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Forums => Shelf Abuse => Topic started by: Retinend on December 10, 2020, 12:50:49 PM

Title: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 10, 2020, 12:50:49 PM
So first off, let the working definition of "pseud" be a deliberately vague and decidedly subjective one: a writer with more style than substance

That is to deliberately exclude the "Private Eye" definition of "pseud", which is someone, usually a popular entertainer, who goes on record with poorly-worded attempts at profundity. Let's ignore these and stick to real writers.

Now, to anticipate a criticism of this thread, I don't think "pseud" is merely an insult, akin to asking "Which writers are dumbasses?". If you had a time machine and a cloning machine, and you resurrected both the early- and the later Wittgenstein, you can be sure that both would accuse the other of being a "pseud!" It wouldn't change the fact they were two of the smartest men who ever lived. What I'm saying is that "to pseud" is only human, and most people who even qualify for pseudery have put a lot of intellectual work into their ideas or their literary style, as the case may be.

On that note, hopefully there will be no need to rudely accuse one another of "missing the point" of a work or "not getting" something, because this is all very subjective stuff. I feel slightly guilty for coming up with such a negative idea for a thread[1]. I feel I should bear in mind that one man's trash is another man's treasure... and in the best case this thread might give an opportunity for fans to clear up what they like about authors that miss others completely, because they haven't experienced the same things or simply don't have the same disposition.

OK so let's get to the negative! I'll try to get the ball rolling, though I would prefer to just hear what people have on their lists, rather than have to defend my own choices. That said I'll try to justify myself as I go:


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Those are off the top of my head, and I'm not quite happy with them as being archetypal "pseuds"... but I'll hand over to the rest of you now, looking forward to feeding off all of your negativity 🧛😋
 1. which is why I will here blame the germ of the idea on Bernice's passing comment on Camus in the Millwall thread (of all places!)
 2. In the scrappy, drugged-up phantasmagoria, "Naked Lunch", the dildo named "Steely Dan III" was "Chewed to bits by a famished candiru in the Upper Baboonsasshole" so I named my blog "Famished Candiru"
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Astronaut Omens on December 11, 2020, 01:15:39 AM
Really interesting stuff.
I really like Henry James, and following on from your stuff about the Eton teacher/ J.Peterson fan last week, I think you'd enjoy his novel "The Bostonians", about the complicated relationship between a charismatic feminist speaker, (whose speaking engagements make her resemble a public intellectual from our time) and a reactionary Southerner. I wrote about it before here:
https://www.cookdandbombd.co.uk/forums/index.php/topic,62777.msg3523276.html#msg3523276

I think your point about his work taking place in a very privileged world is a fair one, but I would say that he uses it well- for example, the plot of his excellent, well-crafted and mysterious short story "The Pattern in the Carpet" could really only have taken place within the comfortable world of literary criticism.
 I have a lot of sympathy for people who are suspicious about just how much of the literary canon involves the lives of the wealthy, but as with George Eliot and Thomas Mann, the pleasure in James' best bits is the pleasure of thinking about the dilemmas that would face us even if out material problems were solved. As for the example you pick- well surely marrying the wrong person is one of the worst mistakes a person can possibly make, regardless of their social class.
His later books like The Ambassadors are really difficult to read, but I did get the sense, as I struggled through that one, that he was trying to show something about the way the culture around him was starting to decay a bit, and that the main character Strether's weakness and indecisiveness was mirrored in the torturous sentence structure- but maybe the book is a much a symptom as it is a diagnosis of the problems he was talking about it.

I also went through a Burroughs phase when I was younger, which I'm not particularly embarrassed by. "Naked Lunch" is inessential, and not to be taken seriously as a novel at all, but it is funny- it always struck me a being a really horrible cousin of the Monty Python TV series. The freeform nature does not come from a pretentious/pseudy/arty attempt to transcend regular literary forms, I just think he had no idea how to write a novel and so put together a bunch of amusing/disturbing sketches and was lucky to find an audience with it.
"Junky" is very good at introducing the reader to the weird language and ritual of the mid-century US smackhead sub-culture- and a lot of the phrases from it. have stuck in my head for years. I'm down to my cottons, so I've got to get a croaker to write me a script for some yellow jerseys, or I'll have to go out lush-working again.etc. I don't know if it's realistic, mind you, but I can't fault it as world-building.
Your moral condemnation of his lifestyle is totally appropriate, but I doubt there was anything pseudy or pretentious going on there, if anything I suspect he was stunted and adolescent in his worldview.

I had almost exactly the same reaction to the Camus novel as you did, but I suspect that his motivations were genuine in writing it- my guess is that the world Camus was raised in was much, much more conformist than the world we live in now, and what seem very sensible and appropriate conventions to us may have seemed arbitary to him because there was more of them.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: chveik on December 11, 2020, 01:41:41 AM
I think your point about his work taking place in a very privileged world is a fair one, but I would say that he uses it well- for example, the plot of his excellent, well-crafted and mysterious short story "The Pattern in the Carpet" could really only have taken place within the comfortable world of literary criticism.
 I have a lot of sympathy for people who are suspicious about just how much of the literary canon involves the lives of the wealthy, but as with George Eliot and Thomas Mann, the pleasure in James' best bits is the pleasure of thinking about the dilemmas that would face us even if out material problems were solved. As for the example you pick- well surely marrying the wrong person is one of the worst mistakes a person can possibly make, regardless of their social class.
His later books like The Ambassadors are really difficult to read, but I did get the sense, as I struggled through that one, that he was trying to show something about the way the culture around him was starting to decay a bit, and that the main character Strether's weakness and indecisiveness was mirrored in the torturous sentence structure- but maybe the book is a much a symptom as it is a diagnosis of the problems he was talking about it.

I was going to 'defend' James (he's one of my favourites) but you did a pretty good job.

the slow-dripping of information and the esotericism you find in his books are a very clever way to make the reader follow very closely the characters' psychological process. I see his later novels (The Golden Bowl for instance) as Hegel's Phenomenology of the Spirit in literary form: the style is quite different obviously but you still have those very convoluted sentences that intend to describe accurately the way the conscience miss its objects, and the various stages of self awareness (pushing the bildungsroman model to a limit). there's obviously a lot sociological content regarding the relationship between of the old Europe and the fresh America, marriage as an institution (which is basically the subject of most novels of the time), but I think the most fascinating thing about James are those highly detailed psychological explorations. and despite (or maybe thanks to) all that, some of his stories still manage to be really devastating (The Altar of the Dead, What Maisie Knew etc.).
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 11, 2020, 08:09:42 AM
Very good defenses of James. I am not totally indifferent to him, and I certainly like other authors similar to him such as Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh, who tend to portray upper-middle or plain upper class characters... I suppose I have more faith in them as storytellers, and if I can forego James's prose and still get the same sense of milieu and epoch, I will. One of my all time favourites, Maugham's "The Razor's Edge" is, in these respects, very much like "The Ambassadors" (the snobbish character of Elliot seems to be a Henry James-type figure, loving, if critically, portrayed).

