Monday, November 30, 2015

Favorite quotes from Detlev Claussen's Theodor W. Adorno: One Last Genius

Pictures taken by A/Z (Chaplin in a shop window in Lublin & work photographed at the Muzeum Lubelskie/temporary exhibition called "Against War," from Majdanek's State Museum);
Wikipedia: A Tool For the Ruling Elite (Helen Buyniski);

"... I've always thought that we should open a theme restaurant and call it Café Auschwitz..."
Michael Alig (in James St. James' Party Monster)
"... tout le monde sait que beaucoup de représentants de l'école de Francfort sont venus à Paris en 1935 pour y trouver refuge et qu'ils sont partis très rapidement, écoutés vraisemblablement — certains même l'ont dit —, en tout cas tirâtes, chagrins de n'avoir pas trouvé plus d'écho. Et puis, 1940 est arrivé, mais ils étaient déjà partis pour la Grande-Bretagne et pour l'Amérique, où ils ont été effectivement beaucoup mieux reçus..."
Michel Foucautl (Structuralisme et poststructuralisme, entretien avec G. Raulet)

This should work as an antidote for some of the crap written in the Internet about Adorno and the Frankfurt School:
"Adorno made use of Hofmannsthal’s strategy 'that he would rather give a good explanation for a weakness that he had been reproached with than deny it' in defending Marcel Proust against the accusation of snobbery. The fantasy of exalted origins ignited by an aristocratic name rescues the imagined person from the trammels of bourgeois competition" (: 28).
"The fact that Adorno’s mother, Maria Calvelli-Adorno, had enjoyed some success in Vienna as a court singer allowed Adorno to speak of Vienna as his 'second home'" (: 28).
"Personal secrets, the source of pleasure and suffering, are encoded as social riddles. The persistence with which Adorno keeps returning to Proust and Thomas Mann, George and Hofmannsthal, seems closely related to the 'childlike obstinacy' that he praises in Proust" (: 29).
"The Calvelli-Adornos were really outsiders and a bit of a motley crew, something that Teddie may well have found attractive" (: 31).
"It was produced on the piano, which was simply a piece of furniture, and those who set about it without fear of stumbling or playing false notes all belonged to the family" (: 32).
"… as an adult, Adorno used to play duets even with friends who were not professional musicians" (: 33).
"… Agathe, a highly accomplished pianist, whom Adorno sometimes called 'Dädd'…. Agathe was regarded as an impressive figure to be treated with respect. She insisted on the highest musical standards and was known for her apodictic judgments, but she also followed the intellectual fashions of the 1920’s, ranging from Kierkegaard to the cinema" (: 33).
"'I cannot express what losing [Agathe] really means to me; it is not so much the death of a relative as above all that of the person closest to me of all, my most faithful friend, a piece of nature that has always enabled me to regenerate myself. I am utterly at a loss and am only gradually coming to visualize the possibility that, and how, I am to go on living.'… 'This sounds highly excessive, but you can believe me that it does not contain an atom of exaggeration and sentimentality'" [Adorno to Krenek, 29 July 1935] (: 34).
"Only exceptional intellectual outsiders noticed that there might be something unusual about Benjamin. Hugo von Hofmannsthal was one of the first newly successful writers to note the extraordinary qualities of Benjamin’s type of criticism" (: 97).
"… Benjamin came to believe that he had grasped the situation of the intellectual who could no longer live either as a citizen or as a traditional artist. Questions of theology, metaphysics, and even esoteric thought remained unresolved in 1919" (: 98).
"Benjamin’s criticism derived its strength from a changed view of the past, one that did not shy away from theological consequences. Paul Klee’s Angel, which he bought in 1921, stimulated him to ever newer interpretations and self-interpretations. In a material sense, this picture of an angel bound him to two intellectual opposites – to Gerhard Scholem, who for a long time looked after the Angel for the homeless Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno, who was sent the picture in New York after it had been cut from its frame following Benjamin’s death" (: 101).
