Egon Schiele: Portraits at the Neue Galerie

Egon Schiele: Die Familie (1918).

Egon Schiele: Die Familie (1918).

The current Egon Schiele: Portraits exhibition at the Neue Galerie, running through January 19, 2015, is an instructive and inspiring occasion for those of us fascinated by the role of portraiture in Austrian and German art from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (The gallery knows this, too: a smaller exhibition, Austrian Portraiture in the Early Twentieth Century, with fine work by Klimt, Richard Gerstl, and others, accompanies the Schiele show in the same building.) Like the Met’s Glitter and Doom German Portraits from the 1920s of 2006, it is a unique opportunity to examine the crisis of subjectivity in early Modernism from the idiosyncratic perspective of Vienna from approximately 1890 to 1918.

Perhaps crisis is too strong a word. “Reappropriation” may be more like it. The 125 items in the Schiele exhibition offer a variety of perspectives on bourgeois, erotic, and self-portraiture, powerfully questioning the very basis of subjectivity in fin-de-siecle Vienna — a Vienna, as I wrote recently, permeated with the explorations of Freud in psychology, Schnitzler and Musil in literature, Schoenberg and Webern in music. Portraiture and self-portraiture may well have been one of the earliest forms of visual art, even in the cave paintings at Lascaux. But the recognition of irrationality and the death/eros drive in human consciousness exemplified in Freud, Schnitzler, and Musil — and certainly in Schiele, Klimt, the German Expressionists and the painters of the New Objectivity — rendered this portraiture more of a challenge to the individual spectator, whose grasp on his own status as a subject was called into question.

The oil-on-canvas portraits of Schiele’s patrons and friends portray their subjects detached from their surroundings, alone, and here the sketchy, spidery outlines of the body and richly stylized textures of the flesh offer the first indication of Schiele’s conception of the body and the flesh themselves as its own momento mori (no skulls necessary, as in the portraiture of the Northern Renaissance, to which much portraiture of the entire 1890-1933 period is indebted). More indicative of the challenge to subjectivity, however, are the self-portraits and erotic portraits on paper, amply represented in the Neue Galerie show.

The highly sexualized nude self-portraits are especially evocative of fragility and mortality: the sharp angularity suggested by the thin pencil or charcoal lines is particularly susceptible to breakage, straight lines that seem in their brittleness to allow for little bending. Schiele stares out at the viewer in a challenge to evaluate the self as dangerously fragile — and here, perhaps, the question of subjectivity begins to become particularly acute. The subject’s glare outward into the eyes of the spectator is a challenge not to criticism but to compassion; there are two ways we can respond to this glare, through revulsion or acceptance. We can, instead, ourselves enter into the subjective perspective of the sitter (in this case the artist’s self) and contemplate our own fragility, our own mortality. Perhaps the most important of the tools Schiele used in this work was a full-length mirror, seconded from his family and an invitation to closer self-examination, not only of the face but of the nude body. But this is a painful self-examination, a painful attempt to recognize suffering and mortality.

If we accept the challenge to enter into the subjectivity of the portrait’s subject, we respond with compassion and even erotic excitement rather than disgust. Schiele’s masturbation becomes a temporary denial of mortality, even as the fragility of the body confirms that death is ultimately inescapable. When this compassion is extended to Schiele’s erotically explicit portraits of women, it becomes even more liberating for the spectator’s subjectivity. Far from pornography but intensely erotic, many of these women too stare out shamelessly at the spectator; those who don’t offer up their genitalia shamelessly too. The stockings and shoes the women wear are invitations, too, to compare the textile sensuality of these clothes with the fragile flesh itself. But it’s not an invitation to intercourse as much as an invitation to enter into the perspective and condition of the portrait’s subject, to feel what she feels, to empathize with her condition: again, a temporary denial of mortality for a more glorious celebration of sensuality. At the same time, the body remains the site of the flesh’s fragility: ultimately these are portraits of the tragedy of the limits of sensual experience. Instead of staring back at the subject, we, through the artist’s mediation, enter her challenge and experience, we infuse the portrait with our own subjectivity.

