Lyricism in György Lukács



To understand the muting as a general symptom of modernity, the young Lukács articulates the relationships between the soul and forms

One of the themes that captivate and, at the same time, make it difficult to access the aesthetic work of the young Lukács is that of silence (Verstummung), a concept that designates the loss of speech. But, in the face of such a prolific author and such a vast work, what silence is this? Is it a silence of the soul or of form? A psychological symptom or a sign of modernity? Indeed, one might think that it was his own mutism that consisted at times of a reserve and embarrassment in the face of another, at other times, in his terms, in “a strong repugnance to speak”, when he did not feel listened to; when realizing himself the subject of an empty speech, and in the bitter realization that in almost all of his life, especially in his youth, “he had not been able to strengthen ties with the people who were most important to him”, such as Endre Ady or Bela Bartók (LUKÁCS , 1986, p. 51-52).

In the texts, however, paradoxically, personal embarrassment dissipates and merges with the theme of a general silence that directly refers to the most acute impossibility of form itself, seen as a symptom of modernity. But are we facing the realization of the impossibility of poetry itself, which once could say the essential and which now sighs for the restorative poetic word, which will restore the lost original consistency? Or, conversely, are we in the direction of an “aesthetics of silence”, a silence-pause that opens up as an empty and pure form, as an original creative act, allowing language to say what has not yet been said?

Certainly, in the young Lukács, silence does not result from a positive incommunicability, a sign of a transgressive modernity that seeks to say the ineffable. Nor can mutism be explained by chance, psychologically, through personal motivations: the subjective plane is insufficient, as it is univocal and partial – despite it being legitimate and always an essential side of the problem, after all, it is always the life lived individually that is treat. It is not, therefore, a contingent situation, but this does not mean that we are facing a necessity imposed by some universal law; of a silence that would point to an “inexpressible pain” that, for example, in Schopenhauer's terms, would have roots in the nature of man.

Thus, we find ourselves facing an existential and temporal condition that points to a general framework of incommunicability and that leads to an obscurity in and through language and to an impossibility of meaning. Precisely, we are facing a fracture that occurred in the field of art, as something was lost in the relationship between art and life, since “art has become foreign in relation to its origins” (Ursprung- Fremden aufgewachsen sind) (LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 188). In order to understand the muting as a general symptom of modernity and not as something that has been lost, it is essential for the young Lukács to articulate the relationships between soul and forms. Now, what does form have to do with this silence? How can artwork, particularly lyric poetry, be a way to violate mutism?

In his initial works, the “pre-existential” picture drawn is quite gloomy, but also critical: if we cannot, in contemporary times, definitively know the world, the “destiny” in Lukács’s language, riddled with chance and in constant transformation, we can even less to know men, their desires and actions. Mutism corresponds to dissonance, a concept that characterizes the interpretive mistakes, games of illusion and disillusionment that define modernity: “All we can know about an other is that he is only hope and possibility”; in the infinity of multiple possibilities, “everything is possible, but nothing is certain and everything is confused” (Idem, P. 180).

For Lukács, this finding separates the “world of understanding” from the “world of life”, thus opening a fissure in which existence itself is presented through the metaphor of the abyss: an image figured as a climb to the top of a mountain that ends up on a cliff. The few who reach the top can glimpse for an instant the multiple possibilities and paths that open up, but the reaction to the unlimited and the abyss that separates the peak from the base is the feeling of vertigo and, consequently, the realization of the state of loneliness. and muting. And not the reaction suggested by Kant, in the mathematical sublime before the absolutely great, that is, that of a “moving complacency that has its foundation in moral ideas (...) and that awakens the feeling of a supersensible faculty in us” ( KANT, 1993, p. 96).

By situating the split between understanding and life as the contemporary problem of art, Lukács articulates an Aesthetics based on pairs of opposites: living form and abstract form; authentic and inauthentic form; Life and life; and old lyricism and new lyricism. So that there is in the concepts of this phase of Lukácsian production an aesthetic reflection, according to Lucien Goldmann, guided by a “synthesis between a more or less phenomenological structuralism of Husserlian matrix and a tragic Kantianism”.

From the first phenomenological current, a marked trend in the Freiburg-im-Breisgau school, which influenced Lukács, the concept of “essence as a significant structure” or “significant form” stands out. The method converges from Kantianism, insofar as the author's conceptual reflection starts from the critical procedure, that is, from a conscience that thinks about the limits of knowledge, and, radicalizing, affirms the solitude and the impossibility of saying an absolute truth about the world. From the confluence between these two tendencies emerges an Aesthetics that starts from the consideration of a particular work, taken as necessary, that is, to which a universal value is attributed: the work is a judgment of value, an ethical choice, that is, the search of an order and a harmony in a form, from a subjectivity. The tragic, therefore, would result from an unstable truth based on these particular, problematic and dissonant forms, and, however, significant forms, since they dialectically pointed to this insurmountable rupture between man and the world.1

This can be seen, above all, in The soul and the forms (1910), the central work of Lukács' first incursions into the field of Aesthetics. There, the issue of form already gained a few historical contours, indicating the direction of historicization that will occur with more force from The Theory of Romance (1916). In the essay “The new solitude and its lyricism: Stefan George”, the young Lukács tackles the theme of contemporary poetry, that is, from the beginning of the XNUMXth century, considered by literary critics of the time aesthetic, cold, hermetic and distant. Investigating the pertinence of such predicates, Lukács goes further, scrutinizing and explaining the meaning of this coldness and impassibility, as they pointed not only to a crisis in poetry, but to the emergence of a new lyricism.2 The diagnosis is still undefined, but unavoidable: the fact that poetry is considered obscure and no longer communicates something to an audience does not depend only on the crisis of poetry, but on the organization of a historical-cultural situation; today, says Lukács, “forms no longer develop from life, or they are abstract or non-existent” (LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 189).

