Degeneration, by Max Nordau. Adnotated. Diagnosis.
The manifestations described in the preceding chapter must be patent enough to everyone, be he never so narrow a Philistine. The Philistine, however, regards them as a passing fashion and nothing more; for him the current terms, caprice, eccentricity, affectation of novelty, imitation, instinct, afford a sufficient explanation. The purely literary mind, whose merely æsthetic culture does not enable him to understand the connections of things, and to seize their real meaning, deceives himself and others as to his ignorance by means of sounding phrases, and loftily talks of a 'restless quest of a new ideal by the modern spirit,' 'the richer vibrations of the refined nervous system of the present day,' 'the unknown sensations of an elect mind.' But the physician, especially if he have devoted himself to the special study of nervous and mental maladies, recognises at a glance, in the fin-de-siècle disposition, in the tendencies of contemporary art and poetry, in the life and conduct of the men who write mystic, symbolic and 'decadent' works, and the attitude taken by their admirers in the tastes and æsthetic instincts of fashionable society, the confluence of two well-definedi conditions of disease, with which he is quite familiar, viz. degeneration (degeneracy) and hysteriaii, of which the minor stages are designated as neurasthenia. These two conditions of the organism differ from each other, yet have many features in common, and frequently occur together; so that it is easier to observe them in their composite forms, than each in isolation.iii
The conception of degeneracy, which, at this time, obtainsiv throughout the science of mental disease, was first clearly grasped and formulated by Morel. In his principal work -- often quoted, but, unfortunately, not sufficiently read -- the following definition of what he wishes to be understood by 'degeneracy' is given by this distinguished expert in mental pathology, who was, for a short time, famous in Germany, even outside professional circles.
'The clearest notion we can form of degeneracy is to regard it as a morbid deviation from an original type. This deviation, even if, at the outset, it was ever so slight, contained transmissible elements of such a nature that anyone bearing in him the germs becomes more and more incapable of fulfilling his functions in the world; and mental progress, already checked in his own person, finds itself menaced also in his descendants.'v
When under any kind of noxious influences an organism becomes debilitated, its successors will not resemble the healthy, normal type of the species, with capacities for development, but will form a new sub-species, which, like all others, possesses the capacity of transmitting to its offspring, in a continuously increasing degree, its peculiarities, these being morbid deviations from the normal form -- gaps in development, malformations and infirmities.vi That which distinguishes degeneracy from the formation of new species (phylogeny) is, that the morbid variation does not continuously subsist and propagate itself, like one that is healthy, but, fortunatelyvii, is soon rendered sterile, and after a few generations often dies out before it reaches the lowest grade of organic degradation.
Degeneracy betrays itself among men in certain physical characteristics, which are denominated 'stigmata,' or brand-marks -- an unfortunate term derived from a false idea, as if degeneracy were necessarily the consequence of a fault, and the indication of it a punishment. Such stigmata consist of deformities, multiple and stunted growths in the first line of asymmetry, the unequal development of the two halves of the face and cranium; then imperfection in the development of the external ear, which is conspicuous for its enormous size, or protrudes from the head, like a handle, and the lobe of which is either lacking or adhering to the headviii, and the helix of which is not involuted; further, squint-eyes, hare-lips, irregularities in the form and position of the teeth; pointed or flat palates, webbed or supernumerary fingers (syn-and polydactylia), etc. In the book from which I have quoted, Morel gives a list of the anatomical phenomena of degeneracy, which later observers have largely extended.ix In particular, Lombroso has conspicuously broadened our knowledge of stigmata, but he apportions them merely to his 'born criminals' -- a limitation which from the very scientific standpoint of Lombroso himself cannot be justified, his 'born criminals' being nothing but a subdivision of degenerates. Féré expresses this very emphatically when he says, 'Vice, crime and madness are only distinguished from each other by social prejudices.'x
There might be a sure means of proving that the application of the term 'degenerates' to the originators of all the fin-de-siècle movements in art and literature is not arbitrary, that it is no baseless conceit, but a fact; and that would be a careful physical examination of the persons concerned, and an inquiry into their pedigree. In almost all cases, relatives would be met with who were undoubtedly degeneratexi, and one or more stigmata discovered which would indisputably establish the diagnosis of 'Degeneration.' Of course, from human consideration, the result of such an inquiry could often not be made public; and he alone would be convinced who should be able to undertake it himself.
Science, however, has found, together with these physical stigmata, others of a mental order, which betoken degeneracy quite as clearly as the former; and they allow of an easy demonstration from all the vital manifestations, and, in particular, from all the works of degenerates, so that it is not necessary to measure the cranium of an author, or to see the lobe of a painter's ear, in order to recognise the fact that he belongs to the class of degenerates.xii
Quite a number of different designations have been found for these persons. Maudsley and Ball call them 'Borderland dwellers' -- that is to say, dwellers on the borderland between reason and pronounced madness. Magnan gives to them the name of 'higher degenerates' (dégénérés supérieurs), and Lombroso speaks of 'mattoids' (from matto, the Italian for insane), and 'graphomaniacs,' under which he classifies those semi-insane persons who feel a strong impulse to write.xiii In spite, however, of this variety of nomenclature, it is a question simply of one single species of individuals, who betray their fellowship by the similarity of their mental physiognomy.
In the mental development of degenerates, we meet with the same irregularity that we have observed in their physical growth. The asymmetry of face and cranium finds, as it were, its counterpart in their mental faculties. Some of the latter are completely stunted, others morbidly exaggerated. That which nearly all degenerates lack is the sense of morality and of right and wrong.xiv For them there exists no law, no decency, no modesty. In order to satisfy any momentary impulse, or inclination, or caprice, they commit crimes and trespasses with the greatest calmness and self-complacency, and do not comprehend that other persons take offence thereat.xv When this phenomenon is present in a high degree, we speak of 'moral insanity' with Maudsley; there are, nevertheless, lower stages in which the degenerate does not, perhaps, himself commit any act which will bring him into conflict with the criminal code, but at least asserts the theoretical legitimacy of crime; seeks, with philosophically sounding fustianxvi, to prove that 'good' and 'evil,' virtue and vice, are arbitrary distinctionsxvii; goes into raptures over evildoers and their deeds; professes to discover beauties in the lowest and most repulsive things; and tries to awaken interest in, and so-called 'comprehension' of, every bestiality. The two psychological roots of moral insanity, in all its degrees of development, are, firstly, unbounded egoism, and, secondly, impulsiveness -- i.e., inability to resist a sudden impulse to any deed; and these characteristics also constitute the chief intellectual stigmata of degenerates.xviii In the following sections of this work, I shall find occasion to show on what organic grounds, and in consequence of what peculiarities of their brain and nervous system, degenerates are necessarily egoistical and impulsive. In these introductory remarks I would wish only to point out the stigma itself.
Another mental stigma of degenerates is their emotionalism. Morel has even wished to make this peculiarity their chief characteristic -- erroneously, it seems to me, for it is present in the same degree among hysterics, and, indeed, is to be found in perfectly healthy persons, who, from any transient cause, such as illness, exhaustion, or any mental shockxix, have been temporarily weakened.xx Nevertheless it is a phenomenon rarely absent in a degenerate. He laughs until he sheds tears, or weeps copiously without adequate occasion; a commonplace line of poetry or of prose sends a shudder down his back; he falls into raptures before indifferent pictures or statues; and music especially, even the most insipid and least commendable, arouses in him the most vehement emotions. He is quite proud of being so vibrant a musical instrument, and boasts that where the Philistine remains completely cold, he feels his inner self confounded, the depths of his being broken up, and the bliss of the Beautiful possessing him to the tips of his fingers. His excitability appears to him a mark of superiority; he believes himself to be possessed by a peculiar insight lacking in other mortals, and he is fain to despise the vulgar herd for the dulness and narrowness of their minds. The unhappy creature does not suspect that he is conceited about a disease and boasting of a derangement of the mindxxi; and certain silly critics, when, through fear of being pronounced deficient in comprehension, they make desperate efforts to share the emotions of a degenerate in regard to some insipid or ridiculous production, or when they praise in exaggerated expressions the beauties which the degenerate asserts he finds therein, are unconsciously simulating one of the stigmata of semi-insanity.xxii
Besides moral insanity and emotionalism, there is to be observed in the degenerate a condition of mental weakness and despondency, which, according to the circumstances of his life, assumes the form of pessimism, a vague fear of all men, and of the entire phenomenon of the universe, or self-abhorrence. 'These patients,' says Morel, 'feel perpetually compelled ... to commiserate themselves, to sob, to repeat with the most desperate monotony the same questions and words. They have delirious presentations of ruin and damnation, and all sorts of imaginary fears.' 'Ennui never quits me,' said a patient of this kind, whose case Roubinovitch describes, 'ennui of myself.'xxiii 'Among moral stigmata,' says the same author, 'there are also to be specified those undefinable apprehensions manifested by degenerates when they see, smell, or touch any object.' And he further calls to notice 'their unconscious fear of everything and everyone.' In this picture of the sufferer from melancholia; downcast, sombre, despairing of himself and the world, tortured by fear of the Unknown, menaced by undefined but dreadful dangers, we recognise in every detail the man of the Dusk of the Nations and the fin-de-siècle frame of mind, described in the first chapter.xxiv
With this characteristic dejectedness of the degenerate, there is combined, as a rule, a disinclination to action of any kindxxv, attaining possibly to abhorrence of activity and powerlessness to will (aboulia). Now, it is a peculiarity of the human mind, known to every psychologist, that, inasmuch as the law of causality governs a man's whole thought, he imputes a rational basis to all his own decisions. This was prettily expressed by Spinoza when he said: 'If a stone flung by a human hand could think, it would certainly imagine that it flew because it wished to fly.'xxvi Many mental conditions and operations of which we become conscious are the result of causes which do not reach our consciousness. In this case we fabricate causes a posteriori for them, satisfying our mental need of distinct causality, and we have no trouble in persuading ourselves that we have now truly explained them. The degenerate who shuns action, and is without will-power, has no suspicion that his incapacity for action is a consequence of his inherited deficiency of brain. He deceives himself into believing that he despises action from free determination, and takes pleasure in inactivity; and, in order to justify himself in his own eyes, he constructs a philosophy of renunciation and of contempt for the world and men, asserts that he has convinced himself of the excellence of Quietism, calls himself with consummate self-consciousness a Buddhist, and praises Nirvana in poetically eloquent phrases as the highest and worthiest ideal of the human mind. The degenerate and insane are the predestined disciples of Schopenhauer and Hartmann, and need only to acquire a knowledge of Buddhism to become converts to it.xxvii
With the incapacity for action there is connected the predilection for inane reverie. The degenerate is not in a condition to fix his attention long, or indeed at all, on any subject, and is equally incapable of correctly grasping, ordering, or elaborating into ideas and judgments the impressions of the external world conveyed to his distracted consciousness by his defectively operating senses. It is easier and more convenient for him to allow his brain-centres to produce semi-lucid, nebulously blurred ideas and inchoate embryonic thoughts, and to surrender himself to the perpetual obfuscation of a boundless, aimless, and shoreless stream of fugitive ideas; and he rarely rouses himself to the painful attempt to check or counteract the capricious, and, as a rule, purely mechanical associations of ideas and succession of images, and bring under discipline the disorderly tumult of his fluid presentations. On the contrary, he rejoices in his faculty of imagination, which he contrasts with the insipidity of the Philistine, and devotes himself with predilection to all sorts of unlicensed pursuits permitted by the unshackled vagabondage of his mind; while he cannot endure well-ordered civil occupations, requiring attention and constant heed to reality. He calls this 'having an idealist temperament,' ascribes to himself irresistible æsthetic propinquities, and proudly styles himself an artist.xxviii
We will briefly mention some peculiarities frequently manifested by a degenerate. He is tormented by doubts, seeks for the basis of all phenomena, especially those whose first causes are completely inaccessible to us, and is unhappy when his inquiries and ruminations lead, as is natural, to no result. He is ever supplying new recruits to the army of system-inventing metaphysicians, profound expositors of the riddle of the universe, seekers for the philosopher's stone, the squaring of the circle and perpetual motion. These last three subjects have such a special attraction for him, that the Patent Office at Washingtonxxix is forced to keep on hand printed replies to the numberless memorials in which patents are constantly demanded for the solution of these chimerical problems. In view of Lombroso's researches, it can scarcely be doubted that the writings and acts of revolutionists and anarchists are also attributable to degeneracy.xxx The degenerate is incapable of adapting himself to existing circumstances.xxxi This incapacity, indeed, is an indication of morbid variation in every species, and probably a primary cause of their sudden extinction. He therefore rebels against conditions and views of things which he necessarily feels to be painful, chiefly because they impose upon him the duty of self-control, of which he is incapable on account of his organic weakness of will. Thus he becomes an improver of the world, and devises plans for making mankind happy, which, without exception, are conspicuous quite as much by their fervent philanthropy, and often pathetic sincerity, as by their absurdity and monstrous ignorance of all real relations.xxxii
Finally, a cardinal mark of degeneration which I have reserved to the last, is mysticism. Colin says: 'Of all the delirious manifestations peculiar to the hereditarily-afflicted, none indicates the condition more clearly, we think, than mystical delirium, or, when the malady has not reached this point, the being constantly occupied with mystical and religious questions, an exaggerated piety, etc.'xxxiii I will not here multiply evidence and quotations. In the following books, where the art and poetry of the times are treated of, I shall find occasion to show the reader that no difference existsxxxiv between these tendencies and the religious manias observed in nearly all degenerates and sufferers from hereditary mental taint.
I have enumerated the most important features characterizing the mental condition of the degenerate. The reader can now judge for himselfxxxv whether or not the diagnosis 'degeneration' is applicable to the originators of the new æsthetic tendencies.xxxvi It must not for that matter be supposed that degeneration is synonymous with absence of talent. Nearly all the inquirers who have had degenerates under their observation expressly establish the contrary. 'The degenerate,' says Legrain, 'may be a genius. A badly balanced mind is susceptible of the highest conceptions, while, on the other hand, one meets in the same mind with traits of meanness and pettiness all the more striking from the fact that they co-exist with the most brilliant qualities.'xxxvii We shall find this reservation in all authors who have contributed to the natural history of the degenerate. 'As regards their intellect, they can,' says Roubinovitch, 'attain to a high degree of development, but from a moral point of view their existence is completely derangedxxxviii.... A degenerate will employ his brilliant faculties quite as well in the service of some grand object as in the satisfaction of the basest propensities.'xxxix Lombroso has cited a large number of undoubted geniuses who were equally undoubted mattoids, graphomaniacs, or pronounced lunatics; and the utterance of a French savant, Guérinsen, 'Genius is a disease of the nerves,' has become a 'winged word.'xl This expression was imprudent, for it gave ignorant babblers a pretext, and apparently a right, to talk of exaggeration, and to contemn experts in nervous and mental diseasesxli, because they professedly saw a lunatic in everyone who ventured to be something more than the most ordinary, characterless, average being. Science does not assert that every genius is a lunatic; there are some geniusesxlii of superabundant power whose high privilege consists in the possession of one or other extraordinarily developed faculty, without the rest of their faculties falling short of the average standard. Just as little, naturally, is every lunatic a genius; most of them, even if we disregard idiots of different degrees, are much rather pitiably stupid and incapable; but in many, nay, in abundant cases, the 'higher degenerate' of Magnan, just as he occasionally exhibits gigantic bodily stature or the disproportionate growth of particular parts, has some mental gift exceptionally developed at the cost, it is true, of the remaining faculties, which are wholly or partially atrophied.xliii It is this which enables the well-informed to distinguish at the first glance between the sane genius, and the highly, or even the most highly, gifted degenerate. Take from the former the special capacityxliv through which he becomes a genius, and there still remains a capable, often conspicuously intelligent, clever, moral, and judicious man, who will hold his ground with propriety in our social mechanism. Let the same be tried in the case of a degenerate, and there remains only a criminal or madman, for whom healthy humanity can find no use. If Goethe had never written a line of verse, he would, all the same, have still remained a man of the world, of good principles, a fine art connoisseur, a judicious collector, a keen observer of nature. Let us, on the contrary, imagine a Schopenhauerxlv who had written no astounding books, and we should have before us only a repulsive lusus naturæxlvi, whose morals would necessarily exclude him from all respectable society, and whose fixed idea that he was a victim of persecution would point him out as a subject for a madhousexlvii. The lack of harmony, the absence of balance, the singular incapacity of usefully applying, or deriving satisfaction from, their own special faculty among highly-gifted degeneratesxlviii, strikes every healthy censor who does not allow himself to be prejudiced by the noisy admiration of critics, themselves degeneratesxlix: and will always prevent his mistaking the mattoid for the same exceptional man who opens out new paths for humanityl and leads it to higher developments. I do not share Lombroso's opinion that highly-gifted degenerates are an active force in the progress of mankind. They corrupt and delude; they do, alas! frequently exercise a deep influence, but this is always a baneful one.li It may not be at once remarked, but it will reveal itself subsequently. If cotemporaries do not recognise it, the historian of moralslii will point it out a posteriori. They, likewise, are leading men along the paths they themselves have found to new goals; but these goals are abysses or waste places. They are guides to swamps like will-o'-the-wisps, or to ruin like the ratcatcher of Hammelinliii. Observers lay stress on their unnatural sterility. 'They are,' says Tarabaud, 'cranks; wrong-headed, unbalanced, incapable creatures; they belong to the class of whom it may not be said that they have no mind, but whose mind produces nothing.'liv 'A common type,' writes Legrain, 'unites them: -- weakness of judgment and unequal development of mental powers.... Their conceptions are never of a high order. They are incapable of great thoughts and prolific ideas.lv This fact forms a peculiar contrast to the frequently excessive development of their powers of imagination.' 'If they are painters,' we read in Lombroso, 'then their predominant attribute will be the colour-sense; they will be decorative. If they are poets, they will be rich in rhyme, brilliant in style, but barren of thoughtlvi; sometimes they will be "decadents."'
Such are the qualities of the most gifted of those who are discovering new paths, and are proclaimed by enthusiastic followers as the guides to the promised land of the future. Among them degenerates and mattoids predominate.lvii The second of the above-mentioned diagnoses, on the contrary, applies for the most part to the multitude who admire these individuals and swear by them, who imitate the fashions they design, and take delight in the extravagances described in the previous chapter. In their case we have to deal chiefly with hysteria, or neurasthenia.