The painters of German Expressionism, and especially those of the New Objectivity, urbanized these alienated figures, placing them within the context of the industrial city, but shared the same concern with subjectivity and eroticism as Schiele and Klimt. Portraiture — especially in its most figurative mode — divorces identity from the face or the body and renders the subject/object distinction particularly problematic. If the body is both subject and object simultaneously in portraiture, the spectator is encouraged to perceive his or her own body in this dual status; and if that’s the case, we can make the compassionate leap from our own status as spectator to the portrait-subject’s status as object for contemplation, and vice versa. It is a particularly liberating project — and, as conservatives protecting the status quo were well aware, a revolutionary project as well.

Certainly Schiele was a victim of these conservatives too: a room of the Neue Galerie exhibition is dedicated to his arrest and imprisonment in Neulengbach in 1912 on morals charges. The stunning paintings he created during his 24-day imprisonment are held by the Albertina museum in Austria but represented here in high-quality reproductions. (This room, accentuated by a recording of Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht, also holds a cast of Schiele’s death mask.) The arrest and imprisonment shook Schiele to the core, and it was then that he began to consider marriage and parenthood — an entry into a bourgeois lifestyle that he had until then resisted. In 1915 he married Edith Harms (whose portrait serves as the signature image for the exhibition), but he never had the chance to see whether he could reconcile his irrational erotic yearnings with bourgeois life — a common theme of literature and art of the period. His last painting, 1918’s poignant Die Familie, depicts a man, a woman, and a child, the nucleus of human community. That same year, however, the six-month-pregnant Edith died after contracting the Spanish flu. Schiele died of the same disease three days later.

Schiele and other portraitists of 1890-1933 did not exhaust the exploration of the social challenges to — and potential redemptive possibilities of — radical subjectivity in art. I see the same dynamics examined in very different ways in the theatre work of Howard Barker and Richard Foreman, for example. (They offer themselves a new expressionism in the form of drama and theatre, their plays as much a kind of portraiture as anything else.) As this exhibition demonstrates, the culture has grown no wiser.

Egon Schiele: Portraits runs through January 19; more information about the exhibition here. A very handsome catalog of the show edited by curator Alessandra Comini is available from here.

Hands up, don’t shop

Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir at Joe's Pub.

Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir at Joe’s Pub.

A new anger is fuelling the performances of Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, who will make their final appearance of the season at Joe’s Pub this Sunday at 2.00pm. In the immediate wake of the Ferguson decision, the group’s service became more bitter, more tragic — perhaps because that decision (as well as the grand jury decision not to bring charges in the Eric Garner death) underscored how desperate the legacy of racism has become in 21st-century America. In the days following the last time I saw them on November 23, the group travelled to both Ferguson and Monsanto headquarters in Missouri for protest actions.

This anger is real and sincere, and has necessitated a scaling-back of the irony and parody that have informed the group’s practices over the past few years. There’s been no slacking in the quality of both the choir’s and Bill Talen’s performances, but there’s less laughter — maybe because there’s less to laugh about. What differentiates the group’s recent work from many other protest actions is that Talen, his collaborator Savitri D, and the choir see all these issues — the growing corporatization of private spaces and daily life, racism, self-gratification, consumerism — as intimately connected. A recent Facebook post from the group is a “serious parody” of theologist Martin Niemöller‘s commentary on Nazi Germany:

First they came for the druggies who tried to make their fantasy economy away from the bigger killers, but I did not speak out, because I’m white with powder cocaine. Then they came for the immigrants, flooded by Clinton’s subsidized corn and dragged screaming by ICE from their homes, and I did not speak out, because I’m sitting here waiting for my Mexican cook to bring me my pasta special. Then they came for the poverty-dizzied young from zip codes like Bed-Stuy and the Bronx, fed into the for-profit prison pipeline, and I did not speak out, because where do you start? It’s a national operation run by Wall Street. Then one day the Earth came for me, the ocean turned to acid sweeping through the streets, and I cannot protect my family, because America is declared a permanent emergency, and the cops and soldiers are the same guy, jailing us in our upstairs apartment, and no-one is left to speak for me because permits to speak in public are rationed by Chase Bank.

The parody flirts with absurdity, but its hallucinatory, exaggerated quality underscores the desperation of our time.