What does the crisis consist of, and George's hermeticism, asks Lukács? Would it be a new classicism, which would appear after the exhaustion of the romantic flow? From the point of view of art history, still influenced by a romantic reflection, such as that of Friedrich Schlegel, it would be a plausible interpretation, insofar as the concepts of classic and romantic fluctuate in it, obeying an antithetical dialectic, in which excess of subjectivity of the earlier period is superseded and finds its solution in the objectivity of the later phase.

Now, Lukács confronts Schlegel by stating that the concepts of “objectivity and subjectivity are categories of evolution and history, but not of aesthetics” (p. 134); they are categories of a history of the reception of the reader who, before a poetic work, seeks a relation of causality, identity and similarity; verses that read as objective, cold and classic can be seen years later as subjective, warm and lyrical. That is, nothing that concerns the “value of the work”, but its social position in a historical context, as they specifically signal the sentimental changes that occur over time.3

But, from an aesthetic point of view, it is about facing the most complex side of the problem, says Lukács, which is to understand the value of a work, to understand it as a “significant structure,” thus overcoming the emptiness and the instability of the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity. Aesthetics must face the internal formal problems of a work of art, and in the case especially of Stefan George's lyric, take into account, as Goethe proposed, that "the modern lyricist is a poet of occasion, who is anguished in the face of the literary genre". without knowing what to do”, even knowing that his verses come from the “reciprocal influence of the poet's individuality and the circumstances of his time” (p. 135).

So, if George is an aesthete, considered cold and hermetic, he is so in the modern condition: the one who creates his own form from himself; for he is no longer satisfied with the forms of habitual lyricism. However, the aesthete does not result only from turning to a rich and free interiority, but also from a reaction to a “non-artistic epoch”, characterized by a “contemporary reader's inability to read”; it is a form of the poem that demands a “foreign, ideal reader, who does not exist anywhere”. In his terms, “aesthete is one who was born in an age in which the rational feeling of form disappeared (rationelle Formgefühl ausgestorben ist), who does not resign himself to conventional forms, historically transmitted, as dead residues (...) and who, on the contrary, to the extent of his possibilities, builds in himself his specific determinations and creates from himself the circumstances that determine his talent” (p. 136). He still intends to say something, at a time when the usual lyricism no longer plays any role in everyday life.

Thus, paradoxically, such forms are abstract and meaningful – as they are artificial and negative: forms of resistance to time. From them, the author can elaborate an original reflection on the genres, and here, in particular, on lyric poetry, locating a novelty, “the prudish lyricism (keusche lyrik)”, and to think from this artistic reference the “spiritual problem (seelisch) of contemporary man”. Interestingly, it is not the so-called “intellectually modern” form that allows the author to investigate the marks of the contemporary, but another, parallel, also experimental, more classical form, called “the new poetry of the word” (new words). For the author, this context signals the decline of the tradition of popular singing and the rise of English-style musical lyricism – which, in a way, the mature Goethe had already anticipated the framework and Stefan George, the German disciple of Mallarmé, will be the main name of this new lyricism. Let’s see an example of this movement in George’s poem entitled “Nietzsche”:

Dark clouds advance over the mountain
Cold storms rage — still mid-autumn
Half spring… Behold the wall
Who imprisoned the Thunderer - was the only one
Among the thousands of dust and mist around you?
Ali threw his last lightning rebounds
Over plains and extinct cities
Transposing the long night into eternal night.
Crassa trots down the mass—don't scare her!
It would be to smite the medusa—to mow down grass!
In moments, heavenly silence prevails (...)
Thou redeemer! Most unfortunate of all –
Marked by atrocious fate Have you never seen the thirst for longing smile?
You created gods to then tear them to pieces
Has a work never given you joy or relief?
You annihilate your neighbor in yourself
And when you miss him in absolute solitude
You let out a cry of pain and despair
Too late came the suppliant to reveal to you:
There are no paths over snowy peaks
And terrified birds you heard — in misery:
Exiled in the circle where love does not exist.
And when the relentless, tormented voice
Sounds like a song of praise in gloomy nights
Of moonlight — thus he laments: he should have sung
That new soul and the word shunned!

(GEORGE, 2000, p. 99)

The opposition between singing and speaking marks the sign of the times, the tragic element of loneliness and isolation. When facing the spiritual problem of contemporaneity, that is, the proximity and distance of art in relation to life, which translates into the opacity of the word, Stefan George notes, in this poem, that the “wall that imprisoned the thunderer” and that exiled the philosopher in the “circle where love does not exist” is about to provoke the “heavenly silence”, while “crass trots down the mass”. There is no possible reconciliation between the poet who is “the only one” and the “thousands of dust and mist”, inhabitants of “extinct cities”; there is also no redemption by the word, which is only a “tormented voice”, since it does not relieve or give joy. It is a poetry that arrives too late, without nostalgia, lamenting not for the past, but for the instant of the present that has just been lost and is fading away. Its lyricism marks a literature that is constituted, therefore, from a radical distance. A literature of detachment and solitude, not approximation and communion.

Why is such a form significant for Lukács? On the one hand, the poet's work points to the notion of intentionality, of formal resistance: language oscillates, approaches and moves away from things, without abandoning the sensitive, aiming to become foreign, suggesting an interrupted or disturbed communication . On the other hand, language gives up referring to things absolutely, but does not give up the absolute, understood as the essential, thus avoiding the risk of the form pointing only to what is casual, vulgar, to what is entirely unique and therefore inessential.

An unusual combination, an intriguing beauty: such a form is original and requires a corresponding theory, argues Lukács. For here it is not even a question of an “immanent metaphysics”, as in Schopenhauer, for whom the “poet idealizes nature”, insofar as what is significant is in itself and not by the relations it establishes, so that the poet “constructs a priori those proportions in a pure, non-empirical intuition, establishing them, therefore, not as they are effectively found in the indicated figures, but as they are in the idea” (SCHOPENHAUER, 2003, p. 208).

