Horizon, Summer 1974 – 1

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This issue’s cover shows an unfinished portrait bust believed to be of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten’s queen Nefertiti. It illustrates ‘The Maverick Pharaoh’ by Lionel Casson, which chronicles how Akhenaten created a religious revolution by introducing monotheistic worship of the sun god Aten.

Imagine a museum wall lined with royal portraits in the formal, traditional manner of Vandyke or Velázquez – and right in the center, a portrait that looks as if it had been done by Picasso or Rouault. Imagine a wall lined with old-fashioned, ceremonious court scenes, a king in full regalia seated in majesty on his throne, graciously receiving courtiers, or solemnly leading a procession – and right in the center, a picture of them munching on a chop or cooing over a baby. This is the effect of the portraits and court scenes of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, or Akhenaten, to use the name he preferred, who ruled Egypt from about 1378 to 1362 B.C. None of his predecessors had ever commissioned their like, no successor ever would.

 

Horizon caption: ‘Opposite: the pharaoh Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti (behind hime) raise offerings to the god Aten, symbolised in the disk that sends down rays of sunlight curiously tipped with hands. At far left their daughter Meryaten jingles a sistrum. Only the royal family worshiped Aten directly; the rest had to be content with revering royal statues and reliefs like this one. The spindly shanks, heavy haunch, and jutting chin are characteristic mannerisms of the Amarna style, named after Akhenaten’s new capital city.’

The problem has intrigued and baffled historians. For over a century they have juggled the bits and pieces of Egyptian history in an effort to arrive at an answer. The discoverers of the first examples of these outré portrayals were convinced they were dealing with representations of a woman. When the deciphering of the inscriptions revealed beyond any doubt that the subject was a pharaoh, Auguste Mariette, the great French Egyptologist, suggested that perhaps the poor fellow had been captured while campaigning in the Sudan and castrated, with the effects visible in his portraits – a suggestion that, as a recent historian put it, shows all ‘the vivid imagination one would expect of one of the librettists of Aida.’ As more scraps of information were collected, they began to add up to something far more significant, a bizarre chapter in Egyptian history. Akhenaten, it seems, alone among twenty-six dynasties of pharaohs whose rule spanned two and a half millenniums, was an iconoclastic religious reformer.

 

Early in his reign…he began to evince a marked disinterest in the dynasty’s favorite, Amon, and marked interest in the sun god, Re, particularly in the deity’s visible manifestation, the radiant disk, or Aten, to give its Egyptian name. In doing so he was on well-trodden ground, venturing into nothing unorthodox: the cult of Re had started a thousand years before the young king was born, and his father and grandfather had even transformed the Aten itself into a divinity and offered worship to it. But his attachment obviously went a good deal further. After some six years on the throne, he took the dramatic step of changing his name from Amenhotep, ‘Amon is Satisfied’, to Akhenaten, ‘The Effective Spirit of Aten,’ and took an even more dramatic step by moving away from Thebes and out of the shadow of the awesome temples of Amon. About 250 miles farther down the Nile, at a place now called Tell el Amarna, he built a whole new city for his particular divine favorite, dubbing it Akhetaten , ‘The Horizon of Aten.’

Casson sums up the differing views of Akhenaten presented by Egyptologists James Henry Breasted, John A. Wilson, Cyril Aldred, and F.J. Giles, and concludes:

…[B]arring a phenomenal piece of luck and any stray bits of information that archaeology may produce, we very likely will never know much more about Akhenaten than we do now. The answer to the seductive question of what made him a maverick will remain forever unknown. Was he an inspired visionary? convinced but misguided reformer? megalomaniac? madman? Take your pick – or, if you prefer, wait for further choices. That these will be forthcoming is the one sure thing.

Horizon caption: ‘Akhenaten’s successor, his younger brother Tutankhamon, died at nineteen, leaving evidence in his richly furnished tomb of the return to the orthodoxy of Amon worship. At right, in a detail from the back of Tutankamon’s gilded throne, his queen, Akhenaten’s daughter, touches him with perfumed salve from the bowl in her hand as the Aten disk sheds its rays. The pharaoh’s name is inscribed as Tutanaten – “the life of Aten is pleasing” – on the side of the throne. On the back, however, his name appears as Tutankhamon (dedicated to Amon), signalling the extinction of a moment of monotheism in antiquity.’

Also in this issue:

In a special section, ‘The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be’, seven writers examine ‘the future’ as a concept: ‘Where did the idea come from anyway? What did an ancient Sumerian think about the future? When did it become something to do something about? How silly can it get? What do historians think about it?’ The letter from Managing Editor Shirley Tomkievicz quotes Alvin Toffler ‘a founder and nurturer of the modern futurist movement, and – readers will recall – twice a contributor to HORIZON’:

If we do not learn from history, we shall be compelled to relive it. True. But if we do not change the future, we shall be condemned to endure it. And that could be worse.

The section features illustrations by Saul Steinberg:

In ‘The Hindsight Saga: A Sampling of Historic Surprises’, J.H. Plumb writes:

It was one of Lenin’s more inspired insights that history always has the capacity to surprise…

For the historian, who never, or very rarely, experiences the events about which he writes, there is no initial shock, no immediate sense of surprise. By his very training a hunter of causes, he prefers not only to reduce chance to a minimum, but to plot the tides that sweep men and societies to their destined ends, forgetting that tides can suddenly break old barriers in a matter of hours and sweep through to new channels. And yet, unless we grasp that the historical processes can always take men and their societies by surprise, we shall fail to understand our own immediate dangers, or – indeed – our opportunities.

He gives examples of historical surprises: the French Revolution, the rise of Christianity and Islam, the rise of science, and the abolition of slavery, and concludes:

Indeed, for a historian who can establish himself in the past and not the future, the world’s development is full of surprises: in religion, in politics, in social attitudes, there are sudden, almost electrifying, shifts and changes that would, were they grasped, make historically-minded commentators more wary of their confident prognostications. One particular instance is the doom-laden voice of the modern demographer forecasting standing room only on this planet in another hundred years or so – a fashion, too, among scientists ignorant of history. They thoughtlessly expected population to grow in a straight line, as it were, ever upward. The slightest knowledge of the history of population would have taught them that population growth and population decline occur very oddly.

…To a perceptive historian, there would be nothing remarkable in the idea of Detroit  buried under a mountain of rubble, not through natural disaster, but because it ceased to be. Nor should the automobile going the way of the coach-and-six raise a historical eyebrow.

In ‘On Mythic Shapes of Things to Come – Circular and Linear’ Joseph Campbell   contrasts two ways of seeing the future:

…[The] first, the older, sees an unending series of irreversibly declining cycles ever and again renewed; and the second, a singular world-creation, once perfect but corrupted and to be restored – both views prophesying final disaster.

He conjectures that

…perhaps the search of our own scientists into a world more wondrous than the merely visible one will awaken within us latent dreams of a new destiny-image – a myth equivalent to the hundreds of thousands, even hundreds of millions, of years that may lie ahead of this ‘Spaceship Earth’ before the miracle of its star expires and the rapture of its cycling ends.

If so, those two mythic models of destiny that in the bounded past controlled our thoughts and lives have already been left behind.

In ‘Empress Victoria’, Theo Aronson writes about Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, her marriage to the Prussian Prince Friedrich (briefly Kaiser) and struggles with Bismarck:

The blame for the crown prince and princess’s unhappy position, however, was not all Bismarck’s. At least some of the fault was theirs. Prince Friedrich, despite the soldierly magnificence of his appearance, was a weak man – fretful, irresolute, easily depressed. Nor was he quite the dedicated liberal Albert had assumed. ‘He is not born a free Englishman,’ explained Vicky to her mother, ‘and all Prussians have not the feeling of independence and love of justice and constitutional liberty they ought to have…’ A dutiful son, he hated opposing his father. A patriot, he could not help delighting in Bismarck’s aggrandizement of Prussia. A proud Hohenzollern, he looked forward to becoming Kaiser of the triumphant new Reich.

Vicky was very different. No-one could doubt the strength of her character or beliefs. Short, plump, and high-colored now, her hair neatly braided into a coronet, her clothes simple, she could have been mistaken for a sensible, middle-class Prussian Hausfrau. But Vicky read widely and had a keen mind. And, in the Berlin of her day, when women were expected to confine themselves to Küche, Kinderstube, Krankenstube und Kirche – kitchen, nursery, sickroom, and church – she was remarkably emancipated. Her diverse passions – not only for painting, poetry and architecture, but also for politics, economics, and social reform – and her unorthodox tastes – for open windows, modern plumbing, and long walks – repeatedly astonished her hidebound contemporaries.

