An invitation to reflect on the love for the Humanities.
The meritorious writer, Eduardo Aguirre Romero, who is an on humor in Cervantes and is very much a humorist in his own right, has written a remarkable book. humor Eduardo Aguirre Romero, himself very much a humorist, author of the remarkable books, Vivan las Humanidades, siempre vivas (Long live the Humanities, Ever Living). Previously, he has written, Cervantes, enigma del humor (Cervantes, Enigma of Humor), Cine para caminar (Cinema to Walk With), Blues de Cervantes (Cervantes Blues), and Entrevista a Cervantes (Interview with Cervantes). His latest book was brought to the stage as a “dramatized conference,” at the Aula Magna of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at the University of León, during the institute’s joyful patron saint festivities for San Isidoro on April 18, 2023. The book includes a foreword by Professor José Montero Reguera, Dean of the Faculty of Philology and Translation at the University of Vigo.
The leading parts at the “dramatized conference” were played by:
Juan Matas Caballero, Professor and Corresponding Academician of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Fine Arts and Noble Arts of Córdoba, who has recently edited the magnum opus, Sonetos de Luis de Góngora (Sonnets of Luis de Góngora);
Marta Roa , the former Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of León, (who is actually the wife of Eduardo Aguirre Romero; this fact actually serves as a gag within a gag in the dramatized lecture);
Ángeles Rodríguez the renowned Mexican actress;
Juan Álvarez Iglesias, student at the Faculty and Letters;
Siro López Lorenzo, the essayist (such as, “Epilogue;” “Letter to Krzysztof Sliwa”), who is one of the most important Spanish graphic humorists and caricaturists;
Marcelo Tettamanti and Pedro Fergar, poets both of photography.
In his Prologue, the renowned Cervantes scholar Montero Reguera correctly observes that the role of a Dean of Humanities “is a very laborious job, not given to leisure, in which very curious and sometimes unthinkable things are dealt with… since it is up to us—philologists, philosophers, historians—to make our society capable of looking to the future with an open, expectant, curious, responsible vision.”
Reguera rightly suggests that the “theatrical” Eduardo Aguirre Romero explains very well the role of a Dean of the Humanities in our very difficult times and alludes to his teacher the philologist Alonso Zamora Vicente (1916-2006)—who was also the teacher of the Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa (1936-) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (2010), and from whom Reguera quotes these words:
The young Spaniard must always be in the flesh, before Cervantes’ criticism of the society in which he lives, and learn from him the position that an intellectual must maintain in the face of the ever-changing socio-political structures; he must be in the vanguard of them, in permanent constructive opposition, marking an ethic and an inextinguishable desire for improvement” (Vivan, pp. 14-15).
Reguera agrees with Aguirre, and states that
The humanities are fundamental for being human, enriching to the highest degree, but also fun, a lot of fun: the stuff composed by Matas and Aguirre that ended up becoming a gangarilla, with the intervention of a certain de Saavedra [Cervantes], in the guise of Ángeles Rodríguez proves it. Come in, come in and read Aguirre, you will have a good time, and yes, you will end up shouting, with conviction, ‘Long Live the Humanities!’ (Vivan, p. 15).
Moving forward in time, let us now focus on the “dramatized conference,” which is the heart of the play, and in whose theatrical representation the members participate. They are Juan Mata Caballero, Eduardo Aguirre Romero, the Lady (Marta Roa), Miguel de Cervantes (Ángela Rodríguez), and Pancracio de Roncesvalles (Juan Álvarez Iglesias). They profess the challenges of the Humanities in this way:
Aguirre: “They say that bad winds are blowing for our beloved Humanities… but when have good times ever blown for it? “Tell me, which times have been good for the Humanities? And for the human? “Finally, ask your parents or your grandparents about difficult times. Difficulty is part of the test, in studies and in professions, even in love and in life. This is what this minstrel of columns tells you. “Who has seen many towers fall that I never imagined I would see fall. But I also see others rise. Raise your own towers, be builders of your reality and not mere passive objects of what they want to impose on you. It is not easy. But it never was. “And yes, how can you deny it: an economic crisis that does not end… the conflict in Ukraine that puts it at risk. “New totalitarian fascinations, right and left… a crisis of the Spanish educational system—not caused by teachers—that links with the previous one and the previous one and the previous one… the majority’s disaffection towards culture; “All this is true, but it is not the only truth. Participate in the combat of values in which we have put you… and win it in our name” (Vivan, pp. 19-23).
Indeed, Aguirre emphasizes that “Humanities studies are the master pillar on which civilization has built the best of itself” (Vivan, p. 24). However, despite the crisis of the Humanities, Aguirre writes with elegance and appeals to students, teachers and amateur enthusiasts: “Yearn for excellence, as a first step to achieve that solid formation which must be the shield;” and “overcome the threats with the weapons of our values, but also of your academic formation” (Vivan, p. 26), because “a society without Humanities taught in public education would mean that the only criteria would be economic ones, in the name of what they call professional opportunities. Of course, and when there are not, create them. Let’s say it now, today Culture as we know it, which is not one but the sum of many, is also in danger. We cannot deny the obvious” (Vivan, p. 29).
Alongside this, in defense of the Humanities, Aguirre, who is a columnist for the Diario de León, resurrects Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, King of Spanish Literature, mentions some notorious examples throughout his work, and appeals to students in this way:
In this good fight, it is not enough to be enrolled, or to have tiptoed through it. Nor is it enough to save yourself by the skin of your teeth. Allow me to insist… yearn for excellence, yearn for it with joy and passion. Have a voracity for knowledge…. You are in a wonderful stage in which your main obligation is to train yourselves. You will never have so much time for it again. These years are your foundation for the future” (Vivan, pp. 29-31).
To further reinforce his opinion of the Humanities, despite the challenges, Aguirre (himself a member of the Cervantistas Association) teaches the reader the power of the Humanities, which are valuable not only valuable for men of letters, but constitute pearls of wisdom from the genius of universal literature. Thus, Aguirre deduces that “Cervantes and his most universal masterpiece have an enormous formative power, without the need to take it to nineteenth-century distortions or to mutate it into a lackey of May ’68” (Vivan, p. 49). Aguirre, with his deep curiosity, emphasizes a great honesty:
Aguirre: The Humanities are not only what you know, but also—or above all—what you do” (Vivan, p. 33);
and then he rightly recommends this course of action:
Cervantes- “TRAIN yourselves… CREATE yourselves… BUILD yourselves… WRITE yourselves… READ… LISTEN… In short, FIGHT… for what is yours, which belongs to everyone. And also, of course… LAUGH… LOVE… SING…” (Vivan, p. 38).
It is also important to state that it is a great honor and privilege for me to give you my sincere thanks for defending the Humanities through theater, and to congratulate the playwright Eduardo Aguirre Romero, sincere believer, effective observer of reality and versatile writer, for his magnificent theatrical work, a scenic landmark of the Humanities, which illustrates the fundamental values of sincere love and true sacrifice, won with love, pain and humor, oriented to all humanity. My congratulations I also extend to all the theatrical characters, and to the exemplary editorial achievement, in a work designed to be distributed free of charge among teachers and students, as it is already being done. My warmest congratulations to all!
It should be emphasized that the gag that closes the book, that the Quixote delivered by Aguirre to Cervantes for his signature is by mistakenly the apocryphal one (1614), so by Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, at least in the edition of the Royal Spanish Academy, and is a tribute to the meritorious professor Luis Gomez Canseco, of the University of Huelva. At the same time, I emphasize that it is only right to be grateful for the dedication that the author makes to me and for the letter he sends me at the end of the book.
Without the slightest shadow of a doubt, Eduardo Aguirre proclaims unconditional love and aesthetic, human, personal, social and universal values through his unwavering pen for the Humanities, which contribute decisively to the more humane formation of the global citizen, but which gradually tend to be conspicuous by their absence in university classrooms.
Aguirre, who loves humanity, reflects the current situation of the humanities around the world through his characters and themes. He relies on wise and healthy humor, because weise Wörter sind gesund—thus he captures the reader’s soul, and invites us to defend the Humanities and make us better human beings.
In conclusion, the masterpiece, Vivan las Humanidades, siempre vivas, illuminates the path of our heart; it beautifies us spiritually, and proves that it is beneficial and indispensable to serve by leading and loving the Humanities and all Humanity. Congratulations to all!
Krzysztof Sliwa is a professor, writer for Galatea, a journal of the Sociedad Cervantina de Esquivias, Spain, and a specialist in the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the Spanish Golden Age Literature, all subjects on which he has written several books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in English, German, Spanish and Polish, and is the Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Cordoba and Toledo.
Featured: Cervantes writes the dedication of Don Quixote to the Count of Lemos, by Eugenio Oliva Rodrigo; painted in 1883.
The conflict in the Ukraine has brought unexpected clarity to the meshwork of contradictions that bestrew the so-called “civilized.” The West breathlessly presents itself as “righteous” and “good,” while very little inside it can still be described as such: “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).
The law has been unhinged entirely from actions once deemed criminal. Children are avidly and maliciously taught sexual perversions in schools, even to the destruction of their own bodies, while actions once thought criminal are simply “reparations” and therefore never to be punished.
Transvestitism has become a great campaign to rewrite humanity itself.
Anti-white racism is now the “normal” Western habit of mind.
Mass immigration has destroyed indigenous Western populations, despite the West’s rhetoric of care for indigeneity.
Deindustrialization has transitioned into defarming so that food can cease being abundant.
The age-old anti-Catholic assumptions have expanded into a total war against the last vestiges of Christianity, the foundational moral-structure of the now atheistic West.
Economics, once designed to sustain and expand human welfare, is now a tool to destroy it.
Culture, which once housed the strength of Western values, is now a tool to destroy them.
“Human rights,” “freedom,” “democracy” are empty phrases, repeated piously, while nothing in present-day Western society suggests that these qualities actually exist.
The traditional understanding of technology as a helpmate of humanity has become a method for its control, and even its destruction.
Care for nature has veered into anti-natalism and the hatred of humanity itself.
Truth is no longer needed, since the lie serves far more important purposes and constructs.
The project of the West is no longer to expand the benefits of civilization, but to destroy civilization so that a new world may be born, in which there are only as many humans as needed. This is known as “progress” and is the very lifeblood of the West today.
A single thread unites all these progressive efforts—the lie, and the chief attribute of the lie is hatred. Those that deny the lie must be hated. One becomes virtuous in the West by proudly hating what is supposed to be hated. The government marks for the public what and who is to be hated and loved. And the people, with the help of the media-education-entertainment complex suitable adapt their emotions, and express outrage or approval as mandated. Such manipulation is no longer subtle; it is in-your-face, because the public has been lied to for so very long that they can no longer understand subtlety. They demand coarseness—the more vulgar, the better.
The conflict in Ukraine, among many other things, is one such Western construct, a glossography, where lies and hatred exquisitely intertwine. Russia is to be lied about and openly hated—because Russia is the government-approved “enemy,” and dutifully all the gourmands of hatred try to outvie each other to see who can spew the vilest of hate against the “enemy.” This competition has strongly united nations and populations. How do I hate thee, let me count the ways…
The examples of such pharisaical expressions are now dime-a-dozen and easily found, even in the most unexpected of places. Examples of Western Russophobia are endless, and there is little point in repeating them, from the never-ending rounds of sanctions against Russia (round 11 is now being packaged), to Zelensky of Ukraine prohibiting Russian books form being published or imported into his country, lest the purity of his nation be destroyed by contact with Russian, to some rich author canceling her own book because it was thoughtlessly, horror of horrors, set in Russia. Or, just ordinary folk letting off a bit of steam.
But the honor of uttering the foulest venom must go to Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland. Needless to say, the government of Poland specializes in fomenting rancor against Russia—it feels that this is its God-given role now in the world—to make the world realize just how beastly and evil Russians are. Such is the divine mission of Polish politicians, and they certainly revel in it.
On June 23, 2023, for example, in an interview given to a Ukrainian TV Channel (Espreso), Duda dropped these gems of wisdom:
“Russia cannot be allowed to win because it will continue to advance. This will support its imperialism. It is like a wild beast that will eat a human being. If a wild beast eats a human being, it is usually said that it should be hunted down and shot because it is used to eating human flesh. The same with Russia.”
Such sphinxian knowledge Polish politicians, like him, alone possess:
“Perhaps the West does not understand this, but we know it very well.” To clarify: “it” being Russia, the man-eating beast.
Just replace “it” with… say… “Israel” and see what happens, as you’re hauled off to jail, in any “free” and “democratic” Western country, for hate-speech. But Russia. No problem. Say what you like. All hatred is acceptable. Knock yourself out. Your government expects you to hate Russia. If you don’t—there’s something seriously wrong with you, and more than likely you’re a Putin agent. I won’t mention the Two Minutes Hate à la 1984. Duda is the Virgil of our age, in an anti-Divine-Comedy of his own contrivance, his pansophical finger pointing out the nine-levels of depravity of the Russian beast. Quite the calling!
You see, Russia is the new “infidel” that must be routed and annihilated. Only a Russia-less world can be truly “free” and “democratic.”
But before long, Duda remembered that he was the president of some country or other, and shoved in a tad of lawyer-gibberish, to give himself that air of authority:
“This is a necessary condition [killing the man-eating beast] for a successful and just end to this war. What should it be? At least in such a way as to restore the supremacy of international law. International law will be restored when Russia is pushed out of all occupied lands in Ukraine.”
Murdering an entire nation is justice, and the only way this war in Ukraine can end “justly” is when Russia is killed off, like a rabid beast. What’s mass murder among Western friends? It’s all to restore “the supremacy of international law,” after all. Nothing wrong with that at all, is there?
