Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Whimsical Philistines

Leafing through Peter Watson's The German Genius for particular references, I found some passages I'd bracketed and forgotten about.

From this vantage point (Gottfried) Keller was particularly aware of the growing division between capitalism and artistic individualism, the division that Marx labeled alienation, which Keller found equally abominable. He addressed this in a series of novellas titled Die Leute von Seldwyla (The People of Seldwyla), a distinctly odd but not necessarily disagreeable place. Here the people are no less daring and enterprising than anywhere else but, as they gain experience of the world, they change. They become "whimsical philistines" who withdraw into the security of their own city: they refuse to see work as "a process of upward mobility," they reject speed, derive pleasure from the trivial side of life, rather than what everyone else regards as "important." They are, in effect, exploring alternative values to those of the bourgeoisie.