2015.4.22 籌備一場彭淮棟翻譯Thomas Mann《浮士德博士》討論會，發現Mann 在《極端的年代》只是一腳注：1914年已成名的作家-藝術家。Peter Gay 懂德語，所以這本《 現代主義》 (Modernism)(梁永安譯)索引中的6~7處引Mann ，稱之為反諷大師，社會史大家......
恭喜梁永安譯Peter Gay " 現代主義 " (Modernism)得了今年「開卷十大好書獎．
2010年1月17日... (受邀者)贈:Peter Gay " 現代主義 " (Modernism)梁永安譯2010年1月17日(週日) 1200-
內容簡介· · · · · ·
作者簡介· · · · · ·彼得．蓋伊(Peter Gay)
《啟蒙運動：一種解讀：現代異教精神的掘起》The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism , 1966 《啟蒙運動：一種解讀：自由之科學》The Enlightenment: An Interpretation: The Science of Freedom , 1969 .
The Blush of the New
Surprisingly, the anecdote doesn’t appear in Peter Gay’s “Modernism: The Lure of Heresy,” a massive history of the movement in all its artistic forms — painting, sculpture, fiction, poetry, music, architecture, design, film (though, bafflingly, not photography, one of the chief catalysts of the modernist revolution). It’s all the more surprising because I once heard Gay cite Flaubert’s droll little stroll in a lecture, after which he brilliantly analyzed the episode’s every paradoxical nuance.
If anyone is aware of the complexity of modernist attitudes, it is Peter Gay. He is the country’s pre-eminent cultural historian and the author of masterpieces of social and intellectual reimagining including “The Enlightenment,” “Weimar Culture,” “Freud” and the towering multi-volume study “The Bourgeois Experience.” Such achievements make it all the more dismaying to find that in this rich, learned, briskly written, maddening yet necessary study, Gay’s formidable syntheses often run aground on lapses of knowledge and judgment.
Gay’s new book is the only one I’m aware of that tries to make sense of modernism in all its incarnations. Gay takes up his subject from the outset of the movement in the late 19th century to what he considers its continued vitality after World War II and its eventual death and possible resurrection in our own time. This comprehensiveness makes “Modernism” essential, especially for the general reader who wants to get a handle on Western culture’s most enigmatic phase. (A gift of this book and “The Rest Is Noise,” Alex Ross’s magisterial history of modern music, would equal about three years of college.) But unlike Henry Moore’s giant sculptures, in which negative space plays a positive role, Gay’s omissions and miscomprehensions cry out to be filled in and corrected. And yet, at times, the book is so nimbly erudite that its stubborn flaws make it all the more richly challenging.
For example, Gay knows that the image of the modernist as committed subverter of custom and convention is hackneyed. He writes in his introductory chapter that the idea of modernists as “scofflaws or mavericks massed against the solid verities of time-honored high culture and, usually, Christian faith” is one of the avant-garde’s “cherished fairy tales.” The Impressionists, for instance, didn’t care a whit about outraging official culture, or Christianity. But because Gay needs the “lure of heresy” to thematically structure his book, he often ends up not just reinforcing the caricature of modernists as unhappy outsiders and elitist malcontents, but inflating it.
It is almost as if Gay were perversely determined to undermine his own profound awareness of modernism’s multifaceted and contradictory nature. On the one hand he astutely writes, “The sources of the modernist rebellion in the arts rose from all quarters of the political, intellectual and emotional world.” On the other he speaks of “two essentially distinct areas of art, high art and low, which modernists had thought it crucial to keep apart.” But it was the modernists who brought the energy of everyday life into high art! Think of the scraps of newspapers and advertisements in the collages ofPicasso and Braque; of the parodic newspaper headlines and the music hall ditties in Joyce’s “Ulysses”; of Leopold Bloom wiping himself with a newspaper in the notorious book that appalled Virginia Woolf (and delighted T. S. Eliot); or of the Dadaists’ total collapse of serious art into the quotidian, or Mahler’s quotations of nursery rhymes or Stravinsky’s saxophones — the list of the modernists’ elitist democratizations is interminable.
