Friday, August 01, 2008

Rusty Fists

Me, unimpressed by a totalitarian coffee table book at the New Statesman. I am duty bound to state that this is minus a pop at Martin Amis, and in one other bit of subs meddling, the 60s mistranslation of Benjamin's title The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility has been used instead of the now pretty common correct version (which was particularly annoying as it came in a paragraph where I pedantically attack the author for misquoting W.B). But as I went over the word count I'll refrain from going all Giles Coren about this. Also, in the same NS issue there's this excellent little piece on Austrian WW2 watchtowers.


Blogger roger said...

Nice review. Did Heller discuss Christmas? Heimat captured the Nazi glorification of Christmas - and Sebald talks about those "glorious Nazi Christmases" in some essay - which has always struck me as popular art on a mass scale.

You are right that grouping the totalitarianisms together is pretty dumb. The military Keynesian solution which Germany and Japan opted for in the 30s, and the American Norman Rockwellian fascination with Christmas both seem to spring from the same motives. On the other hand, there are a lot of connections between Stalinist art and the art of Mussolini's italy - and the parallel is not accidental. For instance, the film school out of which neo-realism came, the CSC, which was established by Mussolini in the 30s, used Russian film as a template to get away from Hollywood and used the whole Film School idea, from the Soviets, as its template. There was a rapprochment between Stalin and Mussolini, which reached its peak with the 1933 friendship pact signed between the two regimes that unwound when Mussolini sent troops to Spain in 1936. However, in those three years Italian and Soviet filmmakers met, and some Italian filmmakers, I believe, toured the Soviet Union. Even after that, Giuseppe De Santis, for instance, published articles praising Soviet filmmakers without incurring any problem from the censors.

6:08 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Yes, certainly - and there are accounts of Italian Fascists going to the USSR in the late 20s to admire the Modernist architecture (there's one in particular that Jean-Louis Cohen cites, can't remember the ref right now). What annoys me is the way that the rest of the world is left out.

Eg, the art of the Italian 20s-30s most resembles the French art deco of the same period (and modernised/stripped-classical aesthetics in Britain and the US, to a lesser extent) but this is always ignored. Similarly, the greatest resemblances and correspondences are Moscow-Berlin in the 1920s, but not after 1933. Anyway, I'm currently trying to restrain myself from replying to fuckwit comments on NS site...

Oh, and Heller decidedly does not mention Christmas.

7:31 pm  
Blogger roger said...

Don't restrain yourself! It is always fun for readers when the author of a piece goes into the comments section. Or at least I think so.

8:03 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

restraint now ended!

4:57 pm  
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