Realism and loss of reality

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By SALETE DE ALMEIDA CARA*

Considerations on the naturalism of Émile Zola

Émile Zola's prose challenges the reader and can even deceive him, due to the way in which he grasps his material at the exact moment when it takes on new configurations and, therefore, demands new narrative forms. In each of the novels and in the set they form, the time of the narrative and the years in which the writer worked on its construction, both have a decisive presence in the challenging exposition of the process of commodification of life dictated by capital, which had begun to to internationalize under Napoleon III.

Em Au bonheur des ladies (1883), which I will examine here, the process is exposed in a particularly curious way by the form of the novel, challenging today's readers, who experience the commodification of their own desires to an extreme degree.[I]

In the novels of the Rougon-Macquart cycle, Zola showed that he was suspicious of the promises of autonomy of the subject in terms of the development of a historical process, of a political nature, also suspecting that the improvements of modern life would spare no means to prevent that the slice of life more plundered life would disturb their march. Which, in a way, was in Balzac's novels. But, not for nothing, Zola called Balzac's excess of imagination phantasmagoria, which irritated him. The love affair (for lack of a better term) of Au bonheur des ladies it clearly signals the distance he takes from plots that still presupposed the existence of human freedom massacred by the interests of the bourgeois machine.

The step taken by Zola's novel eliminates this duality, and it is much greater than the reference that Theodor Adorno makes to the naturalist novel leads to think, when commenting on Friedrich Engels' assessment, who prefers Balzac to "all Zolas, past, present or futures”. Although Adorno refers to those moments in which a “representation of facts in the form of a protocol” would take place, I believe that Zola's prose goes further, as shown Au bonheur des ladies, a novel that gives consumption itself the centrality it will have in relation to the industrial production system in the contemporary world, showing the beginning of mass consumption (implying rapid replacement of stocks and new ways of displaying goods), justified by an alleged democratization of luxury trade.[ii]

Centrality that destabilizes, through the mediation of goods, the essentialist character of values ​​that supported the bourgeois project of social harmony (the good moral purposes of the individual, the dependence between merit and success, the maintenance of differences in social class, among others), in in relation to which Zola's naturalist novel established a critical distance, to the same extent that it put under suspicion the model of novelistic plot that valued them, concealing precisely the complexity of an economic system that had an interest in these Manichaean stagings, even though, in them, their own agents to appear as villains. In Au bonheur des ladies there are no villains in the novelistic sense. What is up?

In the 1880s Zola wrote novels such as girl (1880) Pot-Bouille (1882) Au bonheur des ladies (1883) Germinal (1885) and Earth (1887). At the very least, these works show that the constitutive presence of experience in the form of novels that did not have the immediacy of empiricism on their horizon is not of a simple nature, apprehending their objects as a process, that is, as a transformation and permanence of social structures. , where human destinies would not fit predictions or inevitable laws (as, moreover, Zola expounded in his critical texts).[iii]

It may seem strange to say that Au bonheur des ladies brings a particular contribution to these relationships by embedding the failure of the individual in an apparently happy outcome, highlighting the corrosive nature of the mercantile relationships that colonize him, even if integrity is called his sensible subordination to the designs of capital. It is thus, however, that Au bonheur des ladies composes the framework presupposed by Zola's prose as the final stage of the realistic novel. It remains to be seen how he does it. If Zola's novel depends on the space of the big stores, which his prose calls "new temples", the relationships that take place there are exposed by the tense coexistence between what the epic reveals of a domesticated horror, and what intends to hide an intrigue melodramatic.

The vast subject matter of his novels required epic staging, and the writer found an ally in Flaubert's prose: not being interested in the novelistic, in the "extraordinary invention", in intrigue, even the simplest (what to say about the wild and surprising ?), by the construction of heroes, by the excessive presence of the author preventing the reader's own conclusions. Such content and form resolutions, to which Zola gave consequences, did not depend on the abandonment of optimism about the future or on a revolutionary perspective of the writer himself. When talking about his expectations, Flaubert shrugged his shoulders (“when I affirmed my beliefs in the XNUMXth century, when I said that our vast scientific and social movement should result in a fullness of humanity…”).

