In this week’s TLS – a note from the Deputy Editor
For much of his life and ever since his death, Picasso has been universally accepted as one of the greatest artists ever known. But his works of the 1920s and 30s still sometimes met with puzzlement or hostility – Carl Jung, for example, called him an “underworld” personality who followed “the demoniacal attraction of ugliness and evil”. It is just these “pathological” aspects of Picasso’s vision that interest T. J. Clark in his new study – “ambitious but exasperating”, according to our reviewer Jack Flam – of the artist who sought “something similar to what Nietzsche characterized as Untruth: a post-moral, post-Christian confrontation with reality in all its monstrous, unfiltered forms”. From a new edition of Paul Cézanne’s letters, Gabriel Josipovici forms a very different picture, “a group of happy, highly educated friends, steeped in Virgil and Horace, enjoying a life of long hikes, picnics and swims in the rivers”: hardly the Cézanne of popular legend, a solitary seeker after truth, sacrificing all for his art – though such qualifications are lost “on a public hungry for modern saints now the religious variety has gone for good”.
Ireland, Yeats’s land of plaster saints, becomes “a land of shame, a land of murder and a land of strange sacrificial women” in the stories of Edna O’Brien. Joyce Carol Oates enjoys the passion, lyricism and humour with which O’Brien animates a world of “emotional extravagance and emotional starvation”. The American poet James Dickey was no stranger to emotional extravagance, as recorded by Jules Smith who reviews Dickey’s 960-page Complete Poems, in which among much else “Despair and exultation / Lie down together and thrash / In the hot grass”. Dickey’s editor considers that he was “transformed into a poet by World War II”. Some of his compatriots were transformed into conservationists: the “monuments men” who were charged with rescuing the incomparable artistic heritage of an Italy under bombardment. John Foot reviews a second instalment of their story, soon to be a major motion picture.