Geist and Zeitgeist

Hermann Broch, Author, Hermann Broch, Author Counterpoint LLC $30.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58243-168-0
Though best known to American scholars as an unsung master novelist (The Death of Virgil; The Sleepwalkers), Austrian-born Broch (1886-1951) also penned challenging, provocative essays. The six collected here, among the few to have been translated into English, represent the dominant themes in Broch's writings. For most of his life, the author concerned himself with the role of art in an era he felt was undergoing a ""dissolution of values."" Indeed, all but one of these essays are based on Broch's belief that Western culture had lost its unifying value-set, and was thus floundering, ethically and esthetically, as it waited for the emergence of another prevalent set of values. Not surprisingly, he champions art that represents universal human experience; he repeatedly cites James Joyce's Ulysses as being uniquely of its time, even as it revived the principles of Homeric myth. In ""Evil in the Value-System of Art,"" Broch argues that kitsch, because it is imitative rather than original and seeks beauty rather than truth, is ""the evil in art."" Broch's ideas and ideals are nothing if not rarified, but the rigor of his thought and the strength of his belief in art's ability-duty, even-to restore a culture's universal mythic knowledge is striking.
Reviewed on: 12/02/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
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