Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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February 10, 2011
pessimism's antidote: pessimism

In the face of hopeful developments, how best to maintain today's obligatory jaded style, one's cynical persona? Perhaps by trying to cop a formula like this, maybe in some artistic form:
You don't lose much when the landlord's house burns down. Another landlord will always turn up . . . . What difference does it make, seeing you've got to pay . . .

(formula taken from p. 43, here)

The above has also been rendered as follows:
No great loss, when the landlord's house burns down.... There will be rent to pay just the same.

This second way to put it appeared in "Novelist and Politician," an October 1935 Atlantic Monthly book review essay by a writer formerly based in Russia.

The impressive Anti-Caste blog has much more of the review, here.

However, the review goes on to say:
Generally speaking, that is the law governing the movement of art: it moves through the reciprocal repulsion of tendencies. . . .

The struggle against pretense in art always grows to a lesser or greater measure into the struggle against the injustice of human relations. The connection is self-evident: art which loses the sense of the social lie inevitably defeats itself by affectation, turning into mannerism. . . .

But, exposing the lie, he instills the want for a more harmonious future. Though he himself may consider that nothing good can generally come from man, the very intensity of his pessimism bears within it a dose of the antidote.

The 1935 review is newly noted here by the L'Empire des Signes blog. The latter found it in a blog post here by Arnaud Maïsetti, who seems to be wrong on one point: "Prinkipo" is not the title of "la revue" in which the essay was first published, but rather another name for Büyükada, the island where the author (in exile) drafted it.