The question of whether Zelig was a psychotic or merely neurotic was a question that was endlessly discussed among his doctors. Now I myself felt his feelings were really not all that different from the normal, what one would call the well-adjusted, normal person, only carried to an extreme degree, to an extreme extent. I myself felt that one could really think of him as the ultimate conformist. (ZELIG, 1983)
ERNEST BECKER, The Denial Of Death (1973)
There are people who will say that because there is so much coming at us - newspapers, magazines, TV, and so on - the result is that nothing makes an impact, that we are just numb to it all. I disagree. I think it completely alters the way we see the world. All of this stuff - all of these images - results in our seeing nothing in its precise totality. Everything jitters, is fragmented, contingent. We look at the world through images, there is no other way. What we see as a result is a sort of atomized chaos - all these fragments and flickerings. And what we sense seeing this is not numbness. If anything it makes us anxious. (LEON GOLUB)
EMILE ZOLA, His Masterpiece (1901)
A work of art is not merely a contest between form and nature, but it also reveals the world view behind it. The gap between external and internal existence can be bridged if the relationship of the work of art to time and space is considered, that is, if its spatial and temporal characteristics are examined. Thus, Egyptian art avoids all reference to transitory things. I never portrays a moment of time to be read at a single glance... Transitory motifs are avoided and a world of completed actions is always depicted. A pair of scales is always in equilibrium, and ship in the builder's yard has just been completed, and so on. The Egyptian artist always showed every action in potentia and not in actu. Frightened by time because it is transitory, he sought to overcome time through space.
BILLIE HOLIDAY - STRANGE FRUIT
I repeat, moderate your demands. Don't demand from me everything great and beautiful and you'll see how well we shall get on together, the gentleman declared impressively. You are really angry with me because I haven't appeared to you in a red glow, in thunder and lightning, with scorched wings, but have introduced myself in so modest a form. You are hurt, first of all, in your aesthetic feelings, and secondly, in your pride: how could such a vulgar devil come to visit such a great man?
MIKHAIL BULGAKOV, The Master And Margarita
HERMANN HESSE, The Difficult Path (1917)
FRANZ VON STUCK
There is an old Eastern fable about a traveler who is taken unawares on the steppes by a ferocious wild animal. In order to escape the beast the traveler hides in an empty well, but at the bottom of the well he sees a dragon with its jaws open, ready to devour him. The poor fellow does not dare to climb out because he is afraid of being eaten by the rapacious beast, neither does he dare drop to the bottom of the well for fear of being eaten by the dragon. So he seizes hold of a branch of a bush that is growing in the crevices of the well and clings on to it. His arms grow weak and he knows that he will soon have to resign himself to the death that awaits him on either side. Yet he still clings on, and while he is holding on to the branch he looks around and sees that two mice, one black and one white, are steadily working their way round the bush he is hanging from, gnawing away at it. Sooner or later they will eat through it and the branch will snap, and he will fall into the jaws of the dragon. The traveler sees this and knows that he will inevitably perish. But while he is still hanging there he sees some drops of honey on the leaves of the bush, stretches out his tongue and licks them. In the same way I am clinging to the tree of life, knowing full well that the dragon of death inevitably awaits me, ready to tear me to pieces, and I cannot understand how I have fallen into this torment. And I try licking the honey that once consoled me, but it no longer gives me pleasure. The white mouse and the black mouse – day and night – are gnawing at the branch from which I am hanging. I can see the dragon clearly and the honey no longer tastes sweet. I can see only one thing; the inescapable dragon and the mice, and I cannot tear my eyes away from them. And this is no fable but the truth, the truth that is irrefutable and intelligible to everyone. LEO TOLSTOY, A Confession (1882)
HERMANN HESSE, Narcissus and Goldmound (1930)
HERMANN HESSE, Steppenwolf (1927)