Chad (the archetypal American) and Madame de Vionnet (the archetypal European) in "the Ambassadors" are indeed interesting characters and the structure of the novel does pay off towards the end from the point that Strether discovers Chad in his deceit on that boating trip: without such a long deceit of Strether and the reader, the payoff would not have been so great. I wrote more on the book here. (https://famishedcandiru.blogspot.com/2019/03/grappling-with-james.html)

I think I will probably read more of him because, as you say, Chveik, there is something worthwhile in decoding those long sentences for how they evoke a stream of consciousness, or something even more essential. I will certainly give James that he understood people, even if those people were somewhat pseudy themselves.

I am happy that I had an opportunity to go into all that, but do you two have any nominations yourselves?
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 11, 2020, 12:31:42 PM
Sidebar: here is footage of William Burroughs in person, promoting "Naked Lunch", and making a rather pseudy summation of Wittgenstein in the process (go to 57 minutes and 30 seconds exactly): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzdW7Fo0eB4&t=57m30s

I feel compelled to say it again: I'm not saying he wasn't an unusually intelligent man, far more intelligent than myself. I am just saying he doesn't quite justify the comparison of Wittgenstein's ideas with his "Cut-up technique", there.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: buttgammon on December 11, 2020, 01:26:36 PM
Sidebar: here is footage of William Burroughs in person, promoting "Naked Lunch", and making a rather pseudy summation of Wittgenstein in the process (go to 57 minutes and 30 seconds exactly): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzdW7Fo0eB4&t=57m30s

I feel compelled to say it again: I'm not saying he wasn't an unusually intelligent man, far more intelligent than myself. I am just saying he doesn't quite justify the comparison of Wittgenstein's ideas with his "Cut-up technique", there.

Yeah, I'm not buying that comparison to be honest. If anything, I'd be more inclined to link the cut-ups with the first seeds of pop art, things like Richard Hamilton's collages. Some similar techniques are fascinating and brilliant - particularly in the hands of people like Raymond Queneau - but that's normally using much more complicated methods and with more pleasing results. A writer I really like, Ann Quin experimented with cut-ups and even in her hands, I'm not a fan.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Ominous Dave on December 11, 2020, 03:52:54 PM
Ezra Pound was definitely a pseud: he's undeniably one of the most important writers of the 20th Century, but his need to present himself as a dazzling genius with a profound understanding of world literature often obscures his actual poetic talent, and a lot of his literary criticism is pseudery of the highest order (most obviously his pontifications about Chinese literature, despite being unable to competently read or speak any Chinese languages and having to rely on secondary sources). Also his politics are a prime example of an intellectual poseur adopting an ideology for mainly-aesthetic reasons without caring a jot about its real-world implications.

Can't really comment on Burroughs as I've only read the obvious stuff, but I think the cut-up/experimental style does lend itself to the author being able to imply there's a deep hidden meaning in the text that doesn't really exist (much like Pound's later soup-of-literary-allusions style) - so whether or not he's a pseud, he's certainly a very tempting writer for pseuds to imitate.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: pigamus on December 11, 2020, 03:58:22 PM
Pound didn’t really know his onions with Latin and Greek either, as Robert Frost, who did, pointed out.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 11, 2020, 06:41:57 PM
Pound gets a yes from me. As someone who has learned several languages I know that each of the ones you know is always in some degree of disrepair, and you are always repairing them. Yet Ezra Pound would snatch the most obscure snippets of, say, Spanish and shove them into his poems as if they were well-known phrases. I can speak Spanish and I don't know what he's trying to say with those instances. With Chinese I couldn't tell you, but no doubt he believed he spoke them all without knowing much more than a tourist's version of the language.

A good counterpoint is Eliot:

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.


Here the German is conversational and implies an international atmosphere.

Bin gar           keine Russin,      stamm’ aus  Litauen,      echt deutsch.
I'm absolutely no     Russian(f)  hale     from Lithuania    very German

"No I'm not a russian I'm from Lithuania actually - with German family roots"

The use of this kind of sentence (which might also be translated in other ways depending on what the tag "echt deutsch" could mean) shows that Eliot isn't just wagging his dick in our face, but is trying to describe a scene that only exists half in English, half in German: the final lines identify this part of the poem with a place: certainly the "south" refers to the alps. The "mountains" connect with the alps. The final sentence describes a spontaneous desire to recapture a childhood wish.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 11, 2020, 06:47:35 PM
So I think the fact Pound edited the Wasteland (very effectively) shows that he was the sort of person who could entrance superior creative talents and make them feel wanted. He was certainly ...ahem... "a character", in addition to being a born fascist. Privately he might have had the most ugly ideology about the "whiteness" of the literary inheritance, but among his friends he was well loved as an enabler of wild ideas in literature. Funny legacy.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Mr. Ssmsslth on December 11, 2020, 07:37:10 PM
How does Meursault not feeling a lot of emotion make him a monster?
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Pearly-Dewdrops Drops on December 11, 2020, 07:48:44 PM
Camus is arguably one of the most original philosophers of the twentieth century. He is quite literally the polar opposite of "style over substance." Viewing Meursault as a "martyr" would be entirely inconsistent with the intended point of the novel, as does your condemnation of him as immoral.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 11, 2020, 08:44:08 PM
How does Meursault not feeling a lot of emotion make him a monster?

To me it’s a kind of a human monster: someone totally unfeeling to anyone, and starting with coldness towards the mother.

Camus is arguably one of the most original philosophers of the twentieth century. He is quite literally the polar opposite of "style over substance." Viewing Meursault as a "martyr" would be entirely inconsistent with the intended point of the novel, as does your condemnation of him as immoral.

What is the point of the novel? I admit it has eluded me, though I read it twice, once in the original French. I paraphrased Camus’s own words, which paint his Meursault as a martyr to the modern spirit of the age.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Pearly-Dewdrops Drops on December 11, 2020, 09:39:29 PM
What is the point of the novel? I admit it has eluded me, though I read it twice, once in the original French. I paraphrased Camus’s own words, which paint his Meursault as a martyr to the modern spirit of the age.

It's meant to illustrate Camus's philosophy of absurdism, and the protagonist's progressive awareness of the absurd. That includes the arbitrariness of the premises on which you (or the other characters in the novel) base the claim that Meursault is immoral. I think, definitionally, Camus would never call Meursault a martyr. A martyr implies having died for one's beliefs.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 11, 2020, 09:48:05 PM
I guess that deeper meaning comes out if you read Myth of Sisyphus, which I haven't. I'm still not entirely sure how "absurdism" differs from "existentialism" in general. So that all went over my head.

But did Meursault not die for his beliefs? All he had to say was "we all grieve in our own ways. I loved my dear mother but we had our differences and I'm not the type to show my emotions readily". He didn't need to come across as such a prick in court merely to demonstrate the arbitrariness of the premises with which the court based its claim that he be immoral.