More annoying to the Prussians, however, was her persistent Englishness…To her, England was always ‘home’, superior in every way to Prussia… ‘To be friends with the present regime is impossible,’ Vicky complained to Queen Victoria, ‘and yet to be in opposition is a thing as impossible. I always feel like a fly struggling in a very tangled web, and a feeling of weariness and depression, often of disgust and hopelessness, takes possession of me…’

Eric Newby writes about his non-encounters with Evelyn Waugh:

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Horizon, Summer 1973 – 2

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‘In Search of Prester John’ is an excerpt from Tim Severin’s 1973 book The African Adventure about the legendary figure believed in Europe from the 12th to 17th centuries to rule a lost Christian kingdom somewhere in the Orient or Africa, among Muslims and pagans. He follows the journey of the 1515 Portuguese mission to Ethiopia, led by Dom Rodrigo da Lima and including the missionary Francisco Álvares, which hoped to find Prester John and his kingdom:

Horizon caption: ‘The swordsman opposite, a detail from a sixteenth-century ivory, is an African’s portrait of a Portuguese.’

Exactly where his fabulous realm was to be found, no one was sure. Variously, Prester John had been placed in Mongolia, China, and India, until at last he was settled in that part of Africa that lay east of the Nile. From there, out of Ethiopia, came tantalizing snippets of information to clothe the image: reports of a Christian king who was a sworn enemy of Islam and whose court swarmed with priests. It was a disappointment that his realm seemed so small, for even on crude maps of the day Ethiopia looked mortal-sized. But Europe’s theorists were quick to find an explanation: they claimed that the Prester had been driven there by the same all-conquering Mongols who had so nearly swamped Europe.

 

 

The Portuguese who first went to look for Prester John were scarcely suitable emissaries for so Christian a king. Many of them were degredados, convicted criminals who sailed to Africa to search for the Prester’s kingdom. If they had found it, they would have won full pardon. But the question never arose, for they never came back…At least two Arabic-speaking Portuguese travellers eventually got into Ethiopia, but unfortunately for both of them, the Ethiopian ruler was so delighted that he refused to let them return home and the wretched men spent the rest of their lives at his court in gilded captivity.

 

A Portuguese embassy landed on the coast of Ethiopia in 1520:

The fourteen members of the Portuguese embassy were an ill-assorted group to be representing their country. In command was Dom Rodrigo da Lima. Young and tactless, he was already quarrelling with his second-in-command, Jorge D’Abreu, who fancied himself better fitted to lead the embassy. Trying to hold the balance between the two bantams was Father Francisco Alvarez, once a chaplain to King Emmanuel and now the priest with the task of investigating the religion of Prester John. His diary was to be the first account of Ethiopia published in Europe.

Horizon caption: ‘The trio of patriarchs opposite, magnificent in their striped turbans, are part of a fresco in the church of Guh, which was probably decorated in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries.’

…the similarity between the two cultures, Portuguese and Ethiopian, was one of the more surprising aspects of the quest for Prester John. Both countries were devoutly Christian to the point of fanaticism; both were ruled by absolute monarchs striving to bring a proud and fickle nobility to heel; and each looked to the other as a possible ally against Islam. It was remarkable, therefore, that Da Lima’s embassy failed so utterly to understand Ethiopia and her people.

Horizon caption: ‘Two Ethiopian choirboys mark Palm Sunday by wearing crosses of grass. To Ethiopians the cross is not only a symbol of faith but of their national resistance to the once mighty tides of Islam.’

In ‘Of Mars, Martians and Mariner 9’, Carl Sagan writes about the findings of the recent mission which sent the first spacecraft to orbit another planet, the history of our observations of Mars, and the often fanciful speculations we have had about life there:

I first became aware that Mars was a place of some interest by reading stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is also known for his invention of Tarzan. Burroughs created a gentleman adventurer from Virginia named John Carter, who was able to transport himself to the planet Mars by standing in an open field and spreading his arms out and wishing. At an early age I tried very hard to test the Carter method. But no matter how hard I tried, I failed, although I always thought there might be a chance…

 

Horizon Caption: ‘The weathered face of Mars: in the Mariner 9 photograph at left, covering an area about 300 miles wide and the same distance high, narrow trenches – which may have been produced by wind erosion – look like blisters in the low-angle sunlight streaming in from upper right. The pockmarks are impact craters.’

The observational basis for the idea of Mars as a dying world was provided first by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, but was publicized consummately by an American Brahmin from Boston named Percival Lowell, a diplomat to Korea turned astronomer…Fundamentally, Lowell’s argument was that no natural process could produce such a network of long straight lines; hence, they were artificial; hence, there were artisans on Mars.

 

The basic idea was that there were canals constructed by a race of vast intelligence on the planet to channel the waters from the melting polar caps to the thirsty inhabitants of the equatorial cities. This brings up two questions: Are there such features on Mars? And, if they are present on Mars, need it be for the reasons that Lowell imagined?

 

…The canals of Mars are probably due to the eye’s penchant for order. It is much simpler to draw disconnected fine details as a few lines, joining them up, than to put down all the irregular mottlings observed in an instant of good seeing. There is no question that the straightness of the lines is due to intelligence. The only question concerns which side of the telescope the intelligence is on…

 

…on the eve of the injection of Mariner 9 into Mars orbit in November, 1971, our knowledge of Mars was still characterized by poor data, wishful thinking, overcautious conservatism, and too sweeping generalizations from a few good facts. After the end of the Mariner 9 mission, all this changed, and the study of Mars altered from a data-poor, theory-rich situation to a data-rich, theory-poor one. We are now inundated with hard facts…The planet-wide feudal-technological civilization envisioned by Edgar Rice Burroughs does not exist.

 

But neither is Mars like the moon. There are cratered terrains, it is true; but there are also large regions on Mars breathtakingly different from our natural satellite.

In ‘Chaplin’s The Gold Rush’, part of Horizon’s ‘Landmarks of Film History’ series, Stanley Kauffmann writes about the 1925 film:

Up to 1920 he made about seventy films, most of them short and most directed by himself. Only one of them, Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914), was feature-length, and it was directed by Mack SennettThe Gold Rush was only the second long film of his own about the Tramp; yet he knew he was dealing with a character who was familiar to everyone, Eskimos and Malayans included. It’s rather as if an author had created a world-renowned character through short stories, had written one successful novel about him, and now wanted to explore that character more deeply in a long second work.

 

Horizon caption: ‘Out to brave and conquer the elements in his city suit, the Lone Prospector clutches a map and surveys the chilly Alaskan snowscape in his 1925 film, The Gold Rush.’

Chaplin wrote in his autobiography about spending the weekend at Douglas Fairbanks’ house and looking at stereoscopic views of Alaska and the Klondike. He wanted to make an ‘epic’, and pictures of prospectors climbing the Chilkoot Pass gave him ideas:

The role of the unconscious in the creative process is still unfathomed; we can only hypothesize from results. In Chaplin’s reaction to these photos, the striking element is unpredictability. With the exception of His Prehistoric Past (1914), a two-reeler, he had never made a film that took the Tramp out of contemporary city or country life. Tramps are, after all, a by-product of modern industry. Evidently, Chaplin’s unconscious saw at once the advantages of putting the Tramp into a context that, so to speak, had no direct relation to Trampdom, yet had the possibilities for the ‘epic’ he was seeking. And, presumably, he saw the power of putting the Tramp, whose black mustache is the center of the figure’s color gradations, against predominantly white backgrounds. All in all, it was a chance to simultaneously vary and heighten what he had done up to now.

 

In his first sequence, he shows the touch that made him great. As he skips and skids along the narrow path, a gigantic bear appears behind him and follows him. A lesser comic would have turned, seen the bear, and possibly got a lot of laughs out of panicking on the slippery path. But the bear disappears into a cave just before Charlie turns around. We know the danger he has escaped; he doesn’t. This is not only funnier, it is also serious: it exemplifies one of the Tramp’s qualities–innocence, and an unwitting faith in the power of that innocence.

 

Horizon caption: ‘In an uproarious Klondike saloon, the Lone Prospector watches Georgia Hale, the dance-hall girl atop the bar. In this famous shot, Chaplin puts the camera below eye-level, silhouetting his own figure so that both he and Georgia stand apart – she on her pedestal, he alone on the periphery of the mob.’

…Who is the Tramp? What is the secret of his unique effect on us?

