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Determinacy Kills

Terry Eagleton: Theodor Adorno, 19 June 2008

Theodor AdornoOne Last Genius 
by Detlev Claussen.
Harvard, 440 pp., £22.95, May 2008, 978 0 674 02618 6
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... One of the many things that Adorno admired about Beckett’s writing was its ‘scrupulous meanness’, to borrow Joyce’s description of his own literary style in Dubliners. Beckett’s works take a few sparse elements and permutate them with Irish-scholastic ingenuity into slightly altered patterns. Complete dramas are conjured out of reshuffled arrangements of the same few scraps and leavings ...

In the Twilight Zone

Terry Eagleton, 12 May 1994

The Frankfurt School 
by Rolf Wiggershaus, translated by Michael Robertson.
Polity, 787 pp., £45, January 1994, 0 7456 0534 6
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... assembled around him a brilliant coterie of younger intellectuals, of whom Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno were to become the most eminent. In 1934, the Institute, many of whose members were Jews, transplanted itself to the United States and, still under Horkheimer’s mandarin rule, set up home as an adjunct of Columbia University. In a darkening ...

Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire, 21 November 2013

Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... of Benjamin’s papers – or so it seemed. They were sent to New York. As Benjamin’s friend Theodor Adorno sifted through them he found many things present, and many things absent. Chief among the missing was the book on Baudelaire that had consumed Benjamin during the last three years of his life (and for which he had interrupted his work on the ...

Consider the Wombat

Katherine Rundell, 11 October 2018

... of the Empress Josephine. Wombats have offered solace where little other solace could be found. Theodor Adorno was a frequent visitor to Frankfurt Zoo after the Second World War. He wrote to the director in 1965: ‘Would it not be nice [or ‘beautiful’: ‘wäre es nicht schön’] if Frankfurt Zoo could acquire a pair of wombats? … From my ...

Doing it to Mama

Angela Carter, 19 May 1988

On Birth and Madness 
by Eric Rhode.
Duckworth, 222 pp., £14.95, July 1987, 9780715621707
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... This method of organisation is reminiscent of the collections of brief, aphoristic essays by Theodor Adorno, although Eric Rhode’s intellectual method is rather less rigorous than Adorno’s. Rhode’s speculation centres on work as a psychiatrist in a puerperal breakdown unit – that is, a place where women ...


Martin Jay, 10 June 1993

Notes to Liteature: Vols I-II 
by Theodor Adorno, edited by Rolf Tiedemann, translated by Shierry Weber.
Columbia, 284 pp., $35, June 1992, 9780231069120
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... Adorno once called his writings Flaschenpost, messages in bottles tossed into the ‘flood of barbarism bursting on Europe’ for the benefit of unknown future readers. The floodwaters have now mercifully receded, and the bottles sporadically wash up on foreign shores, thanks to intrepid translators taking on the challenge of Adorno’s idiosyncratic prose ...


Hal Foster: ‘Inventing Abstraction’, 7 February 2013

... explored by Georg Simmel, György Lukács and Alfred Sohn-Rethel. After Greenberg (not to mention Theodor Adorno), we often think of abstraction as a withdrawal from the modern world, almost a safehouse for art, but the converse is just as true: the modern world became too abstract to represent in the old ways. Dickerman revises Barr dramatically, but ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone, 1 October 1998

Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... the Superchief’ – the cross-country train – ‘to meet all his pals. The Frankfurt school. Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse and Thomas Mann.’ Although Adorno helped Mann with Doctor Faustus, Mann had no especial proximity to the Frankfurt School, so Stone is technically wrong. But the little list is wrong ...

An Unfinished Project

Fredric Jameson, 3 August 1995

The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940 
edited by Theodor Adorno and Manfred Jacobson, translated by Evelyn Jacobson.
Chicago, 651 pp., £39.95, May 1994, 0 226 04237 5
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T.W. Adorno/Walter Benjamin: Briefwechsel 1928-40 
edited by Henri Lonitz.
Suhrkamp, 501 pp., DM 64, April 1994, 3 518 58174 0
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... commitment. The present edition of the Correspondence was co-edited in 1966 by Scholem and Adorno, who keep silent on their own priorities (and who had little in common save their friendship with Benjamin, which was obviously supremely precious to each of them). Their attempts both during his lifetime and after it to wrench Benjamin away from bad ...

Bitten by the love geist

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 30 January 1992

by Francis Dunlop.
Claridge, 97 pp., £9.95, October 1991, 1 870626 71 0
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... triumph of the philistines could be transcended with a Hegelianised Marx. But nor would he, like Theodor Adorno, resign himself to a cultural criticism that could at best reflect the dreadful fractures; or, like the academic phenomenologists, accept the purely private contemplation of essence. He had a picture of an Absolute, and he thought ...

Making a Break

Terry Eagleton: Fredric Jameson’s Futures, 9 March 2006

Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 431 pp., £20, September 2005, 1 84467 033 3
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... Jacoby nor Jameson mentions the latest Jewish thinker to inherit this tradition, Jacques Derrida. Theodor Adorno, whom Jameson does discuss, is another distinguished figure in this lineage, a philosopher for whom pessimism was more utopian than optimism because it kept faith with a suffering so unbearable that it cried out for redemption. In ...

Smash the Screen

Hal Foster: ‘Duty Free Art’, 5 April 2018

Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War 
by Hito Steyerl.
Verso, 256 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 1 78663 243 2
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... to pass through ‘the murky reason’ of capitalist reification, and in Aesthetic Theory (1970) Theodor Adorno stressed how central ‘a mimesis of the hardened’ was to modernist art – but Steyerl takes it to an extreme. Apparently, not only the old proletarian or postcolonial claim to be a subject of history, but also the recent feminist or queer ...

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton, 6 February 2020

A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... closer to the ancient sense of tragedy than the carnage they commemorate is. Besides, as both Theodor Adorno and Slavoj Žižek have argued, to describe the inmates of the Nazi camps as tragic is a moral obscenity. It is as though the use of the terms ascribes a meaning, or even a value, to something that resists all intelligibility. Tragedy ...


Jerome McGann, 22 June 1989

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century 
by Greil Marcus.
Secker, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 436 27338 1
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... Isou and Guy Debord, Larry Clark’s pictures, Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium, Theodor Adorno (in particular his great and mordant Minima Moralia), Christopher Gray’s Leaving the 20th Century, Abiezer Coppe, Georges Bataille. Oddly, the name William Blake never passes the lips(tick) of this book. Marcus uses as well the reminiscences ...

Absolute Modernity

Paul Driver, 26 September 1991

Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life 
by Jean-Michel Nectoux, translated by Roger Nichols.
Cambridge, 646 pp., £45, April 1991, 0 521 23524 3
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Pierre Boulez 
by Dominique Jameux, translated by Susan Bradshaw.
Faber, 422 pp., £25, March 1991, 9780571137442
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Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship 
by Pierre Boulez, translated by Stephen Walsh.
Oxford, 316 pp., £40, August 1991, 0 19 311210 8
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... supremacy of German music for a hundred years), not to mention Schoenberg’s Marxian apologist, Theodor Adorno. Fauré’s work exquisitely evades the latter’s ‘negative dialectic’ (which would find beauty only in wonted ugliness), quietly offering itself as an example of how to move out of romantic tonality without experimentation or the ...

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