"...Bebuquin's body disappeared in the shadows with just the head
staring at the sinking cloud, the head the colour of twilight.
His head, a cooling star."
An Introduction by Patrick Healy
Carl Einstein and the Dilettantes of the Miracle
Carl Einstein once made a succinct and dramatic
claim about the publication of Bebuquin:
‘I was 20 and in literature’. This bald statement, which
remains muted enough considering the extravagant precocity of the
text, looks back at the salient fact of his debut publication in
Berlin, where his engagement in the literary and artistic milieu of
the city remains one of the most fascinating and complex of the
period, earning him the later sobriquet ‘prophet of the
Einstein was born in Neuwied on the 26th
of April 1885, the son of Daniel and Sophie Einstein. In a ‘little
autobiography’, reminiscent in its matter of fact tone of
Hume’s similarly terse report on his life, Einstein remarks on
Karlsruhe, the capital of Baden to which the family moved in 1888,
that it was very much on the wrong side of the Rhine.
Even in the laconic, slightly melancholic intonation, one senses the
profound pall of provincial boredom which made Einstein think of
Karlsruhe as a city which seemed to be dying slowly. Schoolteachers
with their practised ignorance left a lasting impression, and this
was relieved only by his sitting with his uncle in the evening at a
round table, reading books borrowed from a ‘stuttering
What really mattered for him in this time, he says, were the cowboy
and Indian stories of Karl May, adding that the death of Winnetou was
more important for him than that of Achilles, and still was in 1930,
when he wrote the memoir. He left school before taking final exams,
shortly after the death of his father in 1899, and tells of spending
Sunday evening getting drunk, and reading detective stories,
Wedekind, and Rimbaud.
It was a time of quirky meetings and an extravagant cast of
characters make a fleeting appearance in his short text; a living
poet introduced by a barmaid, a professor of physics who didn’t
believe in gravity, and a Messiah who hailed from Bordeaux, probably
of Turkish origin, and was a heavy drinker with an impressive
knowledge of harbour cities. Abruptly this is followed by the remark:
‘Then I went to Berlin.’ He was still a teenager.
He at first lived as a lodger with Frau Zilinsky
in the Borsigstrasse, between the students and the Kokotten. After
six months he moved to Potsdamer Platz, and then rapidly and dryly
notes how he met Rubiner in the university, and discussed adventure
novels in the evening. Einstein had brought 34 volumes of Phantomas
from Paris, his favourites being Le
pendu de Londres, and Le
fiacre de la nuit.
I wrote Bebuquin; Blei printed it in the Opale,
and so one was twenty and in literature’.
Remarkably it is this fact on which he ends the
autobiography, which indicates perhaps the sense of fate he attached
to this publication.
At University he also formed the beginning of a life-long friendship
with Gottfried Benn, whose publishers were among the first to create
an Einstein edition, and revival, after the Second World War. Benn is
quoted as saying in 1951:
I often think of Einstein and
read his books. He had it, he really was at the top. Those were the
genius years of Germany, 1912-33, maybe the last Germany had.
The Berlin of 1904, where he enrolled for University courses in
philosophy, art history, and history included attendance at the
lectures of Georg Simmel, the chief conduit for Bergsonism in
Germany, and an intellectual once described as being of almost
Simmel’s famous paper delivered around that
time on ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, registers in
precise detail the sense of the enormous increase in the
intensification of the nervous life of city inhabitants, or the
‘Steigerung des Nervenlebens’, with people being forced
through the impersonality of the city, the place of punctuality and
rational impersonal economic exchange, to behave in a blasé
way in order to deal with their new experiences of shock and
distraction, which the very functioning of the metropolis creates,
whilst in tandem increasing their capacity for discrimination. The
city is the place of endless ‘shocks’ and
self-protection; the latter often presented itself as paralysis,
whilst the former would result in surrealism.