And not even Hegelian aesthetics and the definition of the lyric as the expression of a subject who speaks to himself, despite the fact that the young Lukács was very close to Hegelian idealism: “What leads to epic poetry, says Hegel, is the need to listen the thing which unfolds before the subject the self-enclosed totality as an objective totality in itself; in the lyric, on the contrary, the inverse need to express oneself is satisfied and to perceive the spirit in the exteriorization of oneself” (HEGEL, 2004, v. 4, p. 157). Or, in the clearest terms of Kehler's notebooks: "The object of lyric poetry is the interior in its way of feeling, in the way of elaborating on itself and producing representations that do not show themselves in connections with actions".4 That is, the lyric is a moment of emancipation from the self, from effusion (erguss) of subjectivity, in which “the spirit that must not be freed from feeling, but in feeling” figures. By the way, in the general system of Hegel's Aesthetics, poetry is the moment of greatest abstraction, with almost no presence of sensible matter.

In other words, a strictly Hegelian Lukács would have to face, if not many, at least the problems inherent to the controversial theme of the end of art, enunciated by Hegel: “For this reason, the state of affairs of our time is not favorable to art”5 (HEGEL, 1999, p. 35). The first would be to face the historical diagnosis that it is a question of a transformation in “the nature of all spiritual culture” and that no artist can escape this situation, “and form a particular solitude that restores what was lost” (Idem). The second, that the poet's solitude is also, in Aesthetics of Hegel, interiorization, positivity, representation, since it is a moment in the course of the spirit in the world, that is, a figure of the spirit, which is located between an earlier moment in which the objectivity of the epic predominated and a later one, in which will give the synthesis in the drama. Now, the theme of the end of art is present in The soul and the forms, but will only be fully developed in The Theory of Romance.

Em The soul and the forms, what makes the emergence of a new lyric possible is isolation, distancing from the “spiritual culture” of its time, caused by the reaction to “a time that is not favorable to poetry”; it is the impossibility of a “public culture”, of “a national soul and voice”, in the old sense, that is, the loneliness of “man torn from all social ties”, but who does not cease to desire some form of belonging . We could say, therefore, that there is an inversion: it is from the outside that the favorable ground for the new lyric comes from the “spirit”, the vocation, the interiority.

What Goethe had already somehow perceived and operated dialectically: “since the specific determinations (of modern poetry) should, if I am not mistaken, come from the outside, and circumstances determine talent”, stresses Lukács (LUKÁCS, 1974, p 136). If the external element appears to be decisive, whose content is a pure lack of interest in relation to art, to what extent would George's poetry affirm the autonomy of art, its emancipatory moment?

The concept of autonomy gained in the essays of The soul and the forms a disenchanted translation. Which means that Lukács really takes seriously the Hegelian idea that a subjectivity cannot jump, by its own means, above its time. And time is that of dissonance, nostalgia, the impossibility of the essence, the absence of common feelings, in short, the unhappy search. If, still in Hegel, Schiller marked the most “acute” moment of the lyric, because “he does not sing silently within himself” (HEGEL, 2004, v. 4, p. 190), for the young Lukács there is no possible reconciliation because George's solitude refers to an absence that signals a nostalgia in a classic format – “no one needs your lieder” – which allows for a sensitive configuration of intimacy, an unprecedented dive into interiority, a devotion to his “inner courses”, to what in his experience is the most personal. But the demand for intimacy results in loss, in distancing from life.

So that, negatively, such a dive “does not announce anything truly decisive about his true being”, says Lukács, while for Hegel the lyric poet would mark a moment of awareness and exteriorization of the perceived, a moment in which the poet “exposes the himself”, “the totality of an individual according to his inner poetic movement” (HEGEL, 2004, v. 4, p. 175). In George, such lyricism that sticks to what is most personal adopts a tone of deception, strongly inspired by his predecessor Mallarmé, as if seeking to conceal the confessional elements, thus avoiding any identification and recognition by the reader.

Lukács demonstrates that the procedure, if it does not result, as in Mallarmé, in the annihilation of reality, stems from a distance from all empirical reality, therefore, from a lyricism that negatively and intentionally distances itself from any communion with the reader. “Symbolic”, “universal”, but mainly “prudictive” lyricism (keushche), “enigmatic”. Procedure that makes the poet increasingly lonely and away from life.

The change is perceived mainly on the formal level and requires a reformulation in the poetics of genres. For ancient lyricism was, says Lukács, a poetry of circumstance, intended for a general reader, simple, little informed, but knowledgeable of the existing meaning, of the oppositions that located an adventure or a heroic act. So such verses were intended to be sung later, in a song suitable for collective voices. That is, the poem was realized in the song.

In modern lyricism, there is the end of musical accompaniment, of singing, not only because of the decline of the community experience that engenders singing, but because poetry is already music in itself, “at the same time text and intonation, melody and accompaniment” (LUKÁCS , 1974, p. 142); evocation of the tonalities of the soul, only through the sound of words, a rhythm that results from the alternation between sounds and silence. That is, we are facing the formal conditions that make the autonomy of the work of art possible.

