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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Modernism X

If he were a musician, Herman Hesse said, he could write a two-part melody in which the two lines of notes and sounds would complement, combat, determine and correspond with each other, which would be mutually and reciprocally related in the most vital and intimate way; and yet anyone able to read music would be able to see and hear each separate note, along with its contrary and complimentary note, its brother, its enemy, its antipode. It was precisely this two-part melody, this antithetical progression, this double line which he wanted to express in words.

Modernist writers used words as weapons to combat a world they saw as dominated by the concepts of time and space.They placed things together which did not fit. In place of order they chose chaos, because chaos was a system that allowed things, not to fall apart, but to fall together. The old concept of ‘order’ had kept things apart. What modernism demanded was a new synthesis. The world needed to be reassessed with a new consciousness. Instead of a magnifying glass, it should be viewed through a prism or a cracked glass.

Neitzche described the world as Janus-faced.

Whatever exists is both just and unjust, and equally justified in both.

In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Captain Kurtz goes native and lives there in the jungle, the absolute idealist and the absolute barbarian.

Formerly we used to represent things visible on earth, things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today. . . things appear to assume a broader and more diversified meaning, often seemingly contradicting the rational experience of yesterday. There is a striving to emphasize the essential character of the accidental. Paul Klee

5 Responses to “Modernism X”

  1. Divine Calm says:

    You are so well read. Very thought-provoking post.

  2. john baker says:

    Penny for them.

  3. Divine Calm says:

    The post reminds me of the saying that brings me comfort during times of chaos: “the only thing constant in life is change.”

    Humans so want the world to make sense. When idealism is shattered by the truth that life is chaotic and things don’t always happen for a reason, then we turn to new systems of our own creation for comfort.

    Modernists thought that they were being innovative, but they were doing what outsiders have done for centuries.

  4. john baker says:

    “Humans so want the world to make sense.”
    Oh, yes, we’ve always been suckers for meaning.
    “Modernists thought that they were being innovative, but they were doing what outsiders have done for centuries.”
    Although this is true, we shouldn’t forget that many of the modernists were outsiders as well. And others, who weren’t ‘constitutionally’ outsiders were forced to the fringes of society by the actions of people like Hitler and Stalin.
    Hitler declared, in 1937, that modernist art and artists were “insane and inane monstrosities.”
    Stalin vehemently opposed all abstraction in art and launched a terror against the Russian avant-garde in the 1930s. He alone was to be the artist of Russia.

  5. paisley says:

    Writers, poets, artists were forced outside because they were liberated and passed on liberation through their work.