Simmel clearly has Berlin in mind, the Berlin that
for such a long time had been either between a ruin and a building
site for most of its existence. In his review of Karl Scheffler’s
book of 1910, Max Raphael fastened on the phrase that Berlin had been
verdammt immerfort zu werden und niemals
zu sein, or ‘dammed always to
becoming and never to be’. Raphael then invokes a more complex
metaphor: ‘er ist der moderne Ahasver…irrend und
ruhelos’ (‘it is the modern Ahasverus, wandering and
text that established Einstein’s reputation, had started its
life in Franz Blei’s publications Die
Opale, of 1908, and was published
eventually in serial form in Die Aktion
from 1911. It also appeared as a separate book publication in 1912.
Again, there was a further edition of 1917. However, an established
corrected text did not appear until the critical edition of the
Universal-Bibliothek of Reclam, in 1985, based on a typescript of
It is this edition on which my current translation in English is
directly based, although some of the older reading and variants have
The theme of ‘the young man from the
provinces’ as a major subject of 19th
century fiction is well exemplified in the ferocious energy and
achievements of Einstein. From Einstein’s interest and
lifestyle one can see the generational revolt ‘against the
fathers’ that has been taken as such a mark of this period.
Apart from attending lectures, the erratic and
brilliant Einstein was also a regular in the café society of
the Café des Westens, where he went every afternoon at 4 p.m.
and was usually in the company of, among others, George Grosz, the
art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, the sculptor de Fiori and the artist
Rudolf Belling; and not far from their habitual seating place was the
table of Max Libermann, Max Slevogt, Emil Orlik, Heinrich Zille, and
the generation of older painters and artists. This localises the
second level of generational conflict, a conflict between the younger
and older artists. The younger generation were in open revolt. A
wonderful evocation of this café life can be found in the
almost contemporary publication of a roman
à clef by the poet Else
Lasker-Schuler’s Mein Herz,
published in 1912.
Einstein also had direct connections with the
group involved in the periodical Die
Aktion, which had a shop in the
Motzstrasse, who described themselves as left of the communists.
Today along the street the main plaque is to where Rudolf and Marie
Steiner spent almost twenty years, living, together.
When Bebuquin was being published in Die
Aktion, the chief editor was Franz
Pfemfert, who was later to become Einstein’s brother-in-law.
The periodical had been responsible for publishing Franz Mehring,
Rosa Luxembourg, and Bakunin. These would remain his life-long
political loyalties. During the Spanish Civil War Einstein fought on
the side of Durutti against the Fascists.
The list of contributors to Die
Aktion reads as a roll call of the most
advanced intellectual tendencies of the period, which was to be named
by 1911 as the epoch of ‘Der Expressionismus, it included Paul
Adler, Kurt Hiller, Alfred Wolfenstein, Franz Jung, Rudolph Leonard,
Gottfried Benn, Ferdinand Hardekopf, and Max Raphael.
It was Raphael who wrote the very first article in German using the
term ‘Der Expressionismus’, which has come into English
as Expressionism. Raphael, in his article entitled ‘Der
Expressionismus’, defends the young generation of painters
against the attacks of Lovis Corinth, who had described them as
imitators of Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin. Raphael names the
new tendency from the work of Pechstein, Purmann, Levy, Kirchner,
Heckel and Schmidt-Rottluff, among the Germans, and Picasso, Matisse
and van Dongen among the foreigners. For these artists the new ideal
is the picture, creating a structure independent in itself, free from
alien connections. It is the picture and not nature, which dictates
the laws of creation: ‘The difference between every
expressionism and every naturalism lies in the will to create’.
For the modern artist the absolute is no longer to be sought behind
the relative, but rather the relative has to be transformed into
clarity and necessity. Nothing objective can constitute the creative
point of view, for the artist knows with the surety of subjective
experience that there is no objective certainty: ‘He can be led
by his personal sensation alone’.