He could have said anything relatable to help his case on a subjective level, but he was guilty of the crime of excessive force in objective terms. He didn't need to kill that fellow. And he didn't need to die himself. Our system of justice strongly rewards mere recognition of one's crime, which Meursault, because he was arrogant, eschewed.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Urinal Cake on December 11, 2020, 09:58:47 PM
Meursault is the paradigm of his philosophy. Camus' real critique is of society. A society that judges somebody so harshly that sentences somebody to death because they didn't cry at their mother's funeral. It wasn't that Meursault shot and killed a man. It was that Meursault shot and killed an Arab in self-defence- something he would've got a slap on the wrist for. Society gives meaning to where there is none to create it's rules. But for Camus there is meaning in a life which society does not do because it still permits the death penalty. This is why he was a critic of the death penalty.

Existentialism = you can search for meaning in life
Absurdism = you can search for meaning in life as long as you realise it is ultimately meaningless or absurd.


Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Ominous Dave on December 12, 2020, 02:46:11 AM
So I think the fact Pound edited the Wasteland (very effectively) shows that he was the sort of person who could entrance superior creative talents and make them feel wanted.

The irony is that if an an equally-gifted writer did the same merciless hatchet-job edit to the Cantos as Pound did to The Waste Land then it could've been one of the great poems of the century. As it is we have to wade through endless tiresome wank to get to the dazzlingly brilliant bits.

(I'm aware that there's some controversy over how much of the original Waste Land mansucript was cut by Eliot rather than Pound, but it's late and I'm a bit drunk so leave it.)
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Twit 2 on December 12, 2020, 10:02:00 AM
I regard Camus and Sartre as ‘fake existentialists’, and Sartre as a particularly egregious charlatan. I’m not inclined to explain why, though.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: buttgammon on December 12, 2020, 10:48:11 AM
It's years since I read anything by Camus but I quite strongly dislike Sartre; as someone who teaches theory on a literature course, I've made it my mission to take people who read Nausea when they were fifteen, and introduce them to Nietzsche.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: pigamus on December 12, 2020, 11:36:23 AM
Clive James gives Sartre a good kicking in Cultural Amnesia
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: chveik on December 12, 2020, 01:02:01 PM
I'm very fond of Sartre. Being and Nothingness isn't an easy read but there's some fantastic stuff in there.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Sin Agog on December 12, 2020, 04:18:14 PM
I'm half deaf in one ear (too many Japanese noise rock concerts?) so once when my aunt asked me if I was a fan of Satie, I replied: "Oh yeah, he's the guy who said that hell is other people, right?" and looked like a prize plum.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Twit 2 on December 12, 2020, 04:21:43 PM
Dp
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Twit 2 on December 12, 2020, 04:50:18 PM
(https://i.postimg.cc/CKynrKLZ/C623204-B-CBCA-4825-A864-5293-B6896902.jpg)
(https://i.postimg.cc/0NxXRPVQ/6-AEC3422-58-F5-483-D-BBD3-AA703-CEF3824.jpg)
(https://i.postimg.cc/TYM4qVng/846-C7-FFC-436-C-43-AA-93-FE-A97-FFE8-A82-A5.jpg)
(https://i.postimg.cc/DfsCZSRZ/A3-E9-CA7-E-791-C-4-EC0-95-BC-E924-D033-F294.jpg)

***

(https://i.postimg.cc/sxvsYpWt/9-C0-BEA8-F-0030-48-DA-8897-F9664551-EECF.jpg)
(https://i.postimg.cc/k4SyBH1Z/22752-E9-D-6-ADE-438-D-89-EB-F415-C92-E2-A92.jpg)
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: chveik on December 12, 2020, 04:53:04 PM
don't see how this is relevant, unless you're nomimating Cioran for this thread
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Twit 2 on December 12, 2020, 04:57:51 PM
don't see how this is relevant

Cioran and the other a Parisian existentialists as rivals, Camus regarding Cioran as not the real deal and vice versa. Seems relevant to me. And in any case, thought it might be interesting reading in itself for some people (though not you, evidently).
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: chveik on December 12, 2020, 05:00:42 PM
fair enough

I'd guess this 'rivalry' was politically motivated, Cioran having dabbled with fascism before becoming somewhat apolitical, and the others being members of the communist party.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Twit 2 on December 12, 2020, 05:43:48 PM
fair enough

I'd guess this 'rivalry' was politically motivated, Cioran having dabbled with fascism before becoming somewhat apolitical, and the others being members of the communist party.

Hmm, not sure. IIRC he had disavowed fascism by then. Plenty of stuff dissing tyrants in a ‘Short History of Decay.’ After WW2 he was intensely apolitical; this was one of the reasons cited by Beckett for them drifting apart as friends.

Why rivalry in scare quotes? They were both quoted as not liking each other’s work. Seems a fair enough description.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 13, 2020, 11:29:20 AM
Wouldn't it be reasonable to assume they stopped being friends because of said previous fascist allegiances, rather than because he became apolitical?
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Bernice on December 13, 2020, 11:54:59 AM
Good idea for a thread and an interesting opener.

Camus (with the disclaimer that it's been a while since I've read any of this): I don't think Meursault is either martyr or monster[1] - I think the novel is less clearly didactic than either of these readings will allow. Meursault is apathetic and indifferent, a response to the fundamental absurdity of existence and one which leaves him passive, entirely given over to fate and to the present ('the trigger gave', 'Today, maman died'). His character arc, inasmuch as he has one, is a movement from this indifferent surrender to an absurd existence to amor fati, and a recognition that it is not just his own being that lacks meaning, but the entirety of existence itself.

At issue is the hypocrisy of those who judge him for his apathy and his indifference. Their judgment comes from a place of refusing the absurdity of being as even a proposition to be wrestled with. Their need to justify their own existence leads them to execute Meursault - not because of his guilt or otherwise, but because his indifference threatens to tear the veil from that illusory self-justification.

I agree that it's an unpleasant novel (which is something I'm inferring rather than something you've said), but I don't think it's devoid of substance. You might get on better with The Fall - the central 'creepy fucker' of which we are invited to judge harshly, as well as sympathise with. Or The Plague, which speaks a lot more to the prospect of hope in an absurd universe.

My nomination for pseud is Jonathan Safran Foer, an exemplar of what I always think of as 'writerliness': precocious, smart-arsed, vapid pseudo-poiesis. The words "SERIOUS NOVEL" in flashing WordArt. Although, to be fair, I've never finished anything by him.
 1. Camus did refer to him as "The only Christ we deserve" - I think this is more an attack on the notion of martyrdom than an identification of Meursault with it.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Twit 2 on December 13, 2020, 01:19:54 PM
Wouldn't it be reasonable to assume they stopped being friends because of said previous fascist allegiances, rather than because he became apolitical?

You don’t need to assume anything, as this is all documented. There’s plenty of quotes from the one about the other, including on the reasons for them drifting apart. In any case, when they became friends, Cioran’s Iron Guard support was long behind him. If Beckett had a problem with that, he wouldn’t have become friendly with him in the first place. Beckett was a big fan of ‘A Short History of Decay”, with its critiques of fascism and tyrants, a description of Hitler as a monster etc.