In an otherwise laudatory Village Voice review of the group’s current residency, Tom Sellar writes, “It’s not a great choice for the soulless Joe’s Pub, where patrons are served drinks and gaze at these rollicking activists as if they’re merely a diversion. Despite rousing calls to action … , the room and its hovering waiters position us in the very consumer spirit the choir warns against. Our sin-sick nation needs Reverend Billy and his flock more than ever right now — but on the front lines, not in a cabaret.” Tom’s comment would have somewhat more validity if other plays about the scourges of our time at other non-profit theatres also took it to the streets; but the group has been on the front lines for years, risking arrest and violence, which is more than one can say for other playwrights and theatre groups seeking to parade their political relevance and hand-over-heart sincerity.

The Joe’s Pub appearance (and I urge you to attend their final 2014 “service” this Sunday afternoon at 2.00pm) serves three purposes: it keeps the group in the public eye in downtown New York, it rouses their determination to perform collective actions, and it helps them pay the bills — after all, Talen, Savitri D, and the choir itself have families to support and mouths to feed. I also urge you to make a year-end contribution to Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir here; their winter drive is to raise $10,000, which is a very, very modest goal indeed. After all, things appear to be getting worse, not better, for our children; this is one way for us soulless Joe’s Pub patrons to make a difference.

New books: Paul Celan

Paul Celan.

Paul Celan.

Paul Celan remains one of the most significant poets of the twentieth century. The two great poems of his early career, “Death Fugue” (circa 1945) and “Stretto” (1958), were respectively informed, if not inspired, by the Holocaust and the detonation of the atomic bomb. His body of work was a response, if not a riposte, to Adorno’s speculation that poetry was impossible in the wake of Auschwitz and Hiroshima; as Peter Szondi put it, “After Auschwitz no poem is any longer possible except on the basis of Auschwitz” — which is only to say that the only valid poetic imagination was that which was irrevocably cognizant that Auschwitz and Hiroshima were verifiable, inescapable facts of human behavior and linguistic history.

Paul_Celan_Breathturn_lowBoth poems have generated a great deal of secondary literature, but Celan went even further with the poems in the second half of his career, which like Beckett’s late plays became increasingly difficult but hauntingly lucid nonetheless, radically concentrated — not least because any criticism explicating these plays and poems could never match the intensity of these plays and poems themselves as they attempt to reclaim the German language (and, perhaps by extension, human language itself) as a vehicle for the expression of love. So it is with great pleasure that I read of the publication this month of Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry — A Bilingual Edition from Farrar Straus and Giroux, translated by Pierre Joris. Joris has gathered six of Celan’s late books (three of which were published posthumously) in this 736-page collection, which also includes an introduction by Joris and extensive notes. Published on December 4, so far its release has been greeted with silence.

Below are Joris’ translations of two short lyrics from Timestead, posthumously published six years after Celan’s 1970 suicide. For me, they exemplify a considerable distance travelled from “Death Fugue” and “Stretto” (both of these available in Joris’ earlier collection of Celan translations; the translations below are from that earlier volume and may not appear identically in the new collection) — a mission rendered incomplete by his death, but evocative nonetheless, poems perhaps about love, fertility, and fatherhood:

As I carry the ringshadow
you carry the ring,

something, used to heaviness,
strains itself
lifting us,
de-eternalizing you.

Illuminated, the seeds
which I in you
won swimming,

rowed free,
the names — they
sail the straits,

a blessing, up front,
compacts into
a weather-sensing

Upcoming: Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh

Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane in the Goodman Theatre production of The Iceman Cometh.

Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane in the Goodman Theatre production of The Iceman Cometh.

Robert Falls’ production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy, will open at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on February 5, 2015, running through March 15. More information and tickets here. In 2010, I wrote about the play itself.

The Iceman Cometh. A play in four acts by Eugene O’Neill. New York premiere: Martin Beck Theatre, 9 October 1946. Production and lighting design by Robert Edmond Jones; produced by The Theatre Guild; directed by Eddie Dowling. With James Barton (Hickey), Carl Benton Reid (Larry Slade), Dudley Digges (Harry Hope), Paul Crabtree (Don Parritt), E.G. Marshall (Willie Oban), Jeanne Cagney (Marcie), Leo Chalzel (Hugo Kalmar) and others. Closed 15 March 1947 (136 performances). Text: The Iceman Cometh, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006. With an introduction by Harold Bloom.