…When Georgia invites him to dance, he is wearing silly clothes and has wrapped one foot in rags to replace the eaten shoe. But he dances with exquisite style. Who is he? When he invites the girls to dinner, he not only knows how to cook, he knows all about table settings, party favors, dainty gift wrappings, and etiquette. Who is he? When he performs the Oceana Roll, he knows a chorus-girl routine. Who is he? When Georgia’s bullyboy tries to force his way into her room, Charlie chivalrously bars the door, contemptuous of danger. Again – who is he?

I propose no supernatural answer, that he is a divine messenger in ragged clothes, a fool of God. I do suggest that part of the genius of Chaplin, part of his superiority to all other film comics except Buster Keaton, is his ability to make us believe in a comic character whose standards are better than our own, just as his body in motion is more beautiful than our bodies. I suggest that one of the reasons we have loved him all these decades–and young people seem to feel that they have loved him for decades, too–is that he has not concentrated on merely making us laugh, but has shown us the funniness in a hero-clown, an unsententious agent of exemplary values. He is not dully angelic; he sometimes pulls off con games, though usually to a good end or to flout oppressive authority. But in the main he compensates for the shortcomings, social and physical, of our lives and beings. In his movement and in his code, even in his cunning, he is what we feel we ought to be.

Horizon, Summer 1973 – 1

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This issue’s cover shows a c. 1540 portrait of Lucretia Panciatichi by Bronzino,  illustrating the article ‘Mannerism’  by J. H. Elliott:

Something very strange happened in the world of the visual arts during the sixteenth century. In its opening years, the golden age of the Italian High Renaissance, the arts seemed to attain perfection. Leonardo, Raphael, the young Michelangelo, had shown that there was nothing that the artist could not do. Surpassing even the artists and craftsmen of classical antiquity, they had captured for their generation the lineaments of the ideal world that existed beyond the world of appearances. Beauty, harmony, proportion – these were the supreme characteristics of the ideal world of the Renaissance, an orderly, rational world in which man himself, divinely endowed with power and wisdom, walked godlike and majestic.

 

But moving on a generation or so, what do we find? The repose and serenity of the High Renaissance are gone, to be replaced by restlessness and confusion. The calm, statuesque figures have become strangely elongated, their gestures extravagant, their limbs so contorted as to remind us less of men than of corkscrews. Where is the proportion? Where the order? Where, above all, as we look at those incredible vegetable portraits by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, is the dignity of man?…

If we are to get any closer to this most stylish of styles, we must attempt to abandon our twentieth-century preconceptions and approach the sixteenth century on its own terms. In particular we must look at the changing relationship between patron and artist as the status of the artist was itself transformed. For the medieval artist had been, above all, a craftsman – a manual worker whose identity tended to be merged into that of his guild. But the artistic theories of the Renaissance depicted the painter, the sculptor, the architect, in a new and distinctly more flattering light. The artist became a man who possessed a special insight into the ideal world, together with the capacity to bring that world alive for less privileged mortals. He was no longer a mere craftsman, but a figure more akin to the gentleman scholar – a man of culture, insight, and intellect, with a nobility of soul that was inevitably mirrored in his work.

…The patron, for his part, was now at something of a disadvantage. He might have to move heaven and earth to acquire for his collection a work bearing the distinctive stamp of a Raphael or a Michelangelo.

To acquire for his collection. . .For the sixteenth century was pre-eminently the age of the collector. The discovery of new worlds overseas, and the increasingly close observation of nature, had brought home to European man the incredible variety and multiplicity of objects in the world he inhabited. Rich men who prided themselves on their taste and learning began to collect everything they could lay their hands on – gems, antique marbles and cameos, books and manuscripts, medals and bronzes, plants and animals, and every kind of outlandish artifact…

Artists naturally responded with delight to an environment of patronage in which they were expected to produce works that would display to the best advantage their own special vision and technical skills. They were expected to do their own thing – but to do it in ways that conformed to the mood and requirements of both their patrons and the times…

…The artist was more likely to find himself working for the court than for the city. The new patrons, whether princes, nobles, churchmen, or bankers, had their own special tastes or requirements, which were different from those of town councils or guilds. They wanted their artists to be courtiers, and they wanted them to express in their paintings the ideals and the aspirations of a courtly society. The handbook of this society was a best seller of the sixteenth century: The Book of the Courtier by Baldessare Castiglione, himself a connoisseur of the arts.

Also in this issue:

A letter from Editor Charles L. Mee, Jr reflects on Horizon’s 15th anniversary: ‘At fifteen, the youngster is still curious, still learning, and still very much alive and looking forward to the years ahead…Like most teenagers today, on some subjects it is very stubborn.’

In ‘The Genesis of Pollution’, Arnold J. Toynbee, who was then aged eighty-four, looks at an issue that had first come to prominence in the 1960s and was becoming ever more urgent. He looks back to the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, as seen in the foundation of the Royal Society. He notes that the founders of the Royal Society were religious men:

…the pioneers of the Enlightenment were not challenging the Christian doctrine about the relations between God, man, and nature.

The doctrine is enunciated in on sentence in the Bible: ‘And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis I, 28)…In 1663, this read like a blessing on the wealth of Abraham in children and livestock; in 1973, it reads like a license for population explosion, and like both a license and an incentive for mechanization and pollution.

The thesis of this essay, then, is that some of the major maladies of the present-day world…can be traced back to a religious cause, and that this cause is the rise of monotheism.

…I was brought up in the same sect of Christianity as Bishop Sprat. But I was also educated in pre-Christian Greek and Latin literature. This pre-Christian education, which has had a more enduring effect on my Weltanschauung than my Christian upbringing, made me aware long ago that the religion of my pre-Christian predecessors at the western end of the Old World had been a different kind of religion from monotheism.

For premonotheistic man, nature was not just a treasure-trove of ‘natural resources.’ Nature was, for him, a goddess, ‘Mother Earth’…The whole of his environment was divine, and his sense of nature’s divinity outlasted his technological feats of cultivating plants and domesticating animals: wheat and rice were not just ‘cereals,’ they were Ceres herself, the goddess who had allowed man to cultivate these life-giving plants and had taught him the art.

…[M]onotheism, as enunciated in the Book of Genesis, has removed the age-old restraint that was once placed on man’s greed by his awe.

…Man needs to reintegrate himself into the nature of which he is, in truth, an integral part, and he can do this only through ecstasy or contemplation – through religion or philosophy.

He concludes:

In ‘The Vanishing Servant’, part of his ‘In the Light of the Past’ series, J.H. Plumb looks at household servants, so common in the Victorian era, but now dying out:

The English nanny was, in a sense, the animal mother of the young child: she fed it, cleaned it, spent days and nights with it, and gave it the warmth, the physical affection, that all young animals need; whereas the true mother was, more often than not, an idealized and glamorous creature living in a different world. Indeed, many would argue that nineteenth-century upper-class Englishmen were addicted to working-class girls because all the physical warmth they knew had come from their lower-class nannies. For the boys, again, there could be another odd servant-master relationship: it was from grooms, gamekeepers, and young footmen that the sons of the house learned about sex, and their first attempts were often made on the servant girls of the household.

…the less patriarchal a society is, the less easy its members find it to accept the master-servant bond. The best servants in Europe today still come from regions where the authority of the family and the father is strong – Portugal, Spain, southern Italy, France. And this may help explain why black men spurn such work, no matter how lucrative. Whatever the reasons – profoundly sociological or superficially economic – the servant class is following the dodo into oblivion.

In ‘A Visit with the Mole and the Eagle’, Malcolm Muggeridge recalls his visits from the 1920s to the 1940s to his wife Kitty’s Fabian aunt Beatrice Webb and Beatrice’s husband Sidney, in an extract from his 1972 autobiography Chronicles of Wasted Time. On his last visit before her death in 1943:

…she said she had something to show me. It turned out to be a portrait of Lenin presented to her by the Soviet government, as stylized and cheap, artistically speaking, as any print of a saint of the Church or blessed martyr offered for sale at Lourdes…It was extraordinary and rather horrifying. Afterward, I reflected that the two scenes I had witnessed – the Webbs at work and Mrs. Webb at prayer before her Lenin picture – embodied the whole spirit of the age, showing her to be a true priest and prophetess, pursuing truth through facts and arriving at fantasy, seeking deliverance through power and arriving at servitude.