Although Zola was committed to the project of social harmony with room for the so-called philanthropic virtues, in which the conservative liberalism of the Third Republic was engaged, the formal tension that crosses it is complex. Au bonheur des ladies. The novel takes place between 1864 and 1869, and shows life in a large department store with low-price stocks and a huge variety of goods, of the type that found their place in Paris during the II Empire, transformed by the imperial mayor Haussmann, and whose reform was became a symbol of urban modernity with an international reach (not only because of the engineering techniques used in the reconstruction of the city, but also because the reform removed the poor from the city center). Large department stores gained momentum during the Third Republic.

Walter Benjamin saw this type of store as heir to the old Parisian passages – covered galleries that served industrial luxury, since the beginning of the XNUMXth century. “Passages as a temple of mercantile capital”, writes Benjamin in his study on the role of the commodity form in men's lives. “For the first time in history, with the creation of department stores, consumers began to feel like the masses (in the past, only scarcity gave them this feeling). This considerably increases the circus and theatrical element of the trade”.[iv]

The anachronisms of the “temple of consumption” created by Zola in the novel (electric light, the store's architectural design, and even the collapse of small businesses) have already been widely commented on. But, in addition, attention is drawn to the modern foundations that would support the improvement of that type of capitalist trade. Opposing the pessimism of cultivated men andblasé” that would compose the end of the century physiognomy, the enterprising Octave Mouret, owner of the magazine, enthusiastically defends the careers that were open to practical men, “when the whole century launches itself into the future”, and he allies himself with banking capital, in turn allied with the public power that administers the city, all sharing the interests of capital.[v]

The decisive question depends on the critical perspective of problems that will prove to be lasting, and refer to the growing and abyssal differences, which are of social class, between the chances of exercising what is considered “free will” of subjects – a concept that is abused much, but which is not the measure of any phenomenon. Other Zola novels, such as Gterminal, from 1885, also bring material for reflection on “free will”, which is not the same for coal mine workers and for the future journalist Étienne Lantier. [vi]

Em Au bonheur des dames, the commerce of novelties is a tributary of conceptions shaped as a modern and promising experience. However, perhaps it is possible to go beyond the thesis on the humanization of commercial activity as “the embryo of the great working societies of the twentieth century” (as the novel reads), which is usually highlighted by critics to mark a judgment of the novel itself on the modern trading system. And, if it is possible to go further, this is due to the way Zola exposes, in the very form of the novel, the results of the reach of the world of commodities.

Pressed between a sense of the degradation of life (and the limits of a prose model) and the ideologies of progress (which the artist's personal intentions were not always able to overcome, as confirmed by novels subsequent to the Rougon-Macquart cycle), the narrative form reveals contradictions that are, at the same time, of the material and its fictional apprehension. And by inserting melodramatic material (or a novelistic plot) into an epic prose, without explicitly ironizing the plot, Zola's realistic novel implies a reflection on the formal challenges that would be imposed on the narratives of the new time it opened.

If this issue is shifted to a non-fictional order, these challenges, which are those of the objective historical conditions embedded in the available narrative forms, will be reduced to the formulation of appreciations about the writer himself, sometimes seen as a critical socialist, sometimes as an optimistic liberal, sometimes as an agnostic positivist (as Lukács prefers). Hence the need to understand the meaning assumed by melodrama which, if used in its canonical function, would simply bring to the individual and apolitical scope what should be sought in the scope of social relations, resuming a romantic tradition that annuls contradictions and chooses the saw fantasy as consolation for the cruelties of the world. However, this is not what happens in Au bonheur des ladies.

Although the novel is considered the first in which Zola highlights the capitalist mechanisms, observed in the procedures of the great Parisian department stores, critics have also stated that Zola would have seen, in the “irresistible monster”, a way out after the economic crisis of 1882.” All in all, it is possible to say that Zola, with Au bonheur des ladies, supports the utopia and the illusion of the philanthropists of his time”, writes Jeanne Gaillard, in a very debatable sense of utopia, which takes into account the writer’s opposition to the moralist reaction that, in the 1880s, accused luxury consumption of dissolving morals and good customs (demonstrations also reached the construction of the subway).[vii]

In a recent study, the novel is a “Darwinian report” of the psychological and behavioral convulsions caused by the success of this type of trade, which causes tragedy and victims with its working conditions and its regime of brutal competition, but also makes people fall in love with the spectacle of merchandise. and the emotion of consumption. Returning to the current interpretation of the fabled character of the plot – the marriage between unequals, the poor girl (Denise) and the rich boy (Mouret), Rachel Bowlby focuses on the construction of the figure of Denise, who reconciles the model of the “motherly girl” with the of the modern businesswoman, successful in creating better working conditions and triumphing over male omnipotence.

