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400Philosophy and Literature and a respect for truth are inextricably entwined with a multiplicity ofpractices through which we try to understand the world and find significance in life. Science is one product of these practices, but it is not the only one, nor is it privileged. The arts and collaborative critical study of the arts have an equally crucial role in achieving a well-formed and informed understanding of the world and in the formation of "the human world," the Lebenswelt of culture. It is with the deplorable contemporary condition of die arts and with the conditions and practices necessary for the restoration of artistic good health that Professor O'Hear is principally concerned. He is right to argue that any form of meaningful expression in the arts "presupposes a tradition of existing practice as the background to one's own efforts having expressive force." And he is surely right to exhort artists "to rediscover and by rediscovering revivify die artistic traditions to which we are heirs." Otherwise we shall continue to be sunk in the appalling ugliness and wretched excesses of contemporary art practices. But his diagnosis of our decadence is dubious. He thinks that "Modernism in the arts, conceived as an attempt to begin music, painting, and architecture again from scratch" has had the effect of depriving the arts of the seriousness that can come only from an artistic practice rooted in an artistic tradition that is itself rooted in the life of a long-established community. The trouble with this view is that it takes too seriously the stridency of die early modernist rejection of its own recent past and the hysteria in the Poundian insistence that artists must "make it new," and overlooks the many continuities and dependencies on the past that were maintained and cultivated by all the founding fathers of modernism. I do not see how our present decadence can be explained in terms of the principles of the very movement in the arts that produced the greatest art of the century. O'Hear's instincts are not entirely wrong, however. But what he needs is somediing like Frank Kermode's useful distinction between paleo-modernism and neo-modernism. It is in the philosophical , aesthetic, and sociological exegesis of this distinction that the correct aetiology and cure of our decadence will be found. Simon Fraser UniversityD. D. Todd Borges and the Kabbalah and Other Essays on His Fiction and Poetry, byJaime Alazraki; xviii & 199 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, $32.50. "Why is this book different from all previous books on Borges?" This question opensJaime Alazraki's latestcompilation ofessays on the influential Argentinian master. It is reminiscent of the query traditionally posed by the youngest par- Reviews401 ticipantat the Passover seder when, before a table laden with a variety ofunusual foods, the child asks, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" thus triggering the text—the recitation of the Passover narrative. The echoing of ancientJewish ritual, whether intentional or not, is marvelously appropriate to Alazraki's collection. For this text too is triggered by a banquet with a difference —Borges's pathbreaking oeuvre—whose key aspects Alazraki seeks to explore . To a different oeuvre, a different book, one that concentrates on areas in Borges where there was a vacuum in critical studies; for instance, the Kabbalah , which is certainly time-honored and, of course, Jewish. Alazraki's inquiry into the kabbalistic traits in Borges's narrative sets the tenor for the volume, which also examines the formal strategies in Borges's stories, the literary devices of his poetry, and the relationship of his linguistic-stylistic innovations to contemporary fiction and criticism. The essays in the collection were largely published between 197 1 and 1986, and represent part ofthe critic's many Borgesian glosses—monographs, anthologies, articles. Most of that exegetical output is in Spanish; in English, Alazraki's commentaries on the writer have until now been scattered in journals, so a chief virtue of Borges and the Kabbalah is to make Alazraki's scholarship easily available to an English-speaking readership. Since the articles focus on central and, at the time of their publication , unscrutinized facets of Borges, what the reader receives...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 400-402
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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