For reasons which will be elucidated in the next chapter, hysteria has hitherto been less studied in Germany than in France, where, more than elsewhere, it has formed a subject of earnest inquiry. We owe what we know of it almost exclusively to French investigators. The copious treatises of Axenfeld, Richer, and in particular Gilles de la Tourettelviii, adequately comprise our present knowledge of this malady; and I shall refer to these works when I enumerate the symptoms chiefly indicative of hysteria.
Among the hysterical -- and it must not be thought that these are met with exclusively, or even preponderantly, among females, for they are quite as often, perhaps oftenerlix, found among males -- among the hysterical, as among the degenerate, the first thing which strikes us is an extraordinary emotionalism.lx 'The leading characteristic of the hysterical,' says Colinlxi, 'is the disproportionate impressionability of their psychic centreslxii.... They are, above all things, impressionable.' From this primary peculiarity proceeds a second quite as remarkable and important -- the exceeding ease with which they can be made to yield to suggestion. The earlier observers always mentioned the boundless mendacity of the hysterical; growing, indeed, quite indignant at it, and making it the most prominent mark of the mental condition of such patients. They were mistaken. The hysterical subject does not consciously lie. He believes in the truth of his craziest inventions. The morbid mobility of his mind, the excessive excitability of his imagination, conveys to his consciousness all sorts of queer and senseless ideas. He suggests to himself that these ideas are founded on true perceptions, and believes in the truth of his foolish inventions until a new suggestion -- perhaps his own, perhaps that of another person -- has ejected the earlier one.lxiii A result of the susceptibility of the hysterical subject to suggestion is his irresistible passion for imitation, and the eagerness with which he yields to all the suggestions of writers and artists.lxiv When he sees a picture, he wants to become like it in attitude and dress; when he reads a book, he adopts its views blindly.lxv He takes as a pattern the heroes of the novels which he has in his hand at the moment, and infuses himself into the characters moving before him on the stage.
Added to this emotionalism and susceptibility to suggestion is a love of self never met with in a sane person in anything like the same degree. The hysterical person's own 'I' towers up before his inner vision, and so completely fills his mental horizon that it conceals the whole of the remaining universe. He cannot endure that others should ignore him. He desires to be as important to his fellow-men as he is to himself. 'An incessant need pursues and governs the hysterical -- to busy those about them with themselves.'lxvi A means of satisfying this need is the fabrication of stories by which they become interesting.lxvii Hence come the adventurous occurrences which often enough occupy the police and the reports of the daily press. In the busiest thoroughfare the hysterical person is set upon, robbed, maltreated and wounded, dragged to a distant place, and left to die. He picks himself up painfully, and informs the police. He can show the wounds on his body. He gives all the details. And there is not a single word of truth in the whole story; it is all dreamt and imagined. He has himself inflicted his wounds in order for a short time to become the centre of public attention. In the lower stages of hysteria this need of making a sensation assumes more harmless forms. It displays itself in eccentricities of dress and behaviour. 'Other hysterical subjects are passionately fond of glaring colours and extravagant forms; they wish to attract attention and make themselves talked about.'
It is certainly unnecessary to draw the reader's attention in a special manner to the complete coincidence of this clinical picture of hysteria with the description of the peculiarities of the fin-de-siècle public, and to the fact that in the former we meet with all the features made familiar to us by the consideration of contemporary phenomena; in particular with the passion for imitating in externals -- in dress, attitude, fashion of the hair and beard -- the figures in old and modern pictures, and the feverish effort, through any sort of singularity, to make themselves talked about. The observation of pronounced cases of degeneration and hysteria, whose condition makes them necessary subjects for medical treatmentlxviii, gives us also the key to the comprehension of subordinate details in the fashions of the day. The present rage for collecting, the piling up, in dwellings, of aimless bric-à-brac, which does not become any more useful or beautiful by being fondly called bibelots, appear to us in a completely new light when we know that Magnan has established the existence of an irresistible desire among the degenerate to accumulate useless trifleslxix. It is so firmly imprinted and so peculiar that Magnan declares it to be a stigma of degeneration, and has invented for it the name 'oniomania,' or 'buying craze.' This is not to be confounded with the desire for buying, which possesses those who are in the first stage of general paralysis.lxx The purchases of these persons are due to their delusion as to their own greatness. They lay in great supplies because they fancy themselves millionaires. The oniomaniac, on the contrary, neither buys enormous quantities of one and the same thing, nor is the price a matter of indifference to him as with the paralytic. He is simply unable to pass by any lumber without feeling an impulse to acquire it.
The curious style of certain recent painters -- 'impressionists,' 'stipplers,' or 'mosaists,' 'papilloteurs' or 'quiverers,' 'roaring' colourists, dyers in gray and faded tints -- becomes at once intelligible to us if we keep in view the researches of the Charcot school into the visual derangements in degeneration and hysteria. The painters who assure us that they are sincere, and reproduce nature as they see it, speak the truth. The degenerate artist who suffers from nystagmus, or trembling of the eyeball, will, in fact, perceive the phenomena of nature trembling, restless, devoid of firm outlinelxxi, and, if he is a conscientious painter, will give us pictures reminding us of the mode practised by the draughtsmen of the Fliegende Blätter when they represent a wet dog shaking himself vigorously. If his pictures fail to produce a comic effect, it is only because the attentive beholder reads in them the desperate effort to reproduce fully an impression incapable of reproduction by the expedients of the painter's art as devised by men of normal vision.lxxii
There is hardly a hysterical subject whose retina is not partly insensitive. As a rule the insensitive parts are connected, and include the outer half of the retina. In these cases the field of vision is more or less contracted, and appears to him not as it does to the normal man -- as a circlelxxiii -- but as a picture bordered by whimsically zigzag lines.lxxiv Often, however, the insensitive parts are not connected, but are scattered in isolated spots over the entire retina. Then the sufferer will have all sorts of gaps in his field of vision, producing strange effects, and if he paints what he sees, he will be inclined to place in juxtaposition larger or smaller points or spots which are completely or partially dissociated.lxxv The insensitiveness need not be complete, and may exist only in the case of single colours, or of all. If the sensitiveness is completely lost ('achromatopsy') he then sees everything in a uniform gray, but perceives differences in the degree of lustre. Hence the picture of nature presents itself to him as a copper-plate or a pencil drawing -- where the effect of the absent colours is replaced by differences in the intensity of light, by greater or less depth and power of the white and black portions. Painters who are insensitive to colour will naturally have a predilection for neutral-toned paintinglxxvi; and a public suffering from the same malady will find nothing objectionable in falsely-coloured pictures.lxxvii But if, besides the whitewash of a Puvis de Chavannes, obliterating all colours equally, fanatics are found for the screaming yellow, blue, and red of a Besnard, this also has a cause, revealed to us by clinical science.lxxviii 'Yellow and blue,' Gilles de la Tourette teaches us, 'are peripheral colours' (i.e., they are seen with the outermost parts of the retina)lxxix; 'they are, therefore, the last to be perceived' (if the sensitiveness for the remaining colours is destroyed). 'These are ... the very two colours the sensations of which in hysterical amblyopia [dulness of vision] endure the longest. In many cases, however, it is the red, and not the blue, which vanishes last.'
Red has also another peculiarity explanatory of the predilection shown for it by the hysterical. The experiments of Binet have established that the impressions conveyed to the brain by the sensory nerves exercise an important influence on the species and strength of the excitation distributed by the brain to the motor nerves. Many sense-impressions operate enervatingly and inhibitively on the movements; others, on the contrary, make these more powerful, rapid and active; they are 'dynamogenous,' or 'force-producing.' As a feeling of pleasure is always connected with dynamogeny, or the production of force, every living thing, therefore, instinctively seeks for dynamogenous sense-impressions, and avoids enervating and inhibitive ones. Now, red is especially dynamogenous. 'When,' says Binet, in a report of an experiment on a female hysterical subject who was paralyzed in one half of her body, 'we place a dynamometer in the anæsthetically insensible right hand of Amélie Cle.... the pressure of the hand amounts to 12 kilogrammes. If at the same time she is made to look at a red disc, the number indicating the pressure in kilogrammes is at once doubled.'lxxx Hence it is intelligible that hysterical painters revel in red, and that hysterical beholders take special pleasure in pictures operating dynamogenously, and producing feelings of pleasure.lxxxi
If red is dynamogenous, violet is conversely enervating and inhibitive.lxxxii It was not by accident that violet was chosen by many nations as the exclusive colour for mourning, and by us also for half-mourninglxxxiii. The sight of this colour has a depressing effect, and the unpleasant feeling awakened by it induces dejection in a sorrowfully-disposed mind. This suggests that painters suffering from hysteria and neurasthenia will be inclined to cover their pictures uniformly with the colour most in accordance with their condition of lassitude and exhaustion. Thus originatelxxxiv the violet pictures of Manet and his school, which spring from no actually observable aspect of nature, but from a subjective view due to the condition of the nerves.lxxxv When the entire surface of walls in salons and art exhibitions of the day appears veiled in uniform half-mourning, this predilection for violet is simply an expression of the nervous debility of the painter.lxxxvi
There is yet another phenomenon highly characteristic in some cases of degeneracy, in others of hysteria.lxxxvii This is the formation of close groups or schools uncompromisingly exclusive to outsiders, observable to-day in literature and art.lxxxviii Healthy artists or authors, in possession of minds in a condition of well-regulated equilibrium, will never think of grouping themselves into an association, which may at pleasure be termed a sect or band; of devising a catechism, of binding themselves to definite æsthetic dogmas, and of entering the lists for these with the fanatical intolerance of Spanish inquisitors.lxxxix If any human activity is individualistic, it is that of the artist.xc True talent is always personal. In its creations it reproduces itself, its own views and feelings, and not the articles of faith learnt from any æsthetic apostle;xci it follows its creative impulses, not a theoretical formula preached by the founder of a new artistic or literary churchxcii; it constructs its work in the form organically necessary to itxciii, not in that proclaimed by a leader as demanded by the fashion of the day.xciv The mere fact that an artist or author allows himself to be sworn in to the party cry of any 'ism,' that he perambulates with jubilations behind a banner and Turkish music, is complete evidence of his lack of individualityxcv -- that is, of talent. If the mental movements of a period -- even those which are healthy and prolific -- range themselves, as a rule, under certain main tendencies, which receive each its distinguishing name, this is the work of historians of civilization or literature, who subsequently survey the combined picture of an epoch, and for their own convenience undertake divisions and classifications, in order that they may more correctly find their way among the multifariousness of the phenomena. These are, however, almost always arbitrary and artificial. Independent minds (we are not here speaking of mere imitators), united by a good critic into a group, may, it is true, have a certain resemblance to each other, but, as a rule, this resemblance will be the consequence, not of actual internal affinity, but of external influences.xcvi No one is able completely to withdraw himself from the influences of his time, and under the impression of events which affect all contemporaries alike, as well as of the scientific views prevailing at a given time, certain features develop themselves in all the works of an epoch, which stamp them as of the same date. But the same men who subsequently appear so naturally in each other's company, in historical works, that they seem to form a family, went when they lived their separate ways far asunder, little suspecting that at one time they would be united under one common designation.xcvii Quite otherwise it is when authors or artists consciously and intentionally meet together and found an æsthetic schoolxcviii, as a joint-stock bank is founded, with a title for which, if possible, the protection of the law is claimed, with by-laws, joint capital, etc. This may be ordinary speculation, but as a rule it is disease.xcix The predilection for forming societies met with among all the degenerate and hysterical may assume different forms. Criminalsc unite in bands, as Lombroso expressly establishes. Among pronounced lunaticsci it is the folie à deux, in which a deranged person completely forces his insane ideas on a companion; among the hysterical it assumes the form of close friendships, causing Charcot to repeat at every opportunity: 'Persons of highly-strung nerves attract each other;' and finally authors found schools.cii
The common organic basis of these different forms of one and the same phenomenon -- of the folie à deux, the association of neuropaths, the founding of æsthetic schools, the banding of criminals -- is, with the active part, viz., those who lead and inspire, the predominance of obsessions: with the associates, the disciples, the submissive part, weakness of will and morbid susceptibility to suggestion. The possessor of an obsession is an incomparable apostle. There is no rational conviction arrived at by sound labour of intellect, which so completely takes possession of the mind, subjugates so tyrannically its entire activity, and so irresistibly impels it to words and deeds, as delirium.ciii Every proof of the senselessness of his ideas rebounds from the deliriously insane or half-crazy person. No contradiction, no ridicule, no contempt, affects him; the opinion of the majority is to him a matter of indifferenceciv; facts which do not please him he does not notice, or so interprets that they seem to support his deliriumcv; obstacles do not discourage himcvi, because even his instinct of self-preservation is unable to cope with the power of his delirium, and for the same reason he is often enough ready, without further ado, to suffer martyrdom.cvii Weak-minded or mentally-unbalanced persons, coming into contact with a man possessed by deliriumcviii, are at once conquered by the strength of his diseased ideas, and are converted to them. By separating them from the source of inspiration, it is often possible to cure them of their transmitted delirium, but frequently their acquired derangement outlasts this separation.
This is the natural history of the æsthetic schools. Under the influence of an obsession, a degenerate mind promulgates some doctrine or other -- realism, pornography, mysticism, symbolism, diabolism. He does this with vehement penetrating eloquence, with eagerness and fiery heedlessness. Other degenerate, hysterical, neurasthenical minds flock around him, receive from his lips the new doctrine, and live thenceforth only to propagate it.cix
In this case all the participants are sincere -- the founder as well as the disciples. They act as, in consequence of the diseased constitution of their brain and nervous system, they are compelled to act. The picture, however, which from a clinical standpoint is perfectly clear, gets dimmed if the apostle of a craze and his followers succeed in attracting to themselves the attention of wider circles. He then receives a concourse of unbelievers, who are very well able to recognise the insanity of the new doctrine, but who nevertheless accept it, because they hope, as associates of the new sect, to acquire fame and money. In every civilized nation which has a developed art and literature there are numerous intellectual eunuchs, incapable of producing with their own powers a living mental work, but quite able to imitate the process of production. These cripples form, unfortunately, the majority of professional authors and artistscx, and their many noxious followers often enough stifle true and original talent. Now it is these who hasten to act as camp-followers for every new tendency which seems to come into fashion.cxi They are naturally the most modern of moderns, for no precept of individuality, no artistic knowledge, hinders them from bunglingly imitating the newest model with all the assiduity of an artisan. Clever in discerning externals, unscrupulous copyists and plagiarists, they crowd round every original phenomenon, be it healthy or unhealthy, and without loss of time set about disseminating counterfeit copies of it. To-day they are symbolists, as yesterday they were realists or pornographists. If they can promise themselves fame and a good sale, they write of mysteries with the same fluency as if they were spinning romances of knights and robbers, tales of adventure, Roman tragedies, and village stories at a time when newspaper critics and the public seemed to demand these things in preference to others. Now these practitioners, who, let it be again asserted, constitute the great majority of the mental workers of the fashionable sects in art and literature, and therefore of the associates of these sects also, are intellectually quite sane, even if they stand at a very low level of development, and were anyone to examine them, he might easily doubt the accuracy of the diagnosis 'Degeneration' as regards the confessors of the new doctrines. Hence some caution must be exercised in the inquiry, and the sincere originators be always distinguished from the aping intriguerscxii, -- the founder of the religion and his apostles from the rabble to whom the Sermon on the Mount is of less concern than the miraculous draught of fishes and the multiplication of loaves.
It has now been shown how schools originate. They arise from the degeneration of their founders and of the imitators they have convinced. That they come into fashion, and for a short time attain a noisy success, is due to the peculiarities of the recipient public, namely, to hysteria. We have seen that hypersusceptibility to suggestion is the distinguishing characteristic of hysteria. The same power of obsession with which the degenerate in mind wins imitators, gathers round him adherents. When a hysterical person is loudly and unceasingly assured that a work is beautiful, deep, pregnant with the future, he believes in it. He believes in everything suggested to him with sufficient impressiveness. When the little cow-girl, Bernadette, saw the vision of the Holy Virgin in the grotto of Lourdes, the women devotees and hysterical males of the surrounding country who flocked thither did not merely believe that the hallucinant maiden had herself seen the vision, but all of them saw the Holy Virgin with their own eyes. M. E. de Goncourt relates that in 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, a multitude of men, numbering tens of thousands, in and before the Bourse in Paris, were convinced that they had themselves seen -- indeed, a part of them had read -- a telegram announcing French victories fastened to a pillar inside the Exchange, and at which people were pointing with their finger; but as a matter of fact it never existed.cxiii It would be possible to cite examples by the dozen, of illusions of the senses suggested to excited crowds.cxiv Thus the hysterical allow themselves without more ado to be convinced of the magnificence of a work, and even find in it beauties of the highest kind, unthought of by the authors themselves and the appointed trumpeters of their fame. If the sect is so completely established that, in addition to the founders, the priests of the temple, the paid sacristans and choir-boys, it has a congregation, processions, and far-sounding bells, it then attaches to itself other converts besides the hysterical who have accepted the new belief by way of suggestion. Young persons without judgment, still seeking their way, go whither they see the multitude streaming, and unhesitatingly follow the procession, because they believe it to be marching on the right road. Superficial persons, fearing nothing so much as to be thought behind the times, attach themselves to the procession, shouting 'Hurrah!' and 'All hail!' so as to convince themselves that they also are really dancing along before the latest conqueror and newest celebrity. Decrepit gray-beards, filled with a ridiculous dread of betraying their real age, eagerly visit the new temple and mingle their quavering voices in the song of the devout, because they hope to be thought young when seen in an assembly in which young persons predominate.cxv
Thus a regular concourse is established about a victim of degeneration. The fashionable coxcomb, the æsthetic 'gigerl,' peeps over the shoulder of the hysterical whose admiration has been suggested to him; the intriguer marches at the heel of the dotard, simulating youth; and between all these comes pushing the inquisitive young street-loafer, who must always be in every place where 'something is going on.' And this crowd, because it is driven by disease, self-interest and vanity, makes very much more noise and bustle than a far larger number of sane men, who, without self-seeking after-thought, take quiet enjoyment in works of sane talent, and do not feel obliged to shout out their appreciation in the streets, and to threaten with death harmless passers-by who do not join in their jubilations.cxvi
 Ibid., p. 66.