What a relief it is to read Gay debunking the myth of Kafka the grim depressive with a description of friends who “laughed heartily” when Kafka read drafts to them. Kafka’s fiction is about the comedy of sexual frustration and the humor of competitive paranoia, among other things. What really broke up Kafka’s friends was the first sentence of “The Trial”: “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” Neurotic guilt was their collective métier.
Yet although Gay writes beautifully about Kafka, about Proust on grief, about authentic middle-class hunger for modernist liberations and about the final scene of recognition and unspeakable shame in Chaplin’s “City Lights” — to take just four examples among many — he seems to find it more useful to traffic in cardboard simplicities. There are a disconcerting number of these.
Gauguin did not, for example, abruptly quit his job as a stockbroker in Paris, as both popular legend and Gay would have it. He was fired by his firm, which had just gone under. You might say it was respectable society that had sacrificed Gauguin to the bottom line running just underneath bourgeois rhetoric about compassion and decency. No wonder the artist took off for what seemed to be the primitive explicitness of Tahiti.
Nor did the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch pay, as Gay writes, “the usual price” for his unsettling innovations. Munch was not doomed to “being misunderstood, neglected, rejected,” or to enjoying only “occasional appreciation.” He sold his first paintings at age 18 and three years later was invited to exhibit in the Norwegian section of the World’s Fair in Antwerp. At 26 he had his first one-man show, hailed by prominent art critics; two years later, Norway’s National Gallery, the country’s most prestigious art museum, purchased one of Munch’s works. By the time he was 40, Munch enjoyed international renown and the largesse of several wealthy patrons.
And it’s right for Gay to refer to Munch’s countryman, the odd, fierce peasant novelist Knut Hamsun, as a public admirer of the Nazis who wrote enthusiastically about them even as the Germans were occupying Norway. But it is wrong for Gay not to add that during his one meeting with Hitler, Hamsun so aggressively pressed the Führer to stop executing Norwegian resistance fighters and to loosen his repressive hold on the country that Hitler loathed Hamsun for his insolent disrespect.
As for Gay’s Parisian modernist “outsiders,” if the French provided the most extreme assaults on Western rationality — Rimbaud’s “disorientation of the senses,” André Breton’s celebration of primal instincts stored in the unconscious, André Gide’s enthusiasm for the “motiveless” crime, Antonin Artaud’s “Theater of Cruelty,” Maurice Blanchot’s declaration of the death of the author — the reason was simple. It was not that French conditions kept creating figures resembling Baudelaire, about whom Gay histrionically writes that he was “an outcast aware of his loneliness” — though, as Gay admits, Baudelaire lived at the center of Parisian cultural energy. In France, civilization is invincible and eternal. Its immutable stability makes opposition to it all the more cheerfully ferocious. You can hurl the most incredible rhetorical and intellectual violence against French custom and convention and still have time for some conversation in the cafe, un peu de vin, a delicious dinner and, of course, l’amour. And in the morning, you extricate yourself from such sophisticated coddling — the result of centuries of art and artifice — and rush back to the theoretical barricades.
But Gay, in thrall to Freud, prefers to root the modernists’ adventures in family trauma. Baudelaire, he writes, suffered a “revolution at home” after his father died and his mother married a “dashing” military officer. The poet and essayist, Gay simplistically tells us, “never quite worked through his expulsion from paradise.” Yet you would think that the author of the culture-shifting “Fleurs du Mal,” and of the equally seminal essay “The Painter of Modern Life,” had worked his way through everything that required working through.