And then Duda catches himself, with an olive branch to any Ukrainian peacenik that might be listening to the Espreso interview (there must be such a creature, somewhere in Ukraine. Rara avis, no doubt and seldom sighted, but there must be one. A hint to birders). Duda suggests that the death-blow should not be quick and painless. Oh no. That would be anticlimactic and therefore disappointing. He has readied the scarpines for Putin. Yes, indeed:
“We must make sure that we, together with Ukraine, tire Russian society and torture Putin.”
On a side note, in order to hate Russia properly, you also have to show excessive love for Ukraine, and especially for Zelensky. Is this why every Western leader that meets him has to hug him, and look longingly into his eyes and just hug him again. There’s a lot of homoerotism going on with Zelensky; but then Zelensky is used to such affection.
This is why, Duda had to come out of the closet at last and let it all hang out:
“President Zelensky and I love each other, but we are involved in politics.”
One can only hope that one day the good people of Poland will wake up and refuse to be led by such crackpots. But that is an awakening that needs to happen throughout the West. We’re all sick and tired of our leaders. Maybe Duda was actually on to something about how to treat man-eating beasts…
C.B. Forde is a full-time farmer and part-time reader of books, even those suggested to him, at times, by his wife.
Although with some differences of nuance, Titus Livy and Plutarch tell the fratricidal story of Romulus and Remus. The former, in the founding act of Rome, is in charge of tracing with the plow the furrow of the new city, following the Etruscan rite. Suitably attired for the sacred event, Romulus prepares the plow with a bronze ploughshare and attaches it to the yoke, joining it to a bull on the outside and a cow on the inside, both completely white. Holding tightly the rudder of the inclined implement, so that the excavated earth faces inwards, he skillfully traces the sulcus primigenius in a counterclockwise direction. The urbs is built on the basis of the sacred border, which perimeters its space, distinguishing it from the other part of itself.
Remus, who had emerged defeated from the augural dispute, tries to hinder the operations by mocking his brother: “Finally,” Plutarch recounts, “he crossed the moat, but fell, struck down at that very point, according to some by Romulus himself, according to others by a companion of Romulus named Celere.” Titus Livy also directly relates the words uttered by Romulus at the height of his anger, after having committed fratricide: “From now on, anyone who dares to climb over my walls shall so die.”
The myth poses, in its own way, a possible solution ante litteram to Antigone’s dilemma formulated by Hegel. For Romulus there is no doubt—the law of the urbs takes precedence over the family ethical bond, especially when the latter violates the just measure, instead of respecting it. But, above all, the mythological narrative speaks of the sacredness of the frontier as a limit that defines an identity—in this case, the political and cultural identity of Rome—delimiting it and differentiating it from what it is not. Without a border there can be no identity, which is the very basis of the existence of difference, which always presupposes the plurality of non-coincident identities and, therefore, separated from one another. In turn, without identity there can be no relation either, which is, by its essence, a relation between identities with precise limits. The latter mark the end of the one and the beginning of the other, as well as the possibility of a relational nexus, different from that derived from the abuse of the one to the detriment of the other that occurs when it perpetrates its invasion.
The civilization of markets without borders gives rise to a permanent invasion that is certainly not intended to favor the relationship between those who are different, not even in the form of dialogue. This, as the Greek word (διάλογος) unequivocally suggests, always implies a distance and, therefore, a clear threshold separating the dialoguers, who are nothing but different identities placed in a friendly relationship mediated by language. On the contrary, the invasion of the market, which is the imperialism of the undifferentiated neutral, aspires to produce the suppression of differences and identities, so that everything falls into the abyss of sameness and the globally homologated. Strictly speaking, globalization itself could well be conceived as the neutralization of differences and identities, and as the transit of the whole planet towards the global neutral, without material or immaterial, national or identity borders. It is the post-mortem revenge of Remus and his drive for invasion, for the neutralization of the limits that make one identity different from another.
In this sense it is valid for the existing nexus between identities and differences, what we have explained on other occasions in relation to the connection between national states and internationalism. The friendly relationship of internationalism presupposes the existence of sovereign nation states, freed from their nationalist impulses in a regressive sense: the suppression of sovereign nation states does not lead to internationalism, but to the reified open space of market globalism, which is the unification of the world under the banner of the market economy, freed from the limits of sovereign politics.
Similarly, it is a pure non sequitur to think of being able to favor dialogue among the different by dissolving identities. Under this premise, only the monotony of the indistinct arises, which is given as a consumerist homologation of identities and, jointly, as a planetary triumph of the Unique Thought as the only admitted thought. The different that does not accept to disidentify and homogenize with the other of itself, is declared, sic et simpliciter, illegitimate and dangerous. And as such he is treated—he is neutralized and reeducated to the point of indifferentiation. Therefore, even in this case, this dialogue between the different ones, which always presupposes that the different ones are different and that they have their specific identity, does not prevail. On the other hand, the same thing triumphs on a global scale—the same language, the same thinking, the same way of being and producing, of living and relating to others.
On the level of identities, as in the case of nation-states, the identification of two abstractly opposed and concretely complementary poles is also valid. Regressive nationalism and market globalism are fulfilled in each other: regressive nationalism, which has within itself the drive to attack the other in the name of one’s own, is realized in globalism. The latter is the final stage of nationalism, since it coincides with the subjugation of the entire planet under the domination of the one triumphant nation, whose currency is the dollar and whose language is Wall Street English. Nationalism is fulfilled in globalism, which presupposes it.
The link which can be established between regressive identitarianism and anti-identitarian cosmopolitanism is no different. The former aspires to deny the identity of others, and therefore difference, through the universal imposition of what is their own. The second coincides with the evil universalization of an identity that in reality is not such because it does not admit difference and therefore, like Remus, does not respect the frontier that, separating from the other, defines what is its own. Regressive identitarianism is fulfilled in anti-identitarian cosmopolitanism, which presupposes it; and which has in common with the former the denial of the right to difference, suppressed in the name of the imperialism of particularity itself.
And this, as we know, is another name for ideology, which is the “abstract will of the universal” and the concrete triumph of the particular. But the universal, in its authentic sense, is never the part that imposes itself as universal—it is, instead, that which exists as a concrete universal, which does not annul the particularities but is realized in them and by them. This allows us to affirm, once again, that identity can only exist in the presence of difference and that, consequently, it is given by definition, declined in the plural, as a nexus between different identities.
The task of culture, which is undoubtedly also and not secondarily to educate in identity, can be said to be successfully accomplished only when it produces respect for differences and for the consequent connection that is generated between difference and identity. In short, nothing could be more sidereally distant from both the petty tribal identitarianism, which denies the other in the name of its own, and the “empty bottom line” of anti-identity cosmopolitanism, which sells the fantasy of favoring dialogue among the different while denying their identity and, therefore, the very premise of all dialogue. Culture is, in the proper sense, to educate in identity and, therefore, in self-consciousness—well understood that this is only possible if at the same time one educates in the recognition of difference.
The latter must be interpreted neither as an unwelcome survival of the foreign, which must be made identical and therefore neutralized, nor as a strange reality, with which any comparison is impossible a priori. Difference asks, au contraire, to be thought of Spinozianly, as one of the diverse attributes of the unique substance, differentiated in itself—an attribute which, therefore, must not be denied in the name of undifferentiated identity, but valued in its being as a different manifestation of the substance itself. From which must follow then the need for an education in polyphony and difference, which can only be recognized and appreciated if one possesses one’s own identity.
In antithesis to the perspectives of regressive identitarianism and anti-identitarian cosmopolitanism, humanity exists as a singular collective; if one wishes, also as an articulated Unity and as a differentiated Totality, as a plurality of identities and differences, in which the unity of the human race is expressed in multiple forms. To truly love humanity means, then, to love the differences and identities that compose it—above all from the love for one’s own cultural identity, for one’s own people, for one’s own language, for one’s own territory. It means respecting the border as a symbol of identity and of the right measure, and therefore as a barrier against invasion, against disidentification and against the unlimited.
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Homo, de quo hic sermo est, ditissimus ac potentissimus fuit in sua parochia; nomen ejus Thord Överaas. Apparuit uno die in sacerdotii studio alta et studiosa.
“Filium habeo”, inquit, et ego illum volo ad baptismum exhibere.
Quod erit nomen eius?
“Finn-post patrem meum.”
Quibus commemoratis et probati sunt optimi viri ac feminae relationes Thord in paroecia.
“Numquid est aliud?” Quaesivit sacerdotem et vidit; Cunctatus paulatim rusticus.
“Per se ipsum baptizari,” inquit, “vehementer velim.”
“Hoc est dicere in hebdomade die?”
“Sabbato sequenti, hora sexta sexta.”
“Numquid est aliud?” quaesivit sacerdos.
“Nihil aliud”, et rusticus pileum volutabat, quasi iturus esset.
Surrexerunt ergo sacerdos. “Est tamen hoc, tamen.” Et ambulans versus Thord, apprehensa manu, intuens graviter in oculos suos: “Deus faxit ut filius fiat tibi benedictio!”
Olim sedecim annis post Thord denuo in studio sacerdotii stetit.
“Vere, admirabiliter aetatem tuam geris, Thorde,” inquit sacerdos; nihil enim videbat in homine mutandum.
“Id est, quia molestias non habeo,” respondit Thord. Ad haec sacerdos nihil dixit, sed aliquantisper quaesivit: “Quid placet hoc vespere?”
“Veni vesperi de illo filio meo cras confirmandus.”
“Ille puer clarus est.”
“Nolebam reddere sacerdoti, donec audivi quem numerum haberet puer, cum cras in ecclesia substitueret.”
“Stabit unus numerus.”
“Sic audivi; et hic sunt decem denarii sacerdoti.”
“Nihil aliud possum facere vobis?” percontatus sacerdotem intuens Thord.
Octo annis amplius volvebatur, ac deinde quadam die extra sacerdotii studium strepitus audiebatur, multi enim appropinquabant, et ad caput eorum Thord, qui primus intravit.
Sacerdos intuens eum agnovit.
“Hoc vespere bene venisti, Thord,” inquit.
“Hic peto ut banna edantur filio meo: uxorem ducet Karen Storliden Gudmundi filia, quae hic iuxta me stat.”
“Quare, id est opulentissima puella in parochia.”
“Sic rusticus,” inquiunt, “comam manu gestans reduxit.”
Sacerdos aliquandiu quasi in profunda cogitatione sedit, deinde nomina in libro suo ingressus, nulla commentatione faciens, subscripserant homines subscriptis. Thord tria dollaria in mensa posuit.
Dixit sacerdos: “Unum est totum habeo”, ait sacerdos.
“Optime scio; sed unicus meus est; id pulchre facere volo.”
Sacerdos pecuniam sumpsit.
“Hoc jam tertium est, Thorde, quod propter filium tuum huc venisti.”
“At nunc cum eo sum”, Thord dixit, et sinum plicans vale dixit et abierat.
Milites eum tardius secuti sunt.
Quindecim post dies, pater et filius per lacum remigabant, una tranquillitas, adhuc die, Storliden ad nuptias ordinandas.
“Haec sedes remigis tuta non est,” inquit filius, et stitit ut sedem in qua sedebat corrigat.
Eodem momento sub eo delapsa tabula stabat; arma eiecit, clamorem dedit et excidit.
“Apprehende remum!” Conclamat pater, tendens ad pedes, tenensque remum.
Sed cum filius duos conatus fecisset, invaluit.
“Expectate paulisper!” exclamat pater, remigio filio coepit.
Tum filius supinus revolutus, longo vultu patri dedit, demersit.
Thord vix credere potuit; Ille navem tenuit, et in eo loco, quo filius eius descenderat, intuens, quasi ad superficiem rursus veniret. Surrexerunt aliquae bullae, deinde aliae plures, et tandem una magna quae rumpitur; et lacus ibi tam levis et splendens sicut speculum iterum jacebat.
Per tres dies et tres noctes patrem remigium circum circaque cernebant, nullo cibo aut somno adsumptis; ipse lacus corpus filii traxit. Et ad mane diei tertiae invenit eam, et portavit eam in brachiis suis super colles in villam suam.
Fuerat autem annus ab illa die, cum sacerdos, in sero uno autumnali vespere, audivit aliquem in transitu extra ostium, diligenter quaerens invenire foramen. Sacerdos ianuam aperuit, et ambulabat in alta, macilentus, inclinato forma et pilis albis. Sacerdos diu intuens eum antequam agnovisset. Fuit Thord.
“Esne tam sero ambulans?” dixit sacerdos, et stetit coram eo.
“Ah, Etiam sero est”, Thord dixit, et cathedram assumpsit.
Sacerdos quoque quasi expectans discubuit. Longum et longum silentium est. Tandem Thord dixit:
“Habeo aliquid apud me quod velim eleemosynis dare; volo in filio nomine collocari legatum.”
Et resurrexit, et posuit pecuniam in mensa, et iterum resedit. Sacerdos reputavit.
“Magna pecunia est”, inquit.
“Dimidium pretium agri mei est. Ego eum hodie vendidi.”
Sacerdos diu silebat. Tandem rogat, sed leniter.
“Quid nunc facere vis, Thord?”
Ibi aliquamdiu sederunt, Thordus demissis oculis, in Thord defixis oculis sacerdos. Mox sacerdos, lente ac molliter dixit.
“Puto tandem filium tuum veram benedictionem attulisse.”
“Ita reor ita me”, dixit Thord aspiciens, dum duae magnae lachrymae lento genas percurrebant.
Ex Björnstjerne Björnson (1838-1910).
Featured: The Old Fisherman, by Hans Heyerdahl; painted in 1891.