Loads of Romanian intellectuals (Eliade and Ionesco among them) briefly fell under the spell of fascism in the 30s and then rejected it by the 40s after emigrating, when they’d got some perspective and distance from it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

NB: another bit of trivia is Cioran rescued Benjamin Fondane from Nazi arrest and was devastated when he was finally killed by them at a later date.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 13, 2020, 06:24:26 PM
You don't need to assume anything, as this is all documented. In any case, when they became friends, Cioran's Iron Guard support was long behind him.

Thanks for the clarification. I suppose that rules that out, then.

edit: but that said, do the biographies say whether Cioran was open about his fascist past when he started corresponding with Beckett? One might easily imagine that Beckett was a big fan of Ciroan's "critiques of facism and description of Hitler as a monster", but less than chuffed to realize (several years down the line) that his penpal had jackboots in the closet, so to speak. ...Do discussion of his regrets for his past form part of their correspondence?

I honestly know next to nothing about Ciroan's life or works except for reading that book of aphorisms you recommended, but am happy to learn from an expert, so please excuse my persistence.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 13, 2020, 06:29:24 PM
Good idea for a thread and an interesting opener.

Camus (with the disclaimer that it's been a while since I've read any of this): I don't think Meursault is either martyr or monster[1] - I think the novel is less clearly didactic than either of these readings will allow. Meursault is apathetic and indifferent, a response to the fundamental absurdity of existence and one which leaves him passive, entirely given over to fate and to the present ('the trigger gave', 'Today, maman died'). His character arc, inasmuch as he has one, is a movement from this indifferent surrender to an absurd existence to amor fati, and a recognition that it is not just his own being that lacks meaning, but the entirety of existence itself.
 1. Camus did refer to him as "The only Christ we deserve" - I think this is more an attack on the notion of martyrdom than an identification of Meursault with it.

Thanks! But in all honestly I still do not fully comprehend it. If Camus refers to Meursault as Christ and considers his accusers hypocrites (which I also do not fully understand), and Meursault must face death because of his principle (that life is absurd and he must die to prove it) does that not amount to martyrdom for all intents and purposes?
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Bernice on December 13, 2020, 06:46:58 PM
I suppose I'm probably splitting hairs but the reason I'd say he isn't a martyr is that he doesn't die for anything. He's not trying to prove a point. He is simply indifferent to himself and cannot be otherwise. His death is not heroic, and it does not entail sacrifice.

Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Twit 2 on December 13, 2020, 07:19:39 PM
Thanks for the clarification. I suppose that rules that out, then.

edit: but that said, do the biographies say whether Cioran was open about his fascist past when he started corresponding with Beckett? One might easily imagine that Beckett was a big fan of Ciroan's "critiques of facism and description of Hitler as a monster", but less than chuffed to realize (several years down the line) that his penpal had jackboots in the closet, so to speak. ...Do discussion of his regrets for his past form part of their correspondence?

I honestly know next to nothing about Ciroan's life or works except for reading that book of aphorisms you recommended, but am happy to learn from an expert, so please excuse my persistence.

Your points/questions are valid and I’m happy to clarify where I can. I don’t think there’s anything in the literature that goes into whether the fascism was ever discussed. However, in his writings Cioran was very openly disdainful and ashamed of his previous political leanings, so I don’t think he would’ve kept it from him, necessarily.

If you’re after more Cioran, his last collection ‘Anathemas & Admirations’ is a series of essays on some of his contemporaries (including Beckett) interspersed with aphorisms, and is excellent. The scans from  above are from ‘Searching for Cioran’ by his approved translator of his Romanian books into English. She sadly died before finishing it, but it covers his early and last years in good detail and she got quite a lot of info out of him before he declined into dementia.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 13, 2020, 08:06:53 PM
Thanks for the rec! Regarding the scans on page one, it would have been interesting to have gotten on record what Cioran made of "L'Étranger", or what (specifically) Camus had to say of the works-in-profress Ciroan presented him with, other than just "you haven't read enough yet" (and this to a man even two years his senior!). Always interesting, especially the older I get, to see how literary contemporaries regarded one another, especially if it's juicy like that.

My nomination for pseud is Jonathan Safran Foer, an exemplar of what I always think of as 'writerliness': precocious, smart-arsed, vapid pseudo-poiesis. The words "SERIOUS NOVEL" in flashing WordArt. Although, to be fair, I've never finished anything by him.

The film version of "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (released in 2012) was the closest I came to actually walking out of a cinema for a film plot being simply too hacky/wanky: there is, among the belongings left behind by a dead man, a mysterious key that the child protagonist obsesses over finding the lock for, which is symbolic for him searching for closure for having lost his father. If it sounds cool and interesting... it isn't. Definitely a good nom' for pseuddom in my book 👍
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Scarlet Intangible on December 23, 2020, 11:40:32 AM
Thinking outside of the box, I'd like to nominate Dan Brown. I honestly can't believe his work's been called 'The greatest use of neurons since Dante's Paradise Lost.' It's like, HELLO?! Am I the only one seeing how cackingly bad he is? His writing wouldn't know arsehole from soul if you gave him a thousand years and endless ink.

-------------------


Pound gets a yes from me. As someone who has learned several languages I know that each of the ones you know is always in some degree of disrepair, and you are always repairing them. Yet Ezra Pound would snatch the most obscure snippets of, say, Spanish and shove them into his poems as if they were well-known phrases. I can speak Spanish and I don't know what he's trying to say with those instances. With Chinese I couldn't tell you, but no doubt he believed he spoke them all without knowing much more than a tourist's version of the language.

A good counterpoint is Eliot:

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.


Here the German is conversational and implies an international atmosphere.

Bin gar           keine Russin,      stamm’ aus  Litauen,      echt deutsch.
I'm absolutely no     Russian(f)  hale     from Lithuania    very German

"No I'm not a russian I'm from Lithuania actually - with German family roots"

The use of this kind of sentence (which might also be translated in other ways depending on what the tag "echt deutsch" could mean) shows that Eliot isn't just wagging his dick in our face, but is trying to describe a scene that only exists half in English, half in German: the final lines identify this part of the poem with a place: certainly the "south" refers to the alps. The "mountains" connect with the alps. The final sentence describes a spontaneous desire to recapture a childhood wish.


I really like this post. I've never bothered to try to translate it, so thanks. Now I want to read it again.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: buttgammon on December 23, 2020, 12:09:40 PM
Thinking outside of the box, I'd like to nominate Dan Brown. I honestly can't believe his work's been called 'The greatest use of neurons since Dante's Paradise Lost.' It's like, HELLO?! Am I the only one seeing how cackingly bad he is? His writing wouldn't know arsehole from soul if you gave him a thousand years and endless ink.

I almost hope someone did actually say this, because it's actually brilliant!
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Chedney Honks on December 23, 2020, 12:36:05 PM
Really enjoying the thread and especially Bernice's take on Camus which matches my own, for the record.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 23, 2020, 05:19:43 PM
I wonder where the Dan Brown fandom stands on which parts of his work were pseudy or not... not having read him much myself...

I figured he would be immune from "pseuddom", properly applied, because he writes stories about demons and saints. Something about religious subjects seem to bar it.