In Charles Dickens’s “Little Dorrit,” a shrewd entrepreneur constantly condescends to his inventor friend by stressing what it pleases him to see as his friend’s pathetically impractical maladaptation to life. In fact, the inventor is fundamentally nothing of the kind. In a similar way, Gay falsely stresses the “cherished fairy tale” of modernist darkness, depression and miserable discontent. But Dada, for instance, was not “wholly negative,” as Gay describes it, any more than Munch or Kafka was wholly negative. Hannah Höch’s and Sophie Tauber’s dolls and puppets, Duchamp’s optical illusions in the form of whimsical machines and especially the cool, broken harmonies of Kurt Schwitters’s collages and fantastical life-size constructions were all imbued with the positive spirit of humor and play.
Even more radical are Gay’s misperceptions of modernism’s fundamental nature. It is not accurate to say, as Gay does, that in modernist fiction, “modernist mirrors reflected mainly the author.” Joyce, Proust, Mann, Lawrence, Woolf, Gide all wrote great realist novels that were as concerned with minutely noting the external world as with projecting intensely personal visions of the world. Elsewhere, Gay seems to acknowledge this, too. About Baudelaire, he writes, “Like the modernists who came after him, he was a realist with a difference.” Perhaps Gay simply wants to say that Baudelaire is a symbolist poet, and that surreal or highly subjective images coexist in his poetry alongside “realist” evocations of mental states and physical reality. In any case, it would have been helpful for Gay to explain his nice phrase “realist with a difference” and then go on to apply it to his other modernists. But he never elaborates on the distinction and never returns to it.
On the disheartening conundrum of modernists and politics, Gay is at his most bewildering. He writes of “liberalism, that fundamental principle of modernism.” He seems to have momentarily forgotten that Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Lawrence and Céline on the right, and Picasso, Gide, Breton and the Russian modernists (barely alluded to by Gay) on the left, were about as far from liberalism as a Cubist painting is from an iPod — not to mention the toxically snobbish Woolf, who was neither right nor too much left. For Gay, reactionaries like Eliot and Hamsun were “anti-modern modernists.” But he does not try to account for the fact that reactionaries like the Italian Futurists worshipped modernity’s speed and power. Nor does he grapple with what you might call hypermodernists: the utopian Russian avant-garde, who, far from being political reactionaries, threw in their lot with the Bolsheviks.
The question of why so many modernists were drawn to regimes that were sick parodies of the modernist quest for transcendence and absolutes is unanswerable. But perhaps here is where some psychologizing could be useful. Perhaps beleaguered by the mental burden of their intensely personal visions, the modernists looked at a totalitarian regime’s real-life version of their fanaticism and perfectionism and wearily exclaimed, “They are in the truth!” Thus they contrived the delusion that actual power made a home somewhere in the world for their solitary ideals. It could have been a mental trick that protected their egos from mortal wounds.
Gay traces the modernist impulse through the post-World War II period to our own time, where he finds it in the work of Frank Gehry and Gabriel García Márquez. Yet he doesn’t have much admiration for the postwar epoch. “There was much talent and little genius,” he writes about the decades after 1945. Is it so, however, that T. S. Eliot andWallace Stevens “produced no creditable heirs”? Not even W. H. Auden, who is not discussed by Gay? (“Lay your sleeping head, my love / Human on my faithless arm” — in one stroke, Auden could invoke modernist despair and affirm human hope.) But then, Gay never discusses Brecht’s dramas, either, though those quintessentially modernist works changed theater forever, especially in the ’60s. Conversely, Gay’s survey of postwar American art almost exclusively refers to the intensely biased and partisan — toward his own dubious theories, that is — Clement Greenberg, which is like quoting a Jesuit on the character and history of Protestantism.
Indeed, Gay’s inclusion of postwar art in a history of modernism makes little sense. Modernism was modernism only when the rising foundations, beams and struts of modernity were still visible. Once modernity became an enveloping condition, artists who were part of that condition — from Pollock to Warhol, from Robbe-Grillet to Grass, from Artaud to Pinter — rebelled as much against modernist Prometheanism as against the modern inadequacies that provoked it.