It is curious to note how often art-controversy has become edged with a bitterness rivaling even the gall and venom of religious dispute. Scholars have not yet forgotten the fiery war of words which raged between Richard Bentley and his opponents concerning the authenticity of the “Epistles of Phalaris,” nor how literary Germany was divided into two hostile camps by Wolf’s attack on the personality of Homer. It is no less fresh in the minds of critics how that modern Jupiter, Lessing, waged a long and bitter battle with the Titans of the French classical drama, and finally crushed them with the thunderbolt of the “Dramaturgie;” nor what acrimony sharpened the discussion between the rival theorists in music, Gluck and Piccini, at Paris. All of the intensity of these art-campaigns, and many of the conditions of the last, enter into the contest between Richard Wagner and the Italianissimi of the present day.
The exact points at issue were for a long time so befogged by the smoke of the battle that many of the large class who are musically interested, but never had an opportunity to study the question, will find an advantage in a clear and comprehensive sketch of the facts and principles involved. Until recently, there were still many people who thought of Wagner as a youthful and eccentric enthusiast, all afire with misdirected genius, a mere carpet-knight on the sublime battle-field of art, a beginner just sowing his wild-oats in works like “Lohengrin,” “Tristan and Iseult,” or the “Rheingold.” It is a revelation full of suggestive value for these to realize that he is a musical thinker, ripe with sixty years of labor and experience; that he represents the rarest and choicest fruits of modern culture, not only as musician, but as poet and philosopher; that he is one of the few examples in the history of the art where massive scholarship and the power of subtile analysis have been united, in a preeminent degree, with great creative genius. Preliminary to a study of what Wagner and his disciples entitle the “Artwork of the Future,” let us take a swift survey of music as a medium of expression for the beautiful, and some of the forms which it has assumed.
This Ariel of the fine arts sends its messages to the human soul by virtue of a fourfold capacity: Firstly, the imitation of the voices of Nature, such as the winds, the waves, and the cries of animals; secondly, its potential delight as melody, modulation, rhythm, harmony—in other words, its simple worth as a “thing of beauty,” without regard to cause or consequence; thirdly, its force of boundless suggestion; fourthly, that affinity for union with the more definite and exact forms of the imagination (poetry), by which the intellectual context of the latter is raised to a far higher power of grace, beauty, passion, sweetness, without losing individuality of outline—like, indeed, the hazy aureole which painters set on the brow of the man Jesus, to fix the seal of the ultimate Divinity. Though several or all of these may be united in the same composition, each musical work may be characterized in the main as descriptive, sensuous, suggestive, or dramatic, according as either element contributes most largely to its purpose. Simple melody or harmony appeals mostly to the sensuous love of sweet sounds. The symphony does this in an enlarged and complicated sense, but is still more marked by the marvelous suggestive energy with which it unlocks all the secret raptures of fancy, floods the border-lands of thought with a glory not to be found on sea or land, and paints ravishing pictures, that come and go like dreams, with colors drawn from the “twelve-tinted tone-spectrum.”
Shelley describes this peculiar influence of music in his “Prometheus Unbound,” with exquisite beauty and truth:
"My soul is an enchanted boat,
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
And thine doth like an angel sit
Beside the helm conducting it,
While all the waves with melody are ringing.
It seems to float ever, forever,
Upon that many-winding river,
Between mountains, woods, abysses,
A paradise of wildernesses."
As the symphony best expresses the suggestive potency in music, the operatic form incarnates its capacity of definite thought, and the expression of that thought. The term “lyric,” as applied to the genuine operatic conception, is a misnomer. Under the accepted operatic form, however, it has relative truth, as the main musical purpose of opera seems, hitherto, to have been less to furnish expression for exalted emotions and thoughts, or exquisite sentiments, than to grant the vocal virtuoso opportunity to display phenomenal qualities of voice and execution. But all opera, however it may stray from the fundamental idea, suggests this dramatic element in music, just as mere lyricism in the poetic art is the blossom from which is unfolded the full-blown perfection of the word-drama, the highest form of all poetry.
That music, by and of itself, cannot express the intellectual element in the beautiful dream-images of art with precision, is a palpable truth. Yet, by its imperial dominion over the sphere of emotion and sentiment, the connection of the latter with complicated mental phenomena is made to bring into the domain of tone vague and shifting fancies and pictures. How much further music can be made to assimilate to the other arts in directness of mental suggestion, by wedding to it the noblest forms of poetry, and making each the complement of the other, is the knotty problem which underlies the great art-controversy about which this article concerns itself. On the one side we have the claim that music is the all-sufficient law unto itself; that its appeal to sympathy is through the intrinsic sweetness of harmony and tune, and the intellect must be satisfied with what it may accidentally glean in this harvest-field; that, in the rapture experienced in the sensuous apperception of its beauty, lies the highest phase of art-sensibility. Therefore, concludes the syllogism, it matters nothing as to the character of the libretto or poem to whose words the music is arranged, so long as the dramatic framework suffices as a support for the flowery festoons of song, which drape its ugliness and beguile attention by the fascinations of bloom and grace. On the other hand, the apostles of the new musical philosophy insist that art is something more than a vehicle for the mere sense of the beautiful, an exquisite provocation wherewith to startle the sense of a selfish, epicurean pleasure; that its highest function—to follow the idea of the Greek Plato, and the greatest of his modern disciples, Schopenhauer—is to serve as the incarnation of the true and the good; and, even as Goethe makes the Earth-Spirit sing in “Faust”—
"'Tis thus over at the loom of Time I ply,
And weave for God the garment thou seest him by"—
so the highest art is that which best embodies the immortal thought of the universe as reflected in the mirror of man’s consciousness; that music, as speaking the most spiritual language of any of the art-family, is burdened with the most pressing responsibility as the interpreter between the finite and the infinite; that all its forms must be measured by the earnestness and success with which they teach and suggest what is best in aspiration and truest in thought; that music, when wedded to the highest form of poetry (the drama), produces the consummate art-result, and sacrifices to some extent its power of suggestion, only to acquire a greater glory and influence, that of investing definite intellectual images with spiritual raiment, through which they shine on the supreme altitudes of ideal thought; that to make this marriage perfect as an art-form and fruitful in result, the two partners must come as equals, neither one the drudge of the other; that in this organic fusion music and poetry contribute, each its best, to emancipate art from its thralldom to that which is merely trivial, commonplace, and accidental, and make it a revelation of all that is most exalted in thought, sentiment, and purpose. Such is the aesthetic theory of Richard Wagner’s art-work.
It is suggestive to note that the earliest recognized function of music, before it had learned to enslave itself to mere sensuous enjoyment, was similar in spirit to that which its latest reformer demands for it in the art of the future. The glory of its birth then shone on its brow. It was the handmaid and minister of the religious instinct. The imagination became afire with the mystery of life and Nature, and burst into the flames and frenzies of rhythm. Poetry was born, but instantly sought the wings of music for a higher flight than the mere word would permit. Even the great epics of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” were originally sung or chanted by the Ilomerido, and the same essential union seems to have been in some measure demanded afterward in the Greek drama, which, at its best, was always inspired with the religious sentiment. There is every reason to believe that the chorus of the drama ofÆschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides uttered their comments on the action of the play with such a prolongation and variety of pitch in the rhythmic intervals as to constitute a sustained and melodic recitative. Music at this time was an essential part of the drama. When the creative genius of Greece had set toward its ebb, they were divorced, and music was only set to lyric forms. Such remained the status of the art till, in the Italian Renaissance, modern opera was born in the reunion of music and the drama. Like the other arts, it assumed at the outset to be a mere revival of antique traditions. The great poets of Italy had then passed way, and it was left for music to fill the void.
The muse, Polyhymnia, soon emerged from the stage of childish stammering. Guittone di Arezzo taught her to fix her thoughts in indelible signs, and two centuries of training culminated in the inspired composers, Orlando di Lasso and Pales-trina. Of the gradual degradation of the operatic art as its forms became more elaborate and fixed; of the arbitrary transfer of absolute musical forms like the aria, duet, finale, etc., into the action of the opera without regard to poetic propriety; of the growing tendency to treat the human voice like any other instrument, merely to show its resources as an organ; of the final utter bondage of the poet to the musician, till opera became little more than a congeries of musico-gymnastic forms, wherein the vocal soloists could display their art, it needs not to speak at length, for some of these vices have not yet disappeared. In the language of Dante’s guide through the Inferno, at one stage of their wanderings, when the sights were peculiarly mournful and desolate—
"Non raggioniam da lor, ma guarda e passa."
The loss of all poetic verity and earnestness in opera furnished the great composer Gluck with the motive of the bitter and protracted contest which he waged with varying success throughout Europe, though principally in Paris. Gluck boldly affirmed, and carried out the principle in his compositions, that the task of dramatic music was to accompany the different phases of emotion in the text, and give them their highest effect of spiritual intensity. The singer must be the mouthpiece of the poet, and must take extreme care in giving the full poetical burden of the song. Thus, the declamatory music became of great importance, and Gluck’s recitative reached an unequaled degree of perfection.
The critics of Gluck’s time hurled at him the same charges which are familiar to us now as coming from the mouths and pens of the enemies of Wagner’s music. Yet Gluck, however conscious of the ideal unity between music and poetry, never thought of bringing this about by a sacrifice of any of the forms of his own peculiar art. His influence, however, was very great, and the traditions of the great maestro’s art have been kept alive in the works of his no less great disciples, Méhul, Cherubini, Spontini, and Meyerbeer.
Two other attempts to ingraft new and vital power on the rigid and trivial sentimentality of the Italian forms of opera were those of Rossini and Weber. The former was gifted with the greatest affluence of pure melodiousness ever given to a composer. But even his sparkling originality and freshness did little more than reproduce the old forms under a more attractive guise. Weber, on the other hand, stood in the van of a movement which had its fountain-head in the strong romantic and national feeling, pervading the whole of society and literature. There was a general revival of mediaeval and popular poetry, with its balmy odor of the woods, and fields, and streams. Weber’s melody was the direct offspring of the tunefulness of the German Volkslied, and so it expressed, with wonderful freshness and beauty, all the range of passion and sentiment within the limits of this pure and simple language. But the boundaries were far too narrow to build upon them the ultimate union of music and poetry, which should express the perfect harmony of the two arts. While it is true that all of the great German composers protested, by their works, against the spirit and character of the Italian school of music, Wagner claims that the first abrupt and strongly-defined departure toward a radical reform in art is found in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with chorus. Speaking of this remarkable leap from instrumental to vocal music in a professedly symphonic composition, Wagner, in his “Essay on Beethoven,” says: “We declare that the work of art, which was formed and quickened entirely by that deed, must present the most perfect artistic form, i.e., that form in which, as for the drama, so also and especially for music, every conventionality would be abolished.” Beethoven is asserted to have founded the new musical school, when he admitted, by his recourse to the vocal cantata in the greatest of his symphonic works, that he no longer recognized absolute music as sufficient unto itself.
In Bach and Handel, the great masters of fugue and counterpoint; in Rossini, Mozart, and Weber, the consummate creators of melody—then, according to this view, we only recognize thinkers in the realm of pure music. In Beethoven, the greatest of them all, was laid the basis of the new epoch of tone-poetry. In the immortal songs of Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Franz, and the symphonies of the first four, the vitality of the reformatory idea is richly illustrated. In the music-drama of Wagner, it is claimed by his disciples, is found the full flower and development of the art-work.
William Richard Wagner, the formal projector of the great changes whose details are yet to be sketched, was born at Leipsic in 1813. As a child he displayed no very marked artistic tastes, though his ear and memory for music were quite remarkable. When admitted to the Kreuzschule of Dresden, the young student, however, distinguished himself by his very great talent for literary composition and the classical languages. To this early culture, perhaps, we are indebted for the great poetic power which has enabled him to compose the remarkable libretti which have furnished the basis of his music. His first creative attempt was a blood-thirsty drama, where forty-two characters are killed, and the few survivors are haunted by the ghosts. Young Wagner soon devoted himself to the study of music, and, in 1833, became a pupil of Theodor Weinlig, a distinguished teacher of harmony and counterpoint. His four years of study at this time were also years of activity in creative experiment, as he composed four operas.
His first opera of note was “Rienzi,” with which he went to Paris in 1837. In spite of Meyerbeer’s efforts in its favor, this work was rejected, and laid aside for some years. Wagner supported himself by musical criticism and other literary work, and soon was in a position to offer another opera, “Der fliegende Hollander,” to the authorities of the Grand Opera-House. Again the directors refused the work, but were so charmed with the beauty of the libretto that they bought it to be reset to music. Until the year 1842, life was a trying struggle for the indomitable young musician. “Rienzi” was then produced at Dresden, so much to the delight of the King of Saxony that the composer was made royal Kapellmeister and leader of the orchestra. The production of “Der fliegende Hollander” quickly followed; next came “Tanhäuser” and “Lohengrin,” to be swiftly succeeded by the “Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” This period of our maestro’s musical activity also commenced to witness the development of his theories on the philosophy of his art, and some of his most remarkable critical writings were then given to the world.
Political troubles obliged Wagner to spend seven years of exile in Zurich; thence he went to London, where he remained till 1861 as conductor of the London Philharmonic Society. In 1861 the exile returned to his native country, and spent several years in Germany and Russia—there having arisen quite a furore for his music in the latter country. The enthusiasm awakened in the breast of King Louis of Bavaria by “Der fliegende Holländer” resulted in a summons to Wagner to settle at Munich, and with the glories of the Royal Opera-House in that city his name has since been principally connected. The culminating art-splendor of his life, however, was the production of his stupendous tetralogy, the “Ring der Nibelungen,” at the great opera-house at Baireuth, in the summer of the year 1876.