If you were to ply me with drinks at a cocktail party (which doesn’t happen often enough, by the way) and ask for my nominee for the greatest American play of the twentieth century, my answer would be The Iceman Cometh, without hesitation. One of O’Neill’s two great masterworks of the postwar period, O’Neill completed the play in 1939 then withheld it from production for the duration of World War II; it opened in 1946, seven years later. “A New York audience could neither see nor hear its meaning,” he wrote to Lawrence Langer. “The pity and tragedy of defensive pipe dreams would be deemed downright unpatriotic. … But after the war is over, I am afraid … that American audiences will understand a lot of The Iceman Cometh only too well.”1 O’Neill was wrong about this; the play lasted a scant six months on Broadway, its power and brilliance recognized only with the 1956 revival of the play off-Broadway at the Circle in the Square theatre, directed by Jose Quintero and featuring Jason Robards as Hickey (Robards’ performance as Hickey in the 1985 Broadway revival of the play, also directed by Quintero, is one of the most indelible memories of my entire theatregoing experience). And it is the product, most certainly, of a tragic, and not a comic, consciousness.

O’Neill’s consideration that the play might be received as “unpatriotic” points to the peculiarly American nature of its theme — the “pipe-dream” as the dream of America, new beginnings and, once again, a prelapsarian experience that would leave European history behind. I use the word “theme” deliberately, for the play’s structure itself doesn’t resemble the three-act structure of Ibsen or the five-act structure of Shakespeare but rather the four-movement structure of a symphony, containing a theme and its variations more important than a storyline. O’Neill’s reputation as a repetitious writer may have some of its ground in a consideration of the play’s four-hour length, but it was not a failing of O’Neill’s work as much as a well-considered compositional approach. O’Neill scholar Travis Bogard cites a moment during rehearsals for the play when producer Lawrence Langer noted that one point had been made eighteen times — “O’Neill told him ‘in a particularly quiet voice, “I intended it to be repeated eighteen times!”‘”

The musical structure is additionally revealed in the first act of the play, by far the longest of the four at 81 pages in the published text. The fifteen denizens of Harry Hope’s backroom (no doubling possible here, either), significantly set in 1912, just before the First World War, engage in a lengthy polyphonic fugue of their dreams and aspirations, all of which they will fulfill “tomorrow”; it is a suite of voices of varying tone and note. And it is a polyglot tongue with which the play speaks, reflecting also the mass immigration to America at the turn of the century; Dutch, Irish, British; a Harvard-educated law student next to a cop and a carnival barker; Hugo Kalmar, an anarchist revolutionary who has spent ten years in prison and upon his release has been easily assimilated into the America which Harry Hope’s back room signifies;  and the black Joe Mott.2

There are three women as well, generating an aural soundscape of urban America at the time.

At the end of the act the salesman Hickey arrives for his annual bender on the occasion of barowner Harry Hope’s 60th birthday, but he arrives this time selling something to the denizens of the bar — a release from illusion and pipe-dreams, urging them to take action to make these dreams true. It is, as it transpires, something of a trick; Hickey knows that none will be able to do so, but convinces them to make the effort in a project to bring “truth.” In attempting to reveal the lies beneath human hope, he reveals also the nothingness that lies beneath both eros and death.

The title of the play, The Iceman Cometh, is a sickly double-entendre marrying death and orgasm; while death is the iceman, so is Hickey, for even the peace to be found in death is an illusion. Perhaps its key can be found in the realization achieved by Larry Slade, an ex-anarchist who believes he has resigned himself to the failures of the human spirit, describing himself as a “grandstander,” waiting for the peace of death. But even this is a lie, in the words of the play a “pipe-dream”:

LARRY (With increasing bitter intensity, more as if he were fighting with himself than with Hickey): I’m afraid to live, am I? — and even more afraid to die! So I sit here, with my pride drowned on the bottom of a bottle, keeping drunk so I won’t see myself shaking in my britches with fright, or hear myself whining and praying: Beloved Christ, let me live a little longer at any price! If it’s only for a few days more, or a few hours even, have mercy, Almighty God, and let me still clutch greedily to my yellow heart this sweet treasure, this jewel beyond price, the dirty, stinking bit of withered old flesh which is my beautiful little life! … You think you’ll make me admit that to myself?
HICKEY (Chuckling): But you just did admit it, didn’t you? (168)