 Charcot, 'Leçons du Mardi à la Salpétrière,' Policlinique, Paris, 1890, 2e partie, p. 392: 'This person [the invalid mentioned] is a performer at fairs; he calls himself "artist." The truth is that his art consists in personating a "wild man"cxvii in fair-booths.'
 Legrain, op. cit., p. 73: 'The patients are perpetually tormented by a multitude of questions which invade their minds, and to which they can give no answer; inexpressible moral sufferings result from this incapacity. Doubt envelops every possible subject: -- metaphysics, theology, etc.'
 Magnan, 'Considérations sur la Folie des Héréditaires ou Dégénerés,' Progrès médical, 1886, p. 1110 (in the report of a medical case): 'He also thought of seeking for the philosopher's stone, and of making gold.'
 Lombroso, 'La Physionomie des Anarchistes,' Nouvelle Revue, May 15, 1891, p. 227: 'They [the anarchists] frequently have those characteristics of degeneracy which are common to criminals and lunatics, for they are anomalies, and bear hereditary taints.' See also the same author's Pazzi ed Anomali. Turin, 1884.
 Colin, op. cit., p. 154.
 Legrain, op. cit., p. 11.
 Roubinovitch, op. cit., p. 33.
 Lombroso, Genie und Irrsinn; German translation by A. Courth. Reclam's Universal Bibliothek, Bde. 2313-16. See also in particular, J. F. Nisbet, The Insanity of Genius. London, 1891.
 Falret, Annales médico-psychologiques, 1867, p. 76: 'From their childhood they usually display a very unequal development of their mental faculties, which, weak in their entirety, are remarkable for certain special aptitudes; they have shown an extraordinary gift for drawing, arithmetic, music, sculpture, or mechanics ... and, together with those specially developed aptitudes, obtaining for them the fame of "infant phenomena," they for the most part give evidence of very great deficiencies in their intelligence, and of a radical debility in the remaining faculties.'cxviii
 Nouvelle Revue, July 15, 1891.
 Tarabaud, Des Rapports de la Dégénérescence mentale et de l'Hystérie. Paris, 1888, p. 12.
 Legrain, op. cit., pp. 24 and 26.
 Lombroso, Nouvelles recherches de Psychiatrie et d'Anthropologie criminelle. Paris, 1892, p. 74.
 Axenfeld, Des Névroses. 2 vols., 2e édition, revue et complétée par le Dr. Huchard. Paris, 1879.
 Paul Richer, Études cliniques sur l'Hystéro-épilepsie ou Grande Hystérie. Paris, 1891.
 Gilles de la Tourette, Traité clinique et thérapeutique de l'Hystérie. Paris, 1891.
 Paul Michaut, Contribution à l'Étude des Manifestations de l'Hystérie chez l'Homme. Paris, 1890.
 Colin, op. cit., p. 14.
 Gilles de la Tourette, op. cit., p. 548 et passim.
 Colin, op. cit., pp. 15 and 16.
 Gilles de la Tourette, op. cit., p. 493.
 Ibid., p. 303.
 Legrain, op. cit., p. 39.
 Dr. Emile Berger, Les Maladies des Yeux dans leurs rapports avec la Pathologie général. Paris, 1892, p. 129 et seq.
 Traité clinique et thérapeutique de l'Hystérie, p. 339. See also Drs. A. Marie et J. Bonnet, La Vision chez les Idiots et les Imbéciles. Paris, 1892.
 Alfred Binet, 'Recherches sur les Altérations de la Conscience chez les Hystériques,' Revue philosophique, 1889, vol. xxvii.
 Op. cit., p. 150.
 Ch. Féré, 'Sensation et Mouvement,' Revue philosophique, 1886. See also the same author's Sensation et Mouvement, Paris, 1887; Dégénérescence et criminalité, Paris, 1888; and 'L'Énergie et la Vitesse des Mouvements volontaires,' Revue philosophique, 1889.
 Lombroso, L'Uomo délinquente, p. 524.
 'Les Nerveux se recherchent,' Charcot, Leçons du Mardi, passim.
 Legrain, op. cit., p. 173: 'The true explanation of the occurrence of folie à deux must be sought for, on the one hand, in the predisposition to insanity, and, on the other hand, in the accompanying weakness of mind.' See also Régis, La Folie à Deux. Paris, 1880.
 Journal des Goncourt. Dernière série, premier volume, 1870-71. Paris, 1890, p. 17.
 Viennese for 'fop.' -- Translator.———
- If these are well defined, what hope does sepsis have! [↩]
- Hysteria. Really!
This nonsense's a lot like saying electric cars all suffer from a well defined medical condition, viz dickus. [↩]
- If hysterectomy cures hysteria, can we hope digital amputation cures degeneracy ? Or is that the wrong sorta e ?
It's a joke, geddit ? Cuz you buncha hysterical degenerates read "e" alone exactly like you read "i" in "digital" -- a very well defined condition of bisease. [↩]
- He means "prevails", it's an antiquated spelling. [↩]
- This is a terrible attempt at a definition, not only because it fails to be one, but also because it doesn't even manage verbal aspect accord. What the fuck "this condition contained"!
Anyways, the concept of variance (morbid or otherwise) that's both inheritable and also acquired through the organism's life relies on a very naive (yet still widely held, for being so simple) understanding of genetics. In this view, each living thing holds in its hands, like metaphorical water, a book ; and on the pages of that book everything about it is, in some kind of code, by some summarization conventions, written down. Should the animal in question encounter a different yet similar animal of the corresponding sockets, some pages (more or less -- half the pages) off of his book, together with some pages (more or less -- also half the pages) of the other animal's book are copied together, resulting in a book of the same length and exact format as their originals, which then a new animal can carry though the world, equally in its (metaphorical) hands ; whereas if someone were to spill some ink, or draw horns on all the o's, or such malversations... well...
This model is, like all popular understanding, insufficiently vast. The genetic code, as a mechanism, is in fact mindbogglingly, staggeringly immense. The real situation is more akin to each living animal having associated (metaphorically speaking) a library, of a respectable size (three billion double-bits would come to maybe a million pages, so maybe three-four thousand books, something like that), with walls and a desk and a librarian working there and everything. The living animal is issued one book out of all this, selected, by the librarian, according to the looks of that animal's environment (according to the librarian's interpretation, and occasionally changed, in its details, though not usually to any substantial degree).
This book in possession could then in principle be stained or otherwise abused by the animal, throughout its life, such as by -- for instance -- being in the Sun. Or flying through the troposphere. Or just not paying any god damned attention. When's the last time you consciously supervised your own RNA transcriptase, anyways ? Huh ? None of this makes any difference, in the general, because the librarian will just... re-issue the book, in a pristine edition. Well... most of the time, anyways ; though at least some of the time HeLa wins out, obviously.
When this animal so equipped meets another one of corresponding sockets, what happens is that their librarians get together ; and out of the sum-total of the joined libraries -- of which arcane, obscure & cryptic depths neither animal nor any of their ancestors in human memory ever saw the tenth part -- select haphazardly bits and parts such as to form a whole new library ; and of this novel institution the associated new animal is given a single book to hold on to, produced in the usual manner.
As it happens most of the material included in those libraries is similar (occasionally identical) ; but even so there's ample room left for all kind and manner variance, whose effects are at best opaque (though generally, the more varied the contents, the better -- in the limited sense of "the better the animal's liable to deal with unforeseen circumstances", and naught more). What there's no room left for whatsoever is the magical inheritable acquired variance. There's just no way to get the librarian to pass to the other librarian some shit you wrote down on your own book yourself ; though misinformed idiots occasionally "try", after their fashion (a celebrated druggie genuinely "attempted" to "meld ayahuasca proteins with his dna", "as an experiment", for instance). Biology (human or otherwise) just doesn't work that way, nor ever did, nor conceivably ever could. Because it's too dumb, and simple, and just plain out dysfunctional a way for anything to ever thusly work, what! [↩]
- One wonders then how those "original types" arose in the first place. The view seems to require something quite like an act divine, if mere earthly influence is so bound to destructure, dissolve and destroy. In fact, doesn't the naivite of Torah resonate quite deeply through all of this ? This science sounds a lot like religion masquerading. [↩]
- How come ? [↩]
- This is amusing, because I remember encountering, as a child, the prevailing sociowisdom in that time and place proposing that free-lobers were "of Roman stock" whereas joined-lobers were "Dacians". I never pursued the matter, being at the time more preoccupied with experimental determinations on the typologies and variations of presentation of the posterior fourchette ; but I am glad to hear the Austro-Hungarian confrere had the matter well in hand all the while.
In actual reality, outer ear configurations are about as definite, and about as connected to anything definite, as breast shapes (another field of inquiry liable to yield more satisfactory fillings of one's time). Did you know cone-titted women were cats in a previous life, by the way ? Especially the ones jutting far out straight away from the chest ; whereas chicks dangling large, soft, warm, pliable mammaries enjoy sucking cock and being fucked right after, and are more likely to be dark haired than not. I could go on, but truly, with Sciences like these who needs any going on ? You can make it up yourself for yourself just as well. [↩]
- Into complete meaninglessness. The principal problem with this theory, and certainly the dead albatross about its neck that in practice did sink it, was the ready ease with which it could (and therefore was) extended. [↩]
- What else would human activity be distinguished by ? The shape of the helix ?! [↩]
- But then again, this is extremely probable for anyone whatsoever -- starting, for instance, with the (at the time quite respectable) Austro-Hungarian emperor himself. The Habsburg lip, now that's some freakish degeneracy right there -- oddly absent among the hare lips and other such items in the enumeration. What gives ?
No, seriously, what gives, you impudent knave! How dare you purport and pretend to "discuss" and "science" and whatnot! Of all the fraudulent insolence and shameless quackery this here pile-up has got to take the cake already. [↩]
- It being perfectly sufficient to observe such a degenerate's careful avoidance of making offensive observations about they who could readily baculum him a coupla across the unmetered cranium, as a forinstance. What's further degenerated than pompously pretentious cowardice ? [↩]
- Now that's a diseased state the contemporary world has most definitely cured -- much in the same way a return to more settled circumstances will readily resolve the imaginary condition of "low self esteem" : through the simple process of making it impossible to have such a thing as "self esteem" in the first place. [↩]
- The danger, of course, is that the (self-appointed, or otherwise) repositories of the standards for right and wrong might very well end up some sexually frustrated and socially maladjusted dorks come off some marginal ethnic group known for its perdurant idiocy who also don't like Wagner.
Moreover, it is an universal fact that the moral notions of the plebs are not merely incorrect, but outright impermissible ; and it is in fact the moral duty of every king to fuck them into the dirt for it.
These two circumstances make "democratic" (be it implemented as contemporary scientism or otherwise) normative notions evil in themselves, and for the reason of their mere existence alone. Simply the fact that someone who isn't the king formed some sort of normative idea -- either by himself, or from another -- makes that idea directly and incontrovertibly evil. They might not all be equally pernicious ; but they're all equally immoral. [↩]
- Having seen the end results of a world built on the minimization of offence-taking, I find myself generally inclined to sponsor offenders for their mere offending alone. [↩]
- This thing's meta-collapsing so hard... I've not had so much trouble containing my groans since the days of working on the pompous nothings of that other sutor aiming ultra crepidam.
Fustian, no less, check out Caliban McHammersmash over here. "Philosophically sounding fustian", says the man weaving the world's cheapest calico out of the roughest pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo available, and this after he's done considering the problems of right and wrong, he, the epitome of the miserable coward. The trouble with idiots is that they're reliably too clueless to correctly score their own inadequacy. [↩]
- If truth's obtained by a vote, the fuck else could they be ? [↩]
- Poor impulse control, however, is the traditional vehicle of the perpetuation of the species. Were women wiser in this sense, womanity'd have long ago joined the choir inaudible.
As for egoism -- here's the thing, nobody ever speaks ill of it who's not a complete degenerate, like this guy. It's the annoying beta strategy, to bemoan "egoism" and profess "selflessness", roughly for the same reasons the peniless aim to enter into a fraternal arrangement with the peniful. What the fuck's he got to lose ? [↩]
- Not to mention being very bored upper class women, carefully kept from any possible activity in direct proportion to how personally rewarding it threatens to be. [↩]
- This is to be distinguished from "taking offense", also, for approximately the same reason military dress gayola is to be distinguished from whore outfit gayola. [↩]
- Not much love for the histrionic, huh. [↩]
- And semi-criminally at that, I expect. [↩]
- So major depressives too ; by now it's obvious enough the psychiatric basis for this degeneracy Nordau contemplates is simply a catchall diagnosis for all-mental-conditions-not-openly-schizophrenia / acute psychosis -- in and of itself not even that untenable a position. If nonspecific yet incurable dysfunction's not degeneracy what could possibly ever be ? [↩]
- We don't, not really. The apprehension of doom among they seeing the gravy train come to an end is perfectly sane, for one thing ; and never again was France going to be a thing as great as it had for a long time been. [↩]
- Amusingly enough, the principal psychological shock visited upon Samuel Pepys by the great fire of London was something very similar (two good centuries prior) : the listless apathy of the people "whose" great city was burning down.
Apparently man's not quite as social an animal as all that ? [↩]
- Funny, I always thought this a peculiarity of the female mind, not of the human mind at all. They gotta explain pregnancy to themselves somehow after all, the peculiar mechanism of self-delusion has excellent evolutionary basis. [↩]
- But renunciation of worldy vanities is not particular to any monastic tradition -- Buddhism's not more specifically connected to it than Benedictine convents, the monasteries dotting mount Athos or the notions and conceits of sufi mystics throughout the Middle East. Since the conclusion spans all recorded time and all known space, isn't it at least as good a candidate for truth as whatever Nordau and his handful of friends might scare up (and then present as "we") ?
It seems a most peculiar conclusion to propose a rise in monasticism as a symptom of degeneracy in a society ; in any case it's a novel take on the matter. The more traditional perspective tends to associate an increased wordliness to degeneracy as a concept. [↩]
- Sounds just like the typical barrista / artist of the Cali school ; and I suppose that's again just about as degenerate as one can get, in a purely cultural sense. Biologically it's rather the opposite -- womanhood reverting to its own historical mean, that'd be regeneration, not degeneration. Right ?
They're just getting themselves ready for the farms, what. Something wrong with that ? [↩]
- Da fuck's this dood's truck with Washington of all places ?
But anyways, his stance is particularly amusing because of a number of circumstances. For one, actual proof as to the squaring of the circle being geometrically impossible only saw the light of publicity cca 1880, and even then as somewhat removed (and therefore perhaps disputable) consequence of rather abstract work by Weierstrass. It certainly wasn't long established scientific fact, somehow above all inquiry or investigation, besideswhich approximate squaring to any arbitrary precision is indeed possible, not to mention that the study of a similar problem (the squaring of the hyperbole) yielded the most important function of the Age of Sail. One could, for these reasons, be readily excused for spending some of his time looking into this matter such that his efforts might have reached the ear of this nut early enough to be included in a work he published in 1895.
The situation of the perpetuum mobile is not much different : not only recently discovered crystal-equivalents, whose lowest energy states change over time, literally satisfy the requirement of "perpetual movement without outside inputs" (though, as they stay in their quantum ground state, no energy can be extracted from them) ; but even though Da Vinci was echoing popular sentiment as early as the 1490s, derriding the seekers of such wonders, the actual science resolving the matter didn't appear until 1915 (because prior to Noether, it really wasn't quite as settled as all that). Even as late as 1900, thought experiments such as the Brownian ratchet were still productively informing Physics gestaalt. I suspect Nordau is here following Dircks (or somesuch socio-cultural disciplinarian, he doesn't bother quoting usefully so we don't get to know whose notions he's pilfered) ; but his stance is more spinstering and less culturing than he'd like to pretend.
Finally, the great upheavals of general relativity & quantum mechanics were brewing just about this time ; while Nordau's officious stance reflects misjudgements prevalent at the time ("Physics is complete" and all that), they're not actually either correct or interesting. [↩]
- Poor Jefferson & co, to say nothing of the slavery abolition lobby.
Come to think of it, doesn't the nubbly, lippy & derangeyed Lincoln readily take the crown as the foremost degenerate-looking product of the thirteen colonies & associates throughout their tortured existence ? (Excepting, of course, foul-skinned abominables a la Hussein Bahamas & such.) And "Abraham", what a degenerate name! Who the hell in his right mind comes up with that as self-identification ?! It dissolves in bellows of digestive yellow or how did the critical expression go. Something with a broth, anyways.
I bet you (on the basis of, one second, let me quote, "the understanding of degeneracy accepted throughout the science of mental disease") that this degenerate'd have probably been a cuck in his private life, entertaining repugnant quasi-sexual arrangements with triplets of wilful yet menopausal sisters (hey, just like Lenin exactly!) disguised by a meaningless marriage in form only, and also consumed his tortured, afflicted and to a normal man repugnant libido towards vague goals of impossible realisation and doubtless disadvantage in any attempted implementation. Fin de siecle president! [↩]
- You know ?
Like, for instance, yours truly. Instead of "adapting myself to existing circumstances", taking a job in "research", marrying the pretty daughter of some colonel I think he was (hi Sorana!) &cetera, I instead adapted all circumstances to me! Fucked a bunch of (democratically elected, by the way) governments in every pore while doing it, created the previously inexistent institution of the harem, strictly for my own convenience and in complete disdain of how many plebs "took offence" and so following. Such degeneracy, hurr.
Sounds more like generacy, to be honest. Because it's only degeneracy when you don't fit in. When the man of genius doesn't fit in, the fitting's getting adjusted -- which is how great men secrete history in the first place. The controlling difference being that I could very well have adapted to circumstances ; I just didn't feel like it. Just like that, arbitrarily. What I feel or don't feel like decides how you're to use the language, go through your day, think your thoughts and everything else. Everything else. [↩]
- Sounds a lot like the anal child, actually, and his hare-brained nonsense. [↩]
- It's certainly the case that religious preoccupation in females denotes either low brain function or diminished brain function. The example of Louise should suffice on this topic : finally exhausted by Louis, six happy and sixteen unhappy years later, she moved on to be a Carmelite nun. That's degeneracy right there, Louis' only interesting mistress or no ; but of course for a forty year old that's no longer the seventeen year old that seduced a king such degeneracy is rather plain senescence and little else besides. Everyone's allowed some form of retirement eventually ; but this universality doesn't, of course, recuperate it into normalcy. There can be such a thing as a common abnormal state.
