia has no role in the era of hyper-industrial films…. “If cinephilia is dead, then movies are dead too…no matter how many movies, even very good ones, go on being made. If cinema can be resurrected, it will only be through the birth x of a new kind of cine-love.”
Source: Susan Sontag, “A Century of Cinema,” Parnassus, Volume 22, Nos. 1 and 2, 1997.



News from the Republic of Letters
ews from the Republic of Letters is a literary journal, issued at irregular intervals, by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford in Boston. The title, as those who are literate would know, comes from the Nouvelles de la republique des lettres, one of the first learned journals of its kind, published by the French philosopher Pierre Bayle from 1684 to 1687. (The source is given a “wink” by Keith Botsford, who in each issue writes a Notebook under the signature of Pierre Bayle.) Pierre Bayle was the great skeptic of the seventeenth century, the man who devised the method of subversive criticism which was eagerly adopted by the eighteenth century Encyclopedists. He did this, for example, by using Scripture to introduce indecencies. Bayle was best known for his Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697) and among other innovations, according to Anthony Grafton, was the founding father of the modern footnote. But his fame rested largely on an almost savage Pyrrhonism, a skepticism which wreaked havoc on current orthodoxies, not seeking a new and better world emerging from his criticism, nor, as Richard H. Popkin— no mean skeptic himself—writes, “seeing the need for a better one.” Bellow, the famed Nobel laureate in literature, undoubtedly is a skeptic. Botsford comes close, playfully, to Pyrrhonism. Yet it is not the intention of the pair to be negative and destructive. Quite the contrary, their ambition is to produce a journal which, fashioned by their tastes, prints literate commentary, short stories, and short novels, often by writers unknown in the English-speaking world, and essays in each issue by Bellow and Botsford themselves. It is a personal and old-fashioned journal in the best senses of those once commendable words. Three issues have now appeared. The first, in 1997, opened with a piece by Bellow, “View from Intensive Care,” labeled “from a work in progress.” Its motif was the hallucinatory sense of death crowding his mind, against which his memory was fighting. There is a long story “The Sirens” by Arturo Loria, a contemporary of Svevo and Montale, whose work has “slipped into oblivion” and which the journal seeks to rescue. There are extracts from the work of Emilio Lascano Tegui, an Argentinian writer, illustrated by some striking woodcuts and reviews of books and music. Issue No. 2, 1997, features a complete short novel by Louis Guilloux (1899-1980) who is thought by many “to be the most important novelist writing in France between the inter-war years and 1960.” The short novel about republican refugees of the Spanish Civil War, is folded quarto into the magazine, and


readers are asked to recut the pages. But the most striking essay in the issue is a harrowing account by Bellow of an episode in the Carribean in 1994 when he came down with what eventually was discerned as food poisoning, and which had left him almost paralyzed and close to death. It is clearly the background of the novelistic extract in the previous issue, but this straightforward account has a terrifying immediacy that even a novel cannot often convey. The account ends with a meditation on the physician and the patient (“…science does not see nature as having a soul— much less a compassionate soul. Doctor X may not have known it, but he did have a soul”) which reminds one of the closing pages of Mr. Sammler’s Planet, one of the most powerful endings in modern fiction. Issue No. 2 is broader in scope than the first and contains a long section on the correspondence between Christopher Ricks and William Empson, and two retrievals from the archives of Samuel Butler, “Quis Desiderio…” on his literary experiences and a marvelous essay by the Italian psychiatrist and penologist Cesare Lombroso on “Crazies Literary, Political and Religious.” Death and dementia as a theme—it seems to ride through a number of the selections—is the subject of a reflection by the English neurologist Raymond Tallis and a report by the novelist Philip O’Connor, of the day before he was admitted to the hospital at age eighty-two “for yet another cancer operation.” Yet humor is retrieved by an essay by Mr. Bellow, “Graven Images,” on what it is like to confront one’s image of oneself— photographed, cast in bronze, and being painted. (“Considering the bronze head on display [in the Chicago Public Library], I think Pablo Picasso would have done it better.”) Issue No. 3, 1998, extends the range of the journal. There is a complete short novel by Keith Botsford, “O Brother.” Bellow writes of the time in the late 1950s when Ralph Ellison moved in with him at his house in Tivoli, New York. (“He came down to get his breakfast in a striped, heavy Moroccan garment. He wore slippers with a large oriental curve at the toe. He was a very handsome man.”) Martin Amis writes an “Aria” on “road rage” and the automobile culture. A long extract from his memoirs, by the late Samuel Lipman, relates his early life as a musical prodigy and his friendships with Lionel and Diana Trilling. Sarah Walden writes an absorbing account of the “reconstruction” of the painting of “Whistler’s Mother” (see page 35.) And the theme of death recurs, again, in the “dialogue” written by Giacomo Leopardi in 1824. Bellow’s name carries the weight of the journal, but he also


