Internal Combustion

David Trotter

  • The Letters of Rudyard Kipling. Vol. III: 1900-1910 edited by Thomas Pinney
    Macmillan, 482 pp, £50.00, December 1995, ISBN 0 333 63733 X

Day after day in the course of October 1907, Rilke returned to the two rooms at the Salon d’Automne devoted to Cézanne’s memory. The letters he wrote to his wife describe his intense admiration for the ‘emptying out of love in anonymous work’ which had enabled Cézanne to render the ‘substantiality’ of the natural world. What finally persuaded him, however, of the essential loneliness of Cézanne’s effort to strip away the preconceptions which separate us from that world was not the pictures themselves, but a quirk of scheduling: ‘the Salon no longer exists; in a few days it will be replaced by an exhibition of automobiles which will stand there, long and dumb, each one with its own idée fixe of velocity.’ The public wanted its preconceptions back in a hurry.

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