Monday, June 18, 2012

Georg Büchner - the action of his art

     Büchner’s theme may indeed be the hopelessness of social and political life and, even further – as we shall see in Woyzeck – the degradation of the self in a world of outrage, but the action of his art has nothing to with categories like pessimism and optimism. His art is in fact a testament to an indestructible, if “impractical” and non-utilitarian, confidence.
     The point is that to make imagination speak like this in the face of despair about life is to perform an action that is as much a part of life as any other, and is therefore, in the most paradoxical-seeming way, an act of faith. More than that, Büchner’s alternative to history – which is what imaginative art might be thought of – constitutes his triumph over the very forces that on the level of sheer physical experience cause him to despair. In writing Danton’s Death Büchner added to life a new fact which is both a recognition of disaster and a cure for thinking it all there is. Like the classic writers of tragedy, he leaves us not in despair but in possession of a means for confronting what would otherwise have killed us behind our backs. - Richard Gilman

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