gives full credit to his collaborator. “Thirty years ago,” he writes, “he and I brought out a literary journal called The Nobel Savage [five numbers which appeared from March 1960 to October 1962]…He had a nose for magazines as well as for journalism in general; some of his subjects being gastronomy, sports and literature, in all of which he has been a columnist, currently for the Independent in London and La Stampa in Italy. He is a polylinguist and translator, whose hand is on nearly every page of this magazine.” Most extraordinary, perhaps, is Botsford’s statement in his Notebook: …one of the magazine’s exotic virtues is that it is not supported by anyone or anybody save ourselves. It’s not bankrolled by wedding money, by holding out a tin cup to a publishing house (assuming any were still interested in such things) or a foundation. It’s not supported by a university. We pay its bills, its printers, its mailing, its rapacious distributors (65% of the cover price), the privatized U.S. Post Office, and all too modestly, its writers. If we survive it will be because its readers want it to go on. x —DB
The Republic of Letters, 120 Cushing Ave., Boston, MA 02125. Subscription price: $20 for five issues in the U.S., $25 in Canada, and $30 anywhere else in the world, or the equivalent in local currency.


Barbies and Ancient Rome



Bertelsman Behemoth
In issue No. 1 of our Newsletter, “U.S. Publishing—Change and Disarray” listed ten major foreign owners of U.S. publishing houses. Now Bertelsman of Germany has announced its purchase of Random House (which includes Knopf), which it will merge with its previous acquisitions of Bantam, Doubleday Dell into a single house. But Random House is more than an American house. In the U.K., it includes Jonathan Cape, Secker and War-burg, and Chatto and Windus, and owns Transworld, the largest massmarketing book company which dominates booklists, shelves at airports, the W.H. Smith bookstores, and the supermarkets. Bertelsman will be the world’s largest English-language publisher. In the U.K., according to an article in Prospect, the new giant will control perhaps 40% of the British fiction market and 30% of bookstore sales. In the U.S., the combined group had 32.8% of all hardback bestsellers and 40% of all paperback bestsellers in 1997. Bertelsman has been buying companies throughout Eastern Europe and is negotiating with the largest publishing group in France. It owns the largest book clubs in Britain and the U.S., and is setting up Books Online, which may yet become the largest Internet bookseller in the world. It is, needless to say, the largest publisher in Germany and, in fact, the world. All of this leaves W.W. Norton as the only major U.S. publishing house that is American-owned and independent. What has happened, one may ask, to U.S. “cultural imperialism?” —DB
Source: Andrew Franklin, “Behemoth of Books,” Prospect, (London), May 1998.

illiam Dowling, a professor of English at Rutgers University in New Jersey, wanted to buy a book, as professors often do. It was a slightly obscure book—a scholarly study of the Roman writer Aulus Gellius—so Dowling was not terribly surprised not to find it even at an academic bookshop in nearby Princeton. But while searching for it on the shelves, his eyes began to wander and landed eventually on Barbie’s Queer Accessories, a study of the doll’s clothes published by the respected Duke University Press and written by a self-described “dyke activist.” This was an epiphany. Dowling spent the next hour reading this strange work, several months reading other new works in gender and cultural studies, and longer still discussing with editors at university presses across the country what he discovered. What he learned was discouraging. Dowling argues that the rapid disappearance of scholarly monographs for small audiences and the boom in “hot” racy works need not be related, but in fact are due to the economic and cultural forces at work at university presses. He asks why it is that commercial publishers have not captured the market for sensationalist works of cultural studies since sensationalism is, after all, their specialty, and they have resources to put behind their products. And the reason, in Dowling’s view, is that there is a certain rush or frisson in seeing a supposedly august institution stoop to conquer. A larger public is hardly interested in fulfilling such a “transgressive” fantasy, but certain scholars are. And that is why Dowling concludes that there is a zero-sum relation between the markets for scholarly books on Barbie and those on ancient Rome: the more scholars are interested in children’s dolls, the fewer are interested in Latin literature. And as the market for books on the latter declines,they quickly fall beneath the threshold of profitability. Monographs that once would have sold in the range of 2500 copies now typically sell 800 to 900. It is rare for them ever to reach over 1000. This shift in scholarly publishing is also having an effect on the research agendas of the university itself. Young professors in fields that have traditionally relied on the monograph—classics, art history, literature—are having trouble finding publishers willing to take their work, and therefore finding it harder to get tenure. Meanwhile, books on “hot” topics are taking over the lists and are being considered seriously by tenure committees. It may only be a matter of time before we see a book on Gellius’s “accessories”…. —ML

Source: William C. Dowling, “The Crisis in Scholarly Publishing.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing, April 1997.