"[Adorno's] own mothers, Maria and Agathe, together with his imaginary origins in the Genoan nobility, suddenly appear remarkably insignificant in comparison with Helene Berg, a great beauty who was able to discuss questions of composition on an equal footing with Alban. The impression of grandeur was further enhanced by the proximity of Berg’s house in Trautmannsdorfgasse to the Schönbrunn Palace…." (?).
"'I hung magnetically upon the book [Minima Moralia] for days, and every day I took it up it proved the most fascinating reading'" [Thomas Mann to Adorno, 9 January 1952, in Correspondence, 1943-1955, p. 73] (: 116).
"Adorno lavishes praise on the opening sequences of Charlie Chaplin’s film The Circus: 'Absolute genius!'" [“Notizen über Eisler”, p. 122] (: 161).
"'Scarcely had the actor departed than Chaplin was already mimicking the scene. So close to horror is the laughter he provoked that only from close up can it acquire its legitimacy and its salutary aspect'" [Adorno, “Zweimal Chaplin”, in Ohne Leitbild: Parva Aesthetica, Ags, vol. 10.1, pp. 365f.] (: 165).
"In a congratulatory telegram to Chaplin on his seventy-fifth birthday, he refers to him as a 'Bengal tiger as vegetarian.' The German reader of 1964 would have found it almost impossible to grasp the significance of such an allusion in Adorno’s works. Adorno believed Chaplin capable of extracting a form of reconciliation from the barbarism of the Culture Industry, symbolized here by the image of the predator. The current belief that Adorno’s elitist preference for high culture implied a contempt for the film as an art form is contradicted not only by the value he placed on Chaplin but also by the esteem in which he held Lang. Film had been a prominent feature in the Adorno household from the 1920’s on. He went regularly to the cinema with his aunt Agathe and was able to discuss films on equal terms with the much older Siegfried Kracauer" (: 172).
"In a rage, Adorno grabbed his hat and coat, but unfortunately they were Lang’s, not his own. 'He then presented a comic sight… The hat was much too large and slipped down over his ears; the coat was far too long and Adorno’s hands and arms disappeared inside them…'" (: 173).
"Adorno does not just distance himself from Marxist ideology but develops the idea that 'as with many other elements of dialectical materialism, the notion of ideology has changed from an instrument of knowledge into its strait-jacket'" [“Cultural Criticism and Society”, Prisms] (: 207).
"Politically, Horkheimer had long since broken with all organizations connected with the labor movement… after the beginning of the Moscow show trials – he wanted nothing more to do with communists in the party" (: 210).
"…it was Mao Tse-tung’s China that Horkheimer regarded as the scene of the bloodiest terror; he speaks again and again of the 20 million dead Chinese sacrificed to the planned process of industrialization" (: 222).
"'I have learned from you that the possibility of wanting change need not be purchased with the renunciation of one’s own happiness…'" [Adorno to Horkheimer, 14 February 1965, also “Offener Brief an Max Horkheimer”] (: 245).
"Only by recognizing sensuous experiences as historically variable would it prove possible to restore the dimension of enlightenment to the study of physiognomy. In 1957 Adorno wrote an enthusiastic review of a psychoanalytically oriented study by Paul Moses, 'The Voice of neurosis,' with the subtitle 'Physiognomy of the Voice,' a title that itself evoked memories of the Enlightenment tradition associated with Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. He conceived of this 'physiognomy' as an 'expressive science'" [“Physiognomik der Stimme” (1957), AGS, vol. 20.2, p. 510] (: 254).
"… 'I have been sacked from my job as a dishwasher because I couldn’t work fast enough'... Now, he [Bloch] went on, he was working as a paper packer. What Adorno made of this was: 'He now has no time for writing. His relation to paper has finally become realistic. He packs it in bundles, eight hour a day, standing in a dark hole'" (: 296).
"The term 'coldness' cannot be applied to Bloch as a human being… One need only open Bloch’s political essays from the thirties, however, to feel the icy wind of abstract political judgments with which the Moscow murders are observed.../ Such passages in Bloch’s writings had alarmed Benjamin and caused him to judge that Bloch was 'un peu dépaysé,' a little disoriented" (: 298).
"Adorno’s notes, unpublished during his lifetime, point clearly to the affection he felt for Eisler, who, despite his exaggerated left-wing radicalism, could count on the fierce support of Schoenberg…" (: 302).
"While Brecht used his work on one new play after another as a kind of drug, Eilser, by his own admission, took increasingly to Scotch" (: 303).
"To this day critics have largely ignored Adorno’s remark that not only had the official musical life in the United states been transformed since his time there as an émigré but also that in the second half of the sixties he had observed 'a very vigorous and spontaneous' interest from below that had generated an authentic 'resistance to the Culture Industry' by such musicians as 'John Cage and his school'" [“Anmerkungen zum deutschen Musikleben,” 17: 168] (: 309).
"Because of his experience of America, he defended the injunction to 'keep smiling' as a practical form of humanity, but at his first place of work, in Princeton, he must have appeared more or less unapproachable" (: 311).
"Even when living under the conditions of actually existing socialism, Lukács could gaze out stoically from a beautiful old house onto a view of Budapest’s Chain Bridge, at the same time that he was accusing Adorno of living comfortably in the Grand Hotel Abyss" (: 315).
"What is needed to form a school is the kind of pupil-teacher relationship that characterized the Second Viennese School, with Schoenberg at its head and Berg as a teacher. Habermas was never a pupil of Adorno’s in that sense: as a young man Habermas did not discuss his own projects with Adorno" (: 318).
"[Horkheimer ] insisted on this in his letter to Adorno; 'the world is full of revolution, and thanks to it terror is on the increase.' Adorno noted in the margin, 'Yes'" [Max Horkheimer to Theodor W. Adorno, 27 September 1958] (: 319).
"Adorno’s theory liberates aesthetic experience from the shackles of political and practical utility… / This experience is negated by a conception of the unity of theory and practice that is idealist in reality, even though it purports to be entirely materialist. As early as 1944 Adorno had observed how in Brecht, Auschwitz had disappeared behind a rationalistically constructed Marxism. In his late writings, Horkheimer had already considered the issue of why Marx’s essay On The Jewish Question had been marked by rationalist elements that tended to insulate him from historical realities" (: 327).
"'Misunderstandings are the medium in which the non-communicable is communicated'" ["A Portrait of Walter Benjamin", Prisms] (: 329).
"[Adorno’s interpretation of anti-Semitism in The Authoritarian Personality] not as the function of an authoritarian national character but as a historically determined manifestation of violence (: 335) that could not be eliminated simply by an enlightened program of information."
"'It would be advisable… to think of progress in the crudest, most basic terms: that no one should go hungry anymore, that there should be no more torture, no more Auschwitz. Only then will the idea of progress be fee from lies. It is not a progress of consciousness'" ["Graeculus II: Notizen zu Philosophie und Gesellschaft, 1943-1969", p. 8] (: 338).
"'For all his sagacity, anyone who writes like [Habermas] writes with blinkers on; he lacks bon sens and intellectual tact'" (: 346).
*****Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno. One Last Genius. Translated by Rodney Livingstone. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008.

This question comes from another book, and is also quite interesting:
"Can we be certain, for example, that for [Adorno], as for the utopian messianism and materialism of Benjamin and Bloch, the realms of the inanimate (i.e., of minerals, stones, plants, mere objects, and “things”) and also of the dead or, more precisely, the no longer, not yet, or not quite living (nonpresent past and future generations, ghosts, and angels) are ultimately excluded from the prepredicative responsiveness and responsibility that Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Habermas, McDowell, and, in their footsteps, Bernstein reserve for a conception of the re-enchanted, that is to say, second nature conceived of as exclusively human?" Hent de Vries, Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno & Levinas (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2005, p. 552-3, note 57).
Another book that should be mentioned is Richard Leppert's edition of Adorno's Essays on Music (translated by Susan H. Gillespie; Univ. of California Press, 2002). There we learn that Adorno was a very open-minded admirer not only of the work of Chaplin, but also of the work of figures such as John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Pierre Boulez.

See also:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Brazil's most recent contribution to the disillusionment of humanitarian rhetoric

Bonna Petit!!! (A/Z, 2017);

"Ustedes saben lo que significa  esta campaña para nuestra causa. Quiere decir que he comprometido mi honor en vano?... Quiere  decir que hemos mentido al país en  vano?... Las  generaciones futuras so  llamadas a juzgar. Confío en que haya republicanos que me defiendan. Toda mi conducta ha  estado orientada a la defensa de la República, que debe hacer sentir su autoridad en todos los rincones si quiere que el país progrese."
Moreira César (Vargas Llosa/La Guerra del Fin del Mundo)

After being arrested, the senator Delcídio do Amaral now says that “it was for humanitarian reasons” that he plotted to “help” Mr. Cerveró flying to Spain.*** 
Here we have the sixth largest economy of the world sank into a serious economic crisis and the environmental tragedy of Mariana. The senator Delcídio Amaral was the political articulator of the government in the House of Senators. 
By “disillusionment of humanitarian rhetoric,” I don’t mean that Delcídio is lying (although he is). What he says, on the other hand, is not simply false. It is rather true, because the meaning of words such as “humanitarian” as they have been used by this leftist government is now completely eroded. And it won't be available in the near future for any wing whatsoever.  
Regression will only be worse if the right pretend to be more "humanitarian" than the left, and start to do so by rushing to dismantle the social policies that have been so far implemented.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Most of the pictures were taken somewhere between the IBB Grand Hotel Lublinianka and Zamek Lubelski. Many were taken inside Muzeum Lubelskie, and inside the Dominican church (for more, see here).

"[for Caillois] the animal's camouflage does not serve its life, because it occurs in the realm of vision, whereas animal hunting takes place in the medium of smell. Mimicry is not adaptive behaviour; instead it is a peculiarly psychotic yielding to the call of space. It is a failure to maintain the boundaries between inside and outside, figure and ground... Caillois compares this to the experience of schizophrenics. 'Space seems for these dispossessed souls to be a devouring force'" (Rosalind Krauss, The Optical Unconscious).

See also:


Most of the pictures were taken somewhere along the street Nowy Świat, in between Muzeum Narodowe and nearby Rynek Starego Miasta. There are many churches in this region, and they are certainly worth visiting. Many pictures were taken inside the Muzeum Narodowe and inside Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina. For more see here

"... o que você sentiu... talvez tenha sido apenas à custa de não ter opinião precisa sobre os grandes homens..."
Clarice Lispector/o professor (Perto do Coração Selvagem)
"— Der letzte der neueren Musiker, der die Schönheit geschaut und angebetet hat, gleich Leopardi, der Pole Chopin, der Unnachahmliche — alle vor und nach ihm Gekommenen haben auf diess Beiwort kein Anrecht — Chopin hatte die selbe fürstliche Vornehmheit der Convention, welche Raffael im Gebrauche der herkömmlichen einfachsten Farben zeigt, — aber nicht in Bezug auf Farben, sondern auf die melodischen und rhythmischen Herkömmlichkeiten."
Nietzsche (Menschliches Allzumenschliches)

"Joyce said, 'They had better hurry. War is going to break out, and nobody will be reading my book anymore.' On March 15 Hitler took over what remained of Czechoslovakia, and soon after seized Memel from Lithuania, extorted concessions from Rumania, and demanded from Poland Danzig and a way through the Polish Corridor. Joyce decided to move again, from the flat at 7 rue Edmond Valentin which, without Lucia, was too large, to another at 34 rue de Vignes."
Richard Ellmann
"... the group's original name, Warsaw, was chosen mainly because of Polish capital's associations with World War II (the uprising of the Jewish ghetto, the razing of the Old City) and the Eastern Bloc (Soviet totalitarianism, the cold war). Like the word 'Berlin,' 'Warsaw' conjured mind's-eye imagery of desolate urban space: a city rebuilt rapidly after wartime devastation, all spartan apartment high-rises, government ministries straight out of Orwell's 1984, and disquietingly wide streets designed to allow for the passage of Russian tanks... Joy division came from House of Dolls..."
Simon Reynolds (Rip It Up)
"Negotiations between Hitler and the British and French Prime Ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, resulted in the infamous Munich Agreement (September 1938), which allowed the annexation of Sudetenland to Germany. The Allies did not respond either to Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939 or to Mussolini's invasion of Albania on 7 April... The partition of Poland had been prepared in August, when the German and Soviet Foreign Ministers, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, signed a non-aggression pact... Stalin's opportunistic collaboration [with Hitler] was underlined in the Red Army's simultaneous attack on Finland. The Soviet invasion of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia followed in June 1940. This coincided with the crushing force of German Blitzkrieg in the west. In April [it] swept through Denmark and invaded Norway, where they met their first serious resistance. In May they pushed through the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg; they entered France on 10 May..."
Matthew Gale

"Schon meiner Abkunft nach ist mir ein Blick erlaubt jenseits aller bloß lokal, bloß national bedingten Perspektiven, es kostet mich keine Mühe, ein 'guter Europäer' zu sein. Andrerseits bin ich vielleicht mehr deutsch, als jetzige Deutsche, bloße Reichsdeutsche es noch zu sein vermöchten,—ich, der letzte antipolitische Deutsche. Und doch waren meine Vorfahren polnische Edelleute: ich habe von daher viel Rassen-Instinkte im Leibe, wer weiß? zuletzt gar noch das liberum veto. Denke ich daran, wie oft ich unterwegs als Pole angeredet werde und von Polen selbst, wie selten man mich für einen Deutschen nimmt, so könnte es scheinen, daß ich nur zu den angesprenkelten Deutschen gehörte."
Nietzsche [traditionelle Version]
"Ich bin ein polnischer Edelmann pur sang, dem auch nicht ein Tropfen schlechtes Blut beigemischt ist, am wenigsten deutsches... als Pole bin ich ein ungeheurer Atavismus. Man würde Jahrhunderte zurückzugehn haben, um diese vornehmste Rasse, die es auf Erden gab, in dem Masse instinktrein zu finden, wie ich sie darstelle. Ich habe gegen Alles, was heute noblesse heisst, ein souveraines Gefühl von Distinktion, — ich würde dem jungen deutschen Kaiser nicht die Ehre zugestehn, mein Kutscher zu sein. Es giebt einen einzigen Fall, wo ich meines Gleichen anerkenne — ich bekenne es mit tiefer Dankbarkeit. Frau Cosima Wagner ist bei Weitem die vornehmste Natur; und, damit ich kein Wort zu wenig sage, sage ich, dass Richard Wagner der mir bei Weitem verwandteste Mann war… Der Rest ist Schweigen…"
Nietzsche [kritische Version]

- "The extreme partisanship and toxic rhetoric of Poland’s state media, controlled directly by Law and Justice (PiS) since its victory in parliamentary elections in 2015, has shocked Polish moderates and garnered international attention and criticism. Observers note that a contested result would have been adjudicated by a controversial chamber of the country’s supreme court packed with PiS loyalists appointed by Duda himself," "It feels like it's game over': Polish liberals despair after Duda's win" (Christian Davies/The Guardian);
- "PiS won power in 2015 and embarked on an agenda that has mixed rightwing populist rhetoric on social and cultural issues with increased government spending. Duda has been a loyal ally, signing off on almost all of the PiS legislative programme, as the government has been accused of democratic backsliding and weakening the rule of law by European officials and civil society organisations," "Poland Set for dirty political campaign before presidential run-off" (Shaun Walker /The Guardian)
-  "Since winning power in 2015, PiS has moved to snuff out opposition not only through controlling the public broadcaster but by using taxpayers’ money to pay women to have more children and to increase pensions. It has also used its power to erode the independence of the judiciary by interfering in the appointment of judges and forcing them into early retirement," "Poland's Retreat from Europe" (Judy Dempsey/Carnegie Europe)