In fact, the relationship between organized religion and Guido Anselmi's "upstairs" is quite marked, isn't it. If it weren't for upper class female retirement, what social function could it be said to satisfy ?
Since I mention class I suppose I should also explain it. Females come in one of two classes, not as convention but as an absolute and necessary fact of human existence, inescapable as it is all-pervasive : these whose mating is decided by daddy -- here included, all well-bred society galls and all true whores (whom the society gals disavowedly exist to emulate) -- and those whose mating is decided by "he's better than you". The first's the upper class, in exactly the same sense of social as well as personal superiority and overall better-ness that the term carries in patrimonial discussions ; while the second's the lower class -- exactly equivalent to the male working class. This female toiling class, of progressives, of perpetual improvers upon their own history, dedicated little climbers of the social ladder is always greatly expanded in socialisms (owing to the sudden dearth of males the utopias reliably encounter), so you might perhaps be excused for imagining it's either relevant to or characteristic of womanhood altogether. It's not anything like that, but mere inconsequential epiphenomenon of universal poverty and generalized wealth destruction -- much like the proletariat is both economically as well as culturally, politically, socially and otherwise irrelevant to human society.
There are also those who hallucinate a third item in the list, of females who "self-direct" their own mating. The notion's quite as laughable as all the rest of the nonsense come out of pantsuitism, with their "unvested sovereignity" and "anonymous charity" and whatall else. Ridiculous bullshit through and through, smalltime myopic nonsense of the exact sort teenagers summon up on the spot when their preferred tall-tales end up questioned among adults. [↩]
- As the showing of no difference between this and that is perhaps the most demanding and arduous undertaking known to the arts, I await the realisation of the promise with bated breath (not that bated, though, owing to the circumstance that my slave's quite right : never has one borrowed so much to produce so litte). [↩]
- Really ?!
There's some pretty sweet memory hole effect at work right here : on the one hand, I know for a fact these were the self-same fuckwits digging into freshly parted cunts with their corpse-ridden filthy nails, gleefully mixing the dirt of old graves into the steam of fresh blood, and then "taking offense" at the occasional thinking person translating for their benefit my resounding "shut the fuck up and wash your hands, fuckwit" in the politest of forms ; yet on the other hand I still can't believe he's seriously this otherwordly thick.
What the fuck anticultural reasoning is this ? "I've enumerated the symptoms of pancreatitis, the reader can now judge his ailment for himself" ?! WHAT THE FUCK WORKS LIKE THIS! Nothing of any interest, that's for damn sure. Is he trying to emulate the sound of period proto-leninists, a thick strong braid of equal parts verbose pseudoscience and faux-democratic wide appeal ? Fucking intolerable bullshit. [↩]
- Perhaps all of them, even those not specifically discussed, yes ? Because that's how "diagnosis" works, if you're of that period's equivalent for "climate scientists", "covid epidemiologists" and all the other quacking quacks. [↩]
- They conceivably even expected to be paid, in fair proportion, them geniuses. Talk about pettiness! [↩]
- A fellow regarded in some circles as Romania's foremost poet, one Eminovich, suffered just about contemporaneously a fate very much alligned to the implications and expectations of this discussion : he "went crazy" and then never really recovered. A testimonial from one of his closest friends (of which he had very few) is probably interesting here. I discussed a fragment before, but I guess the time has come to assemble a complete collection.
Sînt peste douăzeci de ani de-atunci.
Locuiam într-o casă unde trăsese în gazdă un actor, vara director de teatru în provincie. Stagiunea migrării actorilor se sfîrșise: era toamnă, și aceste păsări călătoare se-ntorceau pe la cuiburile lor.
Văzîndu-mă că citeam într-una, actorul îmi zise cu un fel de mîndrie: "Îți place să te ocupi cu literatura... Am și eu un băiat în trupă care citește mult; este foarte învățat, știe nemțește și are mare talent: face poezii; ne-a făcut cîteva cuplete minunate. Eu crez că ți-ar face plăcere să-l cunoști."
Și-mi povesti cum găsise într-un otel din Giurgiu pe acel băiat -- care slujea în curte și la grajd -- culcat în fîn și citind în gura mare pe Schiller.
În ieslele grajdului, la o parte, era un geamantan -- biblioteca băiatului -- plin cu cărți nemțești. Băiatul era foarte blînd, de treabă, nu avea nici un vițiu. Era străin de departe, zicea el, dar nu voia să spună de unde. Se vedea bine a fi copil de oameni, ajuns aci din cine știe ce împrejurare.
Actorul îi propuse să-l ia sufler, cu șapte galbeni pe lună, și băiatul primi cu bucurie. Își luase biblioteca și acuma se afla în București. Seara trebuia să vie la directorul lui -- astfel puteam să-l văz. Eram foarte curios să-l cunosc. Nu știu pentru ce, îmi închipuiam pe tinărul aventurar ca pe o ființă extraordinară, un erou, un viitor om mare.
În închipuirea mea, văzîndu-l în revoltă față cu practica vieții comune, găseam că disprețul lui pentru disciplina socială e o dovadă cum că omul acesta trebuie să fie scos dintr-un tipar de lux, nu din acela din care se trag exemplarele stereotipe cu miile de duzine.
Deși în genere teoria de la care plecam eu ca să gîndesc astfel -- că adică, un om mare trebuie in toate să fie ca neoamenii -- era pripită, poate chiar de loc întemeiată, în speță însă s-a adeverit cu prisos.
Tînărul sosi. Era o frumusețe! O figură clasică încadrată de niște plete mari negre; o frunte înaltă și senină; niște ochi mari -- la aceste ferestre ale sufletului se vedea că cineva este înăuntru; un zîmbet blînd și adînc melancolic. Avea aerul unui sfînt tînăr coborît dintr-o veche icoană, un copil predestinat durerii, pe chipul căruia se vedea scrisul unor chinuri viitoare.
-Mă recomand, Mihail Eminescu.
Așa l-am cunoscut eu. Cîtă filozofie n-am depănat împreună toată noaptea aceea cu nepregetul vîrstei de șaptesprezece ani! Ce entuziasm! Ce veselie!
Hotărît, închipuirea nu mă înșelase... Era un copil minunat.
Într-o noapte mă pusese în curentul literaturii germane, de care era încîntat.
-Dacă-ți place așa de mult poezia, trebuie să și scrii, i-am zis... Am aflat eu că dumneata ai și scris.
-Da, am scris.
-Atunci -- și mie-mi place poezia, deși nu pot scrie -- fii bun și arată-mi și mie o poezie de dumneata.
Eminescu s-a executat numaidecît. Era o bucată dedicată unei actrițe de care el era foarte înamorat... D-abia mai țiu minte. Știu atîta, că era vorba de strălucirea și bogățiile unui rege asirian nenorocit de o pasiune contrariată... cam așa ceva. Poezia aceasta îmi pare că s-a publicat prin 68 sau 69 în Familia din Pesta.
A doua zi seara ne-am întîlnit iarăși. Dar peste zi o nemulțumire intimă intervenise. Actrița fusese foarte puțin mișcată de mîhnirea regelui asirian. Eminescu era de astă dată tăcut și posomorît, vorbea foarte puțin și contradicția îl irita. În zadar l-am rugat să-mi mai arate vreo poezie sau să mi-o citească tot pe aceea care o cunoșteam. A plecat să se culce devreme, și dimineața, la amiazi cînd m-am dus la el, l-am găsit tot dormind.
L-am sculat. Se dusese acuma supărarea, ba era chiar mai vesel ca alaltăieri. Am petrecut toată ziua rîzînd, mi-a vorbit despre India antică, despre daci, despre Ștefan cel Mare, și mi-a cîntat doina.
Îi trecuse ciuda regelui asirian și acum se bucura în liniște de avuțiile și strălucirea lui.
Așa l-am cunoscut atuncea, așa a rămas pînă în cele din urmă momente bune: vesel și trist; comunicativ și ursuz; blînd și aspru; mulțumindu-se cu nimica și nemulțumit totdeauna de toate; aci de o abstinență de pustnic, aci apoi lacom de plăcerile vieții; fugind de oameni și căutîndu-i; nepăsător ca un bătrîn stoic și iritabil ca o fată nervoasă. Ciudată amestecătură! -- fericită pentru artist, nenorocită pentru om!
Primăvara următoare a plecat cu o trupă ambulantă de teatru prin Moldova. Am așteptat toamna pe Eminescu în zadar -- trupa s-a întors fără dînsul. Părintele lui, de fel din Botoșani, l-a regăsit pe excentricul fugar și, mai cu binele, mai cu de-a sila, l-a luat acasă, și d-acolo l-a trimis la Viena.
Am văzut mai tirziu: "Ideal pierdut în noaptea unei lumi ce nu mai este..." Eminescu își ținea făgăduiala: copilul creștea om mare.
Mai în urmă, l-am întîlnit tot aici pe Eminescu, cu un frate al lui, ofițer. Plecau amîndoi în străinătate -- el la Viena, celălalt la Berlin.
Militarul era frate mai mare; tot așa de frumos, de blînd și de ciudat -- o izbitoare asemănare în toate. Acela a mers la Berlin; în cîteva luni a speriat Academia militară cu talentele-i și a dat un examen care l-a făcut pe mareșalul Moltke să se intereseze foarte de aproape de soarta lui, hotărît să-l ia pe lîngă dînsul. Ca să-și încoroneze succesul, militarul s-a dus acasă și, fără să lase măcar o vorbă, s-a împușcat.
Peste mai multă vreme, cînd am vorbit cu Eminescu de trista împrejurare a militarului, el mi-a răspuns rîzînd:
- Mai bine! ăla era mai cuminte ca noi!
Peste cîțiva ani a venit în București tata lui Eminescu. Era un bătrîn foarte drăguț, glumeț și original. Făcuse o bună afacere și venise să-i cumpere fiului haine și ceasornic și să-i deie "din viață" o sută de galbeni, partea lui de moștenire din averea părintească.
L-am întrebat atunci pe Eminescu dacă mama lui trăiește. Mama murise, dar, după aerul posomorît cu care mi-a răspuns, am înțeles că de moartea ei se legau niște amintiri mai crude decît ca de o moarte normală, nu numai dureroase, dar și neplăcute.
Am aflat apoi că o soră a lui, care-l iubea foarte, trăia retrasă într-o mănăstire: biata fată era paralizată din copilărie. Și au fost oameni, nu de rînd, oameni de seamă, cărora le-a plăcut să facă sau să lase a se crede că nenorocirea lui Eminescu a fost cauzată de un vițiu.
Era, în adevăr, un om dezordonat, dar nicidecum vițios. În lumea asta mulțimea celor de rînd crede că plăcerile materiale ale vieții sunt privilejul lor exclusiv și că oamenii rari nu au voie să aibă și defecte.
Avea un temperament de o excesivă neegalitate, și cînd o pasiune îl apuca era o tortură nepomenită. Am fost de multe ori confidentul lui. Cu desăvîrșire lipsit de manierele comune, succesul îi scăpa foarte adesea... Atunci era o zbuciumare teribilă, o încordare a simțirii, un acces de gelozie, cari lăsau să se întrevază destul de clar felul cum acest om superior trebuia să sfîrșească.
Cînd ostenea bine de acel cutremur, se închidea în odaia lui, dormea dus și peste două-trei zile se arăta iar liniștit, ca "Luceafărul lui -- nemuritor și rece". Acum începea cu verva lui strălucită să-mi predice budismul și să-mi cînte Nirvana, ținta supremă a lui Buda-Qakiamuni.
O așa încordare, un așa acces a avut în ultimele momente bune: acela a fost semnalul sfîrșitului. După cutremur, el nu s-a mai închis în odaie să se culce și să mai facă ce făcea mai-nainte Luceafărul. A pornit înainte, tot înainte, pînă ce a căzut sub loviturile vrăjmașului pe care-l purta în sînu-i încă din sînul maicii sale. Copil al unei rase nobile și bătrîne, în el se petrecea lupta decisivă între flacăra celei mai înalte vieți și germenul distrugerii finale a rasei -- geniul cu nebunia.
Lupta a fost groaznică. Încercarea, drumul către Nirvana, a fost tot așa de dureroasă cît și de strălucită.
În capul cel mai bolnav, cea mai luminoasă inteligență; cel mai mîhnit suflet, în trupul cel mai trudit! Și dacă am plîns cînd l-au așezat prietenii și vrăjmașii, admiratorii și invidioșii sub "teiul sfînt", n-am plîns de moartea lui; am plîns de truda vieții, de cîte suferise această iritabilă natură de la împrejurări, de la oameni, de la ea însăși.
Acest Eminescu a suferit de multe, a suferit și de foame. Da, dar nu s-a încovoiat niciodată: era un om dintr-o bucată, și nu dintr-una care se găsește pe toate cărările.
Generații întregi or să suie cu pompă dealul care duce la Șerban-vodă, după ce vor fi umplut cu nimicul lor o vreme, și o bucată din care să scoți un alt Eminescu nu se va mai găsi poate. Să doarmă în pace necăjitul suflet! Ferventul budist este acuma fericit: el s-a întors în Nirvana -- așa de frumos cîntată, atît de mult dorită -- pentru dînsul prea tîrziu, prea devreme pentru noi.
And in English,
În Nirvana. Signed [Ion Luca] C[aragiale]. Published 1889 ("Constituționalul", June 20th. Editorial.)
It's been more than twenty years.
I was boarding in a house where another boarder was an actor, during Summers theatrical director of a small troupe touring the provinces. The season of thespian migration had ended ; it was Autumn, and these passerine birds were now returning to nest.
Seeing me reading continuously, the actor told me with a sort of pride : "You enjoy literature... I have a boy in my troupe that reads a lot ; he's very learned, understands German and has great talent : he makes poems ; he's made us some wonderful couplets. I think you'd like to make his acquaintance." and he recounted how he found, in a hotel in Giurgiu that boy -- working under the stairs and in the stables -- stretched out in the hay and reading Schiller outloud. In the hay, further aside, a trunk -- the boy's library -- full of German books. The boy was very tame and well behaved, without vice. He was a stranger from far away, he said, but wouldn't tell whence. It was obvious looking at him that he came of gentle people, come to his present station of who knows what circumstance.
The actor proposed to hire him, as a prompter, seven ducats a month, and the boy readily agreed. He took his library along and now he was in Bucharest. That evening he was to visit his director -- thus I could see him. I was very curious to meet him. I don't know why, but in my imagination the young adventurer appeared as an extraordinary being, a hero, a future great man. Seeing him in open rebellion against the common practices of life I thought that his disdain for social discipline was proof that this man must have come out of an elite matrix, and not the kind from which stereotypical exemplars are issued by the thousands of dozens. In general the theory upon which I based myself so thinking -- which is to say that a great man must in all things, no matter how small, differ from mankind -- might've been ill considered, perhaps even baseless ; but in the instant case it proved perfectly predictive.
The youth arived. What a beauty! A classical face framed by great black curls ; high, serene brow ; large eyes -- these particular windows into the soul definitely had someone on the other side ; a warm smile, deeply melancholic. He had the air of a young saint stepped down from an antique icon, a child pre-destined to pain, whose visage faintly bore the promise of future tortures.
-Allow me to introduce myself, Mihail Eminescu.
That's how I met him. What depths of philosphy we plumbed together that whole night, with all the eagerness of the ripe age of seventeen. What enthusiasm! What transports! Most decidedly, my imagination hadn't deceived me... he was a wonderful boy. In one night he put me on conversant terms with German literature, by which he was enchanted.
-If you like poetry so much, you must also have written some, I said to him... I found out you wrote some.
-Yes, I have.
-Then -- I also love poetry, although I can't write -- be kind and show me one of your poems.
Eminescu produced one on the spot. It was a piece dedicated to an actress he was very smiten by... I can barely remember anything. I know this much, that it was about the wealth and splendor of an Assyrian king torn by unrequitted passion... something like that. This poem was published I believe in '68 or '69 in "Familia" at Pesta [in Hungary].
The next night we met again. During the day an unhappy event had occured. The actress was very little impressed by the suffering of the Assyrian king. Eminescu was now quiet and somber, spoke very little and contradiction irritated him. In vain I begged him to show me another poem, or even read once more the one I already knew. He went to bed early, and in the morning -- towards noon -- when I went to him, I found him still sleeping.
I woke him. The upset was gone, he was even peppier than the other day. We spent the whole day laughing, he spoke to me of ancient India, of Dacians, of Stephen the Great, and sung the doina. The Assyrian king's suffering forgotten, it left behind the wealth, and splendor, to be undisturbedly enjoyed.
That's how I knew him, and that's how he was to the last good moments : happy and sad ; communicative and sullen ; soft and harsh ; satisfied with nothing and dissatisfied of everything ; now abstinent as a hermit, then yearning for life's pleasures ; running from people and seeking them ; imperturbable as an old Stoicist and irritable as a menstruating girly. A strange mash-up! Happy for the artist, but unfortunate for the man!
The next Spring he left with a touring troupe through Moldavia. I awaited him that Autumn for naught -- the troupe returned without him. His father, hailing from Botosani, found the excentric runaway and, with words or deeds took him home, and from there shipped him to Vienna. I saw later, "Ideal lost in the night of a discontinued world..." Eminescu was keeping his promises : the child was growing up.
Later on I met him again in Bucharest, together with a brother of his, an officer. They were both quitting the country -- Eminescu for Vienna, the other, for Berlin. The officer was the elder brother; just as beautiful, gentle and strange -- a striking resemblance in all things. He went to Berlin ; within months he had scared the Military Academy with his talents, and gave such an exam as made the Marshall Moltke take a very close interest, with a view to taking him in his service. To crown such success, the officer went home and, without leaving a word behind, shot himself.
Long after, speaking with Eminescu of the sad circumstance, he answered laughing :
- Good for him. He's ahead of us!
A few years later came to Bucharest Eminescu's father. He was a very nice old man, funny and original. He had closed some good deal, and had come to buy his son clothes, a clock, and give him in advance a hundred ducats, his part of the inheritance. I asked Eminescu then if his mother lived. She had died, but, in the dark humour with which he made his answer I understood that death tied to memories more hurtful than is common, and also unpleasant. I found out later that a sister of his, who adored him, was living withdrawn in a convent. The poor girl was paralized since infancy. And there were those, not everyone but noted names, who liked to make it be believed, or allow it be believed, that Eminescu's misfortune was caused by syphilis.