“When a Sage Dies…”
Nekros, in the Greek, means the dead. In some cultures, necrology is intertwined with necromancy, the manipulative effort to reveal the future by communicating with the spirits of the dead. We seek no such communication. For W.H. Auden, necrology was Nones (the ninth day before the Ides), the surprising moment awed by death which we “misrepresent, excuse, deny/mythify….” We make no excuses. We mourn.

Cornelius Castoriadis


Two Geniuses of the Word, Isaiah Berlin and Meyer Schapiro
“When a sage dies,” says the Talmud, “all are his kin,” Leon Wieseltier reminds us. The rabbis were speaking practically, not metaphysically. When a sage dies, everyone must observe some of the practices of mourning. In the past year and a half, two of our Jewish sages, two geniuses of the word, Isaiah Berlin and Meyer Schapiro, are gone. We mourn, expressing the tears of sorrow at the passing of our kin.At the memorial service for Isaiah Berlin at the Hampstead Synagogue, on 14 January 1998, Noel Annan remarked: No one else was remotely like him. Of course he had charm, but he had more than that. He was a Magus, a magician when he spoke, and it was for his character and personality as much as for his published works that so many honours fell upon him. The Evening Standard spoke truth when it said “the respectful sadness that met his death and the enormous regard in which he was held shows that intellectuals can still be prized as civilizing influences in Britain”. He was loved by people with whom he had nothing in common—millionaires, obscure writers, world-famous musicians, public figures and young unknown scholars to whom he listened. Whatever the circle, he civilized it; and the world is a little less civilized now that he has left it. Both Isaiah Berlin and Meyer Schapiro were cosmopolitan figures who emerged from the ferment of the secularized Jewish intelligentsia between the wars—Berlin in his passage from Eastern Europe to Oxford, Schapiro within the European-oriented world of the New York Intellectuals. In that quarrelsome world, Schapiro was universally admired as “our genius.” As Morris Dickstein wrote in Dissent, (Fall 1997), a charismatic teacher whose passion and erudition were astonishing, Schapiro trained generations of art historians and opened the eyes of others to the visual field around them. His range was enormous, from the discussion of frontal and profile images in painting to Romanesque art, the subject of his 1929 dissertation at Columbia University, to impressionism—in particular a lifetime identification with Cezanne—to the abstract expressionism of his time. Always alert to contradictions, Schapiro insisted that there are truths about art that can be established in “a collective criticism extending over generations.” He showed how Freud misread da Vinci, how Heidegger mistook van Gogh, each reading into the subject their own predelictions. When Heidegger saw in van Gogh’s shoes the sturdy pair of a peasant, he found there, Schapiro pointed out, what he wanted to find in his search for soil (and soul). Though his interests turned in many directions, Schapiro was perhaps our greatest expositor of modernism. He noted that the modernity embraced by the early avant-garde had grown problematic and pondered how much may have been lost in turning away from figurative representation. But he also opened our eyes to the spiritual adventure of modern art, the depth of feeling, the unexpected beauty, and the personal power of what remained when freedom of the artist was genuine.

rench intellectual life had few independent spirits, and with the death of Cornelius Castoriadis it now has one fewer. Castoriadis’s parcours through the political and philosophical minefields of French life was utterly unique. Born to Greek parents in Constantinople in 1922, he grew up in Athens, where he witnessed the Second World War and the Greek civil war. He joined the Greek Communist Party in 1944 but soon fell afoul of the Stalinist elements, and with a number of other intellectuals soon to make their mark on the Paris scene— Kostas Papaioannou, Kostas Axelos—he set sail for Paris. There he also joined the Communist Party, only to find the Stalinist atmosphere even more oppressive than in Greece. Along with Claude Lefort, philosopher and contributor to Les Temps Modernes, he left the party and formed a new left-wing group with syndicalist leanings called “Socialisme ou barbarie” (SB), a phrase from Marx on the polar outcomes of the future. Socialisme ou barbarie was also the name of the group’s tiny review, which began in 1959 as a poorly produced political rag like so many others, but by its last number in 1965 had become of great relevance on what would later be called the “New Left.” If Castoriadis and SB had a theme, it was the omnipresent and destructive presence of bureaucracy in modern life. But they also maintained against orthodox French leftists that communism was totalitarian and would remain so, so long as it was wedded to the “leading role” of the party. Castoriadis believed in the syndicalist notion that every society and each group within it was capable of governing itself if it was not distorted by the powers of state, party, or organized monopoly. It was this liberationist doctrine of autogestion that found an echo among the Situationists and other groups behind the events of ‘68. Castoriadis’s articles for SB were written by night under pseudonyms, usually “Paul Cardan.” By day he was an economist for the OECD (Office of Economic Cooperation Development) in Paris. Only in the mid-’70s did he begin to publish under his given name and first