Hickey has turned his merciless project onto himself already, having killed his wife Evelyn in an effort to relieve himself of the guilt of being human, a guilt which Evelyn was willing to forgive; but it is something in the human spirit, some mysterious force which hovers over all the characters of the play, which turns eros to violence. The second act of the play is perhaps one of the most telling, as Hickey’s admittedly successful attempt to tear the illusions from each of the characters leads to the physical violence — racial, political, sexual — among those who peaceably enjoyed each other’s company, drunk as they were, in the hours before Hickey’s arrival.

But death, whether it comes to Evelyn through murder or Don Parritt through suicide in the last moments of the play, does not bring peace. This truth confuses Hickey as he surveys the broken human community he has created; but he has sold this truth. In Act Four, which features Hickey’s tortured 40-minute monologue describing his murder of Evelyn, the drunks of Harry Hope’s bar can’t even find peace in the booze, which has “lost its kick.” It is only with Hickey’s departure that it regains its effect.

If Don Parritt is the Judas figure of the play, having ratted out his anarchist mother out of both hatred and greed (and Larry Slade just might be his father), Hickey is its corrupt Christ, bringing a spiritual truth which he himself may not fully understand. What is left is the human figure of Larry Slade, and the human community. It is no surprise that the final curtain falls on a raucous cacaphony of popular song, drinking and laughter:

([Hope] starts the chorus of “She’s the Sunshine of Paradise Alley,” and instantly they all burst into song. But not the same song. Each starts the chorus of his or her choice. Jimmy Tomorrow’s is “A Wee Dock and Doris”; Ed Mosher’s, “Break the News to Mother”; Willie Oban’s, the Sailor Lad ditty he sang in Act One; General Wetjoen’s “Waiting at the Church”; McGloin’s, “Tammany”; Captain Lewis’s, “The Old Kent Road”; Joe’s, “All I Got Was Sympathy” [and on for a bit] … while Hugo jumps to his feet and, pounding on the table with his fist, bellows in his guttural basso the French Revolutionary “Carmagnole.” A weird cacophony results from this mixture and they stop singing to roar with laughter. All but Hugo, who keeps on with drunken fervor.)
Dansons la Carmagnole!
Vive le son! Vive le son!
Dansons la Carmagnole!
Vive le son des canons!
(They all turn on him and howl him down with amused derision. He stops singing to denounce them in his most fiery style.)
Capitalist svine! Stupid bourgeois monkeys!
(He declaims.)
“The days grow hot, O Babylon!”
(They all take it up and shout in enthusiastic jeering chorus.)
“‘Tis cool beneath thy willow trees!”
(They pound their glasses on the table, roaring with laughter, and Hugo giggles with them. In his chair by the window, Larry stares in front of him, oblivious to their racket. Curtain.) (218-219)

Metatheatrically, the “dirty black curtain which separates [the back room] from the bar” at upstage right (7) is a mirror of the proscenium curtain that separates The Iceman Cometh from its audience, and indeed the curtain falls. In these final moments, O’Neill masterfully presents a remarkable picture of America (this is Walt Whitman’s America singing, its democracy to be found in the individual songs each singer chooses to bawl), drawing the audience too into that back room and rendering them similarly denizens of illusion. Even the ideals of Hugo’s revolutionary political fervor are rendered as just one additional instance of the noise of America, a putatively joyful noise which isolates those who have learned the truth, who have pierced through the illusion to see the yawning abyss beneath it; once truly seen and recognized in the self, it is impossible to turn away again and lose oneself in that community, as Larry Slade knows. (O’Neill, interestingly, was also one of America’s few dramatists with a firm grounding in philosophy, especially that of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer; as Harold Bloom notes in his foreword to the Yale University Press edition: “We live and die, in the spirit, in solitude, and the true strength of Iceman is its intense dramatic exemplification of that somber reality. … Life, in Iceman, is what it is in Schopenhauer: illusion.” [x]) America — and the newly Americanized world — have not become less cacophanous since 1946; over sixty years later, with the Internet, mass media and other devices, it may be more cacophanous than ever, rendering The Iceman Cometh perhaps the greatest American play of the 21st century as well. O’Neill’s work is a deeply moving, shockingly sublime and disconcerting (in the best sense of the word) experience on the page or on the stage; anyone who does not know it does not know the American theatre, what it has been, is, and could be, for better or worse. It is, with the novels of Herman Melville, the canvases of Mark Rothko and the music of Morton Feldman, among the most majestic expressions of the tragedy that lies at the heart of the American experience.