The peculiarity which Raphael notes in this position is that the
sensation always emerges anew from the contact with the object, that
is, not in a stylisation, but in a will to style. The world of forms
does not exist a priori, nor forces objects into shapes; rather it
comes into being each time out of the tension between subject and
object; it is not a schema but active formation. What occurs is a
simultaneity of reception, re-working and representation which leads
to greater clarity and simplicity, more expression, more of what is
The expressionists mistrust the impression, so
varied in its chance nature, and seek to raise it to an unambiguous,
clear, simple and necessary concept. This involves abstraction and
against impressionism with its spreading, open continuity, they will
and aim at the ‘self-containment of the picture.’ It is,
as Raphael says, to be concluded that the imitation of nature is
actually not the constituent mark of visual art. It is this
anti-mimesis which is also crucial for Einstein’s strategy in
For literature one could almost name the young
Berlin University friends Einstein and Benn as the principal source.
The significance of Einstein’s Bebuquin
for German expressionist prose writing was acknowledged most fully in
the 1925 publication in Leipzig of Albert Soergel’s Dichtung
und Dichter der Zeit, with special
emphasis being placed on his work and that of Franz Jung, Gottfried
Benn, and Ferdinand Hardekopf.
This does not square with the earliest reception
which is exemplified in Kurt Hiller’s review in Pan,
a rival journal to Die Aktion,
which appeared in 1912. Hiller commented on the ‘decadent’
figure of Bebuquin, since the early version of the text had been
supported in a publication of Franz Blei, who had a specialist
interest in French erotic literature, and in his independent
included essays on Restif de la Bretonne and Sade. Blei's magazine
carried Beardsley erotica, and was
produced on Japanese paper and issued as a deluxe publication.
At the time of the appearance of Einstein’s
text, Blei had just published his monograph on Félicien Rops,
the most modish evocation of symbolism in painting. It is easy to see
the ‘decadent’ atmosphere of Bebuquin makes for easy
comparison with Hofmannsthal’s Letter
of Lord Chandos, the unproductive
narcissus, and indeed, Huysman’s A
Rebours, the aristocrat aesthete
finally absorbed by his own akrasia.
As in the domain of painting, German art was becoming increasingly
open to French influences, and this is well charted by Einstein in
his later publication on 20th
century art for the Propyläen
Kunstgeschichte in 1926.
Again, one can see the texts of Einstein as
situated in another tension, that between symbolist art and
expressionism. However, in the first and very influential anthology
of expressionist prose after World War II, published by Karl Otten in
Darmstadt in 1957, Bebuquin
is taken as the crucial expressionist piece of writing. Einstein’s
reported conversations confirm the designation.
In his modest and immensely readable memoirs,
Eugene Jolas leaves a captivating pen-picture of Einstein; indeed the
contributions to transition are
of enormous retrospective interest in relation to Bebuquin.
One section of the work, chapter six, appeared in transition
translated into English by Jolas.
Einstein had often encouraged Jolas to visit Berlin, to collect ‘the
last echoes of the Expressionist era’, that is before they
became buried in ‘nationalistic realism’. He had informed
Jolas of the new and dangerous jingoism emerging in Germany,
remarking that the Prussian spirit was not dead, and adding:
‘Expressionism was the last form of the human equation in
Germany’. In the work of another younger generation Einstein
saw nothing but the drift towards Teutonic megalomania, the sterile
echo of the creative mind, epigones who might become dangerous to
Noting the dangerous mixture of sentimentalism and power-lust in the
German, Einstein, as reported in Jolas, was still convinced that
there were a few humanists left who would prevent the Teuton beserk
spirit from gaining the upper hand, suggesting that Thomas Mann, whom
he did not like, might have enough influence to be the brake on young
writers evolving towards military nationalism.
For some time Jolas, Hans Arp and Einstein met in Einstein’s
book-cluttered apartment near the Boulevard de Grenelle, talking
about poetry in the German language and indulging in ‘grandiose
plans for a collection of poetry plaquettes to be issued’.
Einstein in true combative mode and with his fine anarchic
intelligence wanted to launch a cry of revolt against what he called
the spirit of Fichte among the German poets, ‘Let’s hurl
something in their faces’, he said, ‘The two or three
poets left there will thank us’.