came to the attention of a wider French public with his book L’institution imaginaire de la société (1975) and his shortlived review Libre. When French intellectuals finally came to grips with the reality of communism in the late 1970s, they also tardily discovered Castoriadis. But by then he had moved on, retiring from his OECD job to take up psychoanalysis, which he began to practice, and to write more ambitious (and sometimes impenetrable) books about the imaginative “labyrinth” of social and psychological life. He died on December 26, 1997 in Paris. [We note the recent publication of two anthologies of Castoriadis’s writings in English translation: World in Fragments (Stanford University Press) and David Ames Curtis, ed., The Castoriadis Reader (Blackwell). There also is a website devoted to his work:] tique Revolutionaire as a new Third Way. But the movement broke up a year later when Rousset, then a left-wing socialist, called for an investigation of Soviet concentration camps and was subsequently denounced by Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir for making “an antiCommunist diatribe.” Rousset was also accused by Pierre Daix, the editor of the leading Communist weekly of falsifying documents, and in 1951 sued for libel, a case which, for the first time brought a number of survivors of the Soviet camps to testify in France. Rousset won the case. But given the domination of French intellectual life at that time by the Communists, Rousset was isolated and vilified as “an American agent.” In 1968, he was elected to Parliament on the Gaullist ticket but resigned three years later, describing himself, still, as a “madman who wants to change the world.” Rousset was born in January 1912 in Roanne, in the Loire valley, the son of a Protestant minister. He received a degree in literature at the Sorbonne, but spent most of his life as a journalist. He was eighty-five at the time of his death. Frederick Hayek, Leo Strauss, and Karl Popper. And together with Claude Tardits, Gilbert Rouget, and Michel Leiris, he founded l’association Classique africains which has brought out twenty-six volumes in bilingual editions and provided the foundation of traditional African literature. Dampierre’s desire to create an international milieu for the social sciences led him in 1960, together with Raymond Aron, to create the tri-lingual Archives européenes de sociologie, which published in German, English, and French. The first editorial committee included, as well, Ralf Dahrendorf and Michel Crozier. The journal continues to this day. But it was as an ethnographer that Dampierre made his mark. He spent some time each year until 1991 in the Central African Republic at Bangassou. His thesis, Un ancien royaume Bandia du Haut-Oubangui (Plon, 1967) written in a beautifully classical French, explored the history and aesthetics of its culture. And in 1965, he created the first “laboratoire d’ethnologie de sociologie comparative” at Nanterre (University of Paris) which became the model for other French social science centers. But it was aesthetics which was his lasting love. In 1995 he published a masterpiece, Une aesthetique perdue: Harpes et harpistes du Haut-Oubangui. The book explored the lost art of the Zandé harpists of the Upper Oubangi. As in his earlier work, Poètes nzakara (Paris, 1963), Dempierre explained how formal beauty, derision, tragedy, and an obsession with death combine in the unique aesthetics of this African society. Here he focused on the harpists, who are masters of poetry, music, and sculpture. The harps of the bards are not modeled on a common style, as is typical elsewhere in Africa. Instead, each is produced by the poet as a singular object that he uses throughout his active years. This uniqueness confirms what Dempierre considered to be the fundamental principle of Zandé thought, a focus on singularity which recognizes few class concepts. This, he believed, disproved Lévi-Strauss’s portrayal of the “primitive mind” as fundamentally “a classifying machine.” —DB


David Rousset
avid Rousset was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, accused of writing anti-Nazi propoganda, and deported to Buchenwald. When the American troops liberated the camp in 1945, Mr. Rousset was, in the words of his friend, the writer Mauruce Nadeau, “an old, wrinkled child, a little pile of bones.” He was one of the first to return from hell, and to write about it. But his spirit was unbroken, and in 1947 Rousset published Univers Concentrationnaire [The Concentration Camp Universe]. Rousset defined the Nazi extermination program less as a monstrous aberration of war than as an integral part of German society, a product of its ideology and a factor in the German economy. Both the concentration camps and the death camps were driven by the belief that certain groups of people were not human beings. The book won the Prix Renaudot, the prestigous French literary award, in 1947. Like many French intellectuals of the day, Rousset thought that the “old Europe” was broken and finished. And, with Jean-Paul Sartre, in 1948 they formed the Rassemblement Democra-


Eric de Dampierre


ric de Dampierre, described in Le Monde as “Un ethnologue d’une grand culture,” died in March 1998 at age sixty-nine. Dampierre was probably the most widely admired of the first generation of French social scientists after World War II. Quiet, handsome, of aristocratic mien (“un seigneur dans l’Universite,” wrote Jacques Lautmann), he won immediate attention for his charm, culture, and learning. He was, said his close friend Henri Mendras, a man of the eighteenthth century for whom conversation was one of the great pleasures of life. He was the second of the generation to go, following the death a few years ago of the modest yet great social theorist Francois Bourricaud. Dampierre placed his stamp on French intellectual life in three ways. As a director of the publishing house Plon, he initiated the first translations, in the 1950s and 1960s, of the works of Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton,