From a technical point of view, the procedure consists of a remarkable inversion, says Lukács: “if in Heine, Byron and the young Goethe, the lived experience was concrete and the poem consisted in making it typical, raising it to the symbol”, in George, on the contrary, it is the lived experience in its smallest details and casual perceptions that is raised to the typical (typisiert of Erlebnis) and poetry reveals only the modulations of emotions, which become enigmatic and without immediate meaning, preventing symbolization. “Naturally, he (George) always talks about himself, telling everything that for him is deeper, more hidden, and with each confession he becomes more enigmatic, closing himself more and more tightly in his solitude” ( LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 138).6

It is, Lukács names, the “impressionism of the typical”, of verses made of allusions, inaccuracies, details; colors and sounds that get lost, transform into each other, move, but which keep the “poet permanently away from us, readers” (Idem, P. 139). They are too intimate, preventing a clear, simple, and therefore universal meaning. We only find an “atmosphere”, he says, that allows the visible to emerge among things, “in the glittering reflection of their surfaces and the blurring of their contours”, so that the inexpressible can remain inexpressible (LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 172). Later Adorno will say that there is no possible communion between the reader and George's verses, because “they are poems that do not allow intimacy” (ADORNO, 1998, p. 206).7

George's verses speak of looks that were not noticed, words not said or not understood, of instants and transitions. For Lukács, the novelty that George's lyricism heralded, and which was already foreshadowed as we saw in the mature Goethe, consisted in demonstrating that in the contemporary world an estrangement increasingly predominates, and that the desire for belonging and communion could only be enunciated by a murmur and negatively. This is the retreat technique, the reciprocal relationship between approximation and distancing, which is actually the other side of the tension between what can be narrated and what cannot be said in words. For the young Lukács, in the contemporary world, that is, in modernity, proximity has become so intense that everything seems capable of being narrated, which does not mean broader access to what matters, to the essential. That is to say, it is in the face of the most absolute proximity that the most terrible obscurity lies; in understanding everything, the most absolute incomprehensibility. Faced with the impossibility of knowing the world of things, there is an endless buzz, sounds that intersect, filling all spaces, confusing times. But the poet still has to insist on the form, if only to enunciate the incommunicability of the present time.

The French essayist Charles Andler (1866-1933) in his 1912 essay on the reception that occurred in France to the publication of The soul and the forms, demonstrates that one of the novelties of Lukács' essays is the “philosophical orientation of research on literary genres”. For Andler, Lukács, this “modern Platonist”, is original because he begins to work exactly where the historian ended his research; there where form is questioned in its relationship with life, that is, as an opening for the “exploration of the possible” and for the “emigration of the soul”.

Among other things, Lukács's essay on the lyrical makes it possible to enunciate the modern, that is, to perceive acutely that our sensibility has changed, that poetry can no longer be the generalization of an inner experience, since we no longer know ourselves with depth, we can no longer draw a “silhouette”. Therefore, today lyricism only produces “an undrawn image”. He searches our “dark life”; and “he knows how to contemplate this invisible world of obscure feelings”. “If we don't really know any soul, we know better than our predecessors the tiny emotions experienced by them in their inaccessible depths. We know more about the border regions in which delicate, shaken, graceful and therefore significant souls live.

In rare gestures, hardly captured looks and enigmatic words, we can cross a tenuous atmosphere and undoubtedly penetrate even the most intimate, but we can no longer follow them” (...). “Under shades of blue, mauve and emerald, an image emerges that is not designed for the gaze that creates it. From the modulations of the accompaniment, a melody emerges, which seems to sail on a wave, dive and no longer exist. Thus, contemporary lyricism shows us how a superior life arises spontaneously from a vital torrent and crosses us, more often than not obscurely, illuminating decisive moments of a living and fleeting inner light” (ANDLER, 1988, p. 374-375) .

Ambitiously, the young Hungarian philosopher complements aesthetic criticism with historical clues by proposing to Germans a roadmap for a new History of German Literature. Thus, the evolution of German bourgeois lyric poetry that culminates in George would have its origin in the popular song that begins with Günther, developing with the young Goethe, reaching its best romantic moment with Novalis, then with Heine and Mörike, ending with the lyricism of Theodor Storm, the last bourgeois lyric poet. Therefore, before George the ancient lyric asserts itself with Storm in a poetry of disappearance (Vergehens Poetry).

Storm's verses are the last ones that can still be sung, as the lived experience is affirmed in them in all their strength, simplicity and calm. However, as this old bourgeois world begins to collapse and the modern one asserts itself, the verses become anachronistic, as they remain calm, with a “warm and monotonous” tone. In the article “The bourgeois spirit and art for art’s sake”, by The soul and the forms, Lukács chooses Storm's literature as a significant structure to think about the paradoxes of an art that, by obeying its own laws, ends up moving away from life, that is, from a literature that is unconsciously adaptation and renunciation. Through his literature, Theodor Storm naively seeks to reconcile artistic work, strongly influenced by the “art for art's sake” of the German aesthetes (the “craftsman's know-how”), with the bourgeois way of life.

The result, however, is the strong presence of resignation, of a resignation before the power of things, visible in the only acceptable pleasure, which is that of doing one's duty and work well. As a central theme, Storm's literature addresses only "what happens to men, not what they do", that is, the way men react to the events that dominate them, in a structure in which a calm and controlled force stands out. , because no event will take place in it, or if it does, it will be accessory and not decisive. Destiny in Storm comes from outside, and inner strength is powerless before it. Only chance, that is, the contingent chaining of contingent circumstances, determines a man's life. So, there is nothing to do, it is necessary to accommodate, renounce all resistance, and experience the growth of wealth acquired with sacrifice, as an enrichment of interiority. Daily life ends up being sacralized, says Lukács, because it is seen as a mechanical force that acts without human will.

Thus, in general lines, Lukács presents the first diagnosis of the “greatness and tragedy of German culture” — others will come even more forcefully in future writings —, a powerful rationalism, but which asserts itself in the void in the face of a culture that is only “via interior” and “revolution of the spirit”. While in France men become tragic heroes, Germany becomes a “power of interiority”, a country of poets and thinkers; faced with the impossibility of a “real revolution”, all energies are oriented towards inner life.