  1. Cited in Travis Bogard’s notes on the play in Contour in Time, available online here. []
  2. It is little noted just how O’Neill’s extraordinary and subtle sense of the black experience in America makes its way into his plays; the romance between a white woman and a black man in his 1924 All God’s Chillun Got Wings brought the play to the attention of the New York mayor’s office. []

My Vienna


Earlier iterations of the journal featured Vienna’s Burgtheater in their banners; it disappeared for a while, now it reappears again. I can’t say that Vienna is the city in which I feel most at home; that Vienna is long gone. (Besides, my German language skills are, if not non-existent, laughable.) But I appreciate the reminders that it was, for a brief moment, a place in which I would have enjoyed spending some time.

Uneasy obsessions with sensuality, elegance, and manners; a growing sense of its own decay, mortality, and irrelevance; a recognition of the power of irrationality — all of these characterize fin-de-siecle Vienna. Vienna in 1900 was both symptom and landmark of modernity. The self-conscious and ironic grace of Viennese culture both obscured the role of the irrational and made it possible for that same irrationality to spring forth in the novels and plays of Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal, the psychiatric work of Freud on dreams and neurosis, the paintings and drawings of Klimt and Schiele, the atonal music of Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg. All of these figures were reviled to some greater or lesser extent by the traditionalists among the Viennese, but from nowhere else, and at no other time, could these figures have emerged. By 1918, the Habsburg monarchy and this same Vienna were dead, though its phosphorescent decay would glow in both Austria and in Germany until 1933.

Freud recognized Schnitzler (also a medical doctor) as a colleague and observer, and along with Schiele and Klimt perceived eroticism within this Old World elegance as inescapable but, unlike our own time, fully cognizant of the body’s own mortality. Klimt’s serpent-women rendered eroticism a part of sensualized nature; Schiele’s crabbed but vulnerable and provocative bodies stared out at the viewer, daring that viewer to look away rather than enter the perspective of the subject. That the suppression of this eroticism would give rise to hypocrisy was obvious; but there was a special appeal, erotic itself, to bearing in mind constantly and simultaneously the activities that went on in the ballroom and behind the closed doors of the bedroom. Social elegance suggested sexual and erotic elegance — but this was the culture of the shared secret, not the exploitation of the erotic and sexual for public titillation. Perhaps there was greater sensual freedom as a result. And, contrary to the arrogant assumptions of our contemporary cult of youth, the more an individual matured, the greater his or her ability to appreciate the possibilities of sensuality, which could be said to mature as well.

Design and style were central obsessions to the Viennese of the turn of the century; the care taken with simple household objects by the Wiener Werkstätte paralleled the care taken with the self-conscious design and style of the human bodies that inhabited those households: the body (both male and female) as aestheticized display object, adorned and unadorned. Few of Klimt’s and Schiele’s figures are wholly nude; they are draped in gold, or wear stockings, though the unadorned figures are easily imagined, even suggested by their apparel. No wonder either then that theatre was, of all the arts except music, of the greatest importance to the Viennese — it was there that styles were set, that self-presentation achieved its greatest mastery and mystery.

The Ringstrasse, Vienna’s most theatrical architectual feature, is itself a masterpiece of duplicity — the Baroque to Classical to Gothic to Jugenstil buildings were all constructed in the mid-nineteenth century. Vienna was, simultaneously, dream and nightmare. Perhaps that is its dangerous attraction.

Fin-de-siecle Vienna, c’est moi? No, that’s foolish. It is of both greater and lesser comfort, though, to recognize something of oneself in a dead historical era. It explains affinities, intellectual and emotional, even if ultimately I can come to no final conclusions.