The first element to be noted in Wagner’s operatic forms is the energetic protest against the artificial and conventional in music. The utter want of dramatic symmetry and fitness in the operas we have been accustomed to hear could only be overlooked by the force of habit, and the tendency to submerge all else in the mere enjoyment of the music. The utter variance of music and poetry was to Wagner the stumbling-block which, first of all, must be removed. So he crushed at one stroke all the hard, arid forms which existed in the lyrical drama as it had been known. His opera, then, is no longer a congeries of separate musical numbers, like duets, arias, chorals, and finales, set in a flimsy web of formless recitative, without reference to dramatic economy. His great purpose is lofty dramatic truth, and to this end he sacrifices the whole framework of accepted musical forms, with the exception of the chorus, and this he remodels. The musical energy is concentrated in the dialogue as the main factor of the dramatic problem, and fashioned entirely according to the requirements of the action. The continuous flow of beautiful melody takes the place alike of the dry recitative and the set musical forms which characterize the accepted school of opera. As the dramatic motif demands, this “continuous melody” rises into the highest ecstasies of the lyrical fervor, or ebbs into a chant-like swell of subdued feeling, like the ocean after the rush of the storm. If Wagner has destroyed musical forms, he has also added a positive element. In place of the aria we have the logos. This is the musical expression of the principal passion underlying the action of the drama. Whenever, in the course of the development of the story, this passion comes into ascendency, the rich strains of the logos are heard anew, stilling all other sounds. Gounod has, in part, applied this principle in “Faust.” All opera-goers will remember the intense dramatic effect arising from the recurrence of the same exquisite lyric outburst from the lips of Marguerite.
The peculiar character of Wagner’s word-drama next arouses critical interest and attention. The composer is his own poet, and his creative genius shines no less here than in the world of tone. The musical energy flows entirely from the dramatic conditions, like the electrical current from the cups of the battery; and the rhythmical structure of the melos (tune) is simply the transfiguration of the poetical basis. The poetry, then, is all-important in the music-drama. Wagner has rejected the forms of blank verse and rhyme as utterly unsuited to the lofty purposes of music, and has gone to the metrical principle of all the Teutonic and Slavonic poetry. This rhythmic element of alliteration, or staffrhyme, we find magnificently illustrated in the Scandinavian Eddas, and even in our own Anglo-Saxon fragments of the days of Cædmon and Alcuin. By the use of this new form, verse and melody glide together in one exquisite rhythm, in which it seems impossible to separate the one from the other. The strong accents of the alliterating syllables supply the music with firmness, while the low-toned syllables give opportunity for the most varied nuances of declamation.
The first radical development of Wagner’s theories we see in “The Flying Dutchman.” In “Tanhhäser” and “Lohengrin” they find full sway. The utter revolt of his mind from the trivial and commonplace sentimentalities of Italian opera led him to believe that the most heroic and lofty motives alone should furnish the dramatic foundation of opera. For a while he oscillated between history and legend, as best adapted to furnish his material. In his selection of the dream-land of myth and legend, we may detect another example of the profound and exigeant art-instincts which have ruled the whole of Wagner’s life. There could be no question as to the utter incongruity of any dramatic picture of ordinary events, or ordinary personages, finding expression in musical utterance. Genuine and profound art must always be consistent with itself, and what we recognize as general truth. Even characters set in the comparatively near hack-ground of history are too closely related to our own familiar surroundings of thought and mood to be regarded as artistically natural in the use of music as the organ of the every-day life of emotion and sentiment. But with the dim and heroic shapes that haunt the border-land of the supernatural, which we call legend, the case is far different. This is the drama of the demigods, living in a different atmosphere from our own, however akin to ours may be their passions and purposes. For these we are no longer compelled to regard the medium of music as a forced and untruthful expression, for do they not dwell in the magic lands of the imagination? All sense of dramatic inconsistency instantly vanishes, and the conditions of artistic illusion are perfect.
"'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,
And clothes the mountains with their azure hue."
Thus all of Wagner’s works, from “Der fliegende Hollander” to the “Ring der Nibelungen,” have been located in the world of myth, in obedience to a profound art-principle. The opera of “Tristan and Iseult,” first performed in 1865, announced Wagner’s absolute emancipation, both in the construction of music and poetry, from the time-honored and time-corrupted canons, and, aside from the last great work, it may be received as the most perfect representation of his school.
The third main feature in the Wagner music is the wonderful use of the orchestra as a factor in the solution of the art-problem. This is no longer a mere accompaniment to the singer, but translates the passion of the play into a grand symphony, running parallel and commingling with the vocal music. Wagner, as a great master of orchestration, has had few equals since Beethoven; and he uses his power with marked effect to heighten the dramatic intensity of the action, and at the same time to convey certain meanings which can only find vent in the vague and indistinct forms of pure music. The romantic conception of the mediæval love, the shudderings and raptures of Christian revelation, have certain phases that absolute music alone can express. The orchestra, then, becomes as much an integral part of the music-drama, in its actual current movement, as the chorus or the leading performers. Placed on the stage, yet out of sight, its strains might almost be fancied the sound of the sympathetic communion of good and evil spirits, with whose presence mystics formerly claimed man was constantly surrounded. Wagner’s use of the orchestra may be illustrated from the opera of “Lohengrin.”
The ideal background, from which the emotions of the human actors in the drama are reflected with supernatural light, is the conception of the “Holy Graal,” the mystic symbol of the Christian faith, and its descent from the skies, guarded by hosts of seraphim. This is the subject of the orchestral prelude, and never have the sweetnesses and terrors of the Christian ecstasy been more potently expressed. The prelude opens with long-drawn chords of the violins, in the highest octaves, in the most exquisite pianissimo. The inner eye of the spirit discerns in this the suggestion of shapeless white clouds, hardly discernible from the aerial blue of the sky. Suddenly the strings seem to sound from the farthest distance, in continued pianissimo, and the melody, the Graal-motive, takes shape. Gradually, to the fancy, a group of angels seem to reveal themselves, slowly descending from the heavenly heights, and bearing in their midst the Sangréal. The modulations throb through the air, augmenting in richness and sweetness, till the fortissimo of the full orchestra reveals the sacred mystery. With this climax of spiritual ecstasy the harmonious waves gradually recede and ebb away in dying sweetness, as the angels return to their heavenly abode. This orchestral movement recurs in the opera, according to the laws of dramatic fitness, and its melody is heard also in the logos of Lohengrin, the knight of the Graal, to express certain phases of his action. The immense power which music is thus made to have in dramatic effect can easily be fancied.
A fourth prominent characteristic of the Wagner music-drama is that, to develop its full splendor, there must be a cooperation of all the arts, painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as poetry and music. Therefore, in realizing its effects, much importance rests in the visible beauties of action, as they may be expressed by the painting of scenery and the grouping of human figures. Well may such a grand conception be called the “Art-work of the Future.”
Wagner for a long time despaired of the visible execution of his ideas. At last the celebrated pianist Tausig suggested an appeal to the admirers of the new music throughout the world for means to carry out the composer’s great idea, viz., to perform the “Nibelungen” at a theatre to be erected for the purpose, and by a select company, in the manner of a national festival, and before an audience entirely removed from the atmosphere of vulgar theatrical shows. After many delays Wagner’s hopes were attained, and in the summer of 1876 a gathering of the principal celebrities of Europe was present to criticise the fully perfected fruit of the composer’s theories and genius. This festival was so recent, and its events have been the subject of such elaborate comment, that further description will be out of place here.
As a great musical poet, rather epic than dramatic in his powers, there can be no question as to Wagner’s rank. The performance of the “Nibelungenring,” covering “Rheingold,” “Die Walküren,” “Siegfried,” and “Götterdämmerung,” was one of the epochs of musical Germany. However deficient Wagner’s skill in writing for the human voice, the power and symmetry of his conceptions, and his genius in embodying them in massive operatic forms, are such as to storm even the prejudices of his opponents. The poet-musician rightfully claims that in his music-drama is found that wedding of two of the noblest of the arts, pregnantly suggested by Shakespeare:
"If Music and sweet Poetry both agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother;
One God is God of both, as poets feign."
From Great German Composers, by George T. Ferris (1840-1932), published in 1891.
Featured: Portrait of Richard Wagner, by Franz von Lenbach; painted ca. 1882-1883.
An interesting online conference recently discussed a range of pressing topics, including fascism, LGBT rights, rigged elections, and anti-Russian propaganda. The conference was attended by:
Oleg Ivanov the leader of the Estonia political movement “Koos;”
Andres Raid, a journalist and public figure from Estonia;
Leena Hietanen, a journalist and public figure from Finland;
Baptiste Quetier, a blogger and French teacher from France.
The host of the conference was Marcus Godwyn of the Our Days News channel.
In the conference, Oleg Ivanov, spoke about the world’s tolerance for fascism and compared fascism in Germany with the fascist oppression of Russians in the Baltics. He noted that if this attitude continues, it will be legalized.
Marcus Godwyn, expressed similar sentiments and saw no objective reason for the Baltic states to blame Russia. He also criticized Europe’s policy, which he believes is leading to a third world war with Russia.
Andres Raid spoke about the low tolerance for people who do not support LGBT rights in Europe and how this is becoming a police matter in some countries. He also expressed concerns about rigged elections and media bias, stating that he did not believe in the results of Estonia’s electronic voting system.
Leena Hietanen, argued that the attitude towards Russians in the Baltics is similar to what is happening in Ukraine and criticized the West’s anti-Russian campaign, which she believes is very costly for ordinary people. She also expressed her opposition to war with Russia, noting that Finns should know that they would always lose.
Finally, Baptiste Quetier, a blogger and French teacher from France, discussed the build-up of discontent within French society and the acceptance of pedophilia as normal behavior, and the anti-Russian propaganda of official political France. He also noted that more and more people no longer believe mass media and feel that something is wrong with the system.
The goal of Our Days News channel is to arrange conferences featuring participants from all corners of Europe. These gatherings aim to examine European matters from diverse regional viewpoints and to provide a comprehensive and impartial outlook of the continent.
Slavisha Batko Milacic is an historian and analyst from Montenegro.
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S. Bertrandi de Commingis est oppidum corruptum in stimulis Pyrenaei, non longe a Tolosano, et propius vero Bagnères-de-Luchon. Erat sedes episcopatus usque ad Revolutionem, et habet cathedralem quae a nonnullis peregrinatoribus visitatur. Fons anno MDCCCLXXXIII Anglus ad hunc antiquum locum pervenit—vix possum insignire civitatis nomine, nam non sunt mille incolae. Is erat vir Cantabrigiensis, qui specialiter a Tolosa ad ecclesiam Sancti Bertrandi venerabatur, et duos amicos, qui archaeologos minus acerrimos erant quam ipse, reliquerat, in deversorio suo Tolosae se postero mane se venturum pollicebatur. Dimidia hora in ecclesia satisfaceret eis, et omnes tres tunc possent iter suum prosequi versus Auch. Sed Anglus noster primo die de quo agitur venerat, et sibi proposuit chirographum implere, et aliquot justos bracteas uti in describendo et photographando angulo mirae ecclesiae, quae monticulum Comminges dominatur. Ad hoc consilium satis exsequendum, oportuit vergere in diem ecclesiae monopolire. Itaque verger seu sacrista (malim hoc nomen, ut forte, inaccuratum) arcessitur a muliercula brusque, quae hospicium de Chapeau Rouge custodit; quo cum pervenisset, Anglus ex inopinato studiorum rerum studium invenit. Non erat in specie propria modici, sicci, venefici senis, usuras jacebat, erat enim justo justo aliorum custodum ecclesiasticorum in Gallia, sed in furtivis curiosis, seu potius exagitandis et oppressis, aere; habnit. Dimidiatus post se sempiternus fuit; dorsi atque umeri musculi continua nervorum contractione subruti videbantur, ut se in hostium lassa momenta exspectarent. Anglus vix noverat, utrum certam erroris infestam, an conscientiae noxam oppressam, virum intolerabili concitum virum deponeret. Probabilia, si recensentur, ultimam certe notionem demonstrant; sed tamen gravioris persecutoris etiam quam mulierculae impressum est.
Sed mox nimis profundus erat in chirographo Anglicus (ut eum Dennistoun dicamus) et in camera sua occupatus plusquam occasionaliter ad sacristam daret. Quem cum aspexisset, haud procul reperit, revoluta se parietibus, aut in una splendidis praesepia accubans. Dennistoun post tempus magis morosus factus est Mixta suspiciones, quod senem a déjeunero suo teneret, quod cum baculo eburneo S. Bertrandi, vel crocodilo pulvere referto, quod fonti imminet, abolere videretur, eum torquere coepit.
“Nonne domum?” dixit tandem; “Meas notas solus conficere satis valeo; Si vis me cohibere potes. Plus saltem duabus horis hic petam, et tibi frigidum est, annon?”
“Boni!” homunculus, quem inenarrabili terrore iniecere suggestio videbatur, hoc momento cogitari non potest.
Recte, mi homuncule, inquit Dennistoun apud se: “Admonitus es, et consequentia debes accipere.”
Ante duas horas peractos, stabula, organum immane dilapidatum, velamentum Johannis Episcopi de Mauléon, reliquiae vitreae et plagulae, ac res in gazophylacio, bene ac vere examinata erant; aedituus adhuc in calcaneis Dennistoun detinebat, ac subinde quasi stimulus verberabatur, cum unus vel alter ex miris strepitus, qui magnum aedificium inane vexabant, in aurem eius incidit. Curiales strepitus interdum erant.
“Semel,” Dennistoun dixit ad me, “jurare potui” audivi vocem metallicam tenuem in turri alte ridentem. Ego ad aedituum meum percontando ieci. Ad labra erat candidus. ‘Ille est’, id est, nemo est; ostium clausum est, omnia dixit, et invicem perparum minutatim spectavimus.
Alius libellus incident multum perplexus Dennistoun. Inspiciebat magnam imaginem obscuram, quae post altare dependet, unam ex serie miraculorum sancti Bertrandi illustrantia. Compositio picturae prope inexplicabilis est, sed subest legenda Latina, quae sic se habet:
Qualiter S. Bertrandus liberavit hominem quem diabolus diu volebat strangulare.