He was, truly, a disordered man, but he wasn't prone to vice. In this world the commoner crowd imagines itself alone entitled to material pleasures, and treats the rare man as if he wasn't allowed any defect. He had a temperament of exceptional inequality, and his passions were to him unparalleled torture. I was many times his confident. Entirely bereft of common manners, success eluded him often... There then came a terrible turmoil, a strain of the senses, a jealous explosion predicting well enough the manner in which this superior man was doomed to end.
Once well exhausted, he'd lock himself in his room, sleep like a rock, and in two or three days re-emerge, calm, like his Luceafarul : deathless and cool. At such a time he'd take to preaching budhism with all his sparkling verve, and tell of Nirvana, the supreme goal of Buda-Qakiamuni.
Such a strain, such an explosion came upon him the last good moments, and that was the signal for the end. After the shattering he didn't lock himself in his room to sleep, and re-emerge, as the Luceafarul. He carried on, always on, until he fell under the strikes of the enemy he carried within ever since his mother's womb. A son of an old, noble race, in him took place the decisive battle between the highest flame of life and the germ of final destruction of the race -- the genius and insanity.
The fight was terrible. The trial, the path to Nirvana, as painful as it must've been splendid. In the sickest head, the brightest intelligence ; the saddest soul, in the most tried body! And, if I cried when his friends and enemies, admirers and enviers, under the holy linden tree, I didn't cry for he was dead ; but for the toil and struggle of life, of all that this irritable nature had suffered, from circumstance, from people, from itself.
This Eminescu suffered a lot, even hunger. Yes, but he never bent : he was a man made of one piece, and not such a piece as might be found on any forest path. Generations upon generations might climb with such pomp as they can summon the hill towards Serban-voda, after having filled with their own nothing some time, yet a piece out of which to fashion another Eminescu might never be again seen. Let the troubled soul rest in peace! The fervent buddhist is now contented : he has returned to the Nirvana -- so sweetly sung, so deeply desired -- for him too late, but too soon for us.
Am cunoscut foarte de-aproape pe un om de o superioară înzestrare intelectuală; rareori a încăput într-un cap atîta putere de gîndire. Era pe lîngă aceasta un mare poet; cu cea mai nobilă și mai înaltă fantazie, ajutată de un rafinat instinct artistic, el a turnat într-o lapidară "formă nouă limba veche și-nțeleaptă", pe care o cunoștea atît de bine și o iubea atît de mult.
De felul lui mîndru, ei fugea de onoruri, știindu-le cîte concesiuni costă. Melancolic și pasionat, deși-n același timp iubitor de veselie si de petreceri ușoare, ura din convingere așa-numitele conveniențe și poleiala lumii. Niciodată nu primea bucuros laude, nici chiar de la puținii prietini, foarte puțini, pe cari-i avea și-n judecata și sinceritatea cărora credea -- darmite pe ale acelei mulțimi de seci fără talent, judecată, nici sinceritate, cari se tot vîră în biata noastră literatură ca microbii răufăcători în trupul omului sănătos și cari nu se sfiesc a se fuduli à tout propos cu un prieteșug ce nu le-a fost nicicînd acordat! Laudele acelora îi inspirau d-a dreptul "dezgust".
Dar daca nu dorea onoruri, daca fugea de zgomot și de laude, asta nu era decît din pricina deșertăciunii lor, iar nu din vreo falsă modestie ce l-ar fi făcut să n-aibă deplină și manifestă încredere, față cu toată lumea, în talentul lui. Avea talent, și o știa mai bine decît oricine: nici o critică nu-l putea face să se-ndoiască de sine, iar aplauzele nu i-ar fi putut spune decît mai puțin de ce credea el însuși. De aceea opera ce ne-a lăsat-o nu denotă nici un moment de ezitare sau de nencredere în sine. Cîtă încredere avea în puterea talentului său ne-o spune singur.
Iată ce-i zice femeii care n-a înțeles că trebuia să-i cază roabă în genuchi la farmecul primei lui aruncături de ochi:
- "Dîndu-mi din ochiul tău senin o rază dinadins, în calea timpilor ce vin o stea s-ar fi aprins;
Ai fi trăit în veci de veci și rînduri de vieți; cu ale tale brațe reci înmărmureai măreț.
Un chip de-a pururi adorat, cum nu mai au perechi acele zîne ce străbat din timpurile vechi;
Tu trebuia să te cuprinzi de acel farmec sfînt, și noaptea candelă s-aprinzi iubirii pe pămînt!"
Se poate o mai mare și mai îndreptățită îndrăzneală? Și iată ce gîndea mai apoi despre mulțimea "amatorilor" și "cunoscătorilor":
- "De-oi urma să scriu în versuri, teamă mi-e ca nu cumva
Fàmenii din ziua de-astăzi să mă-nceapă-a lăuda:
Dacă port cu ușurință și cu zîmbet a lor ură,
Laudele lor desigur m-ar scîrbi peste măsură."
Sărmane omule! dac-ai învia, ai vedea că de ce te temi nici moartea nu te poate scăpa!
Omul acesta a trăit, mai des mîhnit, mai rar vesel, într-un cerc foarte restrîns de prietini. Dar era și un om ciudat! El își făcea o plăcere din necaz și din durere o voluptate. Dacă n-avea vreo supărare, și-o căuta; daca nu venea să-l întîmpine durerea dinafară, el știa să și-o scormonească singur din rărunchi. Cu un astfel de caracter mai era și de tot sărac. Îmi vine destul de greu să contrazic niște autorități în materie literară, știind bine cît le iritează contrazicerea și cît de primejdioasă e iritația lor pentru soarta și reputația unor simpli muritori ca noi; dar trebuie să spun odată că poetul de care e vorba a trăit material rău; sărăcia lui nu este o legendă: a fost o nenorocită realitate, și ea îl afecta foarte. Ce Dumnezeu! doar n-a trăit omul acesta acum cîteva veacuri, ca să ne permitem cu atîta ușurință a băsni despre trista lui viață!... a trăit pînă mai ieri, aci, cu noi, cu mine, zi cu zi, ani întregi... Pe cine vrem noi să amăgim?
Talentul lui de poet nu-i producea nimica; două-trei funcțiuni care le-a avut -- bibliotecar, apoi revizor școlar -- destul de slab plătite, a trebuit să le părăsească silit și într-un tîrziu să găsească mijloc de trai în presa militantă. Cum stoarce puterile unui om de talent acest fel de muncă, unde este silit să-și avorteze zilnic prin provocare voită gîndirile si concepțiile, și cît de rău e prețuită la noi se știe. Poetul a trăit cum a murit -- foarte nenorocit și ca viață materială: copil ursit să sufere și cu sufletul, și cu trupul. De foame nu pierea, ce-i drept; dar suferea amar de sărăcie.
S-a susținut că disprețuia averea... E un neadevăr -- pe care nu-l poate spune decît sau cine n-a cunoscut pe poet, sau cine... vrea să spună un neadevăr -- o afirm eu aci cu siguranța că afară de teorii fantaziste, psihologice, etnice, etice, estetice șcl. nu voi căpăta nici o dezmințire serioasă. L-am cunoscut, am trăit lîngă el foarte aproape vreme îndelungată și știu cît de mult preț punea pe plăcerile materiale ale vieții. L-am văzut destul de adesea scrîșnind de lipsă. Contrarietatea patimilor, dorul vag de poet, acel dor de care se depărtează ținta cu cît îi pare lui că se apropie de dînsa, îl aruncau, ce-i drept, în cea mai întunecată melancolie, dar nu-l zdrobeau niciodată; lipsa materială însă îl excita, îl demoraliza, îl sfărîma cu desăvîrșire... da, dar era prea mîndru ca să se plîngă de asta, și mai ales acelora ce trebuiau s-o înțeleagă nespusă.
S-a zis că era risipitor și că, orice sume ar fi trecut prin mînă-i, el tot nefericit ar fi fost, de vreme ce nefericirea lui era de un fel curat moral. Minunată judecată, dar ieftină scuză pentru acei ce l-au lăsat totdeauna în lipsă, deși-l puteau ajuta cu toată dignitatea, deși apropierea lui le-a făcut cinste și... profit -- și încă le face. Da, era risipitor, pentru că iubea și el plăcerile brutale ale vieții; și doar are și un om de valoare dreptul să dorească aceste plăceri; da, nenorocirea lui era de un fel moral, și tot nenorocit ar fi fost dispunînd de orișicîte mijloace; însă, fiindu-i sufletul atît de iritabil, îi mai trebuia și trupul chinuit și nemîngîiat? și obținerea bunurilor lumești i-ar fi sporit, ori alinat chinul sufletesc?
Astăzi nu mai încape îndoială că el era osîndit de la naștere să moară cum a murit; însă neajunsurile practice ale traiului, hrană ordinară, interior mizer, nevoie continuă de muncă grosolană obligată și ridicul plătită -- cu același fin și nobil instrument cu care trebuia să cînte plutirea lunii pe mișcătoarea mărilor singurătate -- și pofte arzătoare, atît de ieftine pentru alții, atît de scumpe, mai adesea imposibile de mulțumit pentru el, i-au grăbit scurta cale către tristu-i sfîrșit.
Cînd era în culmea funcționării, mașina cea admirabilă s-a stricat deodată: regulatorul, care avea de la început în aliajul său un punct țîcnit, s-a frînt în toiul mișcării: "organele erau acum sfărmate și maestrul nebun"! Pînă aci trăise destul de rău... Cine ar fi, nu plătit, ci barem citit versurile lui? Aproape niminea. Cîți îl știau că există? Foarte puțini. De-acu încolo, țin-te popularitate!...
Mulți cuminți trec pe drum și, dacă nu sunt și puternici, din cîți îi cunosc, d-abia unii le scot căciula; dar după un nebun, fără să-l cunoască nimeni, se strînge și se ia toată lumea. Și astfel succesul primei ediții a întrecut toate așteptările editorilor.
A trecut apoi cîtva timp și l-am revăzut. Întîia criză trecuse; nu mai era același om, dar era un om ca toți oamenii, cu mintea normală, întreagă, și tocmai de aceea nu mai era același om.
Era liniștit, trist, sfios și, o probă mai mult că devenise iar cuminte, era cam rușinos, avînd conștiința deplină de tot ce i se întâmplase. Acum încalte, nu mai poate încăpea vorbă, era în completă mizerie.
Iată ce scria el către un amic -- scriptura este excesiv de îngrijită, pare că s-ar fi temut ca nu cumva, din vreo aruncătură mai liberă a condeiului, să iasă bănuiala că mintea i-ar fi cîtuși de puțin nestăpînită -- iată:
- "Boala îndelungată de care am suferit m-a împiedicat de la ținerea unei corespondențe regulate. Acum, fiind întrucîtva mai restabilit, vin a vă ruga să v-aduceți aminte de mine, de lipsa aproape absolută în care mă aflu. Dacă vă este cu putință a-mi veni în ajutor, vă rog a o face cît de curînd, căci cea mai mare mizerie mă amenință..."
După destulă vreme de mizerie, a venit recidiva și apoi, din fericire, moartea.
Moartea -- ea a desăvîrșit opera nebuniei. Crierul care a gîndit despre soarta omului de geniu --
- "Or să vie pe-a ta urmă în convoi de-nmormîntare, splendid ca o ironie, cu priviri nepasătoare;
Iar dasupra tuturora va vorbi un mititel, nu slăvindu-te pe tine, lustruindu-se pe el
Sub a numelui tău umbră..."
N-a apucat încă să putrezească bine, și ce de asociații și de comitete care să-i garanteze trecerea la posteritate! Ce zgomot! Ce popularitate! Ce de "mititei"!
Dar nu e meritată popularitatea aceasta? se va zice. Ba da. Dar nu era în adevăr un om de geniu? Nu mai încape vorbă. Dar nu se cade să ridicăm statuie la asemenea oameni? Negreșit... Însă...
Ieri d-abia îl cunoșteau și-l aprețiau cîțiva prieteni de aproape, și astăzi e un nume la modă, universal cunoscut; ieri d-abia avea ce mînca, "în lipsă aproape absolută de subsistență, amenințat de cea mai mare mizerie", și astăzi se mănîncă mulți bani -- direct, cu opera lui, indirect, sub pretextul numelui lui; ieri, d-abia haine și hrană, astăzi, statuie și monumente de bronz, de marmură, de... hîrtie velină -- mai știu eu de ce!
Atît de desăvîrșită necunoaștere și părăsire în viață, ș-apoi, într-o clipă, atîta zgomot, atîta solicitudine și închinăciune după moarte!
Apoi nu-i aceasta o crudă ironie?
Again, this time in your own idiom :
Irony. Signed Ion Luca Caragiale. Published 1890 ("Timpul", July 15th, page 1.)
I was very closely acquainted with a man bearing superior intellectual gifts ; rarely was fit in a single head so much throughtpower. He was besides a great poet; by the highest and noblest fantasy, aided by most refined artistic instinct, he poured in lapidary novel form the old, wise tongue, that he knew so well and loved so much.
A proud soul, he eschewed honours, knowing the concessions they imply. Melancholy and passional, yet at the same time a seeker of merriment and light passtimes, he hated with conviction the so-called conventions and all social polish. He never received compliments gladly, not even from the few -- very few -- friends he had, and in whose good judgement and earnest intentions he believed ; let alone from the Philistine crowd, talentless, clueless, dishonest, that lot constantly sticking themselves in literature like harmful microbes in a healthy man's body, and who shamelessly clamor now, and at every opportunity, a friendship they were never extended! Their praise truly disgusted him.
But if he sought not honorus, if he ran from crowds and praise, it was only for their hollowness, and not due to such mistaken modesty as'd have made him not trust in his talent fully and wholly, and in front of everyone. He was talented, and he knew it better than anyone. No criticism could make him doubt himself, whereas applause could only tell him a fraction of what he on his own knew of himself. It is for this reason that the works he left behind do not display at any juncture either hesitation or self-doubt. How far he trusted his own gifts he testifies himself. Here's what he says to the woman who failed to understand she was to fall, his slave on her knees, at the first charmed caress of his gaze :
- A willing ray of your blue eye'd have burnt, a star for all time yet to come ;
You'd have lived forever more, arrayed arrays of lives, your cold bosom enmarbled, grand.
A face, adored forever, as all those fays of ancient days could only wish but never have
You should've suffused that holy charm, and burnt all nightly oils, to love upon this earth!
Could there be greater, or more justly entitled, imposition ? And look what he then thought about the herd of "amateurs" and "experts" :
- Were I to keep on writing verse, I fear that in all likelihood
Today's girlish faggots might take to praising me
If I carry with ease and smiling their hatred,
Their preference would doubtless disgust me beyond measure.
Poor man! Were you revived, you'd sadly see that what one fears, not even death can save him from.
This man lived, mostly sad, rarely happy, in a very narrow circle of friends. But he was a strange man! He took pleasure in difficulty and turned pain to voluptuousness. If he had no trouble, he went looking for some ; if pain didn't come to meet him from without, he knew how to stir it by himself, from deep within. And wish such dispositions, he was a pauper! I find it somewhat difficult to contradict some literary authorities [no doubt he means Titu Maiorescu], knowing full well how readily contradiction irritates them, and how dangerous their irritation for the fate and reputation of mere mortals, such as us ; but I can not eschew stating it plainly, once and for all : this poet lived in poverty. His poverty is no legend ; it was the regrettable state of his earthly affairs, and it greatly affected him. By God! It's not as if he lived centuries past, s'as to allow such light mystification of his life. He lived, up until yesterday it feels like, here, with us, with me, day after day, year after year. Who are we fooling ?
His poetic talent yielded no great profit for him; two-three minor offices he held -- librairan, then rural school inspector -- not that well paid, he had to leave, forcibly. In the end he found the means of his daily existence in the political press. The degree and manner in which this sort of labor squeezes the life out of a talented man, by forcing him to curettage his own thoughts and conceptions on a daily basis, and how poorly paid it is... that's all well known. The poet lived as he died -- very unhappy, materially and otherwise, a child doomed to suffer within his body as well as within his soul. He wasn't starving, that much is true, but he greatly suffered in poverty.
It was publicly said he despised wealth. This much is untrue ; and a statement that can't be made, except either by one who is entirely ignorant of the matter, or else made up his mind to speak falsehoods. I will state this firmly, knowing full well that outside of phantastical theories, psychological, ethnical, ethical, aesthetical etcetera, I'm in no danger of receiving any grounded rebuff. I've known the man, I lived close to him for a long time, and I know how much he valued the material pleasures of life. I've seen him numerously and regularly screeching unoiled. The contradiction of strong passions, the vague longings of poets, that sort that goes further the closer one thinks he's getting to it, threw him, it's true, in the darkest of melancholy dispositions ; but never crushed him. Material poverty, however, irritated him, demoralized him, ground him down to dust. Yes, he was too proud to complain of it, and especially to those who should've understood it unspoken.
It was said he was improvident, and that, whatever sums he might've had at his disposal, he'd still have been unhappy, as his unhappiness was of a cleanly moral sort. Wonderful judgement, but a cheap excuse for those who always let him lack, though they could've proceeded otherwise, in all dignity, and though his closeness was to their social, not to mention pecuniary benefit -- and still is. Yes, he was profilgate, for he loved the brute pleasures of life ; but a man of value has as much right as any other to desire and enjoy such. Yes his unhappines was cleanly moral, and yes he'd have been unhappy still with all the money in the world. However, given his irritable spirit, it then follows his body had to be mortified as well ? Would the occasional enjoyment have diminished, or increased his inner torment ?
Today there's little doubt he was doomed from birth to die as he died ; but the shortcomings of daily life, the bowl of lowly gruel, the miserable interiors, the constant urge to brutish work, forced and barely paid -- yet to be accomplished with the same fine, noble instrument that was to sing to the world the moon's floating upon the sea's solitude -- and burning desires, so cheap for many others, so expensive, most always intangibly expensive for him, they surely hurried his short walk to his sad grave.