I guess there must be a lot of pseuds in the C of E but they have an obligation to reign it in a bit. They are just deemed "pedantic", most likely.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on December 26, 2020, 04:04:24 PM
After reading the opening chunk of Camus's Myth of Sysiphus (albeit only in the Justin O'Brien translation, which is a literal one (sounds very stiff e.g. translating "époque" with "epoch"))  I maintain my conviction that he was a pseud.

Here is my evidence, taken from the Penguin Modern Classic edition pg. 19 (yet re-edited for clarity):



From the moment absurdity is recognised, it becomes a harrowing passion. Let us recognise and enumerate those themes born of the desert, known to all of us today. Many men defend the rights of the irrational: "humilated thought" has never ceased to exist. Criticism of rationalism is very common and it hardly needs to be made again, yet in our age there is a resurgence in paradoxical systems which trip up our reason. But this does not prove  the efficacy of reason: it only proves the intensity of its hopes. On the plane of  history, such a constancy of two attitudes illustrates the passion of man torn between unity and a clear vision of the walls enclosing him". [paragraph ends]


In the light of the context, I feel I can accurately "translate" this paragraph as saying: "the long philosophical discourse on the topic of "reason" is still relevant to this day and age, although it might seem a well-trodden ground".

[new paragraph begins] Never has the attack on reason been more violent: never since Zarathustra's outburst "it is the oldest nobility in the world that I conferred upon all things when I proclaimed that above them no eternal will be exercised"

(for me it is not obvious that the quote from Nietzsche illustrates the purported "attack on reason", and it is hardly best described as an "outburst" - it is more like a riddle with the stress on the notion of "nobility" - a typically Nietzschean riddle, in fact.)

...nor since Kierkegaard's fatal "malady that leads to death with nothing else following it"

(Presumably the context of the Kierkegaard quote is that "Reason" is the "malady" that leads to death)

...since Kierkegaard's malady... the significant and tormenting themes of absurd thought have followed one another. Or at least, and this proviso is of capital importance, the themes of irrational and religious thought. From Jaspers to Heidegger, from Kierkegaard to Chestov, from the phenomenologists to Scheler, on the logical plane and on the moral plane, a whole family of minds related by their nostalgia but opposed by their methods of their aims have persisted in blocking the royal road of reason and in recovering the direct paths of truth.

These thinkers (many of whom I admire, like Kierkegaard and Heidegger) all form a "family" of "nostalgic" thinkers who "block the royal [i.e. "benighted"?] road of reason" AND "recover direct paths of truth". Is that a compliment or a critique?

.... and there is even a third claim in the same sentence: that "the methods of their aims" (whatever they are) "oppose them".

 The best I can make of all this is that the writers in question (who, like all philosophers of the age, all criticised capital-R "Rationalism") advise more direct appreciation of "reality" than, say, Isaac Newton would have conceived of "reality" (i.e. via "rational" means). The part about the "methods of their aims opposing them" seems like a recapitulation of the idea that capital-R "Reason" is a chimera and that in using reason, philosophers are somehow using sub-standard means.

I come back to the definition I started the thread with: style over substance. The substance of this paragraph so far is merely a statement of what every experienced reader of philosophy knows, but swimming in a lot of lugubrious wordings that are - to my mind - nothing more than presumptuous in their posturing (he often uses phrases such as "of course", "as everyone knows" or "ridiculous" to disengage from thorny philosophical issues).

I see I have already written FAR more than I have quoted, but that just illustrates the (unpleasant) experience I have had in reading him. I will try to be less pedantic now and finish up the relevant quote, in order to give him a fair amount of context, but I will mark my ongoing frustration with square brackets as I go on (edit: some of these might be issues I have with the translator, not the author):

I assume these thoughts to be known and lived ["live a thought"?]. Whatever may be or have been their ambitions, all started from that indescribable universe where contradiction, antinomy [what?], anguish or impotence reigns ["universe"?] And what they have in common is precisely the themes so far disclosed ["disclose themes"?]. For them, too, it must be said that what matters above all is the conclusions they have managed to draw from those discoveries. That matters so much that they must be examined separately. But for the moment we are concerned solely with their discoveries and their initial experiments; solely with noting their agreement. If it would be presumptuous to try to deal with their philosophies, it is possible and sufficient in any case to bring out the climate that is common to them.

Following this paragraph are summaries of the above-mentioned philosophers Heidegger ("he points out the world's ephemeral character"), Jaspers ("he knows we can achieve nothing that transcends appearances"), Chestov (who "demonstrates that universal rationalism stumbles upon the irrational in thought"), Kierkegaard (who "lived the absurd"), and Husserl (who "reinstates the world in its diversity and denies the transcendence of reason").

What follows these is the claim that "the world itself is but a vast irrational" and the chapter ends.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: northernrebel on March 09, 2021, 09:28:18 PM
Leading on from that, I was sure, after reading Sartre and Camus at uni, that I would LOVE Kierkegaard. Wrong - I found him baffling and migraine-inducing. Not sure he was pretentious, as I am sure he knew exactly what he wanted to say and was not striving for effect or being wordy, but damn did he make me feel stupid.

Patrick Leigh Fermor made me feel stupid, too, for similar reasons - I did not appreciate, as a 51 year old bookworm and avid reader, having to read English prose with a dictionary. I learned more about Ottoman hats and the decoration of Hungarian country houses in the 1930s than I ever wanted or needed to know.

Maybe they just showed up my low intellectual level. But I didn't appreciate them for it. I can understand most things if they are explained well.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 10, 2021, 10:19:41 AM
It just goes to show that we are dealing with subjective questions of value because personally I adore both Fermor and Kierkegaard.

For me, Fermor represents the elite bourgeois Edwardian culture that died out some time between the first and second world wars. The one epitomized by the depicted atmosphere of Brideshead Revisited and Howard's End. It's a culture that was highly indulgent and inward-looking, but I can't help but admire their dedication to the values of learning, travel, spontaneity, and reliance on the kindness of strangers. Fermor was even able to rest on the laurels of this class-consciousness when he was captured by the Germans as a spy in WW2: the weary prisoner Fermor sat in the back of a military truck and heard his captor mutter a verse of latin - he took up the following verse and continued to recite the verses following that until the end. He was treated more like a guest than a prisoner after that. edit: "Fermor" not "Fermer"

Kierkegaard is a great thinker - very arrogant and under the belief that he would die at the same age as Jesus  Christ. He was deeply energized - well into his thirties - after "surviving" this self-made premonition of death. He also idolized Socrates and didn't want to live a long life. He loved to cause controversy and argue his way out of it. To me he's an example of how to think freely and cultivate thoughts which are deliberately out-of-kilter with your contemporaries. He lived for the ages.

Yes, so those are quite some subjective thoughts and value-judgements there, and no doubt some would call me a pseud for giving them credence.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: chveik on March 10, 2021, 01:12:12 PM
Kierkegaard is a great thinker - very arrogant and under the belief that he would die at the same age as Jesus  Christ. He was deeply energized - well into his thirties - after "surviving" this self-made premonition of death.