The Abstract Expressionists’ pure formalism was the end of the road for painting, not the exciting beginning of a new frontier. Malevich, Kandinsky and Mondrian all thought they had embodied a universal spiritual language in aesthetic form. Rothko wanted only that his canvases make people cry. DeKooning painted his scary women to make viewers laugh when they recalled Western art’s idealizations of women. And Pollock wanted nothing specific at all — Greenberg stuffed his theories into Pollock’s mouth. After modernity’s catastrophic climaxes — the Holocaust, Stalin’s gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki — postwar art aimed both to lower the boom on modernist euphoria and to ridicule modernism’s earnest despondency. Mann may not have been right when he wrote in his novel “Doctor Faustus” that modernism could only produce works of art that parodied earlier epochs. But in our own time, we seem mostly to be surrounded by art that parodies the various strains of modernism.
For all that, it’s painful to list the inadequacies in “Modernism.” Despite its failings, Gay’s book touches on so many relevant ideas and issues, subjects and themes, that it rouses us to a keen awareness of our own condition. Consider the second part of his thesis. Gay argues that along with the “lure of heresy,” what characterized the modernist rebellion was its “celebration of subjectivity.” If there’s anything that speaks to us now, it is the question of the “I,” that barbell of a pronoun that is so hard to lift in just the right expressive way. It is often provocative to watch Gay pursue modernist representations of the self.
Yet you wish that in Gay’s countless references to what he regards as the modernists’ cultivation of inwardness, he had made an important distinction between the modernists and the Romantics. It was the Romantics who stressed subjectivity. By contrast, the modernists emphasized the idiosyncrasy of personal vision as a way to flee from subjectivity. Knut Hamsun called this an “unselfish inwardness.” Gay means the same thing when he writes of “disinterested subjectivity” in his discussion of “Ulysses.” But he never returns to the idea.
The single reference Gay does make to Romantic inwardness occurs in the chapter on Baudelaire. It’s anybody’s guess as to what Gay means when he writes that the most sophisticated Romantics rejected “unchecked subjectivity.” Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Goethe in “Werther” — all these “sophisticated” Romantic authors were, by the standards of their age, “unchecked” in their subjective outpourings. But Gay seems to think it was the Romantics, not the modernists, who restrained their introspections.
On the contrary. Every modern revolution finds its point of resistance in the personal experience of those in revolt — that is, in a heightened subjectivity. The Romantics substituted genius and unique personality for aristocratic birthright and class, thus giving birth to the bourgeoisie. As Rousseau famously wrote, “I feel my heart, and therefore I know humankind.” But by the time the modernists came along, the bourgeoisie had conventionalized Romantic individualism into the petty assertions of ego.
And so the modernists sought to replace personality. They dissolved it in an impersonal creative vision that was nevertheless uniquely individual. Unselfish inwardness. When Eliot wrote that poetry was “not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality,” he was thinking along Hamsun’s lines. “The Wasteland” doesn’t tell us anything specific about Eliot’s personality, but it could have been produced only by Eliot’s personality. To put it another way, the Romantics exalted the self, but the modernists exalted the idiosyncratic — the intensely individualistic — escape from self.
Perhaps the bourgeoisie’s origins as the revolutionary class account for its facile assimilations of cultural subversions. Throughout his book, Gay marvels at the middle class’s capacity to absorb its adversaries. It’s an old story. But there is a difference between Artaud and HBO. We have exhausted Romantic individualism, and we have twisted the uniquely individual, modernist escape from the self into “self-expression.” Expression is everywhere nowadays, but true art has grown indistinct and indefinable. We seem now to be living in a world where everyone has an artistic temperament — emotive and touchy, cold and self-obsessed — yet few people have the artistic gift. We are all outsiders, and we are all living in our own truth.