Dennistoun ad sacristam subridens et ioculari quodam sermone in labra convertebat, sed confusus senem super genibus videre, imaginem supplicis oculis in agonia intuens, manibus arcte amplexus est et pluit lachrymis in genis. Dennistoun nihil se sensisse fingebat, sed quaestio ab eo non discederet, “Quare incrustatio talis aliquem tam vehementer afficit?” Is sibi visus est aliquam speciem acuendi rationem insoliti aspectus, qui eum toto die haesitabat: homo monomaniacus esse debet; sed quae fuit eius monomania?
Hora fere quinta erat; brevis dies appetebat, et ecclesia replere umbras coepit, dum curiosis strepitus, obvolutis gressibus et longinquis loquelae vocibus perceptibiles per totum diem, haud dubie propter evanescentem lucem ac per hoc vivificatus sensus videbatur. Auditus, incipere fortis et frequens.
Sacrista primum coepit festinationis et impatientiae signa ostendere. Susspiravit suspirium subsidii cum camera et libelli notarii tandem conferti et evulsi, et propere annuit Dennistoun ad occidentalem portam ecclesiae sub turri. Tempus erat pulsandi Angelo. Inviti funem pauca trahunt, et ingens Bertranda, alta in arce, loqui coepit, torsitque vocem Inter pinus et valles, magna cum montibus amnes, solos incolas colles. Ut reminisceretur et repeteret salutationem Angeli ad eam, quam vocavit “Benedictam in mulieribus.” Cum magna tranquillitas visa est primum illa die in oppidulum cadere, et Dennistoun et sacrista exivit de ecclesia.
Limen in sermonem inciderunt.
“Monsieur videbatur sibi interesse in veteribus libris choralibus in sacristia.”
“Utique. Rogaturus eram te si bibliotheca in oppido esset.”
Non, monsieur; fortasse unus erat de Capitulo, sed nunc tam exiguus locus. Huc accessit mira dubitationis mora, ut videbatur; deinde cum quodam immergito sic secutus est: Si vero monsieur est amateur des vieux livres, domi habeo aliquid quod interest. Centum ulnas non est.”
Statim omnes Dennistoun somnia in pretiosos codices inveniendi in intritis Galliae plagis emicuit, sequenti momento iterum mori. Probabiliter stupidum missale imprimendi Plantin anno circiter 1580. Ubi verisimilitudo fuit quod locus tam prope Toulousam a collectoribus olim non extortus fuisset? Sed ite ne stultum esset; in perpetuum se accusaturum, si negaret. Sic profecti sunt. In via curiosa irresolutio et subita determinatio aedituorum ad Dennistoun rediit, et miratus est turpiter an in aliquem furculum inauguraretur tanquam dives Anglicus. Incipere itaque cum duce suo nectere, et incondite, quod duos amicos exspectaret, altero mane sibi coniungendos esse. Miranti nuntiatio visum est, ut aedituus aliquarum sollicitudinum premeret.
“Bene,” inquit luculenter — id est optime. Monsieur una cum amicis ambulabit; semper prope eum erunt. Bonum est sic in societate aliquando iter agere.
Ultimum verbum pro retractu addendum videbatur, et secum reducendum in maerorem pauperculo.
Mox in domo, quae maior erat quam finitimis, lapidea fabricata, scuto supra januam insculpto, scutum Alberici de Mauléon, pronepotis collateralis, ut narrat Dennistoun, Johannis episcopi de Mauléon. Hic Albericus Canonicus Comminges ab anno 1680 ad 1701. Superiores mansionis fenestras conscendit, et totus locus, ut reliqui Convenarum, rationem deficiendi aetatis portabat.
Ad cuius limen accessit, aedituus momento constitit.
“Forte,” inquit, “forsitan tamen monsieur tempus non habet?”
“Minime temporis nihil ad crastinum faciendum est. Videamus quid habeas.
Apertum est hoc loco ianuam, et prospiciens facies longe minoris quam aedituorum facies, sed ferens aliquid ex eodem maerore vultu: hic tantum notum esse videbatur, non tam timoris quam salutis privatae. Acuta anxietas pro alio. Plane dominus faciei erat filia sacristae; et, sed quod dixi, satis formosa puella fuit. Illum multum inluminavit, cum patrem suum conspicuum cum valido agmine extraneo. Pauca inter patrem et filiam ducta sunt, e quibus Dennistoun haec tantum verba deprehensa, a sacrista dixit, “Ridemus in ecclesia,” verba quae sola aspectu formido puellae respondebant.
Sed in alio minuto erant in exedra domus parvae, altae cubiculi cum pavimento lapideo, plenae mobilibus umbris ab igne lignoso, qui magnum focum vibrabat. Aliquid de ratione oratorii ei collata fuit per altam crucifixum, quae fere ad laquearia hinc inde pervenit; figura naturalium colorum depicta erat, crux erat nigra. Sub hoc stabat cista alicuius aetatis et soliditatis, et, cum lucerna adlata esset, et sellis poneretur, sacrista ad hanc cistam ibat, et produxit inde, crescente tumultu et trepidatione, sicut Dennistoun opinabatur, libro magno involuto. Pannus albus, in quo pannus crux erat rudi filo intexta. Etiam antequam involutio sublata esset, Dennistoun magnitudinem et figuram voluminis considerare coepit. “Nimis ad missalem” cogitabat, non figuram antiphonis; fortasse aliquid boni post omnia potest esse.” Proximo momento liber apertus est, et Dennistoun sensit se tandem aliquid meliore quam bono accensum esse. Ante eum in magno folio, fortasse saeculo decimo septimo nuper adstrictum, cum armis Canonici Alberici de Mauléon aureis lateribus impressis. Fuerunt fortasse centum et quinquaginta folia chartacea in codice, et fere singula folium ex manuscripto illuminato affixa sunt. Talis collectionis Dennistoun vix in asperrimis momentis somniaverat. Hic folia decem erant ex exemplari Geneseos picturis illustrata, quae serius esse non potuit quam A.D. 700. In Psalterio, Anglica exactione, e pulcherrimo genere quae saeculo XII. Fortasse omnium optima, viginti folia unciae latine scripta erant, quae, ut pauca hic illic narravi, ad nonnullos vetustissimos patristicorum tractatos pertinere debet. Poteratne esse fragmentum exemplaris Papiae “de verbis Domini,” quod notum est exstitisse tam sero quam saeculo XII Nemausi? Ceterum animus eius confectus est; ille liber cum eo redibit Cantebrigiam, etiam si traheret totam libram suam de patrimonio suo, et manere apud Sanctum Bertrandum, donec veniret pecunia. Intuitus est sacrista, ut videret si quid emitteret ejus facies, librum venalem esse. Pallebat sacrista, et operabantur labia ejus.
“Si monsieur in finem vertetur,” inquit.
Monsieur igitur se convertit, thesauros novos occurrens in omni ortu folii; et in fine libri supervenit in duabus chartis, multo recentioris, quam quicquam adhuc viderat, quod eum aliquantum haesitabat. Eos esse coaetaneos statuit Albericus scelestus Canonicus, qui nimirum bibliothecam Capituli S. Bertrandi depraedavit, ut hunc inaestimabilem librum exiguo formaret. Kalendarum chartarum consilium fuit, diligenter extractum et statim cognitum ab eo qui terram noverat, porticus australis et claustra Sancti Bertrandi. Signa curiosa erant sicut symbola planetarum, et pauca verba hebraicorum in angulis; et in angulo aquilonis ad occidentem claustri erat crux aurea depicta. Infra consilium erant nonnullae lineae scribendi latine, quae ita se habent;
Responsa 12mi Dec. 1694. Interrogatum est: Inveniamne? Responsum est: Invenies. Fiamne dives? Fies. Vivamne invidendus? VIVIT. Moriarne in lecto meo? Ita.
“Bonum specimen recordi thesauri venatoris—unum satis commemorat apud D. Minor-Canon Quatremain in Veteri Sancti Pauli” commentarium erat Dennistoun et folium vertit.
Quae postea impressa vidit, ut saepius mihi dixit, quam ullam habentem seu picturam in se imprimi posse conciperet. Et, licet extractionem vidit iam exsistentiam non habet, photographica est eius (quod ego possideo) quod plene enuntiat. In pictura, de qua agitur, sepiae exeunte saeculo decimo septimo fuit delineatio, quae prima facie scaenam biblicam repraesentans diceret; Architectura enim (imago interiorem repraesentabat) et figurae illum semi-classicum saporem habebant circa eas, quas artifices ante ducenti annos exemplis Bibliorum aptam putaverunt. Ad dexteram erat rex in solio, thronus duodecim gradibus elevatus, conopeum supra caput, milites hinc inde, scilicet rex Salomon. Porrectis sceptris prone in imperio; exhorruit voltus et taedio, sed erat in eo quoque imperiosus et ferox. Sinistra pars picturae erat mirabile, tamen. Rem plane sitas esse. In pavimento ante thronum globi quatuor milites circumcirca curvum figurae momento describendae sunt. Quintus miles iacebat super pavimento, collo distorto, oculi globuli a capite; Quattuor custodes circumstantes regem aspiciebant. In vultu augebatur horror animi; immo vero per implicationem domini sui a fuga temperari videbantur. Totum hunc terrorem inter medios accubuisse. Omnino despero imperare quibusvis verbis hanc figuram in aliquem intuenti. Reminiscor semel monstrans imaginem photographicam extractionis ad lectorem de morphologia, hominem, dicturus sum, enormis sanae et unimaginativae mentis habitus. Solus reliqui vesperi illius esse omnino recusavit, et mihi postea narravit non ausum fuisse lucem ante somnum exstinguere per multas noctes. Praecipua autem figurae notae saltem indicare possum. Vides primo modo molem crassam, squalentem nigros; mox visum, quod hoc corpus formidolosae tenuitatis paene sceleti obtegeret, sed musculis instar filis exstantibus. Manus erant palloris ferruginei, obductis ad instar corporis, pilis longis, crassis, et tecte aduncis. Oculi fulvo tactus ardente, pupillas impense nigras habebant, et in solio regis vultu ferina odii defixa. Finge unum ex horrendis aucupiis aranearum aucupium in formam humanam in America Meridionali translata, et ingenio minus quam humano praeditam, et habebis conceptum aliquem languidum terroris horroris effigies. Unum illud universaliter fit ab illis, quibus imaginem demonstravi: “Ex vita ducta est.”
Ut primum impetum terroris intolerandi resederat, Dennistoun turmas suas rapuit aspectum. Manus sacristae oculis premebantur; Filia eius, suspiciens crucem in pariete, dicens ei precula febricitare.
Tandem quaesitum est, “Numquid hic liber est venalis?”
Eadem cunctatio, idem animus quem ante viderat, deinde gratissimum responsum, “Si placet monsieur.”
“Quantum rogas illum?”
“Ducentos et quinquaginta francos accipiam.”
Hoc erat confundens. Etiam conscientia collectoris interdum commovetur, et conscientia Dennistoun mollior quam collectoris fuit.
“Meum bonum virum!” Iterum atque iterum dixit, “Librum tuum longe pluris quam ducentos et quinquaginta francos valet, mehercules longe amplius.”
Sed responsum non variavit: “Ducentos et quinquaginta francos accipiam, non plus.”
Nulla erat facultas recusandi talem casum. Pecunia persoluta, receptaculum signatum, vitreum vini inebriatum super negotio, et tunc sacrista homo novus factus videbatur. Substitit, destitit, suspectos post se jactare voltus, Risisse vel ridere conatus. Dennistoun surrexerunt ad eundum.
“Honorem comitatus ad deversorium suum habebo?” dictus sacrista.
“O gratias! Centum ulnae non est. Viam perfecte novi, et est luna.
Oblatio ter quaterve premebatur, et toties recusabatur.
Tum me, si invenerit occasio; Mediam viam servabit, adeo aspera sunt.
“Certe,” inquit Dennistoun, qui praemium suum a se explorare impatiens erat; et egressus est in locum cum libro suo sub brachio suo.
Hic occurrit filia; illa, ut videbatur, parva negotia pro se facere cupiebat; fortasse aliquid accipere ab peregrino, cui pater pepercerat, ut Giezi.
“Crucifixus argenteus et cathena pro collo; Monsieur fortasse satis esse accipio?”
“Bene, re vera, Dennistoun his rebus non multum usus fuerat. Quid pro eo mademoiselle vis?”
“Nihil—nihil est in mundo. Monsieur plus est quam acceptum est”.
Tonus, quo hoc et multo plura dictum est, haud dubie genuinus fuit, ut Dennistounus ad gratias profusas redactus sit, et catenam e collo evolutam submitteret. Videbatur tamen, si patri et filia aliquod officium reddidisset, quod reddere vix scirent. Cum proficisceretur cum libro suo, steterunt ad januam spectantes eum, et adhuc quaerebant quando ultimam bonam noctem agitabat a passibus Chapeau Rouge.
Prandio suscepto, Dennistoun in cubiculo suo solus inclusit cum acquisitione. Familiaris eius peculiare studium declaraverat, cum ei indicasset se uisitare ad sacristam et librum antiquum ab eo emisse. Existimavit etiam, quod audivisset colloquium inter ipsam et dictum sacristam in dicto loco extra salle a presepio; nonnulla verba ad effectum ut “Petrus et Bertrandus in domo dormientes” sermonem clauserant.
Toto hoc tempore ingravescentem animi molestiam super eum obrepit—nervus motus, fortasse post eius inventionis delectationem. Quidquid erat, fiebat in persuasione aliquem post se esse, et multo commodius a tergo ad parietem esse. Haec omnia, scilicet, perpendebantur in trutina tamquam contra notum valorem collectionis acquisitae. Et nunc, ut dixi, solus erat in cubiculo suo, de thesauris Canonicis Alberici, in quo omne momentum revelavit aliquid suavius.