Most of Einstein’s indignation focused on
Goethe, his true bête noire
among the German writers, against whom he would launch a furious
broadside. Vitriolic remarks included describing Goethe as ‘the
greatest bore on the European continent, that ruined antiquarian of
letters’, and, ‘the little burgher who worked to preserve
his fame after his death’. Jolas took this passionate man at
his word, and asked him to prepare an article for the hundredth
anniversary of Goethe’s death, which he went at, according to
Jolas ‘hammer and tongs’.
Something of his distrust of the new generation
was also sourced in his attack on Goethe, Jolas thought:
“ ‘I don’t trust
those fellows’, he used to say, ‘they like too well to
march in goose-step … and then they usually go mad. You should
go and see Döblin or my friend Grosz’ ”.
Jolas also surmised, as they read together the
poems of Gottfried Benn, Georg Heym, Georg Trakl, Alfred Mombert,
Ernst Stadler, and others who had been the first to launch the
Expressionist revolt in poetry and prose, that there was a ‘desperate
attempt to save the human being from technological enslavement’.
Most of this conversation and collaboration took place during 1928,
when Einstein settled in Paris and met with his partner Lyda
Guevrekian earlier in that year. Einstein had published the Propyläen
History of 20th
Century Art in 1926, and he was
simultaneously on the board of transition.
Furthermore, in Paris he was a co-founder of Documents
with Leiris and Bataille, as recently
studied by Conor Joyce in great detail.
It is in the contribution on Goethe that one finds
Einstein’s sustained literary position. Analysing the text
also helps to understand the strange eruption of the work of
as clearly exemplifying Einstein’s deepest creative
Briefly one can say that the plot of Bebuquin,
even in the scenario-like chapter treatment, is that Giorgio
Bebuquin, the snobbish young poet, although akrasic wants to create
something specific, something out of himself without any influences.
He meets the director of the Museum of Cheap Thrills, during the
annual fair, and Böhm, the Thinker with the silver engraved
skull, who reappears as a ghost after his sudden death. Bebuquin
tries to achieve his goal, one drink at a time, where he meets up
with the actress Fredegonde Perlenblick, the painter Heinrich
Lippenknabe, and the ‘Platonist’ Ehmke Laurenz. Bebuquin
‘gets’ religion and goes to a cloister where he
self-induces a form of destruction through a created sickness, that
leads to madness, which also spreads to a whole group of people to
whom he is a mirror reflection, ‘for still the glimmering
terror of the mirror hung over the city’.
All of this is entwined through a rapid
hallucination, without characters in any traditional sense, but more
as expressive modes of a fragmenting artefactual figure. One needs to
look at the later writing of Einstein to grasp what happened in this
hypothetical action, erupting event, called Bebuquin.
One could say that in Bebuquin,
which effectively appeared over a period of six years, Einstein
creates a literary text that achieves the focus
imaginarius, where everything in the
text is a becoming, and in which the process of dissolution and
metamorphosis breaks with the novelistic tradition of realist and
narrative bound works.
It is possible to argue that there is an analogy with cubist
technique in the work, which implies the dissolution and regrouping
of the space/time sense for the personality, in other words the
creation of a phenomenal time and space would devastate a linear-time
continuum and static notions of space.
The idea of qualitative time implied for Einstein
a multitude of multiple qualitative dis-continuums; past, present and
future dissolve into a complex time experience which is the decisive
metaphoric character of the work. As in cubism, there is a spatial
and temporal simultaneity of diverging views and a simultaneous
complex of transitory figuration and transformation. This culminates
in the destruction of discrete determined objects, and Einstein
abandons the notion of a substantial I, and the synthetic centre of
all the transformations and figurations of Bebuquin
is the made up, artefactual performance of the work itself. The
tension between the artifical and the phantastic, even phantasmic, in
the thematic of the work is played out around the hypothetical action
of a funeral wake, concluding, if it concludes, in the brief report
on the laying out of the corpse of the chief protagonist.
a fictive I, there is no stable self to distribute into second-order
fictions, for the fictive subject is one in the process of unfolding,
within the folds of the text itself, and can break out and implore
within the text: ‘Herr, gib mir ein Wunder, wir suchen es seit
Kapitel eins’. The request for the miracle which has been
sought since chapter one, is our own situation, the desire for the
‘event’, and our asking ‘will it happen’?