At the height of its function, the admirable machinery broke suddenly ; the regulator, from the beginning flawed in its alloys, came apart mid-movement. "The organ, now crushed, the maestro, now crazy"! Up to this point, he had lived with some difficulty. Who'd, let alone paid, but at least read his poems ? Almost nobody. Who knew he existed ? Very few. But from that moment, what flood of popularity!
Many pass through the road perfectly sane and, if they're not also powerful, of they who know them few will raise a hat ; but after a madman, without anyone knowing him, the whole parish takes to follow. In this manner, the success of his first apparition exceeded any expectations of the editors.
After some time I saw him again. The first crisis was past; he wasn't the same man, but he was a man like any other, with a normal mind, whole, and for this reason precisely not the same man anymore. He was quiet, sad, skittish, and further proof of his regained sanity, he was rather shy, in full knowledge of all that had happened to him. But now, no doubts about it, he was as poor as church mice. Here's what he was writing to a friend -- the hand itself is very guarded, as if he feared that a looser trace of the pen might cause suspicion that his mind's unsettled -- here :
- The affliction I long suffered under has prevented me from keeping regular correspondence. But now, being somewhat more settled, I come to beg of you to remember me, and the almost complete lack of means I struggle with. If it is within your power to come to my aid, please do so as soon as possible, for the darkest indigence threatens me...
A sad document!
After sufficient struggle came the relapse, and then, blessfuly, death.
Death -- it rounded the work of madness. That brain which thought on the fate of the man of genius --
- They shall walk in your wake in funeral procession, splendid as all irony, with uncaring eyes
And above all will speak some shorty, not to your glory, but to his own polish
Under the shadow of your name
He's barely had the time to make a first pass at rotting and look how many associations and committees to ensure his passing into posterity! What noise! What popularity! What abundance of shorties! Yet doesn't he deserve this popularity ? it will be asked. Yes, he does. But wasn't he truly a man of genius ? Without doubt, he was that. Shouldn't there be statues erected for such men ? Certainly... however...
Yesterday, barely a few close friends knew him and appreciated his work ; today his name's fashionable, universally known ; yesterday he had to choose between broth and beer, one or the other, but not both ; today there's no limit to credits -- directly, for his work, indirectly, under pretext of his name, statues and monuments in bronze and marble and... plain paper, who knows what all!
Such staunchly thorough disinterest while still living, and then, in a blink, such noise, such solicitudinous dedication once he, safely dead, couldn't bite a snip of it anymore.
Isn't this the cruelest of ironies ?
Am de mult intenția să dau publicului o sumă de note asupra vieții lui Eminescu -- fiindcă inexactitățile, nimicurile născocite, neadevărurile absurde ce se spun de trei ani de zile pe socoteala lui mă revoltă și scandalul cu portretele și busturile puse fără sfială în circulație ca fiind ale lui, ca și cum ar fi vorba, încă o dată zic, de un tip din evul mediu, iar nu de cineva care a trăit în mijlocul nostru atâta vreme; pînă atuncea este, crez, aici locul să spun următoarele:
Cu toată inegalitatea temperamentului său, Eminescu avea două coarte totdeauna egal de întinse: vecinic înamorat și vecinic avînd nevoie de bani -- se putea altfel? și poet, și sărac... Vecinic visa niște "mîini subțiri și reci", vecinic vîna un cămătar care să-i cumpere pe nimic leafa -- nainte cu cîteva luni.
Așa, odată, ca întotdeauna, înamorat și fără nici un ban, a venit de dimineață la redacție foarte amărât: avea acu, numaidecît, "nevoie de o sumă însemnată; dacă n-o găsea, se-mpușca". N-a voit să ne spună de ce anume acea sumă și de ce atîta grabă, a refuzat să meargă să prînzim ca după obicei împreună și a dispărut dintre noi.
Seara, se afla... unde? la bal mascat la teatru. Trepădase toată ziua după cămătar; îl găsise, din norocie; luase bani cu procente orbești; își cumpărase un rînd de haine de lux, cilindru, botine de lac, măniși galbene, și, dechizat astfel cît putuse mai bine, umbla de colo până colo, amestecat pîn mulțimea de gură-cască. Urmărea foarte gelos pe persoana gîndurilor lui, care avea o patimă nespusă pentru flirt sub mască și domino -- lucru ce, prin trivialitatea lui, lovea pe poet și-n amor și-n mîndrie. Norocul în ziua aceea n-a voit să fie întreg pentru bietul nostru prietin: pe uzurar i-l scosese în cale bine dispus; pe femeie o trimisese la bal pentru altcineva. Nu e vorba, după bal, galantul contraiat "și-a plătit un souper fin" -- ceea ce l-a făcut să fie a doua zi foarte fără chef, cu atît mai mult cu cît era ușurat de greutatea banilor prinși cu destulă alergătură în ajun: ca toți oamenii de felul lui, îi azvîrlise seara, ca să-i dorească dimineața.
~ * ~
Versurile citate la pagina 19 sunt exact acele pe cari Eminescu le-a citit în "Junimea". Mai tîrziu s-a făcut modificarea lor după observațiile și cererea cîtorva persoane din cercul acela, a căror sensibilitate extremă se simțea jignită de expresiile prea viguroase, prea crude ale poetului. El -- se știe bine aceasta -- a făcut concesiune delicateții acelora și-a îngăduit să se toarne în veninul lor nativ și sincer puțină apă de trandafir... să i se schimbe Fàmenii în Oamenii și scîrbi în mîhni; dar nu din toată inima a făcut această concesiune, deși, în discuția fără șir nici căpătîi ce se iscase, ca de obicei, după citirea poemei, stăruise și "votase" pentru modificarea anodină și o damă la care el ținea foarte mult în acel timp.
Le spun acestea ca să nu se creză de către public -- mai puțin inițiat în ale mișcării literare -- că ar fi citațiunea de mai sus o falsificare: este o variantă originală, aceea anume la care ținea poetul, o variantă ce mi se pare mie -- care am groază de "apa de trandafir" -- cu mult preferabilă celei puse în vînzare de domnii editori. Eminescu nu era androgin, era bărbat; el pe impotenții intelectuali nu-i considera oameni, ci fàmeni, și de aplauzele lor nu s-ar fi mîhnit -- se scîrbea.
Dar la varianta aceasta cedase el cel puțin, sub ce influență -- nu ne pasă... Mai tîrziu, însă, s-a petrecut ceva mai rău... mai tărziu, pe cînd artistul era cu mintea bolnavă, s-a făcut în opera lui publicată în volum îndreptări, purgări și omisiuni cu desăvîrșire arbitrare. Eu crez că asta trebuie relevat.
Editorii sunt liberi să tragă cîte exemplare vor, să le vînză cum și cît le place, să profite de munca și de pe urma sărmanului pierdut cît pot, sunt liberi; să rămînă negustorul cinstit, și cîștig bun să-i dea Dumnezeu; dar să stea la taraba lui și să nu s-amestece a poci opera artistului.
Criticii, din parte-le, "cu flori deșarte, cari roade n-au adus", sunt liberi să judece după cum îi taie capul acea operă, să dezbată, să analizeze, să explice, să comenteze, să interpreteze și cîte toate -- tot lucrări de seamă și de fond:
- "Și cînd propria viață singur n-o știi pe de rost,
O să-și bată alții capul s-o pătrunză cum a fost!
Poate vreun pedant cu ochii cei verzui, peste un veac,
Printre tomuri brăcuite așezat, și el un brac,
Aticismul limbei tale o să-l pună la cîntar,
Colbul ridicat din carte-ți l-o sufla din ochelari,
Și te-o strînge-n două șiruri, așezîndu-te la coadă
În vreo notă prizărită sub o pagină neroadă."
Din această onoare postumă nu poate scăpa nici un om de talent, și orice generație e mai mult sau mai puțin bogată de așa grindini de opiniuni, de teorii și de "note prizărite sub pagine"... savante.
Biblioteci întregi s-au scris numai despre Hamlet, și roatele tipografilor noștri de mii și sute de ori se-nvîrtesc pe zi și or să se mai învîrtească în pofida lui Eminescu. Liber încă o dată oricine să-și adlăture pe o bucată de hîrie numele-i de-o zi cu un nume pe veci trainic, cum se aprinde un chibrit în fața soarelui; liber e oricine să spună despre o operă de artă și ce știe și ce nu, și dacă o pricepe și dacă nu, numească-se el Taine, sau fie ilustrul ciubotar al lui Apelles. Pe vîrful unui obelisc bătrîn se abate cîteodată și un vultur, dar mai ales se strîng întotdeauna roiuri de muscuțe să bîzîie pe creasta monumentului înfierbîntată de arșiță. Apele norilor, vînturile vremilor spală și zvîntă piatra nobilă de urmele acelor efemere, și ea rămîne tot curată ca mai-nainte. De clintit nu o poate clinti nici trăsnetul cerului, ura fanatică a sectarilor exaltați, ori securea vandalului imbecil și rău, sau ignoranța barbară, care doboară și sfarmă frumusețea ceea ca să-și facă un prag uniform la o sărmană colibă... Dar astea toate sunt elementele oarbe ale naturii, mișcate de sus fără conștiință, de jos de o conștiință din cale-afară obtuză ori smintită... Însă a ciunti cu conștiința limpede și cu sînge rece o operă de artă?... Și de asta e vorba aici.
Care artist, care amator, care om de bun-simț și de treabă ar îndrăzni să ia un penel și să îndrepteze o trăsătură măcar a lui Rafael, să prefacă numai o măsură a lui Beethoven, ori să potrivească coapsa lui Apolon sau șoldul unei Venere după personala lui judecată și după pornirea gustului său actual? Lucrarea ce un mare artist ca Eminescu o lasă este, cu toate calitățile și defectele ei, ceva sfînt, fiindcă-n ea se întrupează pipăit, și pentru o viață mai durabilă chiar decît a neamului său întreg, gîndiri și simțiri de veacuri ale acestuia, și de aceea, fără teamă de exagerare, s-a putut zice că o așa lucrare este patrimoniul întregii omeniri, nu numai a unui neam.
Și așadar, a pune mîna fără sfială pe o asemenea lucrare cu calități eterne și a cuteza s-o potrivești sau s-o mai cioplești, după trecătorul tău gust și cu competența ta discutabilă -- discutabilă pentru că e negativă față cu realitatea evidentă și palpabilă a monumentului ce-l judeci, discutabilă fie ea cît de autorizată în părerea-ți proprie și a cîtorva clienți -- va să zică, a mutila lucrarea de artă pentru restul fără capăt cunoscut al lumii și vremii este a te face vinovat de o faptă reprobabilă, este, cu un cuvînt, o profanare... Iar de profanare nu e capabil decît un om fără inimă și cu spiritul îngust, un om care niciodată nu se poate uita pe sine, care nu poate avea nici o ridicare de suflet pe dasupra egoismului strîmt, nici o emoție... cum să zic? impersonală -- ca să întrebuințez și eu niște platitudini platonice scoase de curînd iar la modă -- nici un fel de respect chiar cînd se află în fața lucrurilor sfinte... fiindcă n-are, fiindcă nu poate avea nimic sfînt pe lume.
Veacul acesta care se stinge a inaugurat spre onoarea lui școala așa-numitului spirit de examen, pentru a putea măsura cît mai exact încrederea ce trebuie să afle urmașii în afirmările străbunilor; jurare in verba magistri este astăzi, din norocire pentru spiritul uman, un adagiu mort și-ngropat.
Astăzi critica onestă și în adevăr savantă cearcă să alinineze din textele clasicilor antici alterările introduse de pe vremuri de către copiștii nepricepuți sau infideli și să afle înfine adevăratul original. Ea rîcîie de pe zidurile monumentelor scoarța pusă rînduri-rînduri, după mode trecătoare, de către niște restauratori inculți, ca să afle formele primitive curate; ea restabilește numele asiriane, pe care transcriitorii ebraici din primele secole ale erei noastre le-au deformat după sensul actual al lor prin introducerea punctelor vocalice subtscrise în vechile cărți biblice; iar din miturile străvechi asiatice, încărcate, în migrația lor pe atîtea ș-atîtea drumuri, de elemente eterogene și întunecătoare, distilîndu-le cu dibăcie, scoate raze de adevăr ce ne luminează origina neamurilor Europei civilizate.
Noi, romînii, avem pretenția îndreptățită și interesul a ne pune în rîndul acestor neamuri, alături cu popoarele moderne; trebuie dar să înțelegem că nu putem asista nepăsători la alterări voite sau nevoite făcute sub ochii noștri în textul celui mai mare scriitor romîn; și astfel, oricine e dator, credem, a denunța opiniei publice luminate falsificarea copiei -- atît mai rău dacă de fapta lui neiertată copistul nu s-ar putea scuza numai cu ignoranța.
Which is to say,
Două note Signed [Ion Luca] C[aragiale]. Published 1892 ("Momente si schite", page 27. A previous newspaper edition is possible but not likely.)
I've meant for a while to give the public some notes on the life of Eminescu -- because inexact statements, invented nothings, absurd falsehoods being circulated for these past three years at his expense bother me, and the recent scandal with the busts and portraits circulated without compunction under the false pretense of being his likeness, as if it were, again I say, the case of some fellow from the middle ages, and not someone who lived amongst us for so many years... it is I think my duty to say here the following :
Given the inequality of his temperament, Eminescu had two chords always equally strung : forever in love and forever desperate for money -- could it be otherwise ? poet, and impoverished... Forever dreaming of some "thin, cool arms", and forever hunting for some usurer to sell his income for nothing -- months in advance.
Thus, one time like many others, love crazed and peniless, he came in the morning to the editorial room, very dejected : he needed, on the spot, a large sum ; should he not find it, he had resolved to shoot himself. He wouldn't say what was the money needed for, or whence the hurry, he refused to go out for lunch with us as we always did, and he shortly made himself scarce.
Evening found him... where ? At the Theatre, at the masked ball. He had run about all day seeking his usurer ; he had fortunately found what he sought, and indebted himself at blinding rates ; he expended the proceeds on a set of luxury clothes, a top hat, laquered boots, yellow gloves, and, disguised thusly as best he could, he walked back and forth, admixed in the crowd of mouthbreathers. He pursued very fiercely the person of his thoughts, who was remarkably enthralled by masqued flirting -- something which, by its triviality, hurt the poet both in his love and in his pride. Luck that day wouldn't be whole for our misfortunate friend : the usurer it produced, well disposed ; the woman however, it sent to the ball for another. Sure enough, afterwards, the contradicted gallant paid himself a souper fin -- which made him rather unpeppy the next morning, all the more for being alighted of the burden of all the money procured with such difficulty the day before. Like all those of his kind, he had thrown it away in the evening only to regret it in the morning.
~ * ~
The lines quoted above are exactly those Eminescu read in "Junimea". Later they were altered, by the insistent demand of some in that circle, whose extreme sensibility was offended by the vigorous expression of the poet. He -- and this is a well known fact -- made a concession to that delicacy, and permitted some rosewater be poured on the genuine sentiment, through changing "famenii" to "oamenii" and "scirbi" to "mihni" -- not wholeheartedly, but because, in the discussion without rhyme or reason raging after the reading, a certain lady insisted and "voted" for the anodyne alternation that he was very infatuated with at that time.
I say all this so the quote's not mistakenly taken by the public -- less current on the details of literary life -- as falsification. It is an original version, the one the poet himself produced, and a version that seems to me -- one easily cloyed by rosewater -- by far preferable to what's being put on the market by the esteemed editors. Eminescu wasn't ambiguously sexed, but a man ; he didn't consider the intellectually androgynous people, but faggots; and he certainly wouldn't have saddened at their applause, but be disgusted by them.
But to this change he at least agreed in person -- under what influence, none of our business. Later, however, worse came to pass. Later, when the author was suffering insane, entirely arbitrary rectifications, purgations and omissions were applied upon his work. I believe this should be discussed in the open.
The editors are in principle free to publish as many copies as they want, to sell them, for as much as they manage, and benefit whichever way off the work and life of the misfortunate now lost. It's their appanage ; let the tradesman stay honest and let the Lord bless his profit ; but let him stay then at his stall and not dare reform the artist's production.
The critics, as far as they're concerned, "pointless flowers, bereft of fruit", are free to judge as best they can that work, and debate and analyze and explain, comment, interpret and whatnot -- all remarkable, substantial works :
- Your own life you don't know by heart, yet someone'll come and bother to figure it out right ? Maybe some greenish-eyed pedant, in a century, set among ruined tomes, a ruin himself, aiming to weigh your tongue's atticism and, after blowing your work's dust off his thick glasses, squeeze you in two lines, placing what's left somewhere towards the end, in some malnourished footnote upon an artless page.
Such posthumous honour no talented man can escape, and every generation's gifted, more or less but always somewhat gifted with such hail of opinions, theories, and malnourished footnotes upon... scholarly pages.
Whole libraries were written about Hamlet alone, and the wheels of our typographers thousands and hundreds of times spin each day, and will spin still in spite of Eminescu. Free everyone, again I say, to join upon a piece of paper his name of a day to a name forever standing, as any match may still go off in the face of the smiling sun ; free anyone to say of any great work of art what he knows, and what he doesn't, if he's grasped it, and if he hasn't, be his name Taine or otherwise, the illustrious shoemaker of Apelles or another. On an old obelisk will sometimes alight a great eagle, but more often little gnats and midges, there to buzz on the warm crest. The waters of clouds, the winds of ages wash and dry the noble rock of those ephemereal offerings, and there it stands, again clean as before. Neither divine lightning, nor earthly hatred of exalted sectarians or axe of imbecile vandal can move it, nor barbaric ignorance, ready to ruin timeless beauty to gain in the trade a more even threshold for a humble hut... But all these are blind elements, moved from above without conscience, from below by conscience exceedingly obtuse or broken. But to tear with clear mind and in cold blood at a work of art ? That's what's here being discussed.
What true artist, what mere amateur, what man of common sense and human feeling would dare to take a brush and fix a line even of Raphael's, to correct a single measure of Beethoven's, or to fix Apollo's thigh or Venus' hip more towards his personal preference and in the vein of his current taste ? The work a great like Eminescu leaves is, for all its perceived qualities or deffects, something hollowed, for in it are found embodied, concretely, and for a life more durable even than of the very people in question, thoughts and feelings of ages of genuine life, for which reason, and without fearing exageration, it was said that such a work is the patrimony of all of humanity, and not just one nation.
