18 feb. 2011

The Twentieth Century

The 20th century really begins with the crisis of modernity, the absurdity of any kind of faith in modernity or progress. (Progress is a 19th century idea.) The Great War really means the failure of European modernity. The entre-deux-guerres period of 1918-1939 sees the rise of Fascism and the failure of the liberal idea when caught between Stalinism on the left and Fascism on the right. It was pretty clear that enlightenment Reason was not going to triumph. María Zambrano saw this pretty clearly. If reason could not prevail in Europe itself, where was it going to prevail?

We still talk about progress and "enlightened" opinion even today. Those are residual values that it doesn't make sense to abandon. Literary modernism, though, views modernity itself as Kafkaesque, whether in Kafka's own works, in existentialism or the theater or the absurd, in surrealism.

Modernity leaves humanity spiritually bereft. We can accept that condition in all of its absurdity, as in Kafka or Beckett. Or, in the case of Unamuno, Eliot, Lezama Lima, or Zambrano (or Robert Duncan), we can look for new/old forms of spirituality.

1 comentario:

Clarissa dijo...

I'm writing about Galdos and modernity right now. More than any other realist writer I know, Galdos was conscious of a very painful and traumatic break that was about to happen: the advent of modernity. The conflicts that his characters experience are often the result of a collapse of old certainties and a need to inscribe themselves into completely new modes of existence.

And what did I just say about constipated writing? Grrr... If anybody deserves to be written about in a good, beautiful language, it's Galdos.