A frustrating book in which the book's author, and chairman of the debate ("Inquirer"), fails to understand that his posed "problem" to theoretical liA frustrating book in which the book's author, and chairman of the debate ("Inquirer"), fails to understand that his posed "problem" to theoretical linguistics is utterly irrelevant to any scientific understanding of what we call "language." He points out that the empirical evidence of research in Syntax - the acceptability of given sentences to "The Native Speaker" - does not correspond to any person of "flesh and blood."
Informative speakers are hardly given room to speak in amongst the long-winded objections of Inquirer and his allies, who gas on about literary-philosophical conundrums inordinately whilst chastising Chomsky's repeated attempts to correct their discourse as "red herrings."
Chomsky, however, admirably presses on in spite of the insulting tone of the debate:
"Now [regarding the word "language"] as in the case of [the word] "water", etc., the scientific description is too precise to be useful for ordinary purposes, so we abstract from it and speak of "languages," "dialects," etc., when people are "close enough" in the steady states attained to be regarded as identical for practical purposes. In fact, our ordinary usage of the term "language" is much more abstract and complex, in fact hardly coherant, since it involves colours on maps, political systems etc.). All of that is fine for ordinary usage. Troubles arise, however, when ordinary usage is uncritically understood as having ontological implications; the same problems would arise if we were to make the same moves in the case of visual systems, hearts, water, etc." [p.60]
There's not a page of this book which is purely text, so I guess that's a clue that the words aren't supposed to be that important, but even so, the wThere's not a page of this book which is purely text, so I guess that's a clue that the words aren't supposed to be that important, but even so, the writing is so sloppy, dismissive and arrogantly stupid that it's remarkable anyone read it and considered it fit for publication - especially as the publisher, Thames and Hudson, and subject, Max Ernst (probably the best known Surrealist after Dali) are so esteemed.
I personally enjoy some Surrealist art because it's imaginative, vivid and amusingly absurd, and specifically because it has nothing to do with the existing world. Schneede, the writer of the text, clearly feels differently, and tries half-heartedly to connect Ernst's art to historical events whenever possible - even if it means, say, suggesting he prophesied the Holocaust in 1920.
Much of the commentary is bizarre and unelaborated:
Most sombre variations on the bird theme are The Elect of Evil and Bonjour Satanas. Glorification has given place to the manifestation of evil desires. Iconographical references to Christian mythology are often present, according to Werner Hofmann: thus, in the emblamatic system of the Baroque period, the pelican stands for Christ. (p.91)
Do these pictures still bear any relationship to surrealism? Surrealism is more than an attitude of mind than a stylistic tendency. Surrealism is the sum of Breton's doctrine, Dali's paranoiac-critical method, Magritte's intellectual semantics, Miro's automatism and Max Ernst's combination of guided chance and imaginative power. Each of the Surrealist painters goes his own way. In the last analysis there is remarkably little to hold them together. (p.99)
...With interpretations which are frustratingly inconclusive, pointlessly sourced, or syntactically strained):
John Russell has drawn attention to the fact that the Barbarians Marching Westwards call to mind 'the fantasies of Denos, in which idealized barbarians from the East would come marching in to save the western world from itself'. There is no denying that an element of discontent with civilisation, inspired by Surrealism, does have a part to play in these pictures, especially as the dogmatic Parisian leading lights of the movement did occasionally incline towards the idealization of anti-cultural impulses. Equally not to be denied is the fact that the Barbarians are conclusions drawn from political events, and thus point forward to the Nazi invasion of France. (p.134)
...Or speciously evidenced ("more or less current" here meaning "over 70 years old", just to pick one example from the small excerpt) or simply unimpressive:
The title of The Breakfast on the Grass is a borrowing from Manet; and Hunger Feast is taken from Rimbaud. Max Ernst likes [sic] to play around with more or less current concepts. On [sic] his own admission the titles only come in the final stages. As plays on words and ideas, that is, as independent entities, they exist alongside, or even run counter to, the visual work. There are direct references to Rembrandt (Polish Horsemen), Gericault (Raft of the Medusa), and the German Novelist Theodor Storm (Aquis Submersus); and paraphrases of Nietzsche (The Birth of Comedy), Baudelaire (The Elect of Evil) and Matisse (Lust For Life). So in the world of language, too, Max Ernst modifies found objects (p. 151)
Lots of Carrollesque humour and paradox, funny fables and allegory, but its whimsical style and episodic interruptions makes it all feel a bit inconseLots of Carrollesque humour and paradox, funny fables and allegory, but its whimsical style and episodic interruptions makes it all feel a bit inconsequential, and the book seriously lags in the middle where you're supposed to be following the characters with some concern. That concern just hasn't been earned. I also thought that the thematic obsession with writing and criticism came across as indignant and I felt a bit alienated by it. I like to read a novel and then think about it's "meaning" later, but the novel kept demanding analysis of the text as it was read.
One of the first things you read in my edition is a post-publication comment by Gombrowicz, who says "what a bore is the everlasting question: What did you mean by Ferdydurke? Come, come, be more sensuous, less cerebral, start dancing with the book instead of asking for meanings. Why take so much interest in the skeleton if it's got a body?" I agree completely with the sentiment but the novel itself is very concerned with symbols and metaphors and stylistic representations of things. What's more, the author makes a point of fracturing the story with highly cerebral philosophical-aesthetic digressions, barely disguised in the clothing of the plot. Anyway, it started off very promising which is why I'm giving it 3 stars. Overall, it wasn't for me....more
An incredible book. Swift is one of the English language's most seminal wordsmiths. His ability to blend imaginative fantasy and pointed social satireAn incredible book. Swift is one of the English language's most seminal wordsmiths. His ability to blend imaginative fantasy and pointed social satire is near-unparalleled. 'Gulliver's Travels' is a witty and savage dismantling of human pride and pomposity, with a structure and interaction with a meta-textual world that are extremely clever whilst being satisfying to unwind. It still has observations on the human condition which are thought provoking, if deeply pessimistic. ...more