Khone Shmeruk


n July 5, 1997, the foremost Yiddish scholar of the postwar generation, an Israeli citizen, died in Warsaw, Poland, and was buried there in the Jewish cemetery on Okapowa Street. The scholar, Khone Shmeruk, was born in Warsaw in 1921, and his early education in that city reflected the cultural ferment of Jewish life in the then newly reconstituted Polish republic. Following the German occupation of the city in September 1939, he fled into Soviet territory, where he stayed for the duration of the war. Returning to Warsaw in 1946, Shmeruk found nothing left of his home. Though he considered settling in Warsaw, after his marriage in 1946, he and his wife decided there was no future for them in Poland and moved to Jerusalem in 1949. At the age of thirty, Shmeruk resumed the university career he had interrupted twelve years earlier and joined the first Yiddish class at the Hebrew University. Once Shmeruk entered the university, he never left it, and took up a full-time teaching position in 1961, the year he completed his doctorate. He was chairman of the department of Yiddish from 1970 to 1982, was elected to the Israel Academy of Sciences in 1986, and was awarded the Israel Prize, the state’s highest civilian award, in 1996. His was an exemplary career. What sort of scholar was he? He was attracted by Yiddish writers who reminded him of his Warsaw home— I.L. Peretz and Isaac Bashevis Singer— and responded to the reach for national coherence in literature by writing about it in the works of Sholem Aleichem and the Soviet-Yiddish author Der Nister. In fact, Shmeruk had come to the study of Yiddish out of a commitment to an ideology—Yiddishism—which held that the language itself, and the culture expressed in that language, could sustain the life of a secular Jewish community. Just as the Polish tongue expressed Polish identity, so the vernacular of European Jews had been imprinted with the moral and ethical content of Judaism, making modern speakers of Yiddish the carriers, by definition, of

Jewish values. His attitude changed, however, when he began a serious study of the literature. For one thing, by separating Jewish civilization from its religious wellspring, the Yiddishist movement had narrowed it; no one, Shmeruk recognized, could properly understand Yiddish without encompassing the full Jewish tradition, especially as it expressed itself in Hebrew. The tragic evaporation of the language made it that much more urgent to develop Yiddish as a vital branch of Jewish learning. The pride Shmeruk had once invested in speaking Yiddish he now reinvested in scholarship, determined to prove to his colleagues that no one could truly grasp the last thousand years of Jewish life in Europe without access to the language in which so much of it had been lived. Although interested in the modern period, he spent a great deal of time in the Bodleian library at Oxford familiarizing himself with the beginnings of Yiddish literature in the 15th and 16th centuries; some of his most influential works are on this era. When Shmeruk officially retired from the Hebrew University in 1989, he divided his time between Warsaw and Jerusalem, teaching and guiding research in both places but with the stronger pull coming from Europe. How many reasons, in addition to the fact of his new family, one might offer for his attraction to Poland! He would certainly not have been the first Israeli to chafe at the constrictions of a tight society or to leap at the opportunity to spend time abroad. Cut off for so many years, he now had access to Poland’s archives and its scholars. A lifelong teacher, he welcomed the chance to pioneer Yiddish studies in a new country: he could do more to protect the Jewish past in Poland by training Polish students in Jewish research than by preparing students for the task in Israel. Now that Poland was free again, what was to prevent that man from starting all over in the city of his youth, in the university that had once humiliated him; what was to prevent him from creating a new Polish-Jewish symbiosis in his own person? What interested Shmeruk was the unequal way the common legend devel-

oped in Polish and Yiddish literature. Whereas modern Yiddish writers were aware of and responded to the various Polish versions of the legend, Polish writers in general paid scant attention to the Yiddish. Shmeruk’s study interprets this as still another paradigm for the inequality at the heart of Polish-Jewish relations. But his study itself, simply by virtue of existing, establishes a connection between the two cultures that the cultures had failed to make and consummates a kind of union between two peoples otherwise doomed to remain apart. During the last stages of his illness, when he flew from Jerusalem to Poland where he wished to be buried, he imprinted a wound on the hearts of his countrymen. I cannot speak for his daughters, his colleagues, or his students, but I know how his attraction to Poland affected our own relations over the past decade and how a sense of rejection has compounded my grief. In effect, everything that his postwar life, the land of Israel, and scholarly achievement had brought him could not replace what he had lost in Warsaw. His life also reminds us that, even in the newly constituted Jewish commonwealth, Jewish dreams of exogamy, in both the personal and cultural sense, are not soon likely to fade. —Ruth R. Wisse
Source: Commentary. November 1997.