By stating that George's lyricism is the starting point of the modern, Lukács thinks of the new not in the “superficial sense of the word that would point to an intellectual lyricism”, but as lucidity and resistance against the fatalism of the “inner way”; as “pure aspiration”, “a lyricism of human relations”, even knowing that it is an “inner sociability”, in George's terms (LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 145). That is, the poet does not renounce configuration, does not abandon himself to the world of exteriority, as in Storm, nor to states of mind, such as the romantics, but seeks a mediating form, which glimpses a relationship with the essence, with the universal, with a homeland; and for this he elaborates a technique of withdrawing from the empirical through a rhythm that “produces an alternation between narrative and silence” (Idem, P. 143). If George is considered, among symbolists or neo-romantics, one of the mentors of Dinggericht, from the rilkean thing-poetry, from objects made poetic, with a word at the same time exact and dense, he also displays, for Lukács, a critical poetry that suspends both the contemporary world and the historical world.

If in Stefan George we have the search, with few means, for a simple, rigorous form, in a kind of pre-Raphaelism, says Lukács, the other side, of the “love for form”, can be perceived in the poetry and novels of the Viennese Richard Beer-Hofmann, another little-known author that Lukács chooses as a significant way, in which we have a writing constructed through the “technique of great instants”.

Through the lyrical verses of both, the philosopher affirms the form and its necessity. In George, the form is what makes it possible for the poet to “look life in the eye”, only to find that “men are alone in nature, in a mortal solitude and without remedy” (p. 145). In Beer-Hofmann, the form is what allows a “tragic face to face”, opening an access to the instant as a sovereign and symbolic power (p. 196). The lyrical instants remake, in other terms, the relationship between soul and nature, to the extent that they are “snatched to the duration that flows indiscriminately, detached from the turbidly conditioned multiplicity of things”, allowing subjectivity to detach itself from time in the name of a symbolic form. .

The primacy of the instant does not mean that consciousness, freed from the weight of the present and the presence of external events, can now move freely towards the past or the future, but that, tragically, the instant is a moment of maximum lucidity in the which the subject confronts his impotence in the face of the reified world. The instant is concentration, at the price of an emptying of external content. In the new lyricism we have this moment that creates symbols, which are “sudden flashes of meaning”.8

In both, the deepest feeling of the form is “to lead to the great instant of silence, to the “great silence”, and to represent the variety of life that rushes, as if it were moved only by these instants”. The form is what makes possible the enunciation of the opening moment for the multiple possibilities and the discovery of arbitrariness, chance and contingencies. It is from a lucid relationship with life, and not from the total impossibility of understanding, that the perception of the impassable abyss arises, and the most intense loneliness; it is in the moment of deepest understanding that one discovers solitude and the power of chance. It is what Lukács calls attraction to the precipice, vertigo: the moment of lucidity, before falling into resignation and renunciation of things.

It is known that the young Adorno was strongly influenced by the young Lukács, and that significant differences between the two trajectories definitely separated them.9 But, in the article “Lyrics and society”, written by Adorno in 1950, also regarding George's lyric, we find the same dialectic between language and silence, understandably even more radical: “So that the subject, here, opposes if truly, in solitude, to objectification, he should not even try to retreat to himself as to his property (...): it is necessary for the subject to come out of himself, through silence. He must make himself a vessel for the idea of ​​a pure language. It is the rescue of this that George's great poems aim” (ADORNO, 1980, p. 207).

In “George and Hofmannsthal: correspondence: 1891-1906”, written between 1939 and 1940, Adorno already noted the radicalism of these so-called “conservative” poets, without being deceived by the snobbish character and false aristocratism attributed to their “exclusive circles”. , which indicated, for him, the context of a competitive and individualistic society. But, despite this, Adorno observed that there was no escape from reality in them, nor shelter in a mystical interiority; in other words, technical formalism resulted from the perception of the “decline of language”; they faced the limits of sensitive matter with poetry, by making their traditional meanings explode, elaborating an interpretation, a knowledge that went beyond, without succumbing to the sensual moments of the object (ADORNO, p. 1998, p. 216).

For the young Lukács, at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, however, the problem of art was essentially that of distancing from life, which had become banal, prosaic, inessential. In other words, the problem of form was that of its inscription in life: that is why it had become problematic. The crisis pointed to the desire to belong somewhere and to the realization that it was not possible to belong anywhere; for “there were no more common feelings.” On the other hand, the prevailing rationalism presented itself to Lukács as increasingly dangerous and diluting, since, in the face of a growing mass of information and new knowledge, an obscure depth prevailed. We narrate everything but the essentials; we observe multiple relationships, but we don't apprehend a real relationship, he says.

It's because we get too close, with a kind of epidermal look, that we can't understand what we see, sketch its silhouette, introduce an order. If there is no longer a common experience, the desire for completeness is a mere chimera, to which contemporary man clings as the last redoubt of meaning. In the young Lukács, the theme is recurrent that the essential, and with it the possibility of apprehending reality, is definitely lost. Against "sentimentality" and its promise of an idyllic pacification, George's modern form goes beyond easy sympathy (compassion) and does not dissolve the real into “tonalities of the soul”, but walks in the corporeal and indifferent reality (LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 172).

The themes of detachment and coldness in George's poems refer to another paradox present in Lukács' work, which is the relationship between necessary form and utopian form. If there are no readers, no need, why do the poets insist? How to place a form in a “non-artistic” period? As sheer stubbornness, in Adorno's terms? Now, the conceptual vocabulary of the young Lukács presents a circular chain, which sometimes seems only to perpetuate and expand the impasse: the need for art stems from the “formative principle”, from what is authentically artistic, which refers to a “natural language of art”. manifestation”, to a “form that is a natural necessity”, an “immediate energy of palpitating emotions” and, after all, to a “happy coincidence between life and form”.