 

Horizon, Autumn 1968 – 2

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Writing during that tumultuous year of civil unrest, 1968, Horizon mainstay J.H. Plumb asks ‘When Does a Riot Become a Revolution?’ He looks at Europe and America in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and their 1968 parallels:

Last spring Europe again burst into flames, with student riots from Colchester to Cracow. Although these riots were usually provoked by academic situations, they are being exploited by acute political leaders. The students have become a type of false proletariat (a California professor has written “a student is a nigger”), and they are exploited as such. Attempts have been made – and with some success this past spring in France – to harness student idealism to the political programs of the working class. These recent riots in Europe belong to the tradition of both radical socialism and anarchism, but they are different in dimension from most American student riots and totally different in kind from the Negro rioting that America is experiencing.

The American riot is, as it were, the grandchild of the classical riot, which was bigger, more incoherent, more desperate – a deeper convulsion in the bowels of society – than the recent disturbances in Europe. The present American experience is, more precisely, akin to the riots of prerevolutionary Europe, before the mobs became infiltrated with political agents and exploiters who turned the riot to social revolutionary ends. This stage may be beginning in America, however, and it could develop rapidly…

 

America is, in a sense, entering a political phase curiously akin to that of Europe in the nineteenth century, a world of savage social conflict and possible revolutionary turmoil. Which way will riot develop? Will it be molded by revolutionary leaders into a revolutionary movement, dedicated to social change, and if need be to civil war? Or will the riots fade away, as they did in Britain, by the creation of true, not false, social hope and by full, not spurious, political participation? I am not suggesting that the British governing classes made that social hope easily realizable, or that political participation quickly prized their hands from the wheels of government. Of course not. But classes, like individuals, leap at a glimmer of real hope.

The hope must be real. If time and time again it proves illusory, then the looting will stop, the rioters will become disciplined, ferocious, dedicated, willing to die by the tens of thousands so that they can kindle an unquestionable spark of hope in the hearts of their own people. They will start fighting not for the present but for the future.

In ‘The Galsworthy Saga’, J.W. Lambert, Literary Editor of the Sunday Times, profiles the author whose series of novels had been televised the previous year:

…the family, the Galsworthys, were in fact the Forsytes – so much so that one of his sisters begged him, in his own interests, not to publish the novel that was later to become the first volume of The Forsyte Saga The Man of Property – or at any rate to publish it anonymously. But, he inquired ironically, which of the family did she suppose was likely to read it?

He visited flophouses, prowled the streets at night. He told his friends how appalling things were. They agreed – and asked, ‘Why don’t you do something?’

But Galsworthy’s concern with the suffering of others was occasioned more by the pain knowledge of it gave him than by the pain experience of it gave them: the sensitive liberal’s situation in a nutshell – and at least an improvement on total insensibility. But once awakened in Galsworthy, this concern became altogether too powerful. It made, as it always does, for sentimentality. It accounts for the perceptive comment Ford Madox Ford made when he saw tears in Galsworthy’s eyes on account of an anecdote about Turgenev and his peasant mistress: ‘suddenly I had of him a conception of a sort of frailty, as if he needed protection from the hard truths of the world…The disease from which he suffered was pity…’

And pity, a form of self-indulgence, is an artist’s worst enemy. Even at the turn of the century not all of the poor were utterly miserable all the time, but one would never suppose otherwise on the strength of Galsworthy’s works. Conrad, later, advised him to get more skepticism into his writing and even went so far as to suggest that Galsworthy got a sadistic pleasure from describing the sufferings of the weak and unfortunate. Galsworthy himself knew all this perfectly well. He warned others against it. ‘Pity is tripe,’ he made one of his characters keep repeating to himself. But it was no good; in art as in life he remained a helpless victim of the soft touch.

In ‘The Wonder of the World’, Edmund Stillman writes about Frederick II (1194 – 1250), King of Sicily from 1198, King of Germany from 1212, King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 and King of Jerusalem from 1225: ‘Frederick II of Hohenstaufen was perhaps the most gifted ruler in all the centuries between Charlemagne and Napoleon. As an emperor he failed, but as a one-man Renaissance he brought light and learning to a dark world.’

Italy south of Naples is the Mezzogiorno – the land of the noonday sun. In the Mezzogiorno ignorance and poverty seem endemic…But it was not always a wasteland. Nine hundred years ago in this forgotten region of Europe the Moslem East, Byzantium, and the barbarian North all fused together in a civilization of wealth, glitter, and intellectual brilliance under the Norman kings of Sicily. And here in the thirteenth century a grand ideological drama was played out: the dream of a united, powerful and ultimately secular Europe (a dream of our own time) clashed with an older dream of God’s universal order on earth. In the events of this drama we can discern the collision of the skeptical spirit of the yet-distant Renaissance with the static, believing spirit of the Middle Ages.

 

Horizon caption – ‘This portrait of Frederick II, “stupor mundi” [wonder of the world], is the frontispiece from his book on falconry. The lily he holds in his hand may be a symbol of imperial power.’

Yet it is not quite so. The roles and characters of the actors are oddly mixed, so that the worldliness of popes is matched by the brutal despotism of the champions of a secular empire. In the end neither side won. The dream of secular society went down in a welter of futility and blood. The religious vision was painfully corrupted by the desperate struggle for survival, dooming itself in the aftermath of ostensible victory to the contempt of believing and thinking men.

 

 

The court that Frederick maintained in the south was one of the most brilliant in history. Nothing like it had been seen in the Christian West before, not even in the great days of Charlemagne. The rude court of that Frankish emperor could not boast steam baths and plumbing to rival those of ancient Rome, a menagerie of wild beasts from distant Africa and India, a wholly secular university that challenged the intellectual monopoly of the medieval church, and a secular bureaucracy that was the product of this education and that regulated the foreign commerce into the port of Palermo down to the finest detail. It was a court where for the first time poets, as Dante noted approvingly a century later, sang a sophisticated early verse in the Italian vernacular. There eunuchs guarded harems of Moorish women, and the pious were daily offended by the brazen comings and goings of infidel Moslem and Jewish alchemists, philosophers, astrologers, and mathematicians.

 

What Frederick built did not endure. Viewed in retrospect, his dream of a powerful secular empire could never have succeeded, though Frederick would have done anything in the wild pursuit of his vision. For him no brutality, no breach of faith, was too much. But his vision was out of its time. It is almost as if history had made a bizarre experiment and had then dropped it for another. The future lay with the middle-class, urban, capitalistic society that was struggling into being in Italy.

In ‘Ancient Aches and Pains’, Dr Calvin Wells writes about paleopathology (the study of ancient disease):

 

 

 

 

 

Horizon, Autumn 1968 – 1

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This issue’s cover features the finial on one of the four spires of the Sagrada Família church in Barcelona, subject of ‘Gaudi’ by Roy McMullen:

Also in this issue:

In ‘Before the Fall’ Edmund Stillman deals with the questions ‘How decadent are we? What, really, is a “sick” society? Are we Rome in decline? How worried should we be?’ The upheavals of the 1960s, and especially of 1968, lent these questions urgency:

The problem with the popular notion of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is that, at bottom, it has no basis in fact. In our distorted view centuries are compressed into decades; the eras are transposed – profligacy being assumed to flourish at the end, while stoic virtues are believed to characterize the years of power. The reverse is true. As the celebrated Roman gravitas – weightiness, seriousness – of the republican character deteriorated, the empire increased in size. Macedon was crushed in 197 B.C., the Seleucid Empire in 192, and Carthage in 146. Macedonia was annexed as a province in 148, and Greece itself was annexed in 146. Thus the enervating effects of fun and games! Perhaps too many weepy gospel movies in the style of D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. de Mille have warped our imaginations. For profligate Rome endured and endured, and the easy moralizer will find none of the stuff of sermons in its story. Why Rome fell in the end is something else again…

 

[A] century of turmoil could only be brought to an end when Diocletian, who ruled from A.D. 284-305, transferred to the office of emperor all the trappings of Oriental divine monarchy and destroyed most of the individual liberties of the Roman people under the crushing conformity of a protototalitarian state – a state that fixed prices, wages, occupations, and the poor man’s place of residence, in a new Pharaonic stasis destined to endure, in the east at least, for close to ten centuries.

But most of all, the economy decayed. Taxes grew burdensome; the civil service grew, but the gross national product shrank…

As the late Gordon Childe, one of the most distinguished archaeologists of our day, put it: ‘The bankruptcy of the Roman economy was nakedly exposed. It was proclaimed to the biologist by the decline in fertility that is notorious in all classes of the population of the later Empire. Economically, as well as scientifically, classical civilization was dead a hundred and fifty years before barbarian invaders from Germany finally disrupted the political unity of the Empire and formally initiated the Dark Ages in Europe.’