Thus, to shamelessly lay hands upon such a work of eternal respiration and daring to fix it or whittle it, to your own, passing taste and by your doubtful competence -- doubtful because it's obviously inferior to the palpably evident reality of the monument it's applied to, doubtful be it ever so authorized by your own oppinion, perhaps shared by a few valets -- to mutilate art for all the unknown rest of time, is to be guilty as a reprobate, it's, in a word, desecration. And none other is capable of such but one without heart, of the narrowest spirit, one who can't ever forget himself, who can never raise above the lowliest egotism, incapable of any emotion -- how shall we call it, impersonal ? -- to go back to platonic platitudes again made fashionable, one without respect even in front of sacred things because he hasn't, because he can't have anything sacred.
This century now closing inaugurated to its honor the school of the spirit of examination, so as to measure as exactly as possible the faith those to come should put in the statements of those come before ; to swear by the word of the masters is today, fortuitously for the human spirit, a dead and forgotten adage.
Today honest criticism and true scholarship seeks to clear the texts of antique classics of alterations introduced ages past by unskilled or tracherous copyists, and to find again the original truth. It scrapes off monumental walls rows upon rows of bark laid on by generations upon generations of clueless restorers, to find clear the primitive forms ; it re-establishes Assyrian names, which Hebrew transcribers deformed towards current understanding by the introduction of the vowel points underneath old biblical books ; and of the ancient myths of Asia, ladden, throughout their endless migration, of darkening, eterogenous elements, carefully distills rays of truth that light the origins of Europe's civilised nations.
We, Romanians, have the justifiable pretension and certainly the interest of joining these nations, to sit in line with modern peoples ; we have to understand then we can't stand by and watch with disinterest while alterations, wilful or acidental, are visited upon the text of the greatest Romanian writer, and thus, everyone's duty is, we believe, to denounce to public opinion the falsification -- and all the worst for the copyist who, in mitigation of his unforgivable trespass, can't offer even the flimsy excuse of ignorance.
I've no doubt a re-animated Nordau would triumphantly rejoice at the ease with which someone living well over a century later can summon such an excellent example vindicating his observations and understanding ; nor do I necessarily disagree there's something there. He's seen something, he noticed something that, however poorly expressed, however ineptly discussed, doesn't simply go away for lack of good messengers. There's problems though, chief among which that Eminescu wasn't exactly a fin de siecle guy. During all relevant times a major debate raged at all levels in his country, whether the French model or the German model is to be followed ; alone among the period pantsuit (idle kids of no particular skills or abilities, living in town off expediencies and government-sponsored embezzlement, much like today's Nulands and Rices) he favoured the German. He was not exactly ignorant of cultural France -- but he expressly and manifestly despised it (for, amusingly, very similar reasons Nordau does). He wasn't alone in this sentiment (even if he was alone within his demographic), seeing how the country acquired a German king ; but (importantly enough, I think) the situation in his direct, everyday environment was one exactly opposite to the ending of a race.
Romania was shooting up, in all respects, modernizing at a fast and ever-accelerating pace. According to most commentators the period between mid-19th century (or 1866, if you wish to be precise) and the end of that century (or the Great War, I guess) was the golden age of Romania (depending on the exact measures contemplated this may or may not be true, but a contender it certainly is). What exactly makes a German-minded fellow in a foreign land on a different cycle nevertheless act synchronically with Nordau's theory ?
Is it perhaps that the theory merely dresses in psychiatria unrelated economic problems ? Is it maybe an issue of dysfunctional resource distribution, frozen by inadequate mental models ? Is there something else involved ? I mean... it doth seem (experientia docet) that the cure for (female!) hysteria wasn't anything besides... allowing women orgasms. I don't mean "they couldn't cum before and they could cum after therefore they stopped being hysterical", I mean "they're just as hysterical now as they were then, but you don't care about it to the same degree nor in the same terms anymore". Maybe the "fin de siecle" "degeneracy" is simply the insistence on the part of the observer upon wealth, whereas the herd really really wants to be poor ?
Or maybe is it simply the case that everyone at that time used and re-used and re-re-used the same two-three tokens, everyone recast everything -- their own experiences, as well as everyone else's -- in the same terms, geniuses and demons, madness and "supreme civilizational flames" etcetera ? Could it be that in fact there's no substance whatever in Nordau's writings as in Nordau's thoughts besides the most consummate mediocrity ?
I don't intend to furnish answers. [↩]
- Hammers work in the same exact way : equally useful to drive nails putting up houses as affixing Christs. How else is anything supposed to work ? [↩]
- Not that winged. [↩]
- I expect the condemnation of such "experts" as these is not merely a right, but rather something closer to an obligation.
The grouping antics and evident will-to-power of these cliques, though... can't say it's changed much. Remember a year or so ago, when the "epidemiologist" gang finally realised its dream of unhooking the "economist" gang from the sweet teat of "directing policy" ? Not that much changed, has it. [↩]
- I hope this vague "some" doesn't in practice reduce to fucking Turgenev -- whose younger brother died of epilepsy, let it be mentioned in passing.
I'm pretty sure it does, though, because the two share the strong bonds of inceldom -- both Max and Ivan enjoyed throughout their lives the same sad sort of strained relationships with the breasted sex. Come to think of it, they also both produced lesbians out of defective unions with well used women -- defective in the sense that one never fucked anything besides his serfs, and the other was accepted in the household of some Danish woman as a sort of prop. [↩]
- This makes one wonder just how prevalent autism actually was, back in 1895 (which is to say -- before petrochemical pollutants, widespread anticonceptional usage and other such very difficult to check theories of causation). [↩]
- It seems to me conspicuous that the degenerates with some regularity misrepresent their betters' capacities in exactly this vein : as some kind of gift that -- more or less, in some form or another -- they, the degenerates, have made those betters.
What does this nitwit mean, "take" ?! It's meaningless drivel, and yet the same exact meaningless drivel resurfaces in say Obama's mis-shod conceptions, along with every last moron thinking "his favourite star" owes him, personally, something. Just as the TV watcher imagines himself to "have made" the star, through his presence / existence / sustained mouthbreathing. Just as the sports fan thinks the team's achievements are for him, or of him, or something, just so this dork misrepresents the very substance of his superior as somehow composite : a basis just like Nordau the Cuck, upon which a chunk perfectly comprehensible by Nordau the Cuck was attached -- by someone just like Nordau the Cuck, through a process in turn within Nordau the Cuck's purview. Like Lego pieces, as if the way Mercedes cars are made is through adding Mercedes varnish to a Toyota or somesuch. Take the varnish off, goes their ill-considered gubble-gobble, and The Idiot's Equality is supposed to be realised -- immediately, in and of itself, as a somehow fundamental given of the universe.
Ultimately it's a very feminine fantasy. "Take the princess' clothes off, she's just another cunt, just like me" is the unspoken fantasy of every handmaid in no danger of ever becoming a real princess yet in plenty of danger of spending a lot of time daydreaming that impossible feat. Needless to say, the naive view doesn't work worth two shits just as soon as it's taken out of its birthswamp to be applied to anything more complex, or more interesting, than mere baby factories -- and this because all other human activity besides childmaking enjoys comparatively very predictable, and deliberately controllable, outcomes.
In any case : "take the genius' genius off" is not like saying "take her clothes off". It's like saying "take a dimension out of this three dimensional figure". It doesn't even mean anything definite, but something very vague, and capable of producing very different results based on how exactly the projection's arranged. A Mercator map as well as Cassini map, a Werner map and Nicolosi map are all examples of such a thing -- all correct (in their own way) yet perfectly distinct. [↩]
- I suspect he's never read much Schopenhauer, nor for that matter even heard of him other than because Nietzsche makes mention. In any case, Wittgenstein (really very much a Nietzsche equivalent in this context) directly breaks the theory as an example ; while Schopenhauer himself, in his private life, is little more or less than the average bourgeois of the time and place -- a thrifty investor and careful buyer of government bonds, sleeping with sword or pistols by his side for fear of revolutionaries and courting (unsuccessfuly) vivacious teenagers.
Moreover, amusingly enough, Goethe asked Schopenhauer, not Nordau nor Lombroso, to help him with his theory of colors -- a request that proved most fruitful. [↩]
- Freak. [↩]
- In point of fact almost nobody took his writing seriously while he lived ; and he wasn't nevertheless excluded from the society of whatever laywers and such others of his class. [↩]
- Well, continuing with lusus naturæ eh I mean Schopenhauer, he taught himself Spanish to read his favourites in original ; and otherwise spent a lot of time travelling, for pleasure and curiosity. If neither of these qualifies for "deriving satisfaction from his special faculties" I'm left wondering what would. [↩]
- Every true and healthy Scottish censor, I take it ? [↩]
- If Die Welt ist meine Vorstellung doesn't cut the mustard here, I'm (again!) left wondering what would. [↩]
- The misery of following some ignoramus' misguided attempts at "criticizing culture" while being thoroughly ignorant not merely of the items he's discussing, but even of the forms that discussion by necessity must take! How in the blazing hells of clueless idiocy is it possible for this sentence to be proffered without such pile-up of examples as would darken the sky ? What, am I to guess, am I not even begged but silently imposed upon to furnish of my own extensive knowledge such few and far between examples as may support this impudent child's preferred take on the world ?!
Who the fuck corrupts, and who the fuck deludes, and who the fuck "frequently" exercises a deep influence -- with fucking graphs of frequency! -- and what the fuck does "baneful" even mean! Coincidental discovery is a common enough occurence ; besides which chloroform, for instance, was discovered by some young louts literally playing, like monkeys, with random chemicals. To pretend to such teleology as reliable negative outcomes out of what's at best a random approach -- how are these "degenerates" to know HOW to do ill, reliably ? It's not so easy to accomplish "always baneful ends" as it may seem, just because they're "undersirable" doesn't mean they're accessible, good heavens! If coincidental, or inadvertent, or even irresponsible discoveries aren't reliably "baneful", whatever that means, how's "degenerate" propositions achieve that wonder of an abnormally distributed potential graph ?! And what symmetry does this naive notion break ?
Some cursory acquaintance with mathematics would have benefitted young Max immensely ; at the very least it would have washed out of his thick skull this ossified but disavowed notion that "the world" is a pre-given object of specified future evolution. If you don't force (and I do mean force, whip in hand) fifteen year olds to calculate, by their own hand, all future states of some simple mechanical arrangement you're a cinch to end up with pompous neznaykas that take it upon their meagre selves (quite unequipped for the task) to sit in inept judgement of all their misrepresentations of their environment, and on that flimsy basis produce divisions upon whatever sets they happen to have heard of that are simply... arbitrary. Random. Not "reliably baneful", but perdurantly irrelevant. [↩]
- Name one such.
Every would-be Master, talking to an imaginary harem stuffed fulla imagined sluts (for lack of any real counterparts) will readily propose himself a "historian", in that limited sense that he intends to butress his bizarre notions on a pretense to historical review, upon which "reason" produces such "conclusions" as he might have aforeconceived. Nevertheless, such a one isn't a historian, or even a moralist. He's just a lonely, asocial boy. To be a moralist he'd have to have some sort of truck with morals, and ethics, as actual fields of inquiry -- rather than constant conversation with his accumulated frustrations, sexual and otherwise, piled atop each other. To be a historian, he'd have to be disinterested, one can't at the same time be a historian and a courtier anymore than a slave can at the same time orgasm and suck cock. (It's true that oftentimes mere human empathy carries the point, and her delightfully personal, humbly open and modestly opened for examination self-transports also carry the one she's servicing along with her own torrent, in sympathy -- yet this isn't because she's doing such a good job sucking cock while cumming herself, but because it really doesn't matter how good or bad a job she's doing, right then.)
Co-opting counterfactual "history" into the narrative of power is the oldest trick in the book, because every state of "I am above, and you below" reduces to a work of fiction, and all fiction at birth encounters the dilemma of whether it will own or disavow its own name. Unsurprisingly both horns are somewhat represented at all times, and thus of course discorsi da letto masquerading as historical accounts will occasionally be encountered in any environment. This formal appropriation does not change what they are, however, for nothing ever changes what anything is, for such is strictly not possible ; and moreover I expect as common courtesy to not be treated for a common whore by some impudent beta bereft of anything even resembling a clue. When you talk publicly, to a public not composed of your own whores, you'd better not talk in this manner, how's that for morals!
In particular I find the unctuous-insidiousness of it appaling ; yet I will persevere, or at least try to, because on the strength of the Julia-Plotina hairdo discussion I expect this tard's going to deliver such lolcow services as hardly could meet an equal. He may be just as stupid as the celebrated Saint of reddit, but he's not nearly as honest as that one, and it is reliably in dumb, crafty dishonesty that the best comedic nuggets lay waiting to be discovered. [↩]
- Isn't that fellow rather useful, socially ? The problem with bad crypto is that bias is bias, always bad, perpetually another name for failure ; if indeed the "always baneful" conceit is to stand, what then of the ratcatcher, freeing the town of rats ?
He only drowned the children once the bourgeois refused to pay for his services. And the bourgeois loved it, and cherished it, as even higher service. Because the rug rats are just another kind of rat, says the pre-pill story ; none of them wanted, confesses Maurice, the prince, of Talleyrand-Perigord. You thought they minded, you thought they had any problems with some dork giving the ladies a perfect reason to do all the childmaking all over again ?! As the gypsy woman said to her gypsy man, "This pickaninny's real filthy... do we wash it, or do we make another ?" [↩]
- The disconnects every which way... how's it to be nothing, if it's something !? It's like watching George/Larry selling his idea for a show. "It's about nothing!"
Too bad none of the fashionable reading lists & cliff notes this superficial dweeb cast his eyes over in passing included mention of a certain Baruch, or perhaps Gottfried Wilhelm -- I'm truly curious what he'd have made of the windmills-in-Hertz-mountains frog-idea, or the invite-Louis-to-invade-Egypt scheme. You know which Gottfried Wilhelm I mean, don't you ? You'd better, because... well ? What alternatives are there ?
Here, have a hint : his mother's name was Schmuck. [↩]
- I thought the whole fucking problem was how prolific they were.
Maybe Legrain is mistranslated, or maybe he doesn't fucking know what his own words mean. O look! I have the damned thing right here! Let's take a look, shall we ?
Well whadda you know! Poor Dr. Legrain doesn't say what Nordau reports him to have said, at all. He's not even talking of the same thing, or anything similar! He's discussing imbeciles, a group strictly defined to exclude anyone of high enough functioning such as to be able to live independently (contrastable, if you will, with the weakminded -- debile mintal -- who could live semi-dependently, such as children do, not in the world in general but in a toy version reconstructed to exclude hostility). An imbecile is one who will doubtless, and in short order, and miserably die by his own devices (like, you know, the "right") ; while a debile is one who could do ok, for as long as someone does his laundry, and nobody tries to trick him into joining the Navy or anything like that. To put it as plain as it possibly can be put : you're a debile by 1890 standards, not an imbecile -- and none of this has anything to do with your being a genius, because let's face it now, you ain't no Wagner. Nor anything close. Nor anything even in the remotest danger of anything like it. Bitch... you're a cow.
But leaving your inconsequential person by the wayside, where it belongs, and getting back to our subject : the German for the French "degenere" as a term of art would be Idiot, not bloody entartet. What "degenere" was writing/painting/etcetera from inside the asylum ?! Did Wagner compose while an inmate, is the proposition contemplated here ? Nordau is shamelessly appropriating a Latin root which, through artful practice acquired a very specific meaning in one language, but also continued undisturbed as a common, colloquial term in another language. These aren't equivalent nor interchangeable, it's like taking an order to build an arena and then delivering some bags of sand -- because whopdedoo, that's what arena means in Spanish hurr durr.
In any case, the flippant abuse of the (otherwise reasonably tidy) product of a (at the time) twenty-something's selflessly dedicated hard work should not reflect upon the victim. Paul-Maurice Legrain made a name for himself over the coming decades in the medical management of addiction, and even if his fellow Frenchmen never took kindly to his radical teetotalling he's nevertheless miles more intellectually respectable than this unhinged nut. [↩]
- What the fuck does barren of thought mean here ? What thought is there to be in poems, or in paintings ? They're not fucking blueprints, they're there to look good, not to mourn meaningfully. Do you genuinely judge Ye autre damozel above Runcible Doom because what you perceive as the ideea (whatever it is, that death's the same as birth from a certain pov over at the factory, or that love's a conceit from here, not from there, or whatever the fuck you come up with) ? No idea is given in either until you read it in there, art does not contain ideas, it doesn't have where. Art is like women's clothing : bereft of pockets. Yes in a pinch you can stuff some items between her tits, or in her stockings band (I do occasionally) ; but it will detract. It doesn't really belong in there.
Or what, Le dejuner's better painting than Raphael because, guess what, it "contains the idea of womanhood" better ? Puhleaze. [↩]
- This is always the case. Among the early hominid herds, children predominated among the discoverers of new edible bushes, because that's a quite well established (through natural selection!) function of children : to try out the environment for toxins. If this new bush is going to kill, it'll kill a nine month old as well as an adult, and the demographic cost is significantly lower if it does kill the child -- so let it. At least that way you find out, and either obtain a new calorie source (which will replace the lost child in short order) or else spare the expensive adult. It takes way the fuck more edible bushes to replicate a nineteen year old male capable of killing a hyena / exhausting a gazelle, there's no comparison, all the tribe's toddlers aren't hardly worth a single capable warrior.
The least, the lowest and the worst colonized America originally, not Europe's best and brightest. Those came in later. And so it is the case throughout -- the finders of new paths are usually those desperate enough to go looking for new paths, not those comfortably ensconced in vaginal velvet, a different cunt eagerly slurping their every finger and toe (ever tried this, by the way ? I don't think it can actually be done). [↩]
- Finally! A familiar name! [↩]
- Why "perhaps" ? These are actual diseases, not mere fantasies, and actually described, in the scientific sense of that term, not "some" and vagueries but actual cases, yes ? So then... count them!
Counting's always worth the trouble ; you never know what you're gonna find (you meaning me). [↩]
- Come to think of it, among the witches of the witch hunt eras the same thing strikes. "Extraordinary emotionalism", meaning something indeed very simple : when Le Tenia tells Alex "Bouge pas, putain!" she... cries. Because... whatever, she has a self-issued license to do other-than-what-told, aka "emotionality".