I seem to remember that this belief was coming from his deeply domineering father.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: bgmnts on March 10, 2021, 02:22:03 PM
Who decides the level of intellect that makes someone a paeudo intellectual? I'm thick as mince so surely very few people are pseudo intellectuals for me? I dont know rhe rules. Is it just people who are wrong?
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: MoreauVasz on March 13, 2021, 09:31:32 AM
Most forms of cultural expression come from really narrow frames of reference. Sets of shared assumptions, references, and acceptable subjects of discussion. This is why, the second you step away from mass-market pap, stuff starts to feel a) 'difficult' but also b) satisfying to engage with.

'Pseudo-intelectual' and 'pretentious' are terms that usually operate at the level of whether stuff is worthy of investing the time/energy to really understand the full range of references and assumptions.

Our perception of effort/energy ratio is partly down to individual preference and partly down to broader cultural values.

If you're out of step with a set of values then stuff can seem really pretentious as the reward doesn't seem worth the energy.

Like: How many books have been written about academics getting divorced? If you are a middle-aged academic then the energy to 'get' said novels is relatively low. So it's really easy to grasp and marvel at all of the subtleties.  Conversely, if you're not an over-educated horny middle-aged guy then it's hard to understand why you'd even need any nuance in the handling of such narrow and stultifying themes.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 13, 2021, 12:32:44 PM
If I understand you right, then no one is a pseud or pretentious - they are merely misunderstood by their critics due to differing frames of reference. Or did I not understand you properly?

Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 13, 2021, 04:07:39 PM
a paeudo intellectual

If you want a pedo-intellectual and pseud to boot (and it would be nice to give him a booting), go digging on the individual I mentioned in the OP, Peter Sotos (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/30745.Peter_Sotos).
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: MoreauVasz on March 13, 2021, 04:43:06 PM
If I understand you right, then no one is a pseud or pretentious - they are merely misunderstood by their critics due to differing frames of reference. Or did I not understand you properly?

I'd say that the term 'pretentious' is most commonly used as a stick with which to beat the creators and enjoyers of art you deem to be not worth the intellectual price of entry.

I don't even know how you'd go about coming up with a non-relative yardstick for measuring pretension.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 13, 2021, 05:56:53 PM
I don't even know how you'd go about coming up with a non-relative yardstick for measuring pretension.

I don't know either, but can we name that new measurement after Will Self? e.g. "0.39 Selfies"? It would be a 0 to 1 scale in which 1 is equal to using the phrase "this whole imbroglio is epiphenomenal" stoney-faced on Newsnight.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Kermit the Frog on March 14, 2021, 12:45:14 PM
Camus always seemed like a bit of a jumping off point really, to be read when you're 14 and enable you to fall in love with the world of ideas, then you move on.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 15, 2021, 08:02:09 PM
Calling a Sartre a 'fake existentialist' is a bit weird. Properly speaking, he's the only philosopher the term really describes because its mostly just him who articulates the question of Being/beings along the lines of existence/essence. And it doesn't really describe his writing after about 1965.

Grouping Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, etc. in with Sartre on Camus based on that is false. Outside of Sartre and his immediate circle, existentialism exists only as a literary or pedagogical category that doesn't really denote much other than a certain writer was concerned with the place of individuals versus society. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard in particular would have been positively revolted by dividing the world into categories of being 'in itself' and 'for itself'. It seems more like a way of grouping philosophers who wrote literary work a way that focuses on the literary side.  Maybe the over-inflation of the term has something to do with the fact it describes politically radical individuals in a way that slices out the most politically radical part of their work and focuses on more palatable themes of personal identity and authenticity rather than deal with explicit calls to political action and revolt like Critique of Dialectical Reason and Ethics of Ambiguity. Which are incidentally works that English speaking institutions have habitually damned for their pretentiousness and imprenetrable obscurity. Funny that.

Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Astronaut Omens on March 19, 2021, 10:40:03 AM
Yes, also, Sartre's "Existentialism is a Humanism" essay is such a concise and comprehensible answer to the question 'What is Existentialism?' that, for me, it defines the topic.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Astronaut Omens on March 19, 2021, 10:51:07 AM
I don't know either, but can we name that new measurement after Will Self? e.g. "0.39 Selfies"? It would be a 0 to 1 scale in which 1 is equal to using the phrase "this whole imbroglio is epiphenomenal" stoney-faced on Newsnight.
But here you are, ten years later, quoting him saying it.
He could have said "This whole carry-on is a bit of a sideshow" and nobody would have remembered it.
In english writing and culture there is always a push and pull between writing that mirrors living speech, and writing that is fancy and artificial but is more memorable.

Straw Poll- Which of these two translations of a sentence from the Book of Revelations do you prefer:

Tyndal Bible of 1526:
And there shalbe nomore deeth nether sorowe nether cryinge nether shall there be eny more payne for the olde thynges are gone.

King James Bible of 1611:
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 19, 2021, 12:45:31 PM
Yes, also, Sartre's "Existentialism is a Humanism" essay is such a concise and comprehensible answer to the question 'What is Existentialism?' that, for me, it defines the topic.

I own this book in French. It's definitely a great summary of his philosophy in 100 pages, and it includes an interview with the man, in addition to the main text, which is a reader-friendly format for a difficult set of ideas.

I have to disagree with Video Game Fan 2000 when he says that it is "false" to group together Sartre and Kierkegaard: in this book, Sartre does exactly that himself, by referring reverently to Kierkegaard's notion of "fear and trembling" ("l'angoisse") as discussed in that book of the same name, and linking it to his own notion of "mauvaise foi". I quote (p. 34-35):

Quote
On n'échappe à cette pensée inquiétante[1] que par une sorte de mauvaise foi. Celui qui ment et qui s'excuse en déclarant: tout le monde ne fait pas comme ça, est[2] quelqu'un qui est mal à l'aise avec sa conscience, car le fait de mentir implique une valeur universelle attribuée au mensonge.

Même lorsqu'elle[3] se masque, l'angoisse apparaît. C'est cette angoisse qui Kierkegaard appelait "l'angoisse d'Abraham".

Vous connaissez l'histoire: Un ange a ordonné à Abraham de sacrifier son fils... Et tout va bien si c'est vraiment un ange qui est venu et qui a dit: "tu es Abraham et tu sacrifieras ton fils" ...Mais chacun peut se demander: "Est-ce que c'est bien un ange? Est-ce que je suis bien Abraham? Qu'est-ce qui me le prouve? Il y avait une folle qui avait des hallucinations."

Si un ange vient à moi, qu'est-ce qui prouve que c'est un ange? Qu'est-ce qui prouve que les voix viennent du ciel et non de l'enfer? Qui prouve qu'elles s'addressent à moi?

Je ne trouverai jamais aucune preuve. Je ne trouverai aucune signe pour m'en convaincre
 1. in context, this "disquieting notion" is the notion that one must determine one's own values in life, without faith in Godly edicts
 2. the essay is adapted from the transcript of a speech Sartre gave, and this appears to be a leftover fragmentary sentence
 3. "sa conscience", I presume

Which I would translate as follows:

Quote
We cannot escape the disquieting notion that one must determine one's own values in life, except by means of a faith of a kind that deceives by saying "noone does otherwise". The person must live in suspicion of her conscience, since the act of lying to oneself attributes the value of universality to that lie.