Looking at the then-present (1968) he concludes:

Is Saul Bellow a Proust – or even a Fitzgerald? Is Marshal McLuhan really an I.A. Richards or a Wittgenstein? Is not our vaunted technology for the most part a working out in practical detail of basic theories and perceptions that are by now nearly a half-century old? In what sense is the Apollo program a fundamental breakthrough comparable to Max Planck’s quantum theory? And even if we reply that the biological sciences – witness DNA – are on the eve of great things, the test-tube creation of life itself, is technological expertise a true index of a society’s growth or inner health?…The technology of Europe after Rome was more advanced than it was in Rome’s great days.

In ‘Sir Isaac Newton’,  Walter Karp writes:

Newton is, beyond dispute, the greatest scientist who ever lived, the only one of whom it can be said: had he not lived, the course of science might have been radically altered.

Horizon caption: “An apple tree shades a worktable at Woolsthorpe Manor, where Newton was born in 1642. His gravitational theory came to him when an apple fell at his feet one autumn day in the garden.”

He describes Newton’s discovery of the properties of light:

With increasing vexation Newton tried to explain to his critics that they had turned his discovery upside down. He had not invented a hypothesis about color and then fitted it to the facts. The very reverse was true. He had found directly from experiment ‘certain properties of light…which if I did not know to be true, I should prefer to reject as vain and empty speculation, than acknowledge even as hypothesis.’ He had not supposed that white light was a confused bundle of rays differently refrangible; he was driven to that conclusion by his experimental findings. These findings could not be explained by the prevailing theory, as he pointed out to Hooke with biting scorn. His critics remained unconvinced.

Horizon caption: “Simple scientific instruments of Newton’s…include a prism, a mathematical dial, upper right, and a box of ‘Napier’s bones’ for calculating logarithms.”

For Newton it was a bitter experience. He felt cheated and victimized. He had offered the world a great new discovery, but the grandees of science had robbed him of his credit because his discovery did not square with their own mechanical preconceptions. To Newton, who had not the smallest doubt about his own immense superiority, there was only one recourse:  the grandees must be taught like children what the true method of philosophy is. He told them: ‘First, to inquire directly into the properties of things, and establish them by experiment; and then proceed more slowly to hypotheses for explaining them. For hypotheses should be subservient only in explaining the properties of things, but not assumed in determining them.’ To call an experimentally discovered property false because it contradicts a plausible hypothesis is to reverse the order of inquiry. Such was Newton’s advice to his elders, and its implications are profound. Natural philosophy, he was arguing, must rid itself of the shackles of mere rationality. The properties of things, experimentally established, may seem unintelligible and inexplicable according to prevailing principles of reason and philosophy. Yet properties they are, and they must not be rejected a priori according to the principles of any philosophical scheme, including the one of mechanical philosophy. But Newton was only a young and obscure mathematics professor, and it would take more than a few irate letters to imprint his conception of science on the minds of men.

In ‘Gaudí’, Roy McMullen considers the Catalan architect famed for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia church:

Do you like Gaudí? Not so long ago you could smile indulgently when you answered. Liking or disliking the bizarre buildings of Antoni Gaudí I Cornet was in about the same cocktail category as liking or disliking Tiffany glass, cast-iron lilies, and other turn-of-the-century fantasies…Whatever you thought did not commit you to much, for Gaudí was presumably the great outsider of twentieth-century architecture, a provincial freak generated by the chance encounter of genius with the Gothic revival, Moorish influences, Catalan craft traditions, Art Nouveau, Spanish religiosity, and a Barcelona building boom.

Horizon Caption: “Shark Fins on a Roof: These weird shapes, covered with a crazy quilt of broken tiles, adorn the roof of a gatehouse that Gaudí built as a part of the Park Güell, outside the city of Barcelona, between 1900 and 1914.”

Today the context for the question has changed. In recent years many visual-art consumers, aided by such taste makers as shelter magazines, paperback professors, modern museums, abstract-expressionist painters, and antique dealers, have shifted their allegiance from geometric forms to organic, from the rational to the emotional, from progressivism to historicism – in general, from classicism to romanticism. Many architects anticipated or have joined the shift: Alvar Aalto even before World War II; Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Eero Saarinen, in such familiar monuments as the Ronchamp chapel, the Guggenheim Museum, and the TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport; Philip Johnson, Edward Durrell Stone, Louis I. Kahn, Paul Rudolph, and a score of lesser creators in dozens of trend-confirming works.

Horizon caption: “Window for a Crypt: This teardrop window, set in a wall of irregular bricks and debris, admits a dim, stained light to the inside of the crypt of the chapel at Colonia Güell.”

He concludes:

… Gaudí was not, after all, a really great architect. He lacked the ultimate humility of the really great ones, and their sense of architecture as a practical delight, a beautiful necessity. Somewhere inside the rough realist who enjoyed inclined piers and random rubble was an arrogant 1890s dandy…

However, having made these unavoidable judgments, I feel obliged to qualify them immediately. Granted, Gaudí was not a great architect. Granted also, one is enough. Can we not still say that he was an extraordinary man and a great artist? Evidently we can, and so the critical problem is to find an artistic category for him. Perhaps he ought simply to be called a great maker of habitable sculpture.

But a letter from the editor Joseph J. Thorndike, as well as challenging Stillman’s view that the West is in decline, also differs with McMullen:

The high priest of the functional modern school is Mies van der Rohe, and his temple is the Seagram Building on Park Avenue. It is indeed an architectural landmark – perhaps as great in its way as Gaudí’s cathedral of the Sagrada Familia. And whereas Gaudí has no direct followers, Mies is the most widely imitated of architects. One has only to look up and down Park Avenue from the Seagram Building to see the dreary results. Block after block, the steel-and-glass boxes seem to proclaim: ‘One Mies would have been enough.’

As for functionalism, what is the function of a park or cathedral? Not, surely, the same as that of a kitchen or an office. A park is to delight; a cathedral is to inspire. In these, his major works, Gaudí was triumphantly successful.

Horizon caption, quoting Salvador Dalí: “A ‘Terrifying, Edible Beauty’: This phantasmagoric neo-Gothic Art-Nouveau jungle clusters around one of the

Horizon, Summer 1966 – 2

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Jean-Antoine Watteau is the subject of ‘Watteau’s Forbidden World’ by John Canaday.

All Watteau’s surviving paintings were done during the last twelve years of his life, which means the six years before the death of Louis XIV and the six after. The chronological sequence of these paintings cannot be worked out with much certainty, but Watteau’s mature style, the apotheosis of the century’s ideal, was born during the middle years of the twelve from the conjunction of these circumstances: the death of the old king and the consequent release of the new century; Watteau’s adoption as a protégé by the immensely rich Pierre Crozat, which placed him in a position to observe the new society intimately; and the appearance of the first strong symptoms of tuberculosis, which intensified the poignantly withdrawn nature of his spirit (and which eventually killed him at the age of thirty-six).

 

Surely we may assume that the dreamlike quality of Watteau’s art – its quiet, half-melancholy languor, the impression it gives of having been created by a nonparticipant from an observation point just outside the borders of life – is connected with his frailty. He seems to understand what the passions of men and women are, yet he must reduce the tempests of physical love to a sweet, regretful tenderness…

 

It is odd to discover from comments made by his contemporaries that this most poetic artist of the eighteenth century was thought of as a realist…In one context of his time, Watteau was not only a realist but innovational in his realism. He anticipated the impressionists’ use of the visual world as one vast snapshot, whose bits and pieces could be painted (with no matter how much calculation) to reveal the essential character of a scene, a person, or an object, through its casual surface.

His physical frailty aside, Watteau was always temperamentally an outsider. He had many acquaintances, but they were persons who had to seek him out. He had no intimate friends, and he never married; if he had any serious love affair, there is no record of it in the accounts of people who knew him and would have had no hesitation in mentioning an attachment that could hardly have escaped their attention. Solitary by nature, during his successful years Watteau moved in a company that included some of the most conspicuous men in France, men who were powerful, ambitious, and close to the court – hardheaded and sometimes unscrupulous. In a fashionable world of exquisite niceties and sexual intrigue his paintings set fashions in dress if not in comportment. He certainly was aware of the ferocity and cynicism that coexisted with the ideal of polished sensitivities and delicate refinements, and he knew also the world of the streets, the fairs, and the hand-to mouth existence that during his earliest youth he shared with other starveling artists.

