on July 19, 2013
Kerry Bolton acts as the medium in acquainting the reader with the views and deeds of a number of prominent authors and cultural celebrities (D.H. Lawrence, H.P. Lovecraft, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Filippo Marinetti, W.B. Yeats, Knut Hamsun, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Henry Williamson, Roy Campbell) , collectively labelled as artists, who were productive during the early 20th century.
The book is organized into a set of biographies, where each biography presents the life of each artist, which in addition to family details and academic background covers
1) key works of the artist, where Bolton reveals how the political views of the artist permeates the narrative of his works,
2) the artist's political and societal engagement up to, during and after the first and second world war, where after the second world war several artists were defamed, some artists were prosecuted and a few artists even incarcerated for their previously held political views.
Although the artists were in agreement on the decadence, materialism and the spiritual nihilism of their societies, the prescriptions on how to improve the situation differed significantly were some artists were adherents to contradictory ideas. Key ideas that were discernible through the prescriptions of the artists were occultism (Lawrence), traditionalism (Hamsun), mysticism (Yeats), futurism (Marinetti), social credit theory (Pound) and vorticism (Lewis).
To the artists, the evolving fascism were viewed as an antidote to what they perceived as the decadent societies of the time. Hence, most of the artists were positive to fascism, let alone with some reservations. This very fact led to the defamation, prosecution, and internation of some artists after the second world war.
Even if the ideas and views date close to a century back, they are still valid since money rules over blood more than ever in our contemporary societies characterized by materialism and spiritual nihilism.
The high quality of the presentation in combination with the width of the ideas being presented makes this book a highly informative and rewarding experience.
on December 9, 2012
The premise of this book is an intriguing one - that ten literary and artistic luminaries (H. P. Lovecraft among them) were
sympathetic to Fascism during the early 20th century. In a series of mini-biographies, author Kerry Bolton examines their inclinations and misgivings toward this ideology. A commom thread amongst these intellectuals is they trumped high art and culture over politics and were skeptical about any kind of mass political movement. Due to these idiosyncracies, none of them fully embraced National Socialist Germany or Mussolini's Italy.
A book like this could have been written as an apologia or a vehicle for solely discrediting said artists for their heretical views. Instead, Bolton takes an enthusiastic and undeniably ballsy approach with his subjects that may prove unsettling and problematic for some readers. Fortunately, he does a pretty good job of letting the artists speak for themselves without lauding or proselytizing them too heavily.
Highlights include Filippo Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto (as astonishing and radical today as it was a century ago), Ezra Pound's criticism of usury, and W. B. Yeats aspirations into the metaphysical realm. Gabriele D' Annunzio's lively but short-lived Italian Rennaisance city-state of Fiume was, in its own way, the ultimate defiance of bourgeoisie liberalism of that era. Anglo-African poet Roy Campbell's lamentation of globalism, mass conformity and the nightmare of "everything becoming the same" seems to be becoming all-too-true with the advent of time.
Overall, it's a worthy successor (or companion) to Alistair Hamilton's 'The Appeal of Fascism' ( published in the early 70s and now out of print.) I recommend both tomes for those who crave food for thought beyond the mass media or your corporate bookstore's bestseller list.