But it is not just reversals and reflective distortions that are at
play. That would not deroute the substantive and controlling
discourse under attack; if anything it would merely serve to
strengthen it. The strategy of the writer is not that he simply
smashes the isomorphisms that are meant to be constitutive of meaning
everywhere in the world. Rather, he is involved in a process that
depends on a complex interplay between simulacrum, deception and the
permanent un-reality of the image, its ceaseless struggle to refer,
where it is real only on the basis of its non-reality. It is this
disjunction that implies the philosophical grotesque throughout. The
magic dramaturgy of meaning morphs into a melodic madness. Joyce too
had a brilliant metaphor for the condition of loss and absurdity –
the cracked mirror.
The swingeing polemic against Goethe turns on a central point: Goethe
has avoided contact with the dangerously immediate present. He was a
ridiculous optimist, exhibiting an offensive serenity, inane
moderation, and displaying all the insouciant values of a rococo
Goethe refuses to confront death and decay, preferring to wallow in a
lazy and conflict-free notion of unity, espouse an idiotic hedonism.
He feared the real. Insanity and death were for him offensive odours.
Likewise eroticism was degenerated into respectability, and his ideal
of cheerful Hellenism, never suspected for a moment the hallucinative
root of early antiquity, what Einstein calls the ‘sacred
dementia’. Faust, after all, ends up as a property developer.
What Goethe never sensed, was the problematic and murderous nature of
art, preferring, like Shaw, to go whore-mongering among a few false
optimistic ideas. The fundamental position of Einstein is then shown
when he accuses Goethe of overlooking the hypothetical element of all
creation, the element which alone allows cognition to gain
independence and power. Here the argument of Einstein is that the
artist insists on the hallucinative process of his own subjectivity.
It was in this sense for Einstein that freedom could be gained, and
that the work was a hypothetical action.
The subjective could be quickened into form, through the process of
hallucinative seeing, where the elements of vertiginous subjectivity,
free fantasy, the grotesque of a logic of sensation, would free the
writer or artist from the tyranny of the mimetic. Einstein registered
viscerally the overbearing demands that the stabilising of the world
into subject and object created, and out of writing wanted to create
a meta-object, away from the static and unrelieved character of the
ontological which resulted in a double making both subject and object
a thing. The full engagement of lived experience was ultimately
pre-theoretical, and involved a necessary destruction of previous
The grotesque in the psychological realm opened
the real, the domain of succession and simultaneity. It could even
generate figures, through the transpersonal that resulted from the
creation of the meta-object, a prose work; thus, the dilettante, the
narcissus, the snob, in their sterility generate the search for the
creative in the text itself. The grotesque contains, as Ruskin once
observed, the ludicrous and the fearful. Bebuquin
is grotesque even in the name, invented, childish, absurd.
Indeed one can see that what Goethe cannot accomplish could be read
as Einstein’s achievement. There is a hypothetical element in
all creation, and Goethe never dares the mad leap, as Einstein calls
it, the leap into the symbol, which at least characterises the
conflict between man and being. Goethe remains possessed of the
regnant delusion of the Enlightenment, that all existence develops
according to law.
Because cognition, of which hypothesis is the marked characteristic,
develops a-logically and unconsciously, it takes on a fatal
appearance, and thus seems necessary to us. It is the fatal
automatism of the unconscious which casts its shadow over the event,
the irruption of being as presence, its understanding as event, what
emerges in a living, non-theoretical way, and indeed cognition is
feared because its origins remain unknown to us, and all faith in
logic is rooted in the fear of our own automatism.
Every continuity is woven out of a fear of death, and against the
harmonic Hellenism of Goethe, Einstein invokes a new quantum where
the unity of the real is displaced by the dialectical pluralism of
reality. For Einstein the words of power were the primitive,
metamorphosis, the ecstatic. In his absurd optimism Goethe failed to
understand that every act is ecstatic and can only come about through
the destruction of the ‘I’.