When one ignores one's own conscience, anxiety follows. It is the same anxiety that Kierkegaard named "The Anxiety of Abraham".

You all know the story: an angel ordered Abraham to sacrifice his own son... and it's all well and good so long as, as a matter of fact, it was an angel who came down and said: "you are Arabraham and you will sacrifice your own son"... but one might query: "is it really an angel? am I really Abraham?! Who's to say for sure? Perhaps it was all a hallucination."

Were an angel to come down to visit me, who would verify it was truly an angel I saw? Who would prove that the voices I heard had come down from the heavens... and not from from hell? Who would verify that they were indeed speaking to me and no one else?

I would, in fact, be unable to find any proof whatsoever. I would be unable to find any clue whatsoever as to be able to decide one way or the other.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 19, 2021, 01:06:02 PM
Straw Poll- Which of these two translations of a sentence from the Book of Revelations do you prefer:

Tyndal Bible of 1526:
And there shalbe nomore deeth nether sorowe nether cryinge nether shall there be eny more payne for the olde thynges are gone.

King James Bible of 1611:
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Both sentences are using the present perfect tense formed with the verb "to be" as auxilliary verb, which is an obsolete distinction, replaced by the auxillary verb "to have" in every instance of the present perfect tense.

On the other hand, the first sentence still sounds modern because we still use the fossilized phrase "be gone" - these days interpreted as a copula (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copula_(linguistics))+adjective pairing (consider how we can grammatically say "The money is gone!" but not *"he is gone to the shops").

Therefore I vote for the first, though I think your point is that the more unusual-sounding phrase ought to be more appealing. Sorry!
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 19, 2021, 01:32:20 PM
I have to disagree with Video Game Fan 2000 when he says that it is "false" to group together Sartre and Kierkegaard: in this book, Sartre does exactly that himself, by referring reverently to Kierkegaard's notion of "fear and trembling" ("l'angoisse") as discussed in that book of the same name, and linking it to his own notion of "mauvaise foi". I quote (p. 34-35):

I don't think its good practice to group philosophers together by who produced readings of whom. There is certainly influence and vocabulary moving forward from Kierkegaard to Sartre, but I don't think that it is evidence of them working from the same methodology or even that they're describing the same things. Sartre's reading of Kierkegaard is transformative and it more closely belongs to French transformative readings or re-interpretations of canonical works than it does to Kierkegaard's own subjective theology or the scholarship of such. Much like with Heidegger, I think many scholars of Kierkegaard think that Sartre was decent writer and essayist who got in over his head with philosophy and don't take his interpretations as much more than a literary engagement. Its appropriate to group Sartre and Marx together as dialectical materialists or Sartre and Merleau-Ponty as phenomenologists, but the 'existentialist' category is mostly just pedagogical.

I think "angest"/"angst"/"l'angoisse" is a good example of this, because while they're related terms it is highly debatable about whether we can truly say that Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre were all speaking about the same thing. It's a good example of an innovative writer creating his own precursors but if we're being strict about things it is Sartre that is bringing things together to make his point, Kierkegaard was not already speaking about the same thing as him, 'L'angoisse' already being a significant theme in French thought. For Kierkegaard, we're damned because we're put into a world where we have to make a choice that seems to us impossible - to follow God and do the unthinkable, in Abraham's 'teleogical suspension' of everything he knows to be right. For Sartre, we're damned to choice itself, but there is no clear overriding choice that would warrant such a suspension. We're condemned to absolute freedom itself. It's not simply that Sartre took God out of the equation, he re-orientated the issue to focus on the choice itself ("Je ne trouverai jamais aucune preuve. Je ne trouverai aucune signe pour m'en convaincre" in what you posted). Fear and Trembling is much of an account of faith-based action that it is an account of indecision, as it is usually taught as being as a canonical 'existentialist' text. Hard to know what Kierkegaard would have made of 20th century leftist militants using his work to analysis the phenomenology of indecision itself as a condition or way of living.

Y'know, the famous story of Wittgenstein saying "I can well understand what Heidegger means by 'anxiety'", which is funny because he didn't say what he understood by it.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Astronaut Omens on March 19, 2021, 01:38:34 PM
I'm undecided myself, it wasn't a rhetorical question.
My personal taste is definitely towards the first one,
but the second one, with its novelty, seems more likely to be quoted, memorised, passed on.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 19, 2021, 01:54:39 PM
I don't think its good practice to group philosophers together by who produced readings of whom. There is certainly influence and vocabulary moving forward from Kierkegaard to Sartre, but I don't think that it is evidence of them working from the same methodology or even that they're describing the same things.

Thanks for your learned perspective on Kierkegaard, Sartre and more. I would just like to clarify my mild argument: that if Sartre himself uses Kierkegaard's notion of "Fear and Trembling" so reverently in order to explain his own concept of "mauvaise foi", and since both these concepts are central to each philosopher's respective philosophy, I would say that Sartre encourages the association of his existentialist philosophy with that of Kierkegaard. But I appreciate that the two of them were of very different temperament: notably by being a Christian and an atheist, respectively.

but the second one, with its novelty, seems more likely to be quoted, memorised, passed on.

Sounds correct.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 19, 2021, 02:06:48 PM
Don't get me wrong, I think Sartre's readings are good and his bad rep these days mostly undeserved. Whatever your opinions on his two big tomes, he is an all time great essayist.

I like to approach it like this: if I didn't take Sartre seriously, how valid would I find the category he's proposing? When Ayn Rand (winner of this thread) claims Aristotle as her precursor, does that mean we have to read Aristotle as a 'neo-romantic' or 'objectivist'? Of course we don't. It pays to be equally skeptical when we actually like the interpretation as when its self-evident bullshit like Rand.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 19, 2021, 02:27:20 PM
To be honest with you I never considered that Sartre (who I didn't even realize had a "bad rep" these days) could be wrong about his own sympathy with Kierkegaard. I basically regard them in the same, very high, esteem.   Given what you wrote about the opinions of certain Kierkegaard scholars, would you go so far as to call him a "pseudo-philosopher"?
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 19, 2021, 02:38:46 PM
I think a lot of people regard Sartre as a pseudo-philosopher or a writer of literature who wrote philosophy as a form of literature. I don't share this view, it usually goes together with the total dismissal of his work after the early 1960s and anglo-american panic about the popularity of French marxism. But I've changed my mind a lot about Sartre back and forth over the years.

I don't think its a question of right or wrong, but how coherent we're being when we categorise things. Grouping philosophical work together isn't the same as grouping literary genres together, when we're grouping things by genre the most important thing is whether we're being coherent about what people understand by a certain genre - like 'murder mysteries' is simply fiction that we all agree to call 'murder mysteries' even though there are some without murders and some without any mystery, since Columbo is a murder mystery programme and trying to argue that it isnt would make you sound like Mr Logic. But when we're claiming a certain philosophical school or category exists, that claim isn't that we're coherent in whether we agree about what belongs to what genre, but whether the category itself has an internal coherence and we know what future work in that area would be like.