Sir George Solti


n the first week of September 1997, Sir George Solti died at the age of 84. Dean of the world’s conductors, perhaps the best loved of them all, he ruled podiums in both the United States and Europe, particularly in Chicago and London, his musical homes. With Solti, more than a man passed from the scene; a musical era—the tradition of the dominating Central European conductor— went with him, writes Jay Nordlinger. He worked vigorously until the end. His style—before an orchestra and in life—was always driven, nearly manic. He had planned to conduct a Verdi Requiem in London to honor the deceased Princess Diana. A month later, he was to conduct his thousandth concert with the Chicago Symphony. And on the day he died, he applied the finishing


touches to his memoirs, to be released on October 21, his eighty-fifth birthday. Urbane and aristocratic in manner, Solti was born in 1912 to a humble Jewish family in Budapest. But Mórícz Stern must have had higher aspirations for his children because he gave them a different surname—“Solti,” after a small Hungarian town—in order, as the conductor writes, “to facilitate our careers.” After graduation from the prestigious Liszt Academy (where his teachers included Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály), Solti went to the Budapest Opera as a répétiteur—a staff member or coach— and learned the ins and outs of his complicated trade. In 1937, he had the fortune to work with Arturo Toscanini in Salzburg. The magisterial tyrant addressed but a single word to him: bene, good. Solti confides that, in over six decades of near-constant praise; it was the nicest compliment he ever received. The following year, Solti had the opportunity he had long awaited: to raise his baton at the Budapest Opera, in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. The date, March 11, 1938. was inauspicious: Hitler’s troops had crossed into Austria and were heading to Vienna. Solti remained in Budapest until August 1939, when he made a brief trip to Switzerland to seek out Toscanini at the Lucerne Festival. His father accompanied him to the train station. Solti never saw his father again. Without a visa to the U.S., Solti spent World War II in Switzerland. The war stunted his musical growth. He was unable to conduct, but he coached singers, studied scores, and practiced the piano (and, in fact, won the Geneva International Piano Competition in 1942). After the war, Solti went to Germany. He explains that the “prime of my life” had been “wasted” and that “the desire to conduct was an irresistible force in me.” Conducting opportunities were plentiful in Germany, where American de-Nazification was in full flower and German conductors—including many of the world’s most celebrated—were banned from their own podiums. How else could a young, inexperienced Hungarian expatriate assume the directorship of the Bavarian State Opera, “one of the most important conducting positions in the world?” Solti took advantage of the situation and began his heady ascent to international fame. Solti studs his memoirs with facts, impressions, portraits, truths. Paul Hindemith was renowned as a compositional revolutionary, but, by the time Solti met with him, he looked and sounded “more like a Swiss banker.” Solti, too, is free with his opinions, which is an invaluable and unusual quality in a musical memoirist. He expounds on the differences between European and American orchestras, and speaks frankly about his difficulties with the notoriously prickly Vienna Philharmonic. When Solti took over the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in 1961, the house was in disarray. Solti quickly asserted his iron control over the company, demanding numerous meticulous rehearsals, ruffling British reserve, and insisting on first-class musicianship. He went to Chicago in 1969, beginning a conductororchestra relationship that ranks in popular appeal and commercial viability with Eugene Ormandy-Philadelphia, Herbert von Karajan-Berlin, and Leonard Bernstein-New York. The orchestra had always been excellent but lacked an international reputation. Solti remedied this with a European tour. Two years later, Time magazine put Solti on its cover as “The Fastest Baton in the West.” Even when his musical views are iconoclastic (Bartók’s Mikrokosmos is “no less important” than Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier), they are stimulating. Yet his astonishing strength is his understanding of people: their nobility and frailty, their heroism and vulnerability. “I have had an enormously lucky life,” Solti concedes. Many do not regard him as the finest conductor who ever lived. But surely no conductor—and few people—ever wrote memoirs more compelling or durable than these.
Source: Jay Nordlinger, in The Weekly Standard, October 20, 1997, (a review of Solti on Solti, Memoirs, Knopf, 1997). We are saddened by the death in April 1998 of our friend Octavio Paz. An appreciation will appear in our next issue.

To Read an Obituary
ead biography, said Disraeli, for that is life without theory. And to grasp the truth of that remark, wrote John O’Sullivan, read an obituary. But obituaries in the United States, he complains, are usually perfunctory, at best, while those in British newspapers—notably The London Times and the Daily Telegraph—are long, serious, and (sometimes) frank. Editor of The National Review and an Anglo-Irishman, O’Sullivan observes that obituaries are the most popular pages in a newspaper. “I used to think that this was because elderly readers turn to them in a spirit of cut-throat competition: ‘ ha. Saw him out.’” A But there is, says O’Sullivan, a deeper reason. Taken together, obituaries over several years constitute the nation’s history, a history that is fuller, richer, and truer because it lacks theoretical intent, and on occasion, a single obituary can give us a panoramic view of society as surely as a great novel. Mr. O’Sullivan’s musings were prompted by an obituary in The London Times of Michael von Clemm, an American educated at Exeter and Harvard, who did postgraduate work in anthropology at Oxford, spent two years with a tribe in Tanganyika, joined the London office of Citibank where he helped found the “Eurodollar,” and ended as a President of Templeton College, the business college of Oxford. In all, a slice of history. And O’Sullivan concludes, “…our relative neglect of the obituary form is significant: another example of the ongoing national lobotomy we call American culture.”
Source: John O’Sullivan, The National Review, December 8, 1997.



A Report to Our Readers
(continued from page 48)

odicals, other than Commentaire—a journal edited by Jean-Claude Casanova, in the heritage of Raymon Aron—reprint articles from other countries. In England a new magazine, Prospect, is attentive to other countries (unlike such weeklies as the Labourite New Statesman and the Tory Spectator, which remain brilliantly insular.) The Economist has a monthly section called “Review of Books and Multimedia,” which carries reportage (such as the phenomenon in Poland where the media today appreciates imported culture but not its own) and a rotating monthly article on fiction in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and even China. The London Review of Books remains quite solid in its devotion to intellectual issues. And the Times Literary Supplement is nonpareil. Without compromise, it will run a dozen concentrated sections during the year on the classics, linguistics, feminism, scholarly journals, and the like, calling attention to significant books in a field and providing lucid (if controversial) judgments. And its “Letters” section provides endless delights on such outre controversies as whether Ludwig Wittgenstein threatened Karl Popper with a hot poker on the occasion of a talk by Popper at the Moral Sciences Club in Cambridge, an exchange between philosophers that has run over many weeks and even attracted the “Arts and Ideas” section of the New York Times. But, given all that, we think there is still a place for the Newsletter of the Committee on Intellectual Correspondence. The reaction to the first issue was overwhelmingly, and spontaneously, positive. We printed 1500 copies: 300 went to our colleagues in Japan for distribution to periodicals and individuals there (as well as the translation of the articles by Japanese journals), 200 went to Germany, again for similar distribution. The remainder went to periodicals and writers in the U.S., England, and some of the countries in Western Europe. The print run was exhausted, and we printed an additional 500, fortunately so when an article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, perhaps the most prestgious paper in Europe, prompted requests for fifty more copies. There was uniform praise for our format, simple yet distinctive and elegant. There was some disagreement, less on the contents of the issue than the length of the articles. Our friend Robert Solow complained that the articles were too short, for being a busy man, if he was going to read about cultural developments abroad, he wanted a fuller exposition. Our friend Bernard Bailyn exclaimed, “Excellent. Keep the pieces short, they give me all I need to know.” One is reminded of the story attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt who purportedly said, “Some of my friends are for high tariffs, some of my friends are for low tariffs; I am for my friends.” We shall try to vary the lengths, and friends can choose accordingly. We seek to cover the significant but neglected cultural developments, issues, and debates in the countries where we have friends to report them. Japan today is, unfortuately, terra incognita, especially since the brilliant wartime cadre of interpreters such as Donald Keene, Edward Seidensticker, and Herbert Passin, have now retired. Our colleagues, Masakazu Yamazaki and Masayuki Tadakoro, write and coordinate the reports on Japan. At the Wissenscaftskolleg zu Berlin, Wolf Lepenies and Michael Becker write reports from Germany. Mark Lilla reads the French and Italian press and writes those reports. Daniel Bell is the editorial coordinator of the issue. Our initial focus, stated in our first issue, is the cultural periodicals in a half-dozen countries, that want to reach out beyond their borders. We now have seventy cooperating periodicals from which we draw material, and it is our hope that these periodicals, in turn, will use the reports in the Newsletter and more will want to obtain and reprint in full the articles that we have cited in our reports. With such reprints, we seek to widen the ripples in the waters into which these stones have been cast. We are not a “closed endeavor.” We are seeking to widen our group of active collaborators, and some of these are acknowledged gratefully in the follow-up column on this page. But we welcome the cooperation of all our readers, in particular with suggestions of articles in different journals that are worthy of wider attention. We have begun in this issue a discussion of cultural patronage of the arts to provide a comparative view. We welcome suggestions about other questions that are impors tant to the life of our milieu.