Em the philosophy of art (1912-1914), Lukács maintains that the formative principle stems from the creative impetus, above all from a timeless feeling, but which acts in time: a desire to create a reality different from the empirical one. An absolute, non-contingent reality, called utopian reality. Which means that the creative act necessarily results from a distancing from empirical reality, which is jointly mobilized by a rational ordering impulse and also by an irrational, almost magical one, which continues to postulate a relationship to the essence. The path of figuration would thus result from a historical necessity, but also from something mysterious, platonic, fatally nostalgic. How, then, is it possible to speak of artistic and non-artistic eras? Wouldn't the artist always look for something in himself as an irreducible element for the realization of his work?

The problem of artistic form is always solved in young Lukács in a circular reasoning, which oscillates between the concepts of necessity and utopia. Every work forms a closed system, endowed with rationality, laws, internal harmony, etc. A system that “results from the free play between laws and things, from liberated things, turned into play and dance, in their reciprocal relationships” (LUKÁCS, 1981, p. 102). It is in its autonomy a given, which remains irreducibly given. However, art seeks to transform the given into necessity, or, in other words, gain some intelligibility; if art seeks in the words of Novalis “an impulse towards the homeland”, it is about an “ornamental homeland”, adds Lukács, that is, an inverse corrective movement: from the representation of reality to pure form. “That's how the heaven on earth becomes the lost and sought-after paradise of art: all figurative art, creating a reality, looks for this ornamental homeland that is its own, which it has abandoned for the sake of reality, and seeks to find it after having reached reality, in it and for the sake of reality. her” (LUKÁCS, 1981, p. 103).

Now, to state that the artist, understood here as a genius, is characterized by aspiration towards the homeland means for Lukács that the “essential sign of genius is not strength and originality of vision, nor greatness and depth of a particular vision, but the alliance between these qualities of vision and technical forms: experience given expression in a given form; the transformation of a vision of the world into an artist's vision” (LUKÁCS, 1981, p. 134).

In other words, it means that the work does not undo the given elements, nor does it seek to attack things: it is not a pure abstraction. But he seeks a “fraternity between things, an alliance between them, so that they return to themselves, to their simple and immanent existence”. There is a need for the work, a beforehand, pointing to a “universal complexion” that is the impulse, the aspiration to a utopian completion (Idem, P. 134-135). Which means for Lukács that the work relates to the present in its materiality, that is, with the “hour of awakening from sleep” when things return to themselves.

Between necessity and utopia, the modern asserts itself for the author of The soul and the forms not through the “superficial details of everyday life” (the “objects” in Mallarmé?), nor through the merely “ephemeral and transitory” Baudelaires, but through the tragic search for form, “the love for form”, which develops from an unsatisfied interiority; the fact that the shaping role is not renounced demonstrates that there is no romantic escape from the present, but a conscious renunciation, since the “need to move away from life is the tragic dilemma of modernity” and the only possible authentic attitude; because “our specifically contemporary way of feeling, loving and thinking seeks to develop its time, its configuration and its melody in forms, to unite in forms, to develop into form” (LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 196).

This is the “modern style”: “one question, and life around it; a muteness and around it, the murmur, the noise, the music, the singing of the whole (der Allgesang): such is the form” (Idem, P. 188). Always the alternation between silence and narrative, never the domain of only one. So here we are not facing the Malarmean radical nothing, a pure, abstract, pure-language nothing. But of an aesthetic that tries without much success to get rid of the romantic remnants.

But wasn't George a disciple of Mallarmé? If in Mallarmé or Rimbaud, for example, we find a procedure that increasingly renounces the means of connection, radically separating things that are presented as connected, until they lose all contact, becoming pure estrangement — a kind of derealization of sensible reality, or evasion of the so-called real orders, as “shards that came to us from another world, by chance” (FRIEDRICH, 1978, p. 83), in George the still nostalgic form points to the broken link, denounces reality annihilated, without fully overcoming it.

Thus, in this article on Stefan George, Lukács already anticipates the theme of problematic modern form, developed later, in 1916, in The Theory of Romance. George's songs are stations on a great infinite journey, “which has a precise target, which leads nowhere. Together, they constitute a great cycle, a great romance, completing each other, explaining each other, reinforcing each other, calming each other down, measuring their worth and purifying each other. It's the vagabond courses of the wilhelm meister - with maybe something of Sentimental education – but constructed completely from within, in a completely lyrical way, without any adventure, without any event” (LUKÁCS, 1974, p. 137).

if in The soul and the forms the love for form, the new lyricism, was a resistance, in The Theory of Romance the lyrical tendency becomes fatal, as Lukács radicalizes the idea that the “unity has been broken, and that there is no more spontaneous totality of being”: the shattered world is no longer immediately given, so that the forms must to be productive, to create from their own conditions (LUKÁCS, 2000, p. 36). This results in the need for a reconsideration of artistic genres that lose a philosophy of history, that is, a “philosophical periodicity: here, genres intersect in an inextricable tangle, as an indication of the authentic or inauthentic search for the objective that is no longer given. in a clearly evident way (...) the historical-philosophical sense of periodicity will never again be concentrated in the genres erected in symbols” (Idem, P. 38).

What will happen to the genres then? Roughly, the tragedy that speaks of the estranged essence of life remains active until our days, although transformed - because modern drama ends up approaching epic forms; the epic disappeared and gave way to a new form, the novel; and the lyric appears hybrid and exorbitant both in the drama and in the epic: becoming the lyric of the soul.

