How puerile can I get? Somebody was asking me the other day, and I think this tells the story. I read the first eight hundred thousand, three hundred...moreHow puerile can I get? Somebody was asking me the other day, and I think this tells the story. I read the first eight hundred thousand, three hundred and sixty-three pages of War and Peace, stopping exactly twenty pages before the end. I wished to make the point, Count Lev Nikolayevich, I hope you are listening to this, that I could have finished it but chose not to.
So, hmmm. Pretty puerile indeed.
Good call, kiddo, I thought to myself a few weeks ago when I saw the movie, The Last Station. One can be puerile and oh-so-right.(less)
Frayn is on record as regretting his fate - to be an all-rounder inspired in limitless ways. If he were only a translator or columnist, only a novelis...moreFrayn is on record as regretting his fate - to be an all-rounder inspired in limitless ways. If he were only a translator or columnist, only a novelist or philosopher, only a playwright his talents in any of these would see him more highly regarded than he is today for being wonderful at all of them. He would make more money too. If only he lived in a period where a man was admired for talent that went in many directions, instead of in a period in which specialisation is worshipped and we view with suspicion those who are constitutionally unable to live the narrow life, or think the narrow thoughts, that result from specialisation.
This collection of writings about his theatre work, both his own plays and his translations, being a renowned Chekhov translator in particular, spans his career from the very beginning. And I do mean very beginning, with hilariously charming accounts of his productions as a small boy in which he took on all roles - writer, producer, set designer and maker, cast maker in the case of his puppets. The diversity is astonishing, from his discussions of the difficulties in developing his farces to a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the history that inspired one of my favorites, Copenhagen. Throughout, however, two things stood out for me.
This is a translation from Short Philosophical Dictionary Moscow 1951. I think it first came out in the 1930s, but...morePolitical correctness Soviet-style.
This is a translation from Short Philosophical Dictionary Moscow 1951. I think it first came out in the 1930s, but if so, I don't know the status of the reprinting. The translation is by JEH Smith as published on his brilliant blog.
Existentialism (Lat. existentia- existence). A decadent, subjective-idealistic philosophical current of the epoch of imperialism, the fundamental purposes of which are the demoralization of social consciousness, the battle against revolutionary proletarian organizations, the moral and political disintegration of progressive social movements. Existentialism is particularly widespread at present in France. This reactionary philosophy was founded by the Danish obscurantist Kierkegaard (1813-1855), a most venomous enemy of socialism and democracy, who considered even Schelling's philosophy of revelation to be insufficiently reactionary. By 'existence' he understands 'individual spiritual life', and he juxtaposes 'existence' to 'being', that is, to the material world, to real physical and social life. Disgust with life, fear of death, despair: these are the basic themes of his works, which it would be largely justified to ascribe rather to psychopathology than to philosophy. This degenerate, misanthropic 'philosophy' was adopted as a weapon by the ideologues of German imperialism (Heidegger, Jaspers). With the new historical circumstances this perverted philosophy presents itself under the falsified guise of 'atheist philosophy', of 'the philosophy of freedom'. Its reactionary essence has remained unchanged; all that changed were its strategies in the battle against revolutionary theory, as well as its methods of disguise. The renegades of the 'Resistance movement' --Sartre, Camus, and their loyal supporters-- now strive to blacken the legacy of the battle against fascism, of the revolutionary workers' struggle for socialism, of the battle of all progressive humanity for peace and democracy, promoting instead an intellectual and moral nihilism, and disregard for science and morality. They call to mind the gang of fashionably reactionary authors of the time of the Stolypin Reaction in Russia, who 'wore their Marxism loosely', pouring scorn on the idea of revolution, boasting about their treachery, and celebrating sexual promiscuity in the name of the 'cult of personality'. Setting out from subjective-idealist premises, making 'pure self-consciousness' into their philosophy's point of departure, the existentialists fight zealously against dialectical and historical materialism, against the Marxist, scientific understanding of the world. Metaphysically separating 'existence' from 'essence', the existentialists set these up in opposition to one another, demonstrating the primacy of 'existence'. This theory is directed against the materialist doctrine of the primacy of matter, and, in application to social life, against the scientific understanding of the role of historical laws. The existentialists understand 'freedom' not as a real social relationship that prevails in the battle against the enslavement of classes and nations, and that is attained with the arrival of socialism, but rather as the idealistic 'freedom of the will' that gives the bourgeois individual the freedom to act according to his whim. In this way the sophistry of the existentialists serves as a defense of the baseness of imperialism, justifying treachery, and libelling all forward-thinking and progressive social movements. The imperialists make broad use of the existentialists for the formation of the cadres of traitors of class and national interests. Another branch of existentialism (Jaspers in Germany, Marcel in France, Lowrie in the USA) amounts to an explicit defence of Papism, and is one of the current manifestations of Catholic or Protestant propaganda.
Over the last few weeks I’ve read The Luzhin Defense, followed by Bluebeard and then Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Originally I was going to wri...moreOver the last few weeks I’ve read The Luzhin Defense, followed by Bluebeard and then Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Originally I was going to write some stuff here about the central characters and compare them with the original Outsider. I was going to say things like this:
Maybe it is a contradiction in terms, to put 3 books about outsiders in the same review, but I can’t stop myself.
We have here a chess player, a doctor who might or might not have murdered a wife and a chickenhead. They all share a trait lacking in the original Outsider: they are all able to induce a sympathetic response from the reader. I don’t believe we have any capacity to understand Camus’s Outsider and without that, how can we have sympathy? It is easy to empathise with the others, however apart they may be from our own lives. It is impossible for Camus to put us in the shoes of his Outsider. It IS possible to become the crazy chess player, the murderous doctor, the mentally deficient chickenhead. Indeed it is Dick’s great strength that his characters slip into you; no matter that they are hypothetical consequences of a hypothetical world.
I can’t help wondering how I would have felt about Nabokov if I’d read him last instead of first. I thought he was getting away with being clever and ornate at the time. But to read the spare prose of Frisch next made me question this. And sharing with Dick the suffering of his characters meant I started wondering if Nabokov really had a clue what he was writing about. He says things that hit the mark for sure and his general thesis that chess saves the hero’s life until his dogooder wife-to-be starts interfering is completely faithful to the real world. I would scarcely be the only chess player to associate with Luzhin’s discovery of the game, a discovery that means life is suddenly tolerable. But something makes me distrust Nabokov’s potrayal of the Outsider, and I’m tired of trying to figure out what it is.
That’s the sort of thing I was going to say.
But I’d rather read. Consider me a goodreads outsider. (less)