In the feminine condition, there would also be cynicism, since she is an accomplice in the speculation of women and children (when she was head of the children's section). Bowlby's interpretation considers that Denise "never imagined herself as a potential client", and therefore saves "the family, reinventing it as the ethical foundation of a capitalist institution of vast dimensions", by managing to transform "the ruthless economic logic". I quote Bowlby’s final paragraph: “Transformed by the love of a good woman, both the man and the department store advance towards a XNUMXth century that will confirm the anticipatory intuitions of Denise, mother-manager of a large economic enterprise attentive to social well-being. ”. [viii]

In short, according to both interpretations, the novel provides solutions, albeit of different scope. In the first one, ratifying an ideology of its time; in the second, apprehending a problematic totality by foreshadowing a future ideology that, however, does not seem to lead to the ultimate consequences (for this very reason, it is up to critical interpretation to do more than recognize the premonition). Whether conforming to the uncritical and individualizing optimism of liberal promises (Gaillard goes so far as to suggest that Zola makes no difference between bourgeoisie and socialism), or anticipating the modern manipulation of ethical principles, both interpretations lead one to think of the paralyzing position of a prose that it would not incorporate any transformation point, and would maintain the dichotomy between system and individual.

In another direction, I suggest that the most provocative side of the novel, both fictional and political, formalizes a critique and a double reflection on the matter and the way of treating it, through the montage of different narrative registers, being that the point of transformation is given by the very imbalance between them. If we are interested in observing what the form of a novel says that does more than transform the magazine from a monster into a benefactor, without crashing into the priority of the novelistic, we will see that the coexistence of the two narrative registers is what problematizes the complexity of the matter. A tense coexistence with no solution in sight. Privileging the dramatic action, as is usually done, means giving the narrative a regressive and naive content.

ruler and compass

However, the form of a novel can only make one think because of the very ruler and compass it offers. In this sense, one should not lose sight of the fact that Zola's prose programmatically includes the private sphere in the public horizon. The epic record shows the kingdom of promises constitutive of the commodities themselves, through which consumption gives the appearance of freedom to the subjection of men (“Next came the Scottish wools, in diagonal, in relief, all the varieties of wool, which she was curious to play, just for pleasure, already decided in her heart to take any one”). The description procedure is the key here for setting up the narrative scenes.

The reification process is directly proportional to the frighteningly human presence of objects and commodities. The concrete and tangible images, such as they are presented to customers, support the montage of scenes that submerge in a slow temporality, prioritizing erratic relationships of everyone with everyone around goods and consumption, and giving events a weight that is no longer the same. envisaged in a narration-centered narrative as necessary sequences dictated by the general line of action.[ix]

The relationships between characters are not apprehensible by psychological and sociological laws (as Zola also clarified as part of his program), but follow the movement of mercantile calculation on which the events described and narrated depend, having as their central axis the spectacles that follow one another: the mass of customers ("it was a new spectacle, an ocean of heads seen in shortcuts, hiding their busts, seething in an anthill's agitation"), the women "pale with desire" and "gluttonous hands" in front of the silks, "poor women defenseless” in view of the renewal of aesthetically exposed stocks in lively arrangements of colors and tacts.

At a certain point, the foyer transformed into a magnificent oriental hall, with the luxury of rare rugs, will be bait for art consumers (“Turkey, Persia and India were there.”). And in the final triumph, with the demolitions that make room for yet another “temple built for the consumerist madness of fashion”, the fight will be between the big ones. The banker finances two magazines, and one of them has the beautiful idea of ​​taking Madeleine's parish priest to bless the store (Mouret then thinks of turning to the archbishop). After all, it is “the religion of the white man” that magnificently invades all sections, and the descriptions capture the very soul of public life in Paris (“the human river swam under the unfurled soul of Paris, a great and sweet breath, where I felt a huge caress”).

In this record, the reader is led to question the conservative argument of fatalism, abundantly used by Octave Mouret and Denise, as justification for their ardent defense of the commercial enterprise to whose economic logic they are subservient. If so, Zola inverts the very terms of a novel and of a reception clinging to appearances and conniving with the terms of a commodified private happiness, which, after all, blocks any genuine movement of dissatisfaction and social nonconformity.