“Benedictus Canonicus Albericus.” dixit Dennistoun, qui inveteratam loquendi consuetudinem secum habuit. “Miror ubi nunc est? Cara mihi! Utinam domina disceret laetiore modo ridere; hoc sentit sicut aliquis mortuus in domo; Dimidium tibia plus, ais? Puto fortasse recte. Miror quid illa crucifixi est virgo institit dare mihi? Superiore saeculo, credo. Ita verisimiliter. Magis molestum est rem habere circa collum – nimis grave est. Verisimile est pater eius annos induta est. Puto me mundum dare priusquam abstulero.
Crucifixo abstulerat, et super mensam posuit, quando intentus fuit ab obiecto iacente super sinum rubeum a sinistro cubito. Duae vel tres notiones quidnam possit per cerebrum suum inaestimabili velocitate volitare.
” Calamus lautus? Non, nihil tale in domo. Mus? Nemo etiam niger est. Magna aranea? Non—nulli bonitati confido. Deus bone! Manus quasi manus in illa pictura!”
Alio mico infinito ceperat. Pellis pallida, fusca, nihil tegens nisi ossa et tendines horrendi roboris; pilis crassioribus nigris, in manibus humanis longioribus quam umquam creverunt; ungues ab extremitatibus digitorum ascendentes et incurvi acrius deorsum et antrorsum, cinerei, cornei et rugosi.
Volavit e sella funereo, corde prensa incomprehensibili terrore. Figura, cuius sinistra in mensa requievit, in stantem post solium stabat, dextera supra verticem incurvata. nigrum erat et lacerum perlucidum; crinis crassus texit eam sicut in Cn. Maxilla inferior tenuis erat—quid dicam?—vadis, bestiae similis; dentibus atra labra ostendebant; nasus non erat; oculi, ignei flavi, contra quos pupillae atros et intensos ostendebant, et exultans odio et siti ad destruendam vitam, quae ibi fulgebat, in tota visione horrentissima erant. Erat in eis intelligentia quaedam, ultra intelligentiam bestiae, infra hominis.
Affectus quos hic horror in Dennistoun excitaverat, vehemens erat timor corporis et altissima mentis fastidium. Quid fecit? Quid faceret? Numquam satis constat quid dixerit, sed scit quod loquutus sit, quod caeca prehenderit ad crucifixum argenteum, quod sibi conscius sit motus ex parte daemonis, et quod voce vociferatus sit. animalis in deforme dolorem.
Petrus et Bertrandus, duo servitores robusti, qui irruerunt, nihil viderunt, sed se retrusi per aliquid quod inter illos transivit, et in deliquium invenerunt Dennistoun. Sederunt cum eo nocte illa, et duo amici ejus erant apud Sanctum Bertrandum per horam tertiam in crastino. Ipse vero, licet adhuc perculsus et timidus, prope se ab illo tempore fuit, et fidem suam apud eos invenit, sed non prius, quam viderat extractionem, et loquebatur cum sacrista.
Fere prima luce homunculus ad diversorium per simulationem venerat, et audiverat cum summa cura fabulam a familia distraxit. Nec mirum.
Ille est, ille est. Ipsum ipsum vidi, unicum eius commentum fuit; et ad omnes interrogationes unum responsum est: Deux fois je l’ai vu; mille fois je l’ai senti.” Nihil de provenientia libri, nec de singulis experimentis indicabat. “Mox dormiam, et requies mea suavis erit. Quid me vexas?” dixit.
Quid ipse vel Canonicus Albericus de Mauléon passus fuerit, numquam sciemus. In tergo fatalis illius tractus nonnullae lineae scriptionis erant, quae locum illustrare existimari possunt;
Contradictio Salomonis cum demonio nocturno. Albericus de Mauléone delineavit. V. Deus in adiutorium. Ps. Qui habitat. Sancte Bertrande, demoniorum effugator, intercede pro me miserrimo. Primum uidi nocte 12(mi) Dec. 1694: uidebo mox ultimum. Peccaui et passus sum, plura adhuc passurus. die 29 dec. “Gallia Christiana” diem mortis Canonis dat die 31 decembris 1701, “in lecto repentinae captionis.” Singularia huiusmodi non sunt communia magno opere Sammarthani.
Numquam satis intellexi quid de his rebus quas narravi inspiceret Dennistoun. Retulit ad me semel textum Ecclesiastici: Quidam sunt qui in vindictam creati sunt, et in furore suo impingunt plagas. Alio tempore dixit: “Isaias vir sapientissimus fuit; annon dicit aliquid de monstris nocturnis in ruinis Babyloniae habitantium? Haec magis extra nos in praesentia sunt.
Alia fiducia ejus me magis impressit, et compatiebatur. Fuimus superiore anno, Comminges, ut videremus sepulcrum canonis Alberici. Est magna marmorea erectio cum effigie Canonis in amplo celatus et soutano, ac elaborata ejus eruditionis laude infra. Vidi Dennistoun cum Vicario S. Bertrandi aliquandiu loquentem, et abeundo dixit mihi: “Spero non errat: scis Presbyterum me esse, sed credo futurum esse dicens. de missa et cantu naeniae’ pro requie Alberici de Mauléon. Deinde addidit, Septentrionalem Britannici sono tactum, “Nihil tam chari noti”.
Liber est in Wentworth Collection procul Cambridge. Detractio photographatae et ab Dennistoun eo die incensa est, qua occasione visitationis primae Commings discessit.
Featured: Dennistoun sketches the cathedral, illustration by James McBryde, 1904.
Paul Valéry (1871-1945) was a writer, poet and philosopher, elected to the Académie française in 1925. An eminent figure in the world of letters, he left a rich and varied body of work that is always worthy of interest. Here’s a brief overview.
Paul Valéry is unclassifiable. He eludes us all the time: neither quite novelist, nor philosopher, and really at ease in verse, given to ideas, epitomizing that last race of masters we call “men of letters.” When people try to give him credit for the arts or literature, Valéry shirks, dodges and sabotages. He hates history, loathes philosophy, reviles literature and reviles the novel. He excelled everywhere; prodigious, he cavorted with and surpassed everyone else by way of a single idea. Antiquarian, he mingled with the modern, foresaw, gifted with a talent for anticipation, like a soothsayer.
This illustrious writer, sometimes a Faustian scholar, sometimes a dandy, bow tie tied and ringed little finger, nicknamed the “civil servant of literature” by Paul Nizan, for his acts of resistance and his glory as a writer, was entitled to national homage in 1945. He was first and foremost a remarkable orator, whose speech in honor of Goethe, model “among all the Fathers of Thought and Doctors of Poetry, Pater aestheticus in aeternum,” is a perfect illustration of his talent. His eulogy for the “Jewish Bergson” is a measure of his courage under the Occupation, in 1941. This modern Bossuet, under the wings of the eagle of Meaux, paid tribute to his ancestor in Variété II (1930), praising his grandiose prose, the strength of his style, his talent for saying everything, his brilliant orations, monuments of what remains, in language, when the ideas of a time are outdated and men, distant from their tributes, end up unknown.
Valéry had no theorized philosophical system, unlike the dominant German thought. We find him somewhere between Descartes, rigorous in method, and Leonardo da Vinci, edified by the architecture of intelligence. Still inhabited by the Greeks, he used the form of dialogue, Eupalinos (1923) and L’idée fixe (1932), like Plato, and returned to the simple idea that philosophy is a quest: a quest for the absolute, for truth and purity. In his Cahiers (published, 1973-1974—Ed.), he writes: “I read philosophers badly and with boredom, as they are too long and their language is unsympathetic to me.” Sensitive to the sentence, the maxim, that make up the French charm of thought, he went everywhere, said what he wanted, constrained his free thought, meandered through ideas under the strict arches of art, in fragments and leaflets.
First there was that famous night in Genoa. On a night that resembled a crisis, he was converted. Thereafter, he devoted himself to intelligence, to the realm of the spirit, to the quest for precision. In 1896, at the age of twenty-five, this mystic of the Idea wrote La soirée avec Monsieur Teste, a strange novel-essay in which, through the intermediary of his double, Monsieur Teste himself, high priest of the Intellect, Valéry begins to think about the detachment of the soul and sensibility, in the wake of Méditations métaphysiques. And nothing but that.
Austere and Solemn?
Among the innumerable papers, texts and published thoughts, Valéry is, in Tel quel (1943) or in his Cahiers, haunted by the idea of a hidden God: “The search for God would be man’s most beautiful occupation.” The importance and quality of these notes show that a project to write a “Dialogue des choses divines” (“Dialogue of things divine”) preoccupied Valéry all his life. “Everyone keeps his own mysticism, which he jealously guards,” he insisted. Man finds himself only insofar as he finds his God.
All too quickly, Valéry’s austere, solemn character is attributed to his poetry, which is frozen and mumbling. What is taken for gelid is icy other than a classical demand taken to the heights. “Most men have such a vague idea of poetry that the very vagueness of their idea is for them the definition of poetry,” Valéry, obsessed with perfection, wanted this “holy language.” This quest, resolutely, detached him from the world of letters, novelists and journalism: “The writer-whore exists only to surrender himself. To this class belong those who claim to say what they are, think and feel;” and he adds in Tel quel: “There is always something fishy about literature—the consideration of an audience. So, there’s always a reserve of thought in which lies all the charlatanism of which every literary product is an impure product.” Then to finish off literature as if in the arena: “A novel is the height of crudeness. We’ll see one day. Those who look from the deep, rigorous side already see it.” So much for that.
Behind his reputation as a pure wit, Valéry was a great sensualist. His poetry is a perfect demonstration of this. The charm of bodies, the trance of music, long, delicate movements, the sign of the hand, the form of the dance, the praise of water—this is the Valéry universe. In Album des vers anciens (1920), inspired by Mallarmé, we find, under the appearance of a solid poetic arch, lascivious and moving, volatile and light figures and forms taking shape, as in “Baignée” (“Bathing”) which, through a play of periphrases, makes us guess a young woman in the water:
A fruit of flesh bathes in some youthful pool, (Azure in trembling gardens) but out of water, Singling curls with strength of the casque, Gleams the golden head which a tomb slices at the nape.
Above the Fray
Later, Valéry wrote La Jeune Parque (1917). In this song of love and death, where life mingles with mythology, we can admire these lines: “island… summit that a fire fecundates barely intimidated, woods that will hum with beasts and ideas, with hymns of men filled by the just gift of ether.” These rhymes sound like onomatopoeia, making us believe for a moment that Valéry, a musician, is moving from the Académie to a jazz club.
At twilight, in Corona & Coronilla (published in 2008—Ed.), the old man writes a few poems to his young lover, Jeanne Voilier, whom he knows to be far from his arms:
You know it now, if you ever doubted That I could die by the one I loved, For you made my soul a leaf that trembles Like that of the willow, alas, that yesterday together We watched float before our eyes of love, In the golden tenderness of the fall of the day.
This poem, written on May 22, 1945, two months before the poet’s death at the age of seventy-four, denotes a tenderness, a touching intimacy, not devoid of flowery lyricism. It’s a far, far cry from the night of Genoa.
Bruised by the horrors of war, Valéry descended from the clouds, returning inter homines, deluded by certain illusions. He no longer believed in history, as he wrote in Regards sur le monde actuel: “History justifies whatever one wants. It teaches rigorously nothing, because it contains everything, and gives examples of everything… The danger of letting ourselves be seduced by History is greater than ever.”
With History out of the way, Valéry seemed to turn to mathematics, as he murmured in his drafts: “Simple solutions, expedients, that’s all-human conduct, in politics, in love, in business, in poetry—expedients, and the rest is mathematics.” He confessed in 1944 in Le Figaro: “Politics is the maneuvering of the more by the less, of the immense number by the small number, of the real by images and words; in other words, it’s a mechanics of relays.”
Paul Valéry was above the fray. Neither stupidly left-wing, nor fatally right-wing. He was a circumspect observer of nations. He was an eminent member of intellectual Europe, like Rilke in Trieste, Zweig in Vienna or Verhaeren in Brussels. Like the others, Valéry saw the great Europe of letters and sovereign nations, shattered by the appalling world war. Did he already see the post-war era? “Europe will be punished for its policies; it aspires to be governed by an American commission”—that’s for sure.
Europe, according to Valéry, is inhabited by tradition. This Europe, saved from technocracy and finance, is a civilization, “Romanized and Christianized, subject to the disciplinary spirit of the Greeks,” starting from Jerusalem, Athens and Rome. The grandiose axis. Yet this remarkable Europe, shaped by a superior spirit, remains no less fragile. This is Valéry’s despairing assessment of a Europe whose ancient parapets have been overcome by technology, the mass of a fin de siècle: “We civilizations now know that we are mortal.”
This tension between the order of civilization went hand-in-hand with a defiant and suspicious view of governments. We owe him this simple, trenchant phrase, mingled with cynicism and raw lucidity: “War, a massacre of people who don’t know each other, for the benefit of people who know each other but don’t massacre each other.” Sounds like Bardamu at the start of Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night)! Who’d have thought Valéry an anarchist?
Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité and teaches Latin. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.
Featured: Portrait of Paul Valéry, by Georges d’Espagnat; painted in 1910.
“We are going to defend our flag joyfully, poetically, by raising it. Because there are some who believe that in order to unite the will… it is necessary to hide everything that can arouse emotion or point out an energetic and extreme attitude. What a mistake!”
The flag that José Antonio Primo de Rivera wanted to raise was obviously a political flag. Raising it, he added: “People have never been moved by anything but poets, and woe betide anyone who does not know how to raise, against the poetry that destroys, the poetry that promises.”