In the case of drama, each dramatic personae it will have to unite only by its own thread to the destiny engendered by it (...) and precipitate itself in the last and tragic isolation (Idem, P. 43-44). In the case of the epic, the lyrical penetrates the epic, altering its function, since the cut operated by the writer from empirical life is of a lyrical nature: “it is always subjectivity that rips a piece out of the immense infinity of the events of the world, lends it a life autonomous and allows the whole from which it was taken to shine in the universe of the work only as sensation and thought of the characters, only as the involuntary unraveling of interrupted causal series, only as a mirror of a reality that exists by itself” (LUKÁCS, 2000 , p. 48). “The act by which the subject confers form, configuration and limit, this sovereignty in the dominant creation of the object, is the lyric of epic forms without totality. This lyric is here the ultimate epic unit” (Idem, P. 49). There are, however, nuances in the cases of the idyll and the novel, in which the “reality of the real, the external element is not dissolved” (Idem, P. 50).

In any case, the lyrical is, above all, exacerbated, that is, it becomes a “power”: “when a soul is the hero and its aspiration the plot”. But an emptied, desacralized power, “since the circle it draws around what it selects and circumscribes as a world only indicates the limit of the subject, and not that of a cosmos that is somehow complete in itself” (Idem, P. 52). It can produce units of composition, but not the true totality.

In the typology carried out in The Theory of Romance, in the so-called trend of disillusionment novels, Lukács finds the greatest penetration of the lyrical, the greatest inadequacy between the soul and reality, since the “soul is wider and vaster than the destinations that life is capable of offering it”. The same is maintained later: “since lyrical subjectivity also conquers the external world for its symbols, even if this is self-created, it is the only possible one, and it, as interiority, never opposes itself in a polemically reprehensible way to the external world. what is assigned to it, never takes refuge in itself to forget it, but rather, arbitrarily conquering, gathers the fragments of this atomized chaos and merges them – making it forget all origins – in the newly arisen lyrical cosmos of pure interiority” (LUKÁCS , 2000, p. 120).

The exacerbation and fatality of lyricism point to loneliness and not to some form of redemption. Loneliness as the true essence of the tragic, “because the soul that made itself a destiny can have brothers in the stars, but never partners” (LUKÁCS, 2000, p. 43).

A theatricalized solitude, Adorno would say years later, regarding George and, especially, Hofmannsthal, as a conscious gesture of the modern poet who knows the limits of narration in an administered society, and that the search for pure language is carried out in an ironic key, as “stubbornness” in the face of “commodities' reified and banal language”; the poet of the modern allows himself to be subjected by the power of things: “instead of things presenting themselves as symbols of subjectivity, this presents itself as a symbol of things, ready to petrify itself into a thing, into which it has already been transformed anyway. by society” (ADORNO, 1998, p. 219). However, the poet also gains a premonition of his opposite. Here is the prize for his “aesthetic affectation: he represents the utopia of not being himself”, that is, he means what the dialectic of the young Lukács sadly intuited: the aesthete breaks with his “silent noise”, the “social contract of happiness ” (Idem, P. 220-221).

As far as the lyrical is concerned, the relationship between Lukács and Adorno has been especially well pointed out by F. Jameson: The Theory of Romance is a theoretical key for Adorno, as it points to the shattering of reality, perceived now only through fragments of consciousness, that is, from the point of view of genres, the lyrical element penetrated the novel, altering the function and meaning of the epic : henceforth, that is, in modernity, the narrator can only enunciate a content that has been transformed by subjectivity (JAMESON, 1997, p. 268-269). There is only the monologue, even if the communicative discourse tries to hide it.

The differences between Lukács and Adorno are, however, striking and point to an exacerbation of the historical reference in Adorno. For the former, the work of art was and will remain a moment of configuration of a utopian sense, for the latter, they can only be “signs of questioning”. For Adorno, the work as an enigma requires distance and permanence of the enigmatic character, there is no immanent experience that accounts for its meaning: “The truth content of works of art is the objective resolution of the enigma of each one of them, says Adorno. By claiming a solution, the enigma refers to the content of truth. This can only be obtained through philosophical reflection. This is what justifies aesthetics” (ADORNO, 2004, p. 174).

* Arlenice Almeida da Silva is a professor of aesthetics in the philosophy department of the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp).

Originally published in the magazine Criterion vol. 50 no.119, June 2009. Available at


ADORNO, TW George and Hofmannsthal: Correspondence: 1891-1906. In: Prisms, cultural criticism and society. Sao Paulo: Attica, 1998.

ADORNO, TW Lecture on poetry and society. São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1980. (Os Pensadores).

ADORNO, TW aesthetic theory. Madrid: Akal, 2004.

ANDLER, Charles. La vie de l'âme et la genesis des formes littéraires. In: Le Parthenon, n. 2, 19, 1912. In: Az ifjú Lukács a kritika tukrében. Budapest: Lukács Archivum, 1988.

ÁRPÁD, Timor. Lúkacs györgy ifjúri müveinek fogadtatása magyarországon. In: Az ifjú Lukács a kritika tükrében. Budapest: Lukács Archivum, 1988.

BERARDINELLI, Alfonso. From poetry to prose. São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2007.

FRIEDRICH, Hugo. Structure of the modern lyric. São Paulo: Two Cities, 1978.

GEORGE, Stefan. Twilight. Translation by Eduardo de Campos Valadares. São Paulo: Iluminuras, 2000.

HEGEL, GWF aesthetics courses. Translation by Marco Aurélio Werle. São Paulo: Edusp, 1999, v. 1.

HEGEL, GWF aesthetics courses. Translation by Marco Aurélio Werle and Oliver Tolle. São Paulo: Edusp, 2004. v. 4.

JAMESON, Fredric. late marxism. São Paulo: Unesp: Boitempo, 1997.

KANT, Immanuel. Faculty of Judgment Review. Rio de Janeiro: University Forensics, 1993.

LUKÁCS, Georg. The Theory of Romance. Translation by José Marcos de Macedo. Sao Paulo: Ed. 34, 2000.

LUKÁCS, Georg. Die Seele und die Formen: Essays. Berlin: Luchterhand, 1971.

LUKÁCS, Georg. Heidelberger Ästhetik (1916-1918). Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 1975.