It would be much simpler to repress female disobedience as female disobedience, rather than invent a whole alternative source for the misbehaviour and then wax lyrical about it. Ain't the god damned thymus that's at issue here, aite ? There's emotion that's emotion, and then there's "emotion" that's "bitch just doesn't do what told, 'cause she thinks she knows better no matter what", which isn't the same thing, nor anything even remotely like the same thing. Nor is it to anyone's benefit to indistinctly admix the two -- excepting, of course, pernicious nullities a la Max Nordau, who, again, ain't got nothing to lose. [↩]
- Isn't it suspicious that neither Axenfeld, nor Richer, not even de la Tourette fournish the opening quotation ? [↩]
- This isn't what emotionality is, neither with nor without the quotes. Let's clarify by instantiation :
Candi, Slutty an' Pizdi are walking down the street. There's a sudden shadow, and Pizdi says "omg, a meteor!" to which Candi starts crying. Candi's impressionable, it wasn't a meteor, it was a shadow. A little further, there's a little bit of textile debris, and Slutty starts crying. It reminded her of an old teddy bear she had that got run over by a truck, and Slutty's emotional. Then Master calls Pizdi and tells them to hightail it back to the hideout, to which Candi hails a cab and Slutty gathers their belongings. Pizdi just stands there trembling, because Pizdi is "emotional".
Not the same fucking thing at all, not even that similar. Impressionable means seeing things that aren't there in fact, nor in common perception. Whether suggested or otherwise, mere pareidolia isn't "being impressionable". Emotional means readily processing vast swathes of memory to produce unexpected, or at least uncommon matches. Candi didn't have to look that far or hard inside her skull to find the concept of meteor, the whole trouble is making anyone else see the meteor in a mere shadow. Slutty did have to look far and hard through her skull to find the obscure reference -- but once found, there's no trouble explaining the match in company, indeed little explanation's even needed most of the time (which accounts for why the impressionable is more likely than the emotional to be perceived as a bimbo). Finally, "emotional" is just being a little bitch.
There's indeed no chance that both narcissists (the hard core of what Nordau rails against as creative "degenerates") and their borderlines (whom he calls "hysterics", and were in fact more commonly male than female back in those days owing to the almost complete removal of females from male society, because it's male pressure that produces the borderline) share any kind of trait besides "emotionality" aka being little bitches. Urban life, you know. [↩]
- Oh, you mean like "me too", the same exact crowd that was "bite the bit and think of the empire" the previous generation ? Iiincredibru. [↩]
- Meanwhile replaced by advertising "creatives". [↩]
- You mean, like the people who believe it "because it's written" ? [↩]
- Reeeheheheheallly! [↩]
- Noo!?!? [↩]
- How the hell's being her going to be "treated" ?! There's no cure, there's no treatment (outside of the antique, which for some reason's taboo in your culture), and so...
There's really no way out. All you can do while still being you is wait for them to die out already. [↩]
- Well, it's of many sorts, but perhaps all some symptom of the same central alienation. I wish I had the original reference to that discussion, rather than a 2019 complaint of its loss. But... what can you do. [↩]
- Ahahaha what the fuck [↩]
- Only if up close. No amount of trembling, the head, the eyes or whatever else, is liable to make distant objects dance -- for they lack what to dance against. [↩]
- It is altogether unclear painting as such was devised by normal people, by any measure proposed. I'm not sure they had normal vision, or anything else. [↩]
- No normal man's field of vision appears to him as a circle, except if it's a "normal man" as depicted on "normal" cinematic productions looking through "normal binoculars". Those, yes, somehow magically make the field of vision circular -- though it's not really how normal binoculars work, at least nowhere near their normal adjustment ranges. [↩]
- This is nonsense. The various macular puckers and holes as actually observed produce perhaps the effect of misperceived wavyness in otherwise straight lines being looked upon ; but more generally it results in generally and broadly blurry vision, perhaps with translucent gray to opaque black spots identifiable (though not that often). The strange "framed vision" with pre-set patterns he describes, however... that's made up. [↩]
- Because he's also having a stroke at the same time, or why the fuck. [↩]
- Maybe ; though the mute and deaf do not as naturally have a predilection for grumbling quietly. Could it be that, au contraire, the painter who is insensitive to colour'd have a predilection for garish coloring schemes ?
In which case, Nordau would turn around just as merrily, and point to that restated "symptom", leading just as well to the exact same unchanged conclusion, because... well, he's either blind, dumb, deaf, or all of the above. [↩]
- I have here, as it happens, a (handmade!) chest filled with falsely coloured marbles. I do not find anything objectionable in this because, although I can perceive color more or less, nevertheless... well, they're marbles, you know ? Who keeps around the house correctly colored marbles ?! [↩]
- By now I fully expect that should Henriette de Barras have eaten pie only to then defecate whole blueberries in a Murano cup, or if Maria and Angele Legault each ejaculated a half-eel which then came together to recreate the complete and live animal, Nordau's "science"'d have equally and as imperturbedly revealed the cause -- and it'd have been degeneracy. Surprise!
Take an address, like, say, 32 Avenue De L'Opera. Can't you just feel the pulsing degeneracy within ? Hm ? [↩]
- There's not much left, besides red, blue and yellow. What else is left ? What, indigo and violet are central then ? [↩]
- This Binet fellow is sure made to sound like a moron, isn't he. What the fuck difference does it make if "the number indicating the pressure in kilogrammes" is doubled ? It could have indicated it in farthings just as well, doubling is relative, not absolute (and for that reason unscientific, as all spurious indirection layering ever is -- say 12 and 24, not 12 and "doubled" wtf). Is his intention to suggest that merely the number, but not the actual pressure, "has doubled" ? Or else what's with the circumbulatory misexpression ?
I'm glad to see Binet was entertaining bored old farts cca the civil war ; but really now, nobody gives a shit what amateur parlour tricks they did together, in lieu ofthe normal thing -- because I can't for a single second take that story as anything besides some beached whale being coquettish in company. Did Amelie Clenche giggle, too, when she was shown a red disk ? How about a pink one ? How about a pink mirrored hyperboloid with a hole in the middle and a little hood uptop ?
Pshaw. Whip that bitch until she loses enough weight she's no longer "anesthetically paralysed", yes ? [↩]
- Oh gimme a fucking break, have you ever seen a well developped young slut rearing to go, decked in a red dress adequate to her figure ? Because I have, and I can't conceive what damned explanation's needed. It has jack shit to do with dynamoderping or whatever the hell blather, either. [↩]
- Yeah, sure, takes one flash of Taylor's eyes to permanently lose all interest. [↩]
- Us nothing, it's not by accident violet's the color chosen by Nordau for his ballsac. [↩]
- No it very well fucking doesn't. Manet wasn't alone in his preference, just about by the end of those same 90s Picasso was going into a violet phase of his own. The reason has a lot more to do with how plastic a color violet actually is, and how it plays the end series of both luminance, pigmentation, and at the time period also cost.
Colors as painted interact differently with light ; colors as painted are the result of admixtures of pigments and carriers, which interact variously with each other ; those pigments cost money. These constitute series, each of the three, where all the colors can be ordered by the respective criteria : from the most luminous to the least, from the most accessible to the least, from the most expensive to the least. By the end of the 60s, very cheap synthetic ultramarine, zinc white, and cobalt violet were being produced in Paris, and this led to a substantial revolution in painting production -- because ten pounds of pigment to the Louis d'or ain't the fucking same as painting with natural ultramarine (aka lapis lazuli, Vermeer's specialty). That guy had to have a pigment sponsor, he painted with van Ruijven's pigments because he couldn't afford his own (certainly not at the rate he went going through them).
That much for cost ; but for anyone who's ever earnestly held a painter's palette for a few hours it's self-obvious violet's something you end up with whether you start with cools or hots (blues or reds). As long as you don't mix much yellow in there, you'll meet violet sooner or later (see, this matters, because the all-important division is blue-red, ignoring yellow ; not yellow-blue, ignoring red, nor yellow-red, ignoring blue). Finally, to go back to Vermeer, a lot of his work consists of grisaille, or similar, where very subdued gray (or brownish) tones are used for backing, and saturation is added as glaze on top. This has to do with the luminance considerations in the first series. I won't go into much detail seeing how I'm neither a painter myself nor much of an expert ; suffice it to say that if pigments were elements, violet (either in the sense of Co3(PO4)2, ie cobalt violet, or in the sense of Na7Al6Si6O24S3, ie, synthetic ultramarine, mixed with some red ochre, burnt sienna, minium, vermillion, crimson, carmine or cinnabar -- cadmium red only became a thing the next century) would be a sort of Nickel 62 and Lead 82 melded together : pretty much everything ends up there.
If this ridiculous know-nothing weren't so satisfied in his cluelessness, he might actually discover a world much fresher and more interesting than the 12 kilogram arm of Mme Chomp. [↩]
- This deranged worldview whereby painters could supposedly put on the toille whatever color of their imagination equally well, anything, anything whatsoever they dreamed up... he's never as much as talked to a painter, not ever! And, in a time and place when just about all girls sexually available to a weirdo would've spent a majority of their nude hours posing, in front of something like half the painters in the district... he's never actually seen a girl in the flesh either, has he. Not ever.
Which is perhaps all the better, because I suppose if he had we'd have been regaled with a lengthy treatise on the diformities of pudendas (as explained by The Science, of course). [↩]
- Amusingly, it is rather an expression of the economics of the textile trade -- because yes, that's why pigments were invented, at the time : to color cloth. The specialist use in painting was economically insignificant ; the profit was made optimizing the large scale industrial dying processes.
That's why the Societé pour l'Encouragement d'Industrie was offering prizes for (cheap!) synthetic blue in 1824, and that's why Tassaert, Guimet & Gmelin actually did look for, and found, the item in question. With a large demand for violet cloth to satisfy bizarre mourning displays (366 days of straight black, 180 days of black in color trims, and another 60 or so days in violet, as per Victorian notions of how to be really weird) comes a large supply of violet pigment at very reasonable prices -- and therefore, in turn, an ample abundance of violet paintings in salons and art exhibitions.
Economics, the "no actually observable aspect of nature" that's nevertheless also the only reliably observable aspect of nature. [↩]
- This'd be the exact definition of what's uncharacteristic : "both in X and in Y". How the fuck's something supposed to be characteristic of different things ?! [↩]
- And medicine. Especially psychiatry. Was it even legal to practice medicine as an outsider ? [↩]
- Actually, inasmuch as science advances by paradigm, that's exactly what artists, authors and all others in possession of their senses and otherwise compos mentis would do. Because what the fuck else is there ?
Anything may at pleasure be termed a sect or band. Especially psychiatry. And I don't mean "1800s science of mental disease". I mean the whole thing, from inception into the unseen future. [↩]
- Not that of the father ? We don't even necessarily disagree, in the sense that I don't, but I expect Nordau would actually disagree. With himself. [↩]
- While talent may very well be personal, so are penises. They also reproduce "themselves", after a fashion, in their creations ; and yet their use and function is nevertheless best displayed not in solitude (like Nordau practices and prefers), but in contrast and collaborative counterposition, juxtaposition with, injustaposition and even raw imposition upon... another equally personal sexual organ. If people enjoy fucking in preference of masturbation, howsoever personal their bits might be, what's to keep artists and such creators of intangibles from enjoying their mutual usage of their (still very personal) flanges, probiscii and whatever other talents ?
I certainly enjoyed writing with another, and not once, as well as painting with another, and who knows what else. What's the impediment, besides of course boyishness ? [↩]
- The idea, of course, is that the apostle / founder / etcetera merely gives some form in writing to what is contained in all participants equally but latently, or for some reason not expressed literarily. When ten million French speakers elect one among themselves to go speak German to the Germans, such that maybe those Germans will thus better understand what the fuck it is those French people are doing in French, Nordau doesn't come up with the neverjetno, удивительный, however we shall call it, nastrusnica idea that "no real people would follow like this the dictates of some guy, what is wrong with those Frenchies!!" and propose the hanging of the French ambassador. Does he ? Well then, when some painter or sculptor or whatever he is undertakes the thankless task of explaining what a group of painters (or sculptors or whatever they are) do, not in paintings or sculptures but in words... what the fuck is his problem ? Say thank you and move on, bitch. [↩]
- The way it works -- from actual experience, as an actual creative genius -- is that the work ends up constructed in the form organically acceptable. There are parts that are necessary, quite organically ; but the whole, that only meets the bar of acceptability, not of necessity. For whom do we imagine painting is actually necessary, not as the activity but as any one given painting ? [↩]
- Wasn't earlier the idea that this river flows the other way, and the pernicious secret societies of artists pervert through the toxin of fashions the gullible general public ? Has it spun around meanwhile ?
Who makes that fashion, once and for all. Whence does it spring ? [↩]
- This is very funny given the later evolution of the author -- hey, Nordau... what's Zionism ?
I mean... even the Turkish music. Everything. [↩]
- Da fuck "a rule" is that rule ?! Ain't no rule I ever heard of, what is it ?! [↩]
- This wasn't exactly true of, to pick a random example, the US Founding fathers. Was it ?
So then. [↩]
- The problem is that for some reason Nordau believes artists' work to be a sort of defecation, or birthgiving, whereby no woman has much to impart on no other woman as to how to float her ovum inside her uterus to nidation, or how to carry it to term, or how to move her bowels towards peristalsis. While this may even bear some similarity to the artist's work, it is surely not a complete picture : they do have to learn such craft as supports their art somehow, somewhere, from someone. It is as natural to have schools for painters or novelists as it is natural to have schools for artillery officers or librarians. The theory of ex-post-factum classification by historians, arbitrary and artificial, an artifact of classificatory convenience is not even bad, as such ; but it also has little bearing on the comings and goings of actual artists while alive.
If the married women with nubile daugthers in a county get together to organize the filly market as best can be organised, throwing balls or picnics or whatever it is they do, why exactly aren't the men with artistic proclivities allowed to get together and organize the economics of their activity by mutual agreement ? [↩]
- Because... why. Did jahveh say so or somesuch xtian nonsense ? [↩]
- And lawyers, and politicians, and... [↩]
- And young people in love... [↩]
- Any midge manages some society, only Nordau, superbly cold, floats alone in the misty voids. Fortunately the science well establishes they're all deranged for it. [↩]
- Stable delirium, though ?
Actually... isn't a person's ethical perspective / moral code supposed to more irresistibly impel, to word and deed, and more tyrannically subjugate the true entirety of one's activity than any delirium ? Is the idea here that the world at large is so drastically degenerate that the sickies are actually in their sickness more aggregate than the averagely dissolute "healthy" person ? [↩]
- And to whom it isn't ?
I mean... the oppinion of the majority is not much concern to Nordau himself, is it ? [↩]
- Right ?
In the end, this is turning by degrees into an almost interesting self-reporting monograph on mental degeneracy. [↩]
- Should obstacles discourage him ? I'm not discussing whether they do, in practice, nor do I care who's the him in question, this one or any other one. As a purely ethical consideration in the most general form, should man be discouraged by obstacles, or shouldn't he be ? [↩]
- Well... now and again someone has to discover America, place the Sun in the center of the... ahem, Solar System, or whatever it is these deliriumists do. [↩]
- It should be perhaps pointed out that current understanding of delirium, as a dementia-related complex, is not very close to his notion. Nordau's "delirium" is more akin to today's structured delusion than anything (a very sore spot in contemporary -- as well as historical -- theories of the mind). [↩]
- This sounds exactly like socialism, actually -- minus the eloquence, penetrating or at all. I suspect this is an important difference, as moron conglomerations are naturally incompatible with eloquence. When's the last time you saw eloquence in anyting come out of either US or EU governments ? Insistence, maybe. Stolid, tedious, unyielding insistence, that in great abundance. But eloquence ? Never! [↩]
- Meanwhile the sprawling socialist state has mostly co-opted the bulk of these deplorables into its bureaucracy (sadly also completely choking academia in the process). [↩]
- Check it out, google didn't bring "keyword research" into being ; it predates them by a good century, perhaps more! [↩]
- How is this distinguishing to be achieved, though ? Hopefully not something like "well, if they support the pet theory, then aye, and otherwise -- nay". Obviously every interesting anything, "healthy" or "unhealthy", "fecund" or "sterile", whatever, will attract the youth. New methods in medicine also attract students, roughly on the same pattern -- the kids don't know what's what, so they tend to distribute more or less evenly over what's there at all.
Sure enough most medicine students are medicine students chiefly to make a living for themselves, and maybe in substitution for "fame" they're contemplating a good match in a wife as well (who doesn't want his daughter married to a physician ?), but how much "insincerity" does this betoken ? Plenty of doctors will change school during their careers -- for yes there's schools in medicine as in any other intellectual pursuit -- is that degrading to them ?
If one could indeed separate the artists from the artisans just for the willing it, oy vey what strangely different world we'd be living in. [↩]
- The facts of that matter are more involved, touching on some speculation by the Rothschild Frères (Gustave & Adolphe) that may very well have included fraud (in the sense of displaying a counterfit, and then surreptitiously withdrawing it). In any case they did somehow raise the five billion francs France paid Prussia during the Commune days. [↩]
- That much is indisputable. [↩]
- That aside, I can't imagine who'd eschew a company of excited, or at the least excitable young cunts, to favour a selection of "sane" and otherwise-self-laudatory Nordaus, nor why would they do such a thing. [↩]
- Which metastable characteristic incidentally also provides excellent heuristics for they interested. [↩]
- Very popular stock character of the period, a supposed "primitive". Related to the "green man" etcetera. [↩]
- This matter is complicated by, for instance, the case of Elizabeth Taylor. She spent her puberty and adolescence iliterate, because neither her parents nor her other exploiters found the time (or found it within their interest) to apply her towards the mildly arduous task of learning to read and write. It is at least conceivable that the ample neglect implicit in the economical exploitation of "infant phenomena" may drive the perceived defficiencies through a lack of nurture, rather than any problem of substance. If the average child has twenty-four daily hours in which to grow up, while the "phenomenal" child has two hours -- or even less! -- left over in which to grow up... well... These defficits would naturally accumulate over the years. [↩]
Wednesday, 28 April 2021
Among the gems of the discussion of pigments and the gracious Caragiale translations, I particularly enjoyed footnote 55's shiny brass nail going into Nordau's coffin. This isn't even god's work; it's specifically yours.
Thursday, 29 April 2021
Haha why ty!