Never had such words—the conjunction of the poetic and the political—resounded with such force in the public arena. Similar things had not even been heard in those times—Greek polis, Roman res publica, monarchy of divine right— in which a kind of sacred breath breathed in the political.
But today? Today, when political life has become a prosaic affair of merchants? Today, the above words—they were pronounced on October 29, 1933 at the founding ceremony of Spanish Falange—sound to our modern ears as outlandish as they are bizarre; and this despite the fact, perhaps someone will add, that they are aesthetically very beautiful. How nice they sound, it must be said! How well-spoken he was! And as handsome, the poor man, as he was! Et cetera.
The Conciliation of Opposites
The conjunction of the poetic and the political—the pretension of mobilizing the masses by invoking a poetic or spiritual spirit—constitutes, it is true, a contradiction in terms.
What happens is that there are contradictions upon contradictions. There are, on the one hand, the disastrous contradictions, the senseless nonsense. And there is, on the other hand, the Great Contradiction—”the embrace of opposites,” I usually call it—which, as Heraclitus already knew, moves the world and life, that life that would never exist without being spurred on by death; or that order of the intelligible that would never exist without being intertwined with that of the sensitive or emotional.
There, in that embrace of opposites, is where the conjunction of the political and the poetic is situated: in the combat that, necessarily mired in the mud of the public arena, is driven by a poetic or spiritual yearning.
What is this Yearning? What is this Struggle?
It is a yearning and a struggle – the very essence of the Jose-Antonian project—in which two contradictory terms are intertwined: revolution and conservation. The revolution that leads to a break with the old, retrograde conception of the world, while at the same time conserving all that, from tradition, it is imperative to conserve.
But what, concretely, do such a revolution and such conservation consist of?
What we must break with, advocates José Antonio, is the flagrant social injustices of liberal-capitalism (not, of course, to replace them with the much worse injustices of socialism). But what we must also put an end to is the decomposition of things, with the loss of their sap or substance—that consequence of individualism and materialism that lead, he wrote, “not to death by catastrophe, but to a stagnation in an existence without grace or hope, where all collective attitudes are born puny… and the life of the community is flattened, hindered, sinks in bad taste and mediocrity.”
Faced with this mediocre and puny life, what is needed is to raise the poetic breath, to unfold the spiritual rebirth of a world governed in our days by exclusive material desires and presided over by an equality and freedoms that, contrary to what his enemies claim, José Antonio did not reject at all. On the contrary, regretting their merely formal character, he seeks to revitalize them, to endow them with authentic meaning and content.
That is why he wrote: “Reader, if you live in a liberal state, try to be a millionaire, and handsome, and smart, and strong. Then, yes… life is yours. You will have publications in which to exercise your freedom of thought, automobiles in which to put into practice your freedom of locomotion.” If you don’t have them, if you are not at the heart of economic power, you will be left in the gutter.
And, intertwined with all this, Spain, the Nation: that “unity of destiny.”
The Nation, the Homeland—the pillar of that substantial, organic order for which José Antonio advocated and which is at the antipodes of what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.”
The Nation, the Homeland—the place of tradition, of origins, of destiny. Of all that without which we would be nothing and without which we would speak nothing.
The Nation, history, tradition—that incandescent lava that unfolds over the centuries, linking the living with the dead and projecting them towards those to come.
The Nation—the very negation of narrow-minded, sullen, uncouth nationalism, just as the Fatherland, understood as it should be, represents the negation of tawdry, flat, chauvinistic patriotism.
The Nation—that unity of destiny that is opposed to the “terroir,” whose provincial narrow-mindedness José Antonio fought against.
And What about Francoism in all This?
What has all this to do with the Regime established after the victory of the national side in the Spanish Civil War? Francoism turned José Antonio into a saint and took the Falange to the altars; but its ideals had little to do with the reality of that prosaic and gray Regime, increasingly bourgeois, and which was so far from the poetic breath that “moves the people.”
What could the “cheerful and flirtatious Spain” defended by José Antonio, and the prudish Spain of demure skirts and prissy behaviors encouraged from the pulpits have in common? Except for outward appearances, except for that paraphernalia of belts, squads and blue shirts, very little; almost nothing had they to do with each other. The two had nothing in common.
(Is there no experience that, embodied in reality, allows us to relate it to the ideals of José Antonio? Yes, there are two. The first is the one undertaken by the great poet Gabriele D’Annunzio when he conquered in September 1919 the unredeemed Italian (today Croatian) city of Fiume. During the fifteen months that followed the most innovative of political, cultural and vital experiences, the Poet-Commander and his brave Arditi (the Daredevils) launched themselves, together with the population of the city, into a fascinating right-wing and libertarian, nationalist and cosmopolitan adventure, until they were defeated in December 1920.
The second historical reference is constituted by the so-called German Conservative Revolution, which, as its name indicates, consisted in joining, as José Antonio would do, the two opposing poles of tradition and revolution. Developed between 1918 and 1933, the German Conservative Revolution included thinkers and leaders of the stature of Oswald Spengler, the Jünger brothers, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Ernst von Salomon, Carl Schmitt, Heidegger, etc., not to mention its deep-rooted philosophical invocation of Nietzsche).
A fortnight before being shot, and while offering to try to bring about a cessation of hostilities between the two sides facing each other off to the death, José Antonio himself had intuited everything that separated him from the nascent Francoism. With schematic words—these were his notes to himself—but profound and harsh, he analyzed the social, political and ideological nature of those who had taken up arms.
“A group,” he said, “of generals of desolate political mediocrity. Pure elementary clichés (order, pacification of the spirits)…. Behind: 1) The old intransigent, narrow-minded, antipathetic Carlism. 2) The conservative classes, self-interested, short-sighted, lazy. 3) Agrarian and financial capitalism, that is to say… the lack of any far-reaching national sense.”
The far-reaching national sense, the far-sightedness, the eagle-eyed gaze—this was what characterized the man who, in one of those miracles that only happen once every thousand years, combined two extraordinary traits: those of the seasoned fighter in fierce combat in the political arena, and those of the deep, subtle thinker dedicated to the great challenges of the spirit.
However, that miracle would not last long—about five years-. A burst of machine gun fire finished him off. The trigger was pulled by the same graverobbers who have believed, eighty-seven years later, to be able to erase the presence of José Antonio. A vain endeavor! They can do nothing against the presence and the memory of the only politician-poet, the only politician-philosopher in Spain’s history.
Javier Ruiz Portella, journalist, essayist, writer and publisher, in Spain, whose recent book, N’y a-t-il qu’un dieu pour nous sauver? (Is There No God to Save Us?). This article comes through the kind courtesy of El Manifiesto.
Recent imprudent or ignorant public utterances serve only to confirm the pervasive presence of the Neo-Cons’ chief ideologue, Carl Schmitt, and beg the question: would it be the promotion of Carl Schmitt unleashing fascism? Or would the European fascists simply be reverting to type?
Although Papa Mendelssohn had been working on the subject for some months now, he has been prompted to rush to judgment following a chance remark uttered by the otherwise perfectly-respectable Colonel Xavier Moreau, in the course of his weekly strategic briefing from Moscow. To one’s surprise and horror, Colonel Moreau described the new Russian Diplomatic Concept as a “Schmittian moment.”
Of which more below.
To Germany’s greater misfortune, there was born at Plettenberg in 1888 one Carl Schmitt, who most regrettably, would go on to live nearly a century. Become a legal scholar, Schmitt was endowed with the academic’s typically admirable traits: savage ambition, vanity coupled with sour jealousy, impenetrable rhetoric, graphomania, connections in high places and pseudo-Catholicism.
As the Republic fell, a triumphant Schmitt, aping Halford Mackinder, began to elaborate on the Grossraum concept as he clambered up the NSDAP totem pole. Alongside his friend Martin Heidegger, on May 1st, 1933 he joined the NSDAP, never to leave it, contrary to claims from his apologists.
At the Nuremberg trials, bizarrely, given his prominence in the NSDAP, he was apparently interrogated as a mere “witness.” Emboldened not to say enchanted by the worldwide publicity afforded him by the Nuremberg forum, Schmitt dared to suggest to his accusers that his rôle vis à vis Hitler’s direct entourage was like that of Plato, who in 366 B.C. , had sailed to Sicily to advise the tyrannos Dionysos (NB: Τύραννος did not mean “tyrant” in ancient Greek) (“Carl Schmitt plaide l’amnistie en termes platoniciens, by Branco Aleksic.
In any event, after a few months’ interment—the Carl Schmitt Society is at pains to distinguish the notion from that of imprisonment—during which Schmitt drafted an opuscule portraying himself as Christian Martyr (“Ex captivitate salus: Experiences, 1945-47—Out of Captivity cometh Salvation“), he swiftly became the academic cesspit from which the US Neo-Cons and notably Leo Strauss would drink, and deeply.
Such was Carl Schmitt.
A “Schittianm,” Moment—Minus the M
Back to Colonel Moreau. A graduate of the famed Saint-Cyr Military Academy, Moreau has been living for the past twenty years with his large Russian family in Moscow, where he works as a business consultant, part-time journalist and and hobby-historian. Inter alia, he founded Stratpol, a thinktank and on-line journal, and has a programme on Russia Today (L’Echiquier mondial). Originally confidential, Stratpol’s weekly video briefings on Russian weapons systems, strategic thinking etc., have gone from a few thousand views each a few years back, to tens, prhaps hundreds of thousands of views today. Despite this large following in the French-speaking world, Moreau has remained what the Russians call “an innocent”—never would he knowingly act against the best interests either of France, or of Russia.
That said, Colonel Moreau, who co-incidentally happens to be innocent of all specialised knowledge whether in law or philosophy, nonetheless baldly stated in his weekly video dated 6th April 2023, that Russia’s New Diplomatic Concept published on 31stMarch 2023 is a “Schmittian moment” (sic), as are Xi Jin Ping’s statements of a month ago (at 20 minutes).
Confounding in his naivety, the Colonel has crawled out onto a limb alongside the very Neo-Cons he abhors, as he rejoices at Carl Schmitt’s purported influence on Russia and refers us back to his May 2021 interview with the think-tanker Pierre-Antoine Plaquevent “Actualité de Carl Schmitt.”
In the first five minutes of that interview, the thoroughly-disingenuous P.A. Plaquevent babbles such arrant nonsense as to call up a a berserker episode in the listener. For Plaquevent, Carl Schmitt was a resistance fighter (!), who supposedly quit the NSDAP in disgust in 1936.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A Falling-Out amongst Thieves
Thieves DO fall out. Just as factional in-fighting led the Jungian gymnast Rudolf von Laban, who adopted the Lebensraum notion for his Choreutics, to leave for England in 1937 and there become a Saint and Martyr Himself(von Laban’s Wikipedia pages being regularly purged of all Unpleasantness, in 1936 the same sort of infighting led Schmitt to resign from his positions as Reichsfachgruppenleiter, chief editor of the Deutschen Juristenzeitung, DJZ, and the German Academy of Law.
On no account however, did Schmitt attempt to leave for a neutral country, challenge Reich policy, or denounce Operation Barbarossa. Never was he prevented from travelling to “friendly foreign countries,” as the Carl Schmitt Society reports, for example to Occupied France in 1941, where, invited by the Deutsches Institut (Cf. Eckward Michels, “Das Deutsche Institut in Paris 1940-1944: Ein Beitrag zu den deutsch-französischen Kulturbeziehungen und zur auswärtigen Kulturpolitik des Dritten Reiches”), he met with Luvverlies, such as Ernst Junger, Henri de Montherlant or Drieu de La Rochelle. Never was he asked to resign from his Chair at the Friedrich-Wilhelm University, or from his role on the Preußischen Staatsrat, thanks to Hermann Goering’s fraternal solicitude, all this with no interruption up to the bitter end in 1944.
Opportunist to the core, his attacks on the Jews were so vulgar as to raise eyebrows amongst some Party members. In 1936, the year that P.A. Plaquevent describes as that of his “disgrace” (!), Schmitt chaired the seminar Das Judentum in der Rechtswissenschaft (Jewry in the Legal Sciences), where he proposed that libraries henceforth classify works by Jews, rather than by discipline, on designated “Jewry” shelves. To Schmitt, the Nuremberg Racial Laws (1935) were Die Verfassung der Freiheit, i.e., Freedom’s Constitution, article published on 1st October 1935 in the DJZ.
Regardless, Plaquevent repeats the tall tale according to which Schmitt was “sidelined” (a very relative term here!), owing to his anti-semitism being of the “Conservative Catholic” (sic) rather than outright racialist stripe. As it happens, at a conference held on 28th November 1935 intitled “National Socialist Law and the Public Policy Reserve in International Private Law,” Schmitt seized the opportunity to insist that inter-racial marriages be strictly regulated, especially those that threatened Germany vitality, i.e. those involving Jews, since the latter cannot be assimilated.
Schmitt’s public utterances to that effect are so numerous as would weary the reader by listing them. Thus, to deny or ignore what lies as much in plain view as Jeffrey Epstein’s paeodophilia and blackmailing, spells either ignorance… or something more distasteful. To the reader objecting that Mendelssohn Moses is a Jew and therefore slanted, one should stress that Schmitt’s life and character would be every bit as repugnant had he taken issue with the Hottentots, Pygmees, Lesser-Vehicle Buddhists or Zoroastrians.
Schmitt Wriggles into the Ratline… and Rodents Scurry to Leave their Ratline Droppings in Russia’s Path
Freed from internment with suspicious haste in 1947, thanks to the Usual Suspects Carl Schmitt promptly joined the West German Ratline, a network of Nazis hastily woven into cover afforded by the US intelligence, propaganda and terrorism US underground.