LUKÁCS, Georg. Heidelberger Philosophie der Kunst (1912-1914). Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 1974.

LUKÁCS, Georg. L'ame et les forms... Paris: Gallimard, 1974.

LUKÁCS, Georg. Pensée vécue, mémoires parlés. Paris: L'Arche, 1986.

LUKÁCS, Georg. Philosophie de l'art (1912-1914). Paris: Klinksieck, 1981.

LUKÁCS, Georg. Problem of Realismus III. Berlin: Luchterhand, 1965.

SCHLEGEL, Friedrich. About the studio of Greek poetry. Madrid: AKAL, 1996.

SCHOPENHAUER, Arthur. Metaphysics of Beauty. Sao Paulo: Ed. UNESP, 2003.

WERLE, Marcus Aurelius. Poetry in Hegel's Aesthetics. São Paulo: Humanitas: FAPESP, 2005.


1 Cf. GOLDMANN, Lucien. L'esthétique du jeune Lukács. In: Marxism and human sciences. Paris: Gallimard, 1970. For Goldmann, in The soul and the forms Lukács is in line with the great tradition of classical philosophy when he defines meaning by the relationship between the soul and the absolute. On the other hand, by locating authenticity in the awareness of limits and death, he sustains until the end a tragic vision that leads to the rejection of the world and all inauthentic forms. Cf. Introduction aux premiers écrits de Lúkacs. In: LUKÁCS, G. La Théorie du Roman. Paris: Denoël, 1968. p. 166-168.

2 The novelty and boldness of Lukács's texts, their independence from the Hungarian cultural scene and their willingness to dialogue with foreign literature, especially German, can be seen in the cautious reception that the book obtained among Hungarian literary critics. His text was accused of “foreignness”, “formal aristocratism”, “hermeticism”, that is, the young essayist Lukács was also accused of being “aestheticizing” (ÁRPÁD, 1988, p. 7-23).

3 For F. Schlegel, it is not possible to reproduce the perfection of the Greeks in the present, that is, Antiquity was a single, perfect and closed event, but “the history of the formation of modern poetry represents the constant conflict between subjective predisposition and objective tendency. aesthetic ability and the gradual predominance of the latter. With each change in the relationship of the objective to the subjective begins a new degree of formation (...) true beauty must first take root in many loose spots, before it can spread over the whole surface, before modern poetry can catch up. the next phase of its evolution: the absolute domain of the objective” (SCHLEGEL, 1996, p. 144-148).

4 HEGEL. Kehler's Notebook, p. 396-397 (apoud WERLE, 2005, p. 193).

5 The theme of the end of art in Hegel was and remains controversial. “The peculiar character of artistic production no longer satisfies our high need. We have passed the stage where works of art could be venerated and worshiped as divine. The impression they provoke is of a reflective nature and what they evoke in us still needs a superior touchstone and a different form of proof” (p. 34). Hegel's diagnosis is definitive, despite locating in Schiller, and especially in Goethe, the apex of the greatest production of lyric poetry, and, in a way, its moment of exception: “Klopstock (…) and if he also remains according to some respects bound to the limitation of his times and composed many merely critical, grammatical and metrical, cold odes, yet since then, apart from Schiller, no one has come up again with such an independent noble figure in serious manly mentality. On the contrary, Schiller and Goethe lived not merely as such singers of their time, but as more comprehensive poets, and particularly Goethe's songs are the most excellent, profound and effective that we Germans of today possess, for they belong entirely to him and his people and, just as they grew up in the familiar soil, they also correspond completely to the fundamental tone of our spirit” (HEGEL, 1999, v. 4, p. 200).

6 It is interesting to compare the definition of lyricism in the young Lukács with that of Schopenhauer, and to perceive the modernity of the first and the still moral dimension of the second. For the latter, lyric poetry stems from the requirement of the “idealistic” in the exposition of character: “all anomalies of character have to remain excluded from the person, who has, in his action and speech, to manifest his character in a consistent way, clear, pure and exact. This just means that the character has to be exposed idealistically; only its essentials, in its entirety, must be shown, excluding any casual and disturbing element” (SCHOPENHAUER, 2003, p. 216). In other words, lyric poetry results from the confluence of the “subject of wanting with the subject of knowing”; what becomes especially clear in the specific essence of the song: the sensation of this contrast (between wanting, self-will, and pure knowing devoid of will) of this game of alternatives is precisely what is expressed in every song and constitutes, in general, the lyrical state” (Idem, P. 212).

7 For the Italian critic Alfonso Berardinelli, the lyric genre becomes, in the second half of the XNUMXth century, not only central, determining, but an autonomous genre, as “it is a lyric that radicalizes and specializes the preceding lyric genre, forcing the monologue and the metaphorical audacity towards the inhospitable lands of a demonic solipsism, towards the hybris of an absolute language, tending to be averse to any communicative fluency” (BERARDINELLI, 2007, p. 143).

8 Despite not referring to the works of Lukács, Eric Auerbach at various times is very close to the reflection of the Hungarian philosopher. For example, Auerbach's concept of the Modern, apprehended in the novels of Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust, also marks an appreciation of a new conception of time. The modern writer has abandoned himself to chance and contingencies, he no longer seeks to compose and order time completely, on the contrary, he makes the instant, a fragment chosen at random, the element that releases and triggers “consciousness processes”, deeper realities, layers of consciousness that refer to a multifaceted time. But, unlike Lukács, the modern for Auerbach does not have a tragic dimension, it is the “confidence that any fragment chosen at random, at any moment, in the course of a lifetime, the whole substance of destiny is contained and can be represented” (Cf. AUERBACH. mimesis, P. 480-498.

9 Cf. TERTULIAN, Nicolas. Adorno, Lukács: polemics and misunderstandings. Left margin, no. 9, p. 61-81, Jun. 2007.


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich