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