Cognition is a form of destruction. In the
substraction of perception, which is
always less and more than what it feels, the contraction of energy is
the form itself, a diminution of living contacts, an elimination of
conventional reality, and paradoxically the creation of a new mythos.
It cannot be enough, as at the end of Faust, to
conjure a fraudulent jouissance,
an artificial hallucination, instead of taking the courage of a
position to creative dying. Instead, Goethe launches rockets of dead
allegories, remaining a stranger for ever to the fatal necessity of
Hölderlin. The only myth Goethe created was of his own
One can see, and very much from the urban situation, how the modern
problematic of the city necessarily resulted in fragmentary allegory.
Baudelaire had seen clearer than anyone the tension and often
explosive conflict between the shock of city living and the effort of
the poet to create from things a unity, to achieve for the poetic
intelligence its highest ability, namely the conception of
correspondences. Joyce echoes it seductively on Sandymount Strand,
across the soft wrinkles of the Dublin baybed:
modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my
eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read: seaspawn and
seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snot green, blue silver,
rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane."
ed. Danis Rose, London: Picador, 1997, p.37)
For Einstein all philosophical idealism was a kind of madness, a
phobia towards the concrete, and aesthetic theory a kind of defence
against the ‘provisorium’ of the artwork. The grotesque
as the booth of distorting mirrors was the consequence of the limit
of the human experience.
What lay at the ground of this critique was the understanding that
the conventional philosophical rendering of the concept of
subject/object was simply a fiction to provide the possibility of
repeating experience. This splitting of subject and object secured
the world as a tautology, and the creative flux from chaos had its
reality diverted into an ontological forgery.
Throughout, Einstein is targeting rational metaphysics, Descartes,
Leibniz, Wolff, Kant, and advocating the primacy of lived experience
before any theoretical claim, in its constant metamorphosis.
The movement of life was better understood as a flux within flux.
Living, speaking beings could not be confined to the static,
property-laden concept of the I; experience was as much a skin of
fiction as a search for meaning through a relation between subject
and object that could then be given some kind of representation. A
fundamental experience, without presuppositions, was labial,
multiple, active, constitutive, and hallucinative, in which reality
is the very metamorphosis itself.
Whilst the polyvalent multiple of the grotesque renders the indirect
mythology of a labyrinth, Einstein sees the role of the creator as
the propulsion of the miracle, a wonder which acts as an energy of
irruption into the environing world, and then closes itself off into
The difference that makes a difference is the difference between man
and the real. This too is constituted by difference. In this claim
Einstein sees the conception of art as protest, subversion, revolt,
as only forms coming from non-determined zones could be an event that
was open for wonder, the miracle.
that is engendered from within this event is situated by Einstein in
the mantic, indeed in the sacred dementia, a point his co-editor of
George Bataille, took as a given. For the expressionist theory the
very temporal precariousness of the immediacy of creation led to a
dialectic tension with the archaic, and this entailed a magical
transformation of reality; it was the event without continuity.
Perhaps it is incorrect to refer to Bebuquin
as a novella; maybe it would be better to call it a meta-novel. What
is asserted is a difficult freedom, in other words an autonomous work
resulting from hallucinative processes, which could be viewed as the
freedom of creation against the imposition of the given.
Where previously the energies of man had been concentrated in a
religious epoch in God, now it was concentrated in the autonomous
work of art. Einstein’s arguments become almost pizzicato, a
rapid stopping and starting that remains in a real sense completely
performative; thinking plays with ideas and that is the foundation of
a new poetry, however thinking has nothing to do with epistemology or
a theory of knowledge, rather, it is the act of creation in an
intimate, immanent gesture, something singular.
In this singular event, which is the very multiple
of the body, something is launched, namely, the body as movement.