But this fatalism finds resistance among the massacred small traders who will fight until their strength runs out, without compromise. In them, the obsession with the big magazine is of a different nature, while Denise's identity is forged, from the beginning of the narrative, in her relations with the magazine and from her uprooting from her own social class, in favor of capital, allegorized by the relations with Uncle Baudu's family and with the other merchants who, on the verge of being decimated, still fraternally welcome her in times of need. Despite the extensive historical documentation that Zola always used, the massacre of small landowners is an anachronism with a structural function, and is not limited to opposing past and present to take advantage of the progress that has Denise as heroine and muse.

The other record, embedded in the first (and which can be seen as an excrescence, or as a residue of an earlier form), is the melodramatic tempo, which highlights a poor young woman, suffering and kind, but also fearless, with a sense of opportunities and deeply ethical business-loving acumen. Stressed by the contiguity with the epic record, it does not support the plot with a happy ending as a solution to the contradictions of matter and form. Although this coexistence may seem like a bad resolution, any objection of this type will be reversed if we pay attention to the meaning of the whole, a strange and frayed totality.

The melodrama narrates the subservient acceptance of the destructive fatalism of progress that the novel does not hide, showing Denise swallowed “by the logic of facts”, despite the horrors she witnesses (“A long time ago she herself was trapped in the gears of the machine. Didn't it bleed?). By choosing Mouret, after experiencing the collective tragedy, we read: “The force that swept everything, carried her along, her, whose presence should be revenge. Mouret had invented this machine for slaughtering the world, whose brutal workings outraged her; he had sown ruins in the neighborhood, despoiled some, killed others; and she loved him precisely because of the greatness of his work, she loved him even more with each of the excesses of her power, despite the river of tears that excited her, in the face of the sacred misery of the vanquished ”.

The contradiction between the records is the seminal figure of prose, which reveals the core of the modern experience in the very narrative tricks that make use of the idea of ​​the progressive impetus of human nature. In this way, any authorial bet loses all interest in the face of the force of the prose that reveals the backstage of a denial that, illusory, believes to find satisfaction precisely where its own subjective experience can no longer exist, as is the exemplary case of Denise, torn between passion for the progress of business and the cruel experience of its predatory, demolishing and deadly nature in relation to its own social class, without ceasing to opt for the former: this is the “mother-manager” referred to by Rachel Bowlby.

The description of goods and activities involved in modern trade therefore becomes the main narrative line and the driving force of emotions, feelings and intersubjective relationships. The allegory that the novel sets up, relying on the melodramatic bias as an anti-narrative, captures the figures of the owner, employees, customers, small traders, financial investors and suppliers as constitutive types of a process, the mercantile, located in different places in the system of production and consumption, and without which their fictional systematization would be impossible.

It is no small thing to observe that, in a realist novel written in the 1880s, only the melodramatic record can satisfy the desire for a happy ending. Passion, if that is what the narrative is about, will be impossible without commerce and profit ("that force that transformed Paris"), which the epic record mercilessly dismantles when narrating the triumph of commodities ("the silk section was like a love-room, draped in white at the whim of a lover – naked as snow, desiring to fight in white”).

It is always the magazine, an engine in full gear, which captures and brings together imaginations and has the power to give meaning to existences without dignity and to deaths that reveal villainy (“Ms. of those limpid panes of glass, behind which a gallop of millions passed (…) and when they extinguished in death, they remained still open, always looking, blurred by thick tears”).

As in other novels of the cycle, the references to theatrical stagings demand an active position from the spectator-reader: instead of the traditional unity and the dramatization of individual points of view, what we have is the unmasking of a spectacle of ideological falsification, with a crowd of actors. Octave Mouret's attitudes of direct and efficient command allegorize the ideology of work that governs the new trade, sewn together by poses of a “human boss” and by the staging of personal relationships that ratify the gratitude of employees, who depend on the interest of capital to “ satisfy the passions” (“Mouret entered the scene to play the role of the good prince”, he “who loved theatrics”).[X]

Two references to the phalanstery try to distance it from the utopia of Charles Fourier – collective societies springing from a natural impetus, which would be anonymous and with profit sharing – and to link it to market mechanisms, insisting on contradiction as a key figure of narrative: the pityingly optimistic bet of the novelistic record, whose realization depends on individual agents, also bets on the conditions of its impossibility. Before Denise's conquests, the phalanstery is an infernal machine that swallows everyone (“Everyone was nothing more than cogs, they were driven by the machine, abdicating their personality, simply adding their strength, to the banal and powerful whole of the phalanstery. Only there outside, individual life reappeared, with the sudden flame of awakening passions.”).