 

With this top-to-bottom material at hand, an artist of different temperament could have been a French Hogarth, but the contrast between Hogarth and Watteau is so extreme as to be almost pointless. Hogarth’s power was his ability as a social commentator to expose the worms beneath the veneer. Watteau’s greatness was that he legitimized the surface by treating it not as an ideal that had anything to do with real society but as a poeticized state of being.

In ‘Must Landmarks Go?’, Roger Starr, writes about the growing tension between development and preservation in mid-1960s America. (He is not always impressed by the arguments for preservation, finding New York’s Jefferson Market Courthouse ‘hideous’.) The piece was based on material from his 1966 book The Living End:

Historic preservation is news. It became front-page news across the country recently, when the President received a report on the subject prepared by the special sub-committee on preservation established by the U.S Conference of Mayors. The President was probably not in the least astonished to see that the preface to the report had been contributed by his wife

Because the needs and uses of profit-making institutions change rapidly, it is difficult for their buildings to be maintained as part of the permanent urban landscape. Pennsylvania Station in New York City is a case in point. Whether or not one admired its style, it was one of the city’s most impressive structures. But what does one do with an impressive railroad station which has ceased to be of use as a railroad station? In a dying city one boards it up and watches it become ruins; ultimately shepherds sit on its eroded columns and goats graze between the tracks. In a living city one first prostitutes it by making it into a more efficient machine for selling commuter and race-track tickets, and then into an architectural billboard by hanging signs, kiosks, and booths beneath its Roman vaults. Finally the day is reached when someone decides it is worth more as land than as structure and down it comes, to be replaced by an office building or a sports arena or both. I never heard one of the many objectors to the demolition of Penn Station suggest any profitable use for it…

I am not privy to the operating figures of the Savoy Plaza Hotel in recent years. Those who argue that the owners of such a property should be willing to accept less than the maximum theoretical profits from its land fail to understand the results of the current practice of fractionalizing the interests in such a parcel of land and property. If the same corporation owns both land and buildings, the argument that the owner should be should be content with less than the maximum profit makes sense. Frequently, however, the owners of the building have sold the land, perhaps to raise money for another building venture. The insurance company, bank, or investment trust that has purchased the land rents it to the owners of the building on it. The owners of the structure are faced, not merely with a theoretical loss of what they might make if something else were built on the land, but on an actual cash loss after paying the annual ground rent. Once the land value has risen to the point where such a sale is possible, no privately owned landmark is ever completely safe.

A precise example of zoning’s ability to aid preservation can be found right down the street from my office. New York’s recent new zoning resolution imposed a limit on the total floor area of any building that might be constructed in the city. This limit, as applied by law to the street intersection near my office, restrained the reconstruction of the easterly corner to a maximum floor area one-third smaller than had previously been permitted. The new limit made demolition and reconstruction economically unattractive, and this encouraged the owners of one of my favorite buildings to find a new use for it as it stands, rather than to demolish and replace it as had been done by owners of the buildings on the opposite corners before the new law was passed.

 

Looking across the small park behind the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, one can enjoy the rare pleasure that this combination of new and old provides…this, rather than attachment to the past, is what has stimulated the wide popular interest in historic preservation – the fear that the new buildings we will get from the modern economic system will be worse than those we are losing…Under the twin pressures of high development costs and growing population, the heterogeneous urban landscape of the past is being chopped down; in its place grow large, simple-minded cubes of glass and metal, aesthetically inspired by cereal boxes, and, according to the critics, foreshadowing the time when each city will resemble a vast temporary army camp, built in a morning, and keeping within its boundaries only those who have been unable to get leave to go elsewhere.

 

In ‘Reflections on the Curtain Wall’, photographer Robert Stoller shows the old New York reflected in the new:

‘Classical Comics’ is a look at the Greek edition of ‘Classics Illustrated’ comics, and its take on Greek myths:

 

 

Horizon, Summer 1966 – 1

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This issue’s cover features Le Mezzetin by Jean-Antoine Watteau subject of ‘Watteau’s Forbidden World’ by John Canaday.

 

Also in this issue:

In ‘Whatever Has Become of Mommy?’, the dancer, choreographer and writer Agnes de Mille looks at how clothes for women – and men – have changed and what they say about us:

Dolls used to serve little girls for the training of maternal disciplines and habits, and for the learning of real household skills such as plain sewing. It was on her doll clothes that a girl learned to seam, French-seam, hem, gather, placket, buttonhole, hemstitch, featherstitch, bind, and French-roll. No more. Barbie and G.I. Joe come with machine-made wardrobes and need no mothering. They are substitute dream figures whom the child identifies only with the play (or fighting) aspects of adulthood, never with the basic parent-child functions. Here the infant is creating, not its own offspring, but its own parent. This is not surprising, since the parent has in many aspects become a child and joins gladly in the game of cross substitution.

 

The savage child wears the feathers and paints of a warrior because war is his father’s business; he acquires his weapons, his cicatrices, and his plumes formally under Daddy’s instruction. Does the son of a Madison Avenue executive sob and pine for a gray flannel suit and a brief case? No. He is given a suit young and he wears it for all family ceremonies, but for choice he dresses more frequently as an astronaut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth is that boys previously wished to look like their fathers. Now they wish not to.

 

Horizon caption: ‘Boys and girls today, and even Mama, too, appear to have similar dreams…But what about Papa?’

In ‘That blue-eyed darling Nathaniel’, R.V. Cassill writes about Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter

What gives The Scarlet Letter its bite and terror is not the sexuality from which the action proceeds but the unremitting series of consequences that follow on adultery. Already, as the story opens and Hester Prynne steps from the prison with her bastard child in her arms and a fantastically embroidered gold-and-scarlet A on her breast, the circumstances of lust are in the shadows behind her. Nor will they be shown to the reader by flashback and recollection: ‘…the infant and the shame were real…all else had vanished.’

 

 

No American novel concludes more sternly or more strictly. This is lamentation, not tragedy, a wail of grief, not a prophecy of renewal. From the ‘dusty midst’ of his life Hawthorne saw a universal field of blackness ‘relieved only by one ever-glowing point of light gloomier then the shadow.’

 

Hawthorne was born to venerate and mistrust women above all other beings. A perfunctory glance at his biography will show how much of his life was lived within what he might call the ‘female sphere.’ Was it not from his own deepest experience with marriage – sweet-tempered monogamist though he was – that he glimpsed the echoing doubleness of woman, that he saw the shame inextricably involved in Hester Prynne’s nobility?`

 

Horizon caption: ‘Handsome and dynamic looking to the end, the Hawthorne of his last years is recorded in this portrait by Matthew Brady.’

In ‘Where They Think About the Unthinkable’, Byron Riggan (then a CBC reporter)  visits the Hudson Institute:

…an organization dedicated, according to its motto, to national security and international order. The Institute is located – some say aptly – on an estate that had originally been built as a mental home just outside the Westchester County town of Croton-on-Hudson. Despite the reassuring sound of its purpose – for who, after all, doesn’t approve of national security and international order? – the Institute’s arrival has provoked apprehension, even dismay, in the area and indeed throughout the United States…

The reports they publish, which analyse all actual problems and even all possible ones, must take account of a world where all things are possible, and most of them are probably horrible…

Many people cannot quite believe that the way to avoid Armageddon is to plan for it, and the mere thought that someone is doing so makes them testy. The Hudson Institute’s director, Herman Kahn, a mathematician, physicist, and master strategist for the Defense Department, has come under particular fire because of his cool and terrifying pronouncements about the future. ‘Many people just don’t believe a nuclear war can take place,’ Kahn dispassionately remarks. ‘I do. I would judge it to be as likely as not that a thermonuclear device will be fired in anger before the year 2000.’

Kahn is said to have been the inspiration for the character of Groteschele in the novel Fail-safe – a bloodless defense analyst who calculates in megadeaths; and movie producer Stanley Kubrick, although a friend of Kahn’s, used him in part as a model for Dr. Strangelove in the film of that name. In spite of this – or perhaps because of it – Kahn is much in demand on the lecture circuits where people listen in fascination to his blunt thinking about the unthinkable.

I made my way over to the front door. At the reception desk a girl – Natalie Wood, it could have been – looked up from her copy of The Politics of Hysteria by Edmund Stillman and William Pfaff . She smiled as I introduced myself, and carefully scrutinized my credentials. ‘Oh, yes,’ she said, ‘Mr Kahn is expecting you. He’s out on the lawn’…

Our conversation came quickly to the point because Kahn seemed restive, almost poised for flight. This impression was heightened by his speech: a series of unexpected halts and spurts as if his brain outpaced his tongue. I asked him to explain the public criticism against him and he started speaking a mile a minute. ‘First let me say that few of my more virulent critics have read very much that I’ve written. They not only refuse to read me, but I’m told that some have refused to speak to me at cocktail parties. In part that is because they don’t like to think about thermonuclear war. They think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You know about sympathetic magic? That’s the belief that by discussing a problem you create it. If I sign an insurance policy, I spark my own death. If I go to be examined for cancer, I create cancer.  That’s sympathetic magic. But we think the most rudimentary intelligence says if you feel cold, put on a coat. When it rains, come out of the wet. Well, nuclear bombs exist. War is possible. We must think about how to prevent it or plan what to do when the bombs start to fall.’

In ‘The World of Youssouf Bey’, Wendy Buehr (based on information provided by J.C. Hurewitz) describes a recently discovered album of caricatures by the 19th century Ottoman diplomat Yusuf Franko Kusa, or Youssouf Bey.

 

The album finally returned to Turkey and was the subject of an exhibition in 2017.

 

Horizon, May 1977

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This issue’s cover features a detail of The Virgin by Andrew Wyeth, ‘the star’ of a Wyeth retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, one of ‘A Quartet of Spectaculars’, along with the travelling ‘Treasures of Tutankhamun’ then at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and retrospectives of Robert Rauschenberg at the Museum of Modern Art and Alexander Calder at the Whitney Museum in New York.

It contains a letter from the Publisher Rhett Austell, announcing that with the September issue, Horizon would now be published monthly and would no longer be in hardcover.

In ‘Those Mean and Dirty Streets’, Richard Eder writes about how the city in film in the 70s has become ‘a place of violence, squalor, degradation, and boredom, leaving many an urban moviegoer bewildered about where he lives’:

The pavement vents clouds of steam, which turn the city scene into a hellish murk. A taxicab moves slowly through, like a yellow fish in a heavy sea. Times Square’s cheerful, tacky neon is blurred and drained of life. And the sallow face of Robert De Niro takes in everything and gets it wrong. The walls of his rented room are shiny, the windows are padlocked, there are candy wrappers on the floor, vitamin bottles and Wonder Bread on the shelf.

This is how the movie Taxi Driver sees the city of New York. In a movie of fifteen years ago the cabs would have been clean, shined up, and slightly out of focus: part of the background against which some quirky romance – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for instance – was played out. Ten years before that Gene Kelly would have climbed out dancing, as the cabbie and passers-by beamed.

…Today, when cameras focus on the nerve-racked faces in Taxi Driver, on the victims and perpetrators of the bank holdup in Dog Day Afternoon, or on the drifters in Midnight Cowboy, they make city life seem more terrible than it is…

The photography and music of Taxi Driver deliberately make the city ugly, sticky, sinister. Each person is isolated, shut in by fear of others, and the only communication is the temporary exchange of delusions. The isolation is most extreme in the case of Robert De Niro. When he and Cybill Shepherd are together, it is not two people touching but fragile and mismatched fantasies.

Also in this issue:

In ‘Dancing in the Seventies’, Jamake Highwater looks at the burgeoning disco scene:

When the rock era ended in the early seventies, it was a fortunate return to normalcy for some. For others it was the triumph of mediocrity. Critics saw the rise of the discos as the decline of political involvement and alternative lifestyles. And the new music – the music of the discos – records played loudly by jockeys with a mania for manipulating their audience – satisfied nothing but the feet. The beat is a straight, soulless 4/4 without any of the subtle inner rhythms that made rock so sensual and complex. The lyrics are pointless at best, tasteless at worst. In “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, the words disco duck are repeated endlessly by Donald Duck voices.   Dancers cavort to such songs with blank faces, untouched by the mindless lyrics.

Disco sound has not always been like that. Labelle, a three-woman group, now defunct, graced the early dance era with “Lady Marmalade,” and singer Gloria Gaynor has had a few appealing tunes. But on the whole the highly overproduced disco sound has lost all energy as well as every trace of freshness and invention…

 

 

Whereas rock essentially came from England and California, the disco sound was born in New York out of a combination of black and Latin music. Like rock, it has its admirers and critics. David Todd, the baron disc jockey who reigns at Manhattan’s Jouissance Disco, likes it because ‘it really makes you want to dance’. Pop critic Peter Occhiogrosso disagrees: ‘The disco sound reduces music to an automated beat, packaged string arrangements, cooing girl-choruses, and everything else that the classic FM-radio format of the sixties most loathed about AM-radio music. It’s the pits! It’s the triumph of plastic!’

 

 

‘Bringing Bold Splendor to the City’ is a selection of photographs from Henry Moore: Sculpture and Environment by David Finn, which was published that month. Finn tracked down Moore’s pieces around the world in some 495 pictures:

If Moore’s own artistry is taken as evidence, the right sculpture in the right place can be a dramatic focal point for urban space that might otherwise seem stark or bare. And in their vigor Moore’s sculptures in the city testify to the vitality of urban life itself.

 

In ‘Guernica: An Act of War, a Work of Art’ Charles L. Mee, Jr. describes ‘the most renowned painting by the century’s most protean artist’:

The most astonishing aspect of Picasso’s first day of work on Guernica is surely its savage coolness. He does not show bloody bits and pieces of women and children flying through the air; he does not show smashed buildings; he does not depict massive death by fire; the woman with the lamp who leans out of the window is not horrified but rather curious; and the dead soldier lies at peace.

Whatever violent emotions Picasso may have felt have been thoroughly subdued. He does not try to depict the bombing of Guernica, to illustrate it, or even quite to make it into an allegory. Rather, he brings the event deeply within himself, and he responds to it as a unique witness. His first reaction is transmuted, strangely, into the silent whinnying anguish of the horse – a horse that has been injured by the bombing of Guernica, obviously, but more than that; it is a symbolic horse of some sort, a vexingly obscure, seemingly irrelevant, private symbol of some sort, a peculiar association of the sort that springs unbidden to mind.

 

 

Horizon, Spring 1975 – 2

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In ‘How Republics Die’, Walter Karp looks at the ‘vanished city-states of medieval Italy’, whose republican institutions were destroyed not by ‘the mob’ but the privileged:

Though they were far from meek and hapless, there is genuine pathos in the populares’ fidelity to law and in their faith in legalistic contrivances. When the internecine warfare among the nobles had all but destroyed the consulate, the people created a new municipal officer, the podestà – a sort of city manager chosen from another city for a fixed term of office in the hope that a paid official from a neutral quarter would administer municipal affairs in a professional manner and thereby overawe the nobility. But the ruling families were too strong and too contemptuous of law for such a feeble constitutional makeshift to have much of an effect.

 

Is there a lesson in the story?  One political observer thought so. The lesson for him was that it is the men of privilege and influence who are likely to harm, and the people who are surest to defend, republican institutions. ‘The demands of a free people,’ he noted, ‘are rarely pernicious to liberty.’ That is not the maxim of a sentimental American Jeffersonian. It is the somber conclusion of Niccolò Machiavelli as he looked back, in the bitterness of blighted republican hopes, on the ‘wasted world,’ as he called it, of vanquished republican Italy.

In ‘The Cult of the Secret Agent’, Edmond Taylor writes about the spy’s threat to the open society:

In all secret service literature, fiction and nonfiction alike, there is an ambiguous and extremely complex relationship between myth and reality. Such a relationship exists, indeed, within the covert organizations themselves. Somerset Maugham, who served in the British Secret Intelligence Service during World War I, was probably the first modern writer to be struck by the tendency of the secret service to imitate art – the art of the popular thriller. This phenomenon, which might be termed the Ashenden Effect after the eponymous hero of Maugham’s semiautobiographical espionage tales, has since been confirmed by a number of other writers of secret service fiction – most notably Graham Greene and Compton Mackenzie – who have themselves had actual secret service experience. (I noticed the same tendency myself – and at moments in myself – during my five years’ service in General William J. Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services in World War II.)

Illustration for Horizon by Dennis Corrigan.