This self-causing activity cannot be accounted for by cognition, nor
however can it escape the consequences of its own fatality. It is
actually impotent to produce the real, and always destined to
overcome and destroy itself, the fundamental event of experience, a
creative dying, which eliminates conventional reality. It is in this
Destruktion a new myth is created. By the time of his writing of a
monograph on George Braque, Einstein has become programmatic with
respect to what the creation of a new myth entails.
Protesting against the immunisation of art,
Einstein asserts that the passionate sensation of the real is
destroyed, and that danger and its real psychological conflicts
engendered in creation, which comes from a sense of the fatal and a
primitivism, is completely
drained by the aesthetic idolatry of art. The European is so lost in
the innumerable possible interpretations that he is no longer capable
of genuine spiritual production. The very overload of choices and
information robs man of a sense of the fatidic, and a capacity to act
directly to create new facts, deeds.
Art always constitutes a threat to the rationalist myth of order.
Liberalism and positivism denied the tensions and dialectics of such
irrationalism, in the hope of creating a unified philosophical
system. In such a situation man is nothing more than a symptom in
society, which deprives the individual of the capacity to create a
new fact, which is not susceptible to analysis. The pseudo-liberation
of such a society is that it apparently offers the individual an
inexhaustible measure of choice and robs him of any reality other
than the one which serves society.
Therefore the program for art in light of these transformations in
the current epoch is as follows: a regression to primitivism, to
violent states of hallucination which can be formulated as
‘image-destiny’. In this the artist becomes the medium of
a fatal psychological automatism, determined by mythic and fatal
forces. Through obsession and vision, art must re-conquer the power
of necessity. The image becomes a magic means destined to destroy and
transform man and reality.
In concrete terms then, for Einstein Picasso is the signal of
liberty. His work is the most powerful argument against the
mechanical normalisation of experience. What one can constantly
observe in his work is the self-dissolution into the irreal, through
the process of the hallucinative interval, which permits him to
continually create anew; his art is the technique of doubt and
Being, death and nothing are not metaphors of each
other; rather, there is a concrete wresting with the unconscious, the
irreal, in which creation is always renewing itself. Picasso’s
refusal, as it were, to seek a bridge between immediate and
conventional reality, takes place in isolation and through the
destruction of the real. Picasso then creates anxiety, distinction
and negation, in order to produce concrete and autonomous visions.
The abrupt totality of his creations are the dialectical destruction
of reality, and emerge from the multiple of his self-transformations,
being indifferent to nature as the site of alienation; these
hallucinations are protected by the gestus
of his obsession, and forms. They have a mantic origin which
re-enforces and compensates for the isolated subject by construction
and tectonic analogies, giving his discoveries the forms of laws, and
a constant inner dialectic at various levels.
Above all the work of Picasso demonstrates that
reality is constantly invented by man, and needs to be always
re-made. Because reality continually dies in the person of Picasso,
one can speak of an artist who, following his mantic obsession, has
attained a truly mythic state. Picasso has answered the question in
‘How can I go directly to things without detours?’.
The guiding perspective in Picasso’s is to ask: ‘what is
that the possibility to really rupture the traditional philosophical
imposture, when the energy needed was already being sapped and
undermined by the hegemony of the liberal bourgeois epoch?’ How
could thinkers and artists win back an image-destiny where
transformations would mean an escape from the dehumanising barbarisms
of lifeless and mechanical forces of production? In a direct way it
would only be possible to attain this image-destiny through the
technique, one might say, of the ‘hallucinative interval’.
The generation to which he belonged, and in which
he had played such a vital role, was still, he thought, caught up in
the failure of revolt, in the old dream of artistic neutrality.
Liberal intellectuals had believed themselves to be original and were
merely eclectic. The fact was that the parvenu and the snob were the
real bearers of private capitalist anarchy; for the domain of things,
the mode of intellectual ressentiment
was the aesthetic.
Subjective symptoms and the explosion of signs
followed on the collapse of religion, and only metaphors and
were relevant for the aesthetic distancing of an intelligentsia with
a bad conscience. The liberal dream of culture ended in the
destruction of the person. A fable of unlimited freedom led to
fanatic metaphysics. The effort to create a mythology of an isolated
subject was doomed. The belief that subjective experience and nuance
could create a decisive power over being, with the imagination as an
ersatz, allowed the romantic flight from community.
