Mariátegui on Brandes

Mariátegui wrote about Georg Brandes in a 1927 article that is included in El artista y la época. Brandes and his good friend Rilke had just died. Hays they [cara a Goethe y a Nietzche–what DOES “cara a” mean, really?] belong to the tribe of good Europeans. Brandes especially. His study of Ibsen was one of the first to explain Europe, and he wrote it in German so he would be read.

Brandes opposed the limitations of all nationalisms, but was no internationalist. This is because the internationalism of the 19th century was white and Brandes was Jewish. He was also European and not thinking about other continents. Key characteristics of Brandes were his individualism and rationalism. He was bourgeois and not down with the people. He liked heroes. He represents bourgeois, liberal democracy but did not consider himself democratic.

Great men, he said, didn’t represent their civilizations but the start of a new state of civilization. He preferred to call himself a radical; his essay on his great friend Nietzche was subtitled “essay on radical aristocracy.”

Due his individualism and rationalism he could not love the 20th century, which he started to be irritated at when Bergson’s philosophy began to be propagated. In a 1925 interview with Frederic Lefèbre, he made fun of intuition, which he said must be left to the (female) admirers of Bergson. He wanted reason, not Freudianism with its “obscene and inhuman fantasies.” He thought psychoanalysis could be left to its US adepts. Who he liked was Einstein.

Again, he could not handle the 20th century. His criticism descends in part from Rénan, and he became a negative pessimist, not understanding bolshevism or fascism at all. He thought that the idea of Europe was over, now that these things had come in. So now in 1927, people look at him as a survivor of the 19th century. The US journalist Clair Price called him a survivor of Europe.

Giovanni Papini wrote a dictionary of savage men and called Brandes one, in anti-Semitic terms, and saying he was far too wedded to the holy trinity of Voltaire-Taine-Heine. But Mariátegui likes him, in particular for remaining faithful to his ideals and for rejecting reactionary novelty.

I, of course, continue to be impressed by Mariátegui, and charmed that he wrote about Brandes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s