Whilst always exercising a praiseworthy intolerance to the outside
world, towards 1950 the Lettrist group fostered a fairly large
confusion of ideas amongst its members.
Onomatopoeic poetry itself, having appeared with futurism and much
latter reaching a certain perfection with Schwitters and some
others, no longer was of interest as the absolute systemisation
which was posed as the only poetry of the moment, and so condemning
all the other forms to death and giving itself a short shelf-life.
However the consciousness of the true role we were allotted to play
was neglected by many in favour or an infantile conception of
genius and fame.
The tendency still in the majority saw the creation of new forms as
the highest value of all human activity. This belief in formal
evolution without cause or end other than in-itself is the basis of
bourgeois idealism in the arts. (Their imbecile belief in immutable
conceptual categories lead some ex-members of the group to
Americanised mysticism.) Drawing conclusions which an idiot like
Malraux didn't dare or know how to draw from essentially similar
premises, the rigorous application of the benefits of experience
brought about the definitive collapse of this formalist demeanour
by taking it to its limit; the giddy acceleration of evolution
around emptiness, in clear rupture with all human needs.
The usefulness of destroying formalism from within is clear: it
does not leave any doubt that the intellectual disciplines,
whatever the interdependence they share with the rest of social
development, are subject to the relatively autonomous crises
arising from the discoveries necessitated by their own determinism
of whatever technique. To judge everything, as we are being invited
to, as a function of its content, is to return to judging acts as a
function of their intentions. Just as surely as the explanation of
the normative character and persistent charm of various aesthetic
periods must always be looked for alongside the content - and the
change in the times, or of contemporary necessities, makes other
contents touch us, leading to a revision of the classification of
the "great epochs" - it is no less evident that the power of a work
during its own time would not solely depend on its content. This
process can be compared with that of fashion. After half a century,
for example, all costumes belong to equally outdated fashions, from
which contemporary sensibility can rediscover all sorts of
appearance. But everyone notices the ridiculousness of the feminine
bearing of ten years ago.
Thus the 'precious' movement, despite being obscured by the
scholastic lies of the seventeenth century, and just as the forms
of expression that they had invented are as strange as can be to
us, is coming to be recognised as the principal current of ideas of
the 'Grand Siècle' because the need that we feel at this
time for the constructive overthrow of all aspects of life uncovers
the way that emergent Capital contributed through behaviour and
decor (conversation and strolling as privileged activities - in
architecture, the differentiation between living places, changes in
the principles of decoration and furniture). On the contrary, when
Roger Vailland wrote "Beau-Masque" in a Stendahlian tone, despite
its almost estimable content, it had only the chance of pleasing as
a prettily done pastiche. That is to say, no doubt contrary to his
intentions, he addressed himself to intellectuals with an outdated
taste. And the majority of criticism which foolishly attacked the
content, praised the prose style.
We'll return to this historical anecdote.