And when fueled by the dream of “improving the mechanism” of trade, of creating a “city of work” where each one “would have his exact share of the benefits, according to his merits, with the certainty of tomorrow guaranteed by a contract”, which would give to the machine even greater, almost divine power, the phalanstery depends on “arguments drawn from the bosses’ own interest” and will come as atonement for the misfortunes and deaths, for which Denise finds explanations, naive or cynical, in the confrontation with the epic record of the tragedy (“Yes, it was the blood part, every revolution has its martyrs, one only marches forward over the dead”).

In fact, it's about getting out of the same to return to the same: that's the diagnosis of prose. As a customer will say about the magazine, it “is a world. (…) You don't know where you are anymore”. A world in constant movement, where at a certain point nothing can be distinguished from anything else, neither people nor goods, all torn apart in a common festival of parts of a gear. At winter or summer sales, at exhibitions of seasonal novelties, or at the opening of new stores that definitively enthroned the power of iron structures, “Industry and Commerce go hand in hand” and the clientele is diversified: “everyone feverish for the same passion” that brings them the extreme and eternal happiness of consumption, as well as refreshments and reading rooms. Later there will be concerts performed by a group of employees and released to the public.

I highlight the narrator's descriptive comment about the logic that awakens "new desires" and new needs in the very flesh of women, in a "democratization of luxury" which, strictly speaking, is a frenetic and everyday movement that feeds the illusion of luxury for all and, above all, it feeds capital (“capital always renewed”). Perhaps it is possible to transcribe, among many others, a passage that configures the object of the narrative, passing through the lively description of commercial procedures (suppliers, stocks, numbers, organization of departments, promotions, awards that lead employees to immerse themselves “passionately at work” looking for errors in debit notes).

“In the motionless air, where the stifling heat softened the smell of the fabrics, the murmur increased, made up of all the noises, the continuous footsteps, the same phrases repeated a hundred times around the counters, the ringing coin on the leather of the boxes seated in a disorder of coin purses, of rolling baskets where the loads of packages fell incessantly into large holds. And, under the fine dust, everything ended up getting mixed up, the silk section was no longer recognizable; below, the trimmings section seemed flooded; farther away, on the white cotton fabrics, a ray of sunlight, coming from the shop window on the street Neuve-Saint-Augustin, looked like a golden arrow in the snow; here, in the gloves and wool section, a thick mass of hats and hairdressers blocked the back of the store. Not even the dresses could be seen, only the hairstyles floated, littered with feathers and ribbons; some men's hats were black spots, while the pale complexion of women, from fatigue and heat, had the transparency of a camellia”.[xi]

How to capture the deepest and most disturbing sense of people's sense of security in paying fixed prices for goods, the sense of freedom in being able to exchange them after they are purchased, the sense of mastery and power in encompassing all floors of the city with a single glance? store, in addition to having direct contact with large inventories? How to narrate the promises of goods to integrate and satisfy everyone forever? How to reconcile all of this with a bet on the new trade – “a new religion”, where the owner reigned “with the brutality of a despot” – seen as a factor of progress and the conquest of rights?

Mouret's decision to marry (“the necessary sanctity”) is mixed with the euphoria of having achieved a profit of one million in a single day. Denise sees the money on the desk. While she still denies it, “that imbecile million” stalks them (“useless”), but it is on him that Mouret sits, holding Denise close, who, after all, consents. The anti-heroes Denise and Mouret are traversed by generalized commodification, which catches a Mouret who is above all logical in pursuing financial and love interests (“Then he took her hands, he said in an explosion of tenderness, after the indifference that had imposed itself on him : – And if I married you, Denise, would you leave?”). His sighs at the futility of fortune in the face of Denise's denials are a type that only makes sense in the prosperity of business (to which Denise contributes).

Contradicting the mercantile logic that governs the so-called relationships of affection, which provides security and serves the interests of one another, it is Uncle Baudu who, stripped of his own affections and work and living in a sanatorium, had been able to comment on what the narrative exposes by incorporating a melodramatic plot into realistic epic staging. On an occasion when, once again, Denise had explained to him her ideas about the “needs of modern times”, the inevitability of progress, “the greatness of new creations, finally the growing well-being of the public”, he had said: “ All of these are phantasmagorias”. And completing his judgment: “There is no sentiment in trade, there are only figures”. Au bonheur des ladies it is a challenge to the new configurations of the inevitable interdependence between subjective and social relations. [xii]

*Salete de Almeida Cara is a senior professor in the area of ​​Comparative Studies of Literatures in the Portuguese Language (FFLCH-USP). She is the author, among other books, of Marx, Zola and Realist Prose (Editorial Studio).

