un-art and poetry to mere literality

un-art and poetry to mere literality

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And he knew also that the duty of all art lay in this sort of truth, lay in the self-perceptive finding and proclaiming of truth, the duty which has been laid on the artist, so that the soul, realizing the great equilibrium between the ego and the universe, might recover herself in the universe, perceiving in this self-recognition that the deepening of the ego was an increase of substance in the universe, in the world, especially in humanity, and even though this doubled growth was only a symbolic one, bound from the beginning to the symbolization of the beautiful, to that of the beautiful boundary, even though it were but a symbolic perception, it was precisely by this means that it was enabled to widen the inner and outer boundaries of existence to new reality, even though these boundaries might not be crossed, widening them not merely to a new form but to the new content of reality which they enclosed, in which the deepest secret of reality, the secret of correlation was revealed, the mutual relation existing between the realities of the self and the world, which lent the symbol the precision of rightness and exalted it to be the symbol of truth, the truth-bearing correlation from which arose every creation of reality, pressing on through level after level, penetrating toward, groping toward the unattainable dark realms of beginning and ending, pushing on toward the inscrutable divinity in the universe, in the world, in the soul of one’s fellow-men, pushing on toward that ultimate spark of the divine, that secret, which, ready to be disclosed and to be awakened, could be found everywhere, even in the soul of the most degraded —, this, the disclosure of the divine through the self-perceptive knowledge of the individual soul, this was the task of art, its human duty, its perceptive duty and therefore its reason for being, the proof of which was art’s nearness to death, and its duty, since only in this nearness might art become real, only thus unfolding into a symbol of the human soul; verily this he knew.

But he knew also that the beauty of the symbol, were it ever so precise in its reality, was never its own excuse for being, that whenever such was the case, whenever beauty existed for its own sake, there art was attacked at its very roots, because the created deed then came to be its own opposite, because the thing created was then suddenly substituted for that which creates, the empty form for the true content of reality, the merely beautiful for the perceptive truth, in a constant confusion, in a constant cycle of change and reversion, an inbound cycle in which renewal was no longer possible, in which nothing more could be enlarged, in which there was nothing more to be discovered, neither the divine nor the abandoned, nor the abandoned in human divinity, but in which there was only intoxication with empty forms and empty words, whereby art through this lack of discrimination and even of fidelity, was reduced to un-art, and poetry to mere literality; verily, this he knew, knew it painfully.

The Death of Virgil, Hermann Broch

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