a sociologist of science and an associate at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Daniel Bell, emeritus professor of sociology at Harvard University, is scholar-in residence at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Pearl K. Bell is a literary critic who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. James T. Kloppenberg is professor of American Studies at Brandeis University. Wolf Lepenies is director of Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the author of SaintBeuve: Auf der Schwelle zu Moderne [On the Threshold of Modernity]. Pratap Mehta is associate professor of government and social Studies at Harvard University. Mark Lilla teaches political theory at New York University and has been a member of the Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton, New Jersey. Masayuki Tadakoro is professor of International Relations at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka. Kiyokazu Washida is a professor at Osaka University. Masakazu Yamasaki is artistic director of the Hyogo Prefecture Theatre in Kobe. His new play, The Twentieth Century, will open at the National Theatre in Tokyo in November. CITATIONS FROM SOURCES: Former vicechancelor of the University of London Noel, the Lord Annan, is the author of Our Age: Portrait of a Generation. Morris Dickstein is professor of humanities and director of its graduate center at the City University of New York. Ruth R.Wisse is Professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard University. DESIGNER: Glenna Lang also illustrates for the Atlantic Monthly and has published four children’s picture books with David Godine. THANKS: We are grateful to Sulochana Raghavan Glazer for help with material on India, and to Doris Sommer for suggestions about Latin America. Clare Cavanagh translated the poem by Adam Zagajewski which appeared in Doubletake, Fall 1997. LETTERS: s Todd Gitlin writes that the Committee on Correspondence mentioned in our first issue came into being in 1959 because of the nuclear arms race, and was initiated by Erich Fromm with David Riesman. s Paula Dietz says that the abridgement of “Letter from Greece” in the last issue inadequately represented its scope. Readers can consult The Hudson Review, Summer 1997 for the full account.


is an International Project sponsored by the Suntory Foundation (Japan), the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

A Report to Our Readers

A Report to Our Readers
This is the second Newsletter of the Committee on Intellectual Correspondence. In our first issue, we noted that “…in this post-ideological age, there has been a thinning of intellectual debate. Passions are fueled by ethnic and religious attachments which further divide the discourse between intellectuals.” And we said, as our intentions, that we hope to “re-take the common terrain…to contribute to the renaissance of a cultural milieu where intellectuals as well as scientists and public figures can learn about the cultural and intellectual issues in other countries.” We began our efforts over a year ago. Since then there have been a few heartening developments. The New York Times now devotes on Saturdays two or more pages to “Arts and Ideas.” Such a move may have been part of the effort to thicken the paper, such as devoting a Monday section to the information industries and a Thursday section, “Circuits,” to new developments in computers and the Internet. The choice of “Arts and Ideas” may be a sign of the times, if the swallows follow. (And we are pleased that the Times devoted an early story to the Committee on Intellectual Correspondence.) The Wall Street Journal has begun a weekly section called “Weekend,” which is designed for the urbane leisure pursuits of the wealthy, such as wines, travel, books, music, film, art, and a page called, oddly, “Taste” which covers cultural issues. There is an occasional hint of sometimes strident interventions in the “cultural wars,” but there have also been efforts at cultural reportage such as a story on the conference at the University of Virginia organized by Richard Rorty and Paul Berman to “reaffirm” American patriotism for the Left. These are new bright spots. The back-of-the-book of the New Republic, edited by Leon Wieseltier, runs some of the best (and longest) review essays on serious books in the U.S. The Los Angeles Times has one of the liveliest book-review sections in the country. In one issue it ran a set of essays—one of the few periodicals in the country to do so!—on the 150th anniversary of The Communist Manifesto, with articles by Eric Hobsbawm, Daniel Bell, Martin Malia, William Pfaff, and Russell Jacoby. And the bi-weekly New York Review of Books remains the premier intellectual journal, after thirty-five years, a singular accomplishment. Yet it is largely an AngloAmerican journal in its writers and reviews. It has devoted considerable space to the wars in the Balkans and to infringements of human rights, yet other than an occasional essay, say, on Carl Schmitt or Jacques Derrida (the one a new, the other a worn-out subject), it has not been involved with the intellectual issues, or the novels and theatre, of countries in Europe and Asia. The German press, the weeklies and dailies, are remarkable in their reportage of cultural developments in other countries, and little escapes the curiosity of the feuilleton sections of Die Zeit and F.A.Z. In France Le Débat, edited by Pierre Nora and Marcel Gauchet, is a model of serious intellectual controversy, but few French peri(continued on previous page)

Daniel Bell Associate Mark Lilla Wolf Lepenies Associate Michael Becker Masakazu Yamazaki Associate Masayuki Tadokoro Graphic Designer Glenna Lang Administrative Assistant Patrick T. J. Browne U.S. Address: American Academy of Arts and Sciences 136 Irving Street Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 Telephone: (617) 576-5000 FAX: (617) 576-5050 E-mail: The Committee on Intellectual Correspondence acknowledges with gratitude the financial support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation of Japan, in underwriting the project and the Newsletter.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences 136 Irving Street Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138


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