Notes


[I] The Rougon-Macquart cycle takes place between 1850 and 1874 and brings the experience of the Second Empire of Napoleon III (1852-1870). Conceived at the end of the 1860s, it was written and published between 1871 and 1893, during the Third Republic, initially led by Thiers, responsible for the massacre of the Paris Commune in 1871. the revolutions that come from below”, writes Lissagaray in the preface to the second edition of his book, in 1896, referring to the intensification of workers' struggles for their rights. Cf. Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, History of the Commune, 1871. São Paulo, Editora Ensaio, 1991, translation by Sieni Maria Campos.

[ii] Cf. Theodor Adorno, “Balzac Lecture”, in Notes on literature. Paris, Flammarion, 1984, 5th edition, p. 95

[iii] At that time, the liberal-republican ideology of progress and social cohesion sought to disqualify the conflicts between social classes, which resulted from the organization of workers, while recovering the industrial impulse, inaugurated by the II Empire with the construction of railroads and the manufacture of steel rails, seriously shaken by the financial losses brought about by the Franco-Prussian war.

[iv] “Specific feature of department stores: shoppers feel like a crowd; they are confronted with stocks; cover all floors at a glance; pay fixed prices; can 'exchange the goods'”. Cf. Walter Benjamin, Flights. Organized by Willi Bolle. Belo Horizonte/São Paulo, Editora UFMG/Official Press of the State of São Paulo, 2006, p. 80, 86, 98.

[v] Quotations from the novel are translated from the original.

[vi] It's how I read the end of Germinal, when Étienne Lantier leaves for Paris, after finishing his period of “education” in the coal mine, going to assume the role reserved for him as “ideologue of the revolution” (“raisonneur”). He believes in a forthcoming revolution, he hates the bourgeoisie, but he also feels uncomfortable with the “stench of misery”. Resuming his personal path, Étienne dreams of placing the workers in glory, and already sees himself “on the tribune triumphing with the people, if the people did not devour him”.

[vii] Cf. Jeanne Gaillard, preface to Au bonheur des ladies, edition annotated and established by Henri Mitterand. Paris, Édiotions Gallimard, 1980. Endorsing the thesis that Zola was defending “utopias of his time”, Jeanne Gaillard recalls that initiatives such as insurance for periods of inactivity at work, libraries, music and language courses for employees had been created between 1872 and 1876 at the “Bon Marché”, the Parisian department store, at the suggestion of the owner's wife.

[viii] ”Cf Rachel Bowlby, “Wish: A Ladies Paradise”, in The culture of the novel, organization by Franco Moretti, translation by Denise Bottmann. São Paulo, Editora CosacNaify, 2009.

[ix] Antonio Candido's analysis of the novel L'Assommoir (1877) takes into account the meaning of this inversion for exposing the psychic state and behavior of the characters, where the elements that could seem to be accessories in the narrative, constituted by the description, are, in fact, decisive mediations for the symbolic character of the spaces in the neighborhood worker (cf. “Degradation of space”, in The speech and the city. São Paulo, Two Cities Bookstore, 1993, 1st edition.)

[X] Another example of theatrical reference worked in a different way, but also with a critical sense, is the ironic and caricature punctuation of the stagings that are to the liking of the bourgeoisie of Passy, ​​who seek in them an ideal of authenticity and sincerity, in Una Page d'Amour (1878)

[xi] “The realism to which idealists also aspire is not primary, but derivative: realism due to the loss of reality. An epic literature that no longer controls the object relations it seeks to capture and fix is ​​forced to exaggerate them by its attitude of describing the world with excessive precision, precisely because it has become strange, because it can no longer be touched. it with your finger. This new objectivity which, later on, will lead to the dissolution of time and action, a very modern consequence in works such as Le Ventre de Paris, de Zola, already contain in Stifter's procedure and even in the formulations of old Goethe, a pathogenic nucleus, the euphemism. (cf. Adorno, “Lectures by Balzac, in Notes on literature, ob. cit., p. 92)

[xii] About the phantasmagoria of commodities, Walter Benjamin speaks of “eternalized actuality”, returning to the idea of ​​fetishism in Marx, namely, the concealment and, therefore, the eternalization of the process of exploitation of man through the transformation of the product of his work in exchangeable goods.

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