Fate and Modern Art: We Are Alone with the Alone

This brings us again to the fate of modern art. Schoenberg still hoped that somewhere there would be at least one listener who would truly understand his atonal music. It was only his greatest pupil, Anton Webern, who accepted the fact that there is no listener, no big Other to receive the work and properly recognize its value. In literature, James Joyce still counted on future generations of literary critics as his ideal public, claiming that he wrote Finnegans Wake to keep them occupied for the next 400 years. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, we, writers and readers, have to accept that we are alone, reading and writing at our own risk, with no guarantee from the big Other. (It was Beckett who drew this conclusion in his break with Joyce.)

—Slavoj Zizek, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism

4 thoughts on “Fate and Modern Art: We Are Alone with the Alone

  1. Beckett said—and wrote, of course—a lot of things that upset even the strongest of minds. It’s so easy (lazy) to slap a label on his—and others exploring existential realms—work rather than deal with its fundaments: “No one and nothing cares for us.”

    “For it’s crucial to keep ourselves, as a species, interested in ourselves. When that goes, we tip into the void, we harden to rock, we blow away and disappear. Art has been given to us to keep us interested and engaged—rather than distracted by materialism or sated with boredom—so that we can attach to this life, a life which might, otherwise, be an unbearable one.”—Lorrie Moore

    Liked by 1 person

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