Saturday, March 11, 2006


Huysmans ch. 14

“Finding himself unable to harmonize, save at rare intervals, with the environment in which he lives and not discovering sufficient distraction in the pleasures of observation and analysis, in the examination of the environment and its people, he feels in himself the dawning of strange ideas. Confused desires for other lands awake and are clarified by reflection and study. Instincts, sensations and thoughts bequeathed by heredity, awake, grow fixed, assert themselves with an imperious assurance. He recalls memories of beings and things he has never really known and a time comes when he escapes from the penitentiary of his age and roves, in full liberty, into another epoch with which, through a last illusion, he seems more in harmony.

With some, it is a return to vanished ages, to extinct civilizations, to dead epochs; with others, it is an urge towards a fantastic future, to a more or less intense vision of a period about to dawn, whose image, by an effect of atavism of which he is unaware, is a
reproduction of some past age.”

Nietzsche, Gay Science 10

“I prefer to understand the rare human beings of an age as suddenly appearing, late ghosts of past cultures and their powers: as atavisms of a people and its mores – that way one can really understand something about them.  They now seem strange, rare, extraordinary, and whoever feels these powers in himself must burse, defend, honor, and cultivate them against another world that resists them: and so he becomes either a great human being or an eccentric one, unless he perishes too soon.  Formerly, these same qualities were common and therefore considered ordinary: they weren’t distinguishing.  They were perhaps demanded, presupposed; it wasn’t impossible to become great through them, if only because there was also no danger of becoming mad and lonely through them.  It is principally in the generations and castes that conserve a people that we find such recrudescences of old instincts, while such atavism is highly improbable where races, and habits and valuations change too rapidly.  For tempo is as significant a power in the development of peoples as in music: in our case what is absolutely necessary is an andante of development, as the tempo of a passionate and slow spirit – and that is after what the spirit of conservative generations is like.”

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