By creating formal phantoms, intellectuals lost a relation to the
real, and constructed a new archaic, possessed by a need to create a
myth which relegated reality to being merely a symptom; a generation
too weak to revolt could fulfil their shameless dream: street
citizens and house anarchists.
The reactionary implications attendant on the truth of this critique
were obvious, exhibiting themselves as homesickness for the
classical, pretentious science, and a flight into kitsch and the
exotic, and tellingly religious regression without religion. As the
horror of social powers increased, the individual took comfort in the
fiction of an ideal freedom.
In the dream-works of creation there was an empty, spurious negative
theology, manipulated as enchantment; a deadly atavism of sexual
psychology became the dream market of Freud, where the hypostasis of
capitalist competition entered into every kind of pleasure, and
wallowed in the anarchy of objects.
one finds the dislodging of the liberal conception of the
subject/object relation. Indeed it is worth noting that much of the
critique made by Einstein before the First World War is being
advanced directly by Heidegger in his introductory lectures in
philosophy of 1919. That is to say, how can one go to a pre-science
of experience, and avoid that this account be simply an analysis of
the relations of the subject/object relation?
For Einstein, as for Heidegger, a real Destruktion
was required, and for both it is in the everyday that the wonder is
found. By dislodging such a powerful conceptual figure, and
destroying the notion of the ego-subject, Einstein posits another
category of the objective, namely that of metamorphosis. As mentioned
earlier, the movement to this process was via what he designated as
the ‘halluzinatives Interval’. In one sense it sounds
like a familiar stoic version of askesis,
a kind of cathartic training, a self-sacrifice, except that unlike
with the Stoics it does not result in the imperturbable, but rather
in the elimination of a fundus which
stabilises the world; grounds do not depend on the principle of
individuation, nor on the regulatives of logic, instead it celebrated
multitudes of spaces and times, all qualitatively different. It would
be in the ‘halluzinatives Interval’ that perception
theories could be radically re-structured by the overcoming of the
object and its conventional characterisation. In this interval the
latent undisclosed object would be created.
This break with causality was the only offer of some possibility of
freedom. The creation of that latent object in the pure act of
hallucination was what Einstein thought of as the achievement of
cubism, the creation of a meta-object. A pure act of functional
subjectivity was hypostatised as form, and this resulted in the
creation of a higher second object, the poetic as the mask, or the
metamorphosis of the nothing.
That too is the astonishing achievement of
‘Splinters of a glass yellow lamp clattered from the voice of
Customer Reviews and Comments
|Add your own Review
|Malcolm Green - 28 March 2012
|Not the first ever English one-volume translation at all, because there was a version done at Kent State in 1984 by one Angela Mailänder Elston, but maybe only available on dissertation services. Title: Bebuquin or the Dilettantes of Wonder.
|And Bruno Schulz!
|Brian R.Banks - 20 November 2009
|This is an astounding piece of writing! Deep but clear, vivid and catherine-wheel in its idea-provoking. It is the ethos behind my Muse & Messiah: The Life, Imagination and Legacy of Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) who I believed took more from German Expressionism than Poland would ever care to admit! Profound material which I want to thank you for,
all best wishes
|Prof - 14 August 2008
|Great Stuff! Well done on publishing an English translation at last! It's impossible to get this stuff in the bookshops- even the college libraries have to order them! About time someone made this important novel accessible!
|Linda - 15 July 2008
|This is completely off the wall! I can't believe I didn't read it for my expressionist paper last year- would have helped a lot! it's so interesting to read this early modernist stuff from before it all became a cliche- it seems so naive- but all these ideas were new then. I love the bit where he practically screams at the reader 'I don't want to be a copy!' and is just searching for originality on purely theoretical terms!- it feel slike nothing real ever happens. This poor guy was bonkers. A great read!
The misogyny is hilarious!