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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Modernism II

The Russian Futurist writer Mayakovsky wrote:

In order to write about the tenderness of love, take bus number 7 from Lubyansky Square to Nogin Square. The appalling jolting will serve to throw into relief for you, better than anything else, the charm of a life transformed.

Mechanization, the Futurists believed, shaped not only perception (as it did for the Impressionists), but consciousness. They attempted to dramatize the great human emotions in relation to the dynamics of the city. The Russian Futurists celebrated man as a victor over nature.

Mayakovsky also wrote about a boyhood memory of a Rivet works lit up by electricity at night. A sight which persuaded him to reject nature in favour of electricity. Nature was not up-to-date enough.

In Italy, the poet Marinetti, published a Futurist Manifesto in a bid to rid the country of the:

stinking gangrene of its professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antique dealers.

Italy had been a junk shop for too long, the poet declared, now it was time to burn her libraries, flood her museums and galleries and tear down her sacred cities.

This kind of strident and violent language was one of the ingredients which was eventually, to marry Italian Futurism with Fascism. Marinetti himself spent a period in gaol with Mussolini, and Mussolini was influenced by the Futurists in strange, almost comical ways:
Italy employed no aircraft carriers during the Second World War, because Mussolini saw his country as one huge aircraft carrier, extending out into the Mediterranean. As early as 1911 Marinetti had said that Italy had the shape and power of a Dreadnought battleship.
Later in the war, when economic collapse was imminent, Mussolini’s solution was to sell-off Italian art treasures – a proposal completely in line with the early Futurist dream of destroying museums and art-galleries.

The Futurists were impressed by mechanization, technology, and speed. The Romantics and the Symbolists saw the artist as a hero, but for the Futurists he was a worker.

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