Sunday, May 03, 2009

"I'm the closest thing to myself that I know."

TLS May 1 2009

from Paul Binding's review of Arnold Weinstein's Northern Arts: The breakthrough of Scandinavian literature and art, from Ibsen to Bergman:

When, in his sixties, Ibsen returned to Christiana (Oslo) after years of voluntary exile from Norway, he worked with a portrait of the Swede [August Strindberg] in his study, to remind himself of the threatening power of a writer twenty-one years his junior.

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[In Fear and Trembling (1843)] Kierkegaard insists on the sheer terribilita of the Abraham and Isaac story, so central to the biblical idea of our relationship to God. We fail, he says, if we do not recognize the enormity of this episode, its repudiation of conventional bonds in its dramatization of what God expects of his human creations. . . . Looked at with his independent eyes, not only Abraham's behavior but that of God himself casts moral doubt on the whole concept of patriarchy, on which traditional society was founded. This doubt [Weinstein] sees as at the very core of Scandinavian modernism, which has defiance and overthrow of accepted authority--and consequent freedom to receive the numinous--informing its most representative works. 

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"Munch," [Weinstein] says, knew that "our love-life is time-drenched"; he is "Strindbergian in his volatility and exposure"; "erasing," in such iconic works as "The Scream", "all boundaries between 'inside' and 'outside'; he thus gives us "multiple citizenships, . . . in and of the world."

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Of Strindberg's paintings, Weinstein wrote: [they] are a supreme illustration of what it can mean to live in a place that is not our own. . . . The alterity of both world and self is, amazingly, a generative formula for poetry and art. . . . Darkness seeds light. Freedom does not disappear: it is refigured.

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from David Horspool's review of Barney Hoskyns' Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits:

[Waits:] "I'm the closest thing to myself that I know".

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from David H. Walker's review of Francois Augieras's A Journey to Mount Athos:

In fact, the book as a whole reflects Augieras's lifelong pursuit of a father, a master, an initiator and young partners he can in turn initiate. 

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In the course of the journey, time is disrupted by sudden undercurrents from the narrator's various pasts, and he feels his identity shift according to the diverse forms of clothing he finds himself wearing in the present--from the uniform of a young Nazi airman posted on the island twenty years before (the uniform had been left with a young monk by a "corporal in the Hermann Goering Airborne Division stationed at Heraklion"), to the borrowed habit of a young monk: "I loved the game, in it I saw the secret of life; to mislead, to change clothes, to be someone else for a while in order to live forever!". 

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