Need evidence? Schmitt was neither indicted nor tried at Nuremberg; his internment was described as simple “witness detention” (witness to WHAT, pray tell?). Whilst in internment camp, a US medic slipped him contraband paper and ink, thus allowing him to draft an apologia or rather auto-hagiography Ex captivitate salus, while the camp’s priest, purportedly touched by Schmitt’s “return to the fold” smuggled his writings out of the camp. As for his 4,000-volume library, seized in 1944, the US authorities dutifully sent it back—at taxpayer expense, no doubt.
According to the Carl Schmitt Society, “in 1947 the interrogations by the prosecutor, Robert W. Kempner were more moral reproaches than preparations for a justiciable indictment.” Nor can the Society resist boasting of how Schmitt got the Ratline’s attention: “After Schmitt, at Kempner’s request, had written expert reports on Hitler’s Greater Region (sic, Grossraum/Lebensraum—editor’s note) policy and the internal power structure of the Nazi government, he was able to leave Nuremberg and arrived in Plettenberg as a free man on May 21.”
Although after 1945, the US bell-jar sucked all the air from Germany’s intellectual life, whether the daily press, publishing, academe, the music world, business management (university, science…), with US bases sprouting like weeds and US troops combing the country, one nevertheless finds Schmitt’s works being printed, reprinted, translated and soon taught everywhere above all in the USA.
As for Carl Schmitt’s own person, never again did he come under scrutiny from the Occupying Forces.
In his home town of Plettenberg, where Schmitt returned at age 60 to a charmingly völkisch garden-cottage, furnished with thathuge library courtesy of the Occupation Forces, he became a Citizen of Honour and a Carl Schmitt Society was founded to celebrate him, the Carl Schmitt Gesellschaft E.v. Pilgrims freely wended their way to Plettenberg, while others kept up a sustained correspondence. Most especially, the Quislings tasked with moulding minds throughout the German-speaking world: Rudolf Augstein, who founded Der SPIEGEL, Ernst Jünger, Armin Mohler, the American George Schwab.
Should one be surprised at Schmitt’s cozying up to the Occupiers and their Quislings? Hardly: the Satanist’s True Love was ever to Self, nor was Schmitt an apprentice turncoat, the most striking illustration being his glee at the murder of his erstwhile “friend” General Kurt von Schleicher on30th June 1934. One month later, one finds Schmitt braying alongside the assassins (“The Führer stands up for the Law,” essay in Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung July 13th, 1934 edition).
As Prof. Dr. Renaud Baumert has shewn in his superb essay, “Carl Schmitt contre le Parlementarisme weimarien,” from the outset of his career Schmitt never wavered from onesingle aim: totalitarian rule. To Schmitt, the true enemy, is the people. ‘Twas a specific motive brought him to join forces with ex-Chancellor von Schleicher. While the latter viewed breach of the Weimar Constitution as the last resort to prevent the NSDAP’s seizing power, to Schmitt that manœuvre would ensure the Party’s de facto coup d’état.
To suggest that Carl Schmitt was “trapped” by the NSDAP in Germany is ludicrous. Dissidents of every ilk and religious belief, most of whom had scant funds, managed to flee Germany until the War broke out in 1939. As for Schmitt, perhaps the most prominent of German legal scholars, he had but to wink to slide straight into a lucrative academic position in Switzerland, Sweden or Down Under. That he stayed shows only that he found his perch high on the totem pole beside Hermann Goering both agreeable and advantageous.
Accordingly, when one hears P.A. Plaquevent assert that “it is only too easy to pass judgment on people’s commitments, at a moment in time when events moved so fast,” one might suggest that it’s only too easy to see Plaquevent lose his footing in shallow but stinking waters. In a word, it’s Spinach, and I don’t Like It. Either he’s not done his homework, or there are Things that Go Bump in the Dark.
Where Schmitt gives Hermann Göring a Leg Up
In a collective work, published under Prof. Y-Ch. Zarka in 2009, Jean-Pierre Fayet’s essay, “Carl Schmitt, Göring et l’État total” opens thusly:
“One reads here and there of Göring as Carl Schmitt’s protector, as though Göring were some sort of Renascence gold-shower or sponsor to up-and-coming youth.
“Perhaps they fail to realise that it was the other way round: it was Göring in political debt to Carl Schmitt. State power was delivered up into Hitlerian hands on January 30th, 1933, by President Hindenburg’s signature on a piece of paper, thanks to an apposite manoeuvre worked out by the group around ex-Chancellor von Papen. At the centre of the manoeuvre one finds Carl Schmitt, the fellow who had been von Papen’s public advocate at the Constitutional Court.” Cf. also, Prof. Dr. Johann Chapoutot.
Back to the Ratline; The Neo-Cons
A number of historians, including very recently Prof. Dr. Daniele Ganser, have documented the terrible harm wreaked on Western Europe after WWII by US (and British) intelligence agencies, trampling on the principles of the American Republic. A certain E. Beggin remarks the following on the Ratline:
“Given the extent of American cooperation with and support for former Nazi leadership, as well as other fascist organizations through Operation Gladio, we should consider that Stalin was not only correct in believing the Americans had attempted to secure a separate peace with parts of the Nazi government, but that they had actually done so. In this light, the Cold War was a continuation of World War II, with the United States allying with the remnants of the Third Reich who they reconstituted into a new, supranational form. The American military intelligence apparatus dismissed the doomed approach of Operation Unthinkable in favour of a long term Werewolf style war waged through clandestine means such as Operation Gladio and Operation Condor. The ideological fervour of Hitlerism might have died in 1945, but the pragmatic new Nazism lived on through the efforts of men like Dulles and Gehlen and finally triumphed over its eternal enemy in 1991. Today we live in the world created by that lingering Nazi victory: an Invisible Americanized Reich.”
In the USA, Dr Matthew Specter, an IR specialist,has been taking on Schmitt and the Schmittians’ disastrous influence on US policyfor over a decade. As Dr Specter puts it, referring to the Jim Jones cult in Guyana, he declines to “drink the Schmittian Kool-Aid” (sic) which appeals to so many academics.
“In the run-up to the Second World War, geopolitics appears in the American public sphere as urdeutsch—a kind of Nazi superweapon that is essentialized and seen as something foreign, something to be feared. This ignored American political geographers like Bowman who had been in dialogue with the group around Haushofer’s Zeitschrift für Geopolitik. It also undersold the American inspiration for German geopolitics, especially since the circle surrounding Haushofer saw themselves as responding to Bowman’s book The New World: Problems in Political Geography (1921).
“…the implication that there is a clean break between the 1880s and 1930s discourses and those of the 1950s forward is not borne out. Not only are the discursive continuities more significant than the breaks but the temporality of imperial realism doesn’t conform to the moral narrative about 1945 as turning point.
“When you are socialized into the American foreign policy establishment or into the discipline of international relations by reading its founding fathers, you are being socialized into not just specific axioms or doctrines—but, more importantly, a way of seeing, a way of thinking and feeling. For me, it is, fundamentally, a way of thinking like an empire and as an imperial subject.
“… The Atlantic realists all shared a common imperial blind spot and democratic deficit. Both Kissinger and Morgenthau were committed to the idea of an elite statesman who would understand and develop the art of statecraft. This art was for the privileged few, as statecraft was not something they believed the democratic public could handle—it was too emotional, too plural, too divided, too fickle, what have you.”
In point of fact, the enthusiasm for Carl Schmitt expressed by the US Neo-Cons and their European hounds is perhaps the salient feature of political philosophy since the War. Dozens of articles both scholarly and for mass-circulation, point to the overweening impact of Schmitt’s ideas amongst those who did the thinking for Presidents Bush Sr and Jr and slammed down the Permanent State of Exception (“restraining chaos,” as Anastasia Colosimo chirps) which since 2001, has put paid to civilised life both in the USA and Europe. Cf. For example, Kim Lane Scheppele, “Law in a Time of Emergency: States of Exception and the Temptations of 9/11.”
As for France groaning under the Sarkozy-Hollande-Macron clique of Quislings, over the past 20 years she has become Schmitt’s waking dream: Parliament stripped of its prerogatives, zero separation of powers, myriad unaccountable agencies standing in for the civil service, privatisation of the public domain covered by executive action … Professor Johann Chapoutot is one of the few to have realised that at the end of the day, the Schmittian goal is to liquidate the modern Nation-State which emerged a thousand years ago in defence of the common weal, and replace it by smoke-and-mirrors agencies answerable solely to private interests—almost invariably foreign at that.
Schmitt’s Chiefest Enemy: The People
In Russia at the present time—as in China though doubtless for different reasons—there are clusters of individuals who dispute the policies of the Russian Presidency and General Staff for being insufficiently “authoritarian,” “ruthless,” and to be frank, “brutal,” Carl Schmitt being the reference; they would have a Schmittian Presidency wield the State of Exception and sweep all before it (Cf. Hans Koechler).
By God knows what stretch of the imagination, these persons believe, or wish to believe that the new Russian Diplomatic Concept affirms the friend-enemy opposition on which, so Schmitt claims, rests the State, conveniently forgetting that to Schmitt, the chiefest enemy is the people. Which makes Schmitt the chiefest enemy of the people.
Blithely disregarding the vast and irreversible changes in the structure of international relations provoked by the Government of Russia over the last year, of which the perfect anti-Schmittian Sergey Lavrov is a chief architect, these individuals apparently seek vindication of their theses in the annihilation of the Ukraine, Poland and the USA in a Götterdämmerung style firestorm. A mixed bag—some would like the universe to up-end at one fell swoop, others are British and Neo-Con agents, others are cobweb-covered Slavophiles stuck in the 1870s, while the bulk are well-meaning but impatient Russians as well as Western dissidents, angry at the Government’s previous overtures to the “West.”
“… the United States of America (USA) and its satellites have used the measures taken by the Russian Federation as regards Ukraine to protect its vital interests as a pretext to aggravate the long-standing anti-Russian policy and unleashed a new type of hybrid war. It is aimed at weakening Russia in every possible way, including at undermining her constructive civilizational role (…) (and) violating her territorial integrity. This Western policy has become comprehensive and is now enshrined at the doctrinal level. This was not the choice of the Russian Federation. Russia does not consider herself to be an enemy of the West (…) and has no hostile intentions with regard to it; Russia hopes that in future the states belonging to the Western community will realize that their policy of confrontation and hegemonic ambitions lacks prospects, will take into account the complex realities of a multipolar world and will resume pragmatic cooperation with Russia being guided by the principles of sovereign equality and respect for each other’s interests.”
Well, hello! Where in this new Russian Concept might there be any trace of the Schmittian “friend-enemy” construct, which, dixit Schmitt, the Sovereign must define in order to found his Sovereignty! Put otherwise, “No Enemy? Find one! Provoke someone!”
The Flash-Ball Gun to “Hold back Chaos”
Where does one find any trace of the notion of “holding back chaos” (“retenir le chaos”) as lisped by E. Macron’s new and juvenile diplomatic advisor Miss Anastasia Colosimo? The latter teaches Schmitt’s Political Theology (sic) at a Neo-con nursery known as the Institut de Sciences Politiques (“Carl Schmitt had SUCH a brilliant idea … the thing to do is hold back chaos. That’s how I see myself as an intellectual, my mission is to hold back chaos.”)
Were it not for the difficulty in reading with a glass eye, the 26 Yellow Jackets who lost an eye to flash-balls shot by French police “holding back” non-existent “chaos,” would doubtless be most impressed.
Where in the new Russian Diplomatic Concept does one find any trace of “major” and “minor” nations, with supremacy as by right resting with the first? Or any trace of the notion of Grossraumor/Lebensraum, or of the notion of State of Exception as the prerogative cum crowning glory of the Sovereign’s power?
Schmitt writes: “National-socialist law is not one that embraces the universe and mankind… it is not universal. Our law is völkisch… it refers solely to the principle of taking into account each people’s peculiarities. The right to define what is German, what is the German substance, what must be done to safeguard German blood, is and remains a matter for the German people alone.”
Perfectly clear, thank you. Whereas, the international law to which the new Russian Concept refers, is natural law, the right to life of all peoples and nations, rather than some völkisch Slavophile edifice. It is a reflection of Socratic thought, nor can it be a mere coincidence that the late Daria Platonova Dougina took as patronymic the name of Socrates’ scribe and disciple Plato rather than that of her father Alexander.
To conclude, hats off to Professor Baumert who has twigged onto Schmitt’s modus operandi:
“Rather than ‘an art of writing’, one should prefer the term ‘rhetoric’ so as to emphasise the very practical aim Schmitt had set himself. His legal doctrine was designed, not as a science, which would have meant attempting to bring forth knowledge valid for some length of time, but as a form of struggle aimed at redefining legal notions along with the mental categories which enable one to apprehend them. Far from being a mere intellectual exercise, that struggle represents a full-out political ‘investment’. With that in mind, redefining concepts is of the essence, since it will likely allow one to win over to the cause, from within as it were, those who would otherwise reject it. That idea appears in Schmitt’s 1947 Glossarium where, under interrogation at Nuremberg, Schmitt addressed the following notes to himself:
“Take the measure of the power-holder who has got you in his grasp; against his moves, put up no counter-moves at the same level but let his power beat against your own power to conceive. He will seize upon your concepts. Let him but do so. He will soon slash his paws.”
And so, whether a medical doctor from Bregenz might ring Minister Sergey Lavrov to propose changes to Russian foreign policy, or a violinist from Ferrara write to Minister Gerasimov with advice on the Special Military Operation, is a thing hardly to be conceived. Accordingly, might one suggest that observers such as P.A. Plaquevent or the amiable Colonel Moreau, skilled as they may be in their respective fields, refrain from rooting about on the terrain of eminent legal scholars, such as Prof. Baumert or Dr. Hans Köchler, and immediately remove themselves from the path so thoughtfully traced for them by the Neo-Cons—unless of course, they wish to dig Russia’s grave.
Mendelssohn Moses writes from France. (Revised and amended from the original French on Réseau International).