It was the Second World War that gave the secret agent one of his most significant new traits…the James Bond look, the look of violence. He became not merely a spy but a saboteur, a killer, an organizer of resistance networks, a ruthless guerrilla chief. The savage colonial or semi-colonial wars, declared or undeclared, that have marked the history of the last thirty years – Indochina, Korea, Algeria, the Near East, and Indochina again – have further accentuated the element of violence, both in the secret agent’s real professional activity and in his public image. All these conflicts have been more or less closely linked with the global power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union (though most of them had autogenous roots), and the direct confrontations between their rival secret services have sometimes been equally savage – especially in the vital Central European sector. Before World War II the professionals occasionally assassinated one another’s human pawns in the Great Game – ‘natives’, foreign agents, low-level sub-agents – but almost never their opposite numbers. At the height of the Cold War, however, such fratricidal attacks became one of the secret service officer’s recognized – if still relatively minor – occupational hazards, something akin to a secret service vendetta developed at times, and casualties among the pawns attained unprecedented levels all over the world.

In ‘”The Perfect Interpreter of the English Countryside”’, Ronald Blythe writes about John Constable’s seeking to paint the light of England, ‘an idea that shocked the art establishment of his time’:

His long and bitter struggle to be accepted as an artist by everyone, from the inhabitants of Suffolk to the members of the Royal Academy, was a wish to be an accepted part of the civilized world he so strongly believed in. His difficulties – and ultimate triumph – stemmed from his refusal to give the public what it wanted as the price for easy entry into that world.

‘Painting’, he said, ‘is a science, and should be pursued as an enquiry into the laws of nature.’ But the public did not want painting to be a science; they wanted painting to be a kind of magic. They did not want straightforward descriptions of the countryside they knew so well; they wanted stories and mystery in paint. They wanted to look into a picture as they could look into Virgil or into one of their favorite poems, The Seasons, and see an idealized existence. Constable bewildered – and annoyed – them by leaving out these literary and emotional references and painting instead the natural realities of a certain place at a certain moment. This now seems a reasonable thing to do, but when Constable, at the very beginning of his career, confessed to his friend John Dunthorne that he intended to be a ‘natural painter,’ one of those rare peaks of total originality in art came into view.

 

 

In ‘Henry Mayhew’s Other London’, Christopher Hibbert writes about how the journalist Henry Mayhew came to write London Labour and the London Poor:

Mayhew paid a visit to Jacob’s Island in 1849 when the cholera epidemic was at its height. What he saw, and later described, makes Dickens’ account [in Oliver Twist] seem almost discreet. Mayhew wrote of the disgusting graveyard smell of the place, the heavy bubbles rising in the slimy, green-black water choked with rotting weeds and fish heads, the swollen carcasses of dead animals ready to burst with the gasses of putrefaction, and the red effluent from leather dressers. He described what Dickens, with his concern for the susceptibilities of the public, would never have dared describe: the open, doorless privies, the dark streaks of filth running down the walls where the house drains emptied into the ditch.

Mayhew’s description of the London prostitutes, and of the bawds, pimps, panders, and bullies who lived on their earnings, are contained in the first part of the fourth volume of his book, which is otherwise devoted entirely to those tens of thousands of Londoners who lived wholly or partly by crime or begging.

Here, as elsewhere, Mayhew exposes but he does not preach; he reveals but he never condemns. And this is his great strength as a social enquirer. He shares with Dickens (strangely, there is no record of the two ever meeting) a regard for the existing moral code and a belief that those who transgressed it must surely end in misery. But he was far ahead of his time in insisting that any steps toward social reform must be firmly based on detailed, dispassionate investigation of a sort that had never been done before but would be commonplace later. He was, in fact, one of the great pioneers of social science and criminal ecology. His volumes are the prototype of later surveys, but they are written with such understanding, such fascination, so refreshing a lack of either condescension or humbug, such vivid immediacy that they are unique: the very colors and smells of the East End come rising out of their pages.

The wonderfully evocative effect that Mayhew succeeds in creating is due, not so much to his skill as a journalist, novelist, and playwright, as to the warmth and attractiveness of his coaxing personality, his ability to get his subjects to talk frankly and naturally. The engraver Ebenezer Landells recorded that he once saw Mayhew at work talking to a costermonger, drawing his story out of him, leaving Augustus and his brother-in-law, William Jerrold, to put in a word or comment so that it seemed more like a conversation than an interview, and meanwhile relying on another brother, Horace, to take down everything that was said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horizon, Spring 1975 – 1

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This issue’s cover features a twelfth century English miniature of Viking ships from a manuscript called The Life and Miracles of St. Edmund (Edmund was a ninth century King of East Anglia killed by Vikings). It illustrates ‘The Lure of the Vikings’ by Lionel Casson

 

It was not that that the Vikings were invincible in battle. Their favoured weapon, the battle-axe, had long been abandoned by less primitive nations, their swords were inferior to the Frankish swords (which Viking chieftains preferred to the local products), and they never got the hang of besieging a fortification. What made them so formidable were their superb ships and skilled seamanship. These gave them so total a command of the water that no force ever dared engage them there, and as a consequence they had unlimited mobility. They were able at will to make swift and sudden onslaughts and, if pressed, beat hasty and safe retreats.

Horizon caption – ‘Adding injury to insult, Vikings bind King Edmund, flog him, and drag him away. Later they used him as a target for archery practice and finally beheaded him. Ultimately he was raised to sainthood and his cult flourished at Bury St. Edmunds.’

 

The Danes and Norwegians, though active enough traders, preferred the pleasures of fighting and the quicker profits of plunder. The Swedes, on the other hand, were as much interested in trade as in fighting and found their best customers in the rich caliphate of Baghdad. As a result they were drawn deeper and deeper into Russia.

The Slavic population called the newcomers Rus – whence the name Russia. We think of Igor, Vladimir, Oleg, as typically Russian names. Not at all: Igor is a Slavic version of Ingmar, Vladimir of Valdemar, Oleg of Helge. As a matter of fact, many historians argue that it was Swedish Vikings who founded the first Russian state, although others, particularly Soviet historians, do not agree.

 

Casson extensively quotes a report of a full-scale Viking funeral by Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, secretary of an embassy from the caliph of Baghdad to the Bulgars on the middle Volga , whose route took him through a community of Rus in 921.

Also in this issue:

In ‘The Rear Guard of the Avant-Garde’, part of the ‘Man of Ideas’ series, Roy McMullen describes French philosopher Roland Barthes:

Does pop culture make you morose? Have you stopped smiling at television commercials? Do you have the suspicion that we are all getting more and more phony? On the positive side, are you trendy enough to be fascinated by linguistics? If so, you qualify as a member of the growing public for the social and literary criticism of Roland Barthes.

 

 

…an écriture is for Barthes a manifestation of an ideology and to some extent a form of double talk. To adopt the écriture classique is to commit oneself, intentionally or not, to notions about common reason and the universal nature of man that reflect the bourgeois ideology that began rising to power in the late seventeenth century. To adopt the écriture of the traditional French novel, which is also that of straight historical narrative, is to commit oneself to notions of fate and causality that falsify, at least in the modern existentialist view, the reality of choice in human life. To adopt the Communist écriture is to…but there is no need to belabor the point. No écriture is innocent.

In ‘Waiting for the End’ Francis Russell writes about going to a poetry reading by the Sitwells at the Churchill Club in Dean’s Yard, Westminster during a V-1 attack in October 1944. Edith Sitwell was reciting Still Falls the Rain:

Now the roar had all but drowned out her voice. Air raid wardens on the roof had begun to blow their whistles. This meant a direct hit was imminent. People were getting down on the floor, trying to shield their heads with chairs. Edith kept on reading without the slightest change of voice or expression No one was listening to her. No one could.

The flying bomb must have all but skimmed the roof. Then the roar of its motor began to fade as it headed across the Thames. Some seconds later there was a dullish boom, all the windows rattled and several of them cracked. Edith read on until the end, immutable.

Then sounds the voice of One who like the heart of man

Was once a child who among beasts has lain –

“Still do I love, still shed my innocent light, my Blood for thee.”

Then, barely perceptibly, she winked at us.

In ‘Inflation’, part of his ‘In the Light of the Past’ Series, J.H. Plumb looks at the scourge that was rising again in the 1970s after the long post-war economic boom, and looks for historical parallels. In contrast to examples such as the post-World War I German hyperinflation,

…inflation can also be widespread and long-term – an intermittent fever that crests sharply from time to time but never dies away, lasting, perhaps, for a century.

It was this variety of the disease that afflicted Europe between 1540 and 1620, a variety more like our present circumstances than the dramatic inflationary spiral of Weimar Germany or the temporary, if sharp, inflation in France and England during the Napoleonic Wars.

Plumb notes that governments ‘attempt complex remedial measures that rarely have any effect except to intensify class bitterness on the one hand and distrust of government on the other.’