To my mind, existentialism as Sartre used it fails to do this, he is not really describing something that maintains its own interior logic and semantic coherence as his position within it changes - I think its more like he's being polemical by speaking from his own position as if it was an already established school of thought. By comparison when he speaks about Marxism and phenomenology, there is no denying that both of those things are autonomous, coherent kinds of philosophical thinking that exist whether or not Sartre wills them into existence by grouping certain pieces of vocabulary together. Their terminology and jargon is clear and has a meaning that persists between different works and writers, but with existentialism the vocabulary is "angoisse", "mauvaise foi", "tombé", etc. which are not semantically consistent exterior to how Sartre used them, and they have not really gone on to gain consistent meanings, as they're still mostly exclusive to Sartre and a very close inner circle that dissipated rapidly in the 1960s. Compare to Heidegger, whose affected terminology of zuhandenheit, dasein, in-der-welt-sein, etc. is used consistently by very many people in literature, theology, cognitive science, etc. despite him being the wildly known example of a philosopher using a purposefully opaque personal vocabulary to communicate otherwise simple ideas.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Retinend on March 19, 2021, 03:04:04 PM
I think I know what you mean. Literary-philosophical figures like Voltaire and Sartre don't really fit into the philosophical legacy that descended from the scientific tradition (e.g. Descartes was a mathematician, Kant was a physicist and Russell a logician), but they had so much influence and reputation as "wise men" that they are presumed to have had a more more systematized view of how the world works than they actually did. If you ask me, the French are culturally prone to this, since their word "philosophe" doesn't distinguish between systemizing philosophers and those who write more discursively. That all said, is Kierkegaard really less discursive than Sartre/ more systematizing than Sartre? I still see them as peas in a pod.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 19, 2021, 03:13:51 PM
In France, when you see flyposters advertising healing crystals and traditional 'oriental' medicine they often describe what they're hawking as philosophie.

You're right that there is more of a literary tradition in France amongst philosophers, or at least one which survived the analytical crunch of positivism and marxism. But its not often understood quite how far that extends not to just philosophical writing which tries to have both philosophical and stylistic value, but actual reading itself - the best of french thinking regards reading and teaching as a creative process or an art all to itself. I see Sartre's relationship to Kierkegaard (and Nietzsche maybe) definitely as part of this disposition, whereas his Hegel/Marx is as dry as a bone.

That all said, is Kierkegaard really less discursive than Sartre/ more systematizing than Sartre? I still see them as peas in a pod.

Kierkegaard is the opposite of a systematic thinker. He wanted to be a modern Socrates. All the pseudonyms work to virtually guarantee that no consistent view or ideology is being presented, its all broken up.

This is the first clue in what Sartre is doing: he is being creative by treating Kierkegaard as a coherent, systematic thinker of existential indecision. Kierkegaard is no such thing and Sartre would not have read him as such. But it is worthwhile to read Kierkegaard that way, and imagine that the different works (Anxiety/Fear and Trembling/EitherOr) all present a consistent "existential" philosophy. I think this is a brilliant thing to have done, Sartre accomplishes what he needed to do, but it is not the same as there being a coherent philosophical system called existentialism common to Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre.

See also Deleuze's book on Spinoza which starts off by talking about Nietzsche and devotes a whole chapter to Spinozan terminology being given new metaphysical definitions.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Bernice on March 19, 2021, 07:39:50 PM
I have no idea how to read Deleuze, despite repeated lecturer's attempts. I often find responses to him and the people he influenced fascinating, but Deleuze/Guattari I always found utterly impenetrable. How does one Deleuze?
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: chveik on March 19, 2021, 07:49:32 PM
I have no idea how to read Deleuze, despite repeated lecturer's attempts. I often find responses to him and the people he influenced fascinating, but Deleuze/Guattari I always found utterly impenetrable. How does one Deleuze?

i think his commentaries on Nietzsche/Spinoza are a good start for understanding his logic and get acquainted with his style (also his lectures, which are quite easy to follow, although i dunno if they've been translated in english yet). then Logic of Sense and What is Philosophy? (the other 'big books' are pretty difficult to read).


i seem to remember a late Sartre interview where he says that he had never really cared that much about Kierkegaard, the whole anguish stuff just being somewhat fashionable at the time. make of that what you will.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 19, 2021, 09:34:02 PM
i think his commentaries on Nietzsche/Spinoza are a good start for understanding his logic and get acquainted with his style

Hard agree. His shorter books (Nietzsche, Spinoza, Proust, Bergson, Sacher-Masoch...) are often both his most intricate and easiest to read, along with essays like "Desert Islands", and they lead into his best 'big book' Difference and Repetition. I'm a lot less interested in the stuff after Logic of Sense and Spinoza, and tbh some of the translations are pretty bad.

Wouldn't bother with What is Philosophy? at all, just watch the Abcedaire and cringe when he starts getting his tinfoil hat on about not being able to trust newspapers and everything being under control these days. I guess they must have cut the parts when he tries hawk Force Cérébrale Plus pills and Vitalité Masculine. He should have just spoken about Benny Hill instead.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 19, 2021, 09:41:13 PM
He peaked when he said that after reading the description of Friday in Robinson Crusoe as a docile slave who is always willing to work for no reason "any sane reader would dream of seeing him eat Robinson"
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: chveik on March 19, 2021, 09:46:04 PM
i haven't watched l'Abécédaire since I was a teenager so I guess I'd would find some stuff in there pretty cringey now but but I still think it's worth a watch when you want to get interested in philosophy
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: Video Game Fan 2000 on March 19, 2021, 09:51:05 PM
l'Abécédaire is a great watch. Love him manically giggling with disdain about travel writers who say they were "looking for a father figure" , going full R Beef Kazansakis whenever he catches an Oedipe in the wild.

(https://i.imgur.com/Nr41B0n.jpg)

But by that point poststructuralism/postmodernism was a duck dead for sure.
Title: Re: Which writers are pseuds? (Was Camus a pseud?)
Post by: buttgammon on March 21, 2021, 10:59:28 AM
The more I think about it, the more I think Guattari was a bad influence on Deleuze; those books are interesting but they lack the clarity and cutting edge of his earlier stuff.

Hard agree. His shorter books (Nietzsche, Spinoza, Proust, Bergson, Sacher-Masoch...) are often both his most intricate and easiest to read, along with essays like "Desert Islands", and they lead into his best 'big book' Difference and Repetition. I'm a lot less interested in the stuff after Logic of Sense and Spinoza, and tbh some of the translations are pretty bad.

Wouldn't bother with What is Philosophy? at all, just watch the Abcedaire and cringe when he starts getting his tinfoil hat on about not being able to trust newspapers and everything being under control these days. I guess they must have cut the parts when he tries hawk Force Cérébrale Plus pills and Vitalité Masculine. He should have just spoken about Benny Hill instead.

Agree with this too, and I think it accounts for my earlier point.