April 20, 2020

"Indeed, a number of exiles fell to scowling under the palms.... The composer Eric Zeisl called California a 'sunny blue grave.'"

"Adorno could have had Muscle Beach in mind when he identified a social condition called the Health unto Death: 'The very people who burst with proofs of exuberant vitality could easily be taken for prepared corpses, from whom the news of their not-quite-successful decease has been withheld for reasons of population policy.'... Such doleful tales raise the question of why so many writers fled to L.A. Why not go to New York, where exiled visual artists gathered in droves? ... [T]he 'lack of a cultural infrastructure' in L.A. was attractive: it allowed refugees to reconstitute the ideals of the Weimar Republic instead of competing with an extant literary scene.... Thomas Mann... lived in a spacious, white-walled aerie in Pacific Palisades... He saw 'Bambi' at the Fox Theatre in Westwood; he ate Chinese food; he listened to Jack Benny on the radio; he furtively admired handsome men in uniform; he puzzled over the phenomenon of the 'Baryton-Boy Frankie Sinatra,' to quote his diaries. Like almost all the émigrés, he never attempted to write fiction about America...."

From "The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile/Wartime émigrés in L.A. felt an excruciating dissonance between their circumstances and the horrors unfolding in Europe" by Alex Ross (The New Yorker).


rcocean said...

Yeah that's too bad. Fortunately, most of them went back to Europe and reconnected with their European Culture. Many of them went back, when we clamped down on the Communism starting in 1948. Many had lied on the immigration forms about being communists.

As for Thomas Mann, I've always found him unreadable except for Death in Venice. Maybe he's better in German.

rcocean said...

The idea that SoCal was an intellectual desert was a common theme in the 1930s and 1940s. Even Woody Allen was complaining about it in the 70s. The complaint went away as Socal got more sophisticated and whatever culture NYC had went into the dumpster. Its hard to miss Broadway when its crap.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

One of the things that gives me a small amount of hope for California is what happened at Ralph's Skate Park in Venice Beach.

This is a privately funded skate park and supposedly was closed by municipal or state order. Can't have kids having fun, even if they do stay 6 feet apart.

But, you know, kids.

They kept on skating. So the city dumped 30 tons of sand in the park.

Now in some countries, the kids would obey like good subjects. In Venice, they showed up at the park with shovels, brooms, pails etc. They cleared sand from part of the park and dumped it in another part of the park creating motorcycle trails.

The kids are alright.

They could be inside filling their heads with intellectual bullshit. Instead, they decided to:

1) Show the states that they are liberals not subjects

2) Work together to a common goal

3) Create a space for motorcyclists too.

John Henry

Bob Smith said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Grant said...

Don’t underestimate the weather as part of LA’s appeal. It’s also easy on the eyes in ways NYC can only dream of.

Grant said...
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traditionalguy said...

It's Chinatown,Jake. A great film set in 1937 Los Angeles. The Germans missed their Prussian Militarism. So they made a Corporeal who was trained in the culture of Aleister Crowley their new god.

chuck said...

Maybe they were snotty. Listening to the Farm Hall recordings of the captured German scientists is a revelation, they were convinced of the cultural and scientific superiority of German civilization. The success of the US and British in developing an atomic bomb when they had failed miserably was a shock to their pride.

Krumhorn said...
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Bob Smith said...

Best part of LA. All the good looking people who went there to get in the movies, didn’t, got married and had babely daughters. Place is a fox farm.

narciso said...

the latest penny dreadful revisits that era, apparently there were many Nazis in the Hollywood hills, who knew (sarc)

Krumhorn said...

Thomas Mann, who had become an American citizen in 1944, felt the dread of déjà vu. The likes of McCarthy, Hoover, and Nixon had crossed his line of sight before. In 1947, after the blacklisting of the Hollywood Ten, he recorded a broadcast in which he warned of incipient Fascist tendencies: “Spiritual intolerance, political inquisition, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency’: that is how it started in Germany.”

It was a very interesting article that I would never have otherwise read if it weren't for our daily visits to this blog. Still, one cannot escape the sneering elitist sense of moral superiority shared equally by these leftie Frankfurt-School-in-Exile emigres 70 years ago and the current batch of lefties swarming the halls today. As a reasonably well-educated deplorable, I point out that McCarthy was actually correct about the commie threat, Hoover was a power mad homosexual, and Nixon was just another Republican hated by lefties (inexplicably, I worked on Hubert Humphrey's campaign).

The lefties are pure cancer.

- Krumhorn

Jeff said...

Speaking of California, the LA County Health Dept and USC just reported an hour ago that actual random antibody testing shows 4 percent of LA County residents have Covid antibodies, indicating an infection rate that is 25 to 55 times higher than the "confirmed case" number, and the IFR (infection fatality rate) is correspondingly lower. They're estimating infections in the 200K to 400K range, and there are 600 deaths so far. If you take the middle number, 300K, you get an infection fatality rate of 0.2 percent, in the same ballpark as the much-criticized Santa Clara county estimate from yesterday.

That sound you hear is liberal wailing and gnashing of teeth as actual data comes in showing this whole thing is vastly overblown. Corona turns out to be more contagious than the flu, but no more than twice as deadly. The shutdown is both unnecessary and ineffective.

The whole thing is going to collapse by the end of this week.

Krumhorn said...

.....and Schoenberg and his student, Alban Berg, wrote truly horrible music that survives today as truly horrible.

- Krumhorn

Michael K said...

A classmate in medical school is the son of a German immigrant psychiatrist who fled Hitler. He, in turn, went into psychiatry and has done well.

His son, has become a "contemporary artist, a bit like the one my daughter worked for. His paintings sell for a $ million. Doing pretty well, I'd say.

Not my style but some like it,.

Narr said...

Mann was one of the trio of terrible Toms, according to Nabokov (Faulkner, Wolfe, Mann IIRC).

Too many of the European intelligentsia could only see the US from the standpoint of European intellectuals . . . well of course the US will come up short.

But this is a chance to plug Golo Mann's revisionist biography of Wallenstein; thickly translated from the German, but such a picture of the era!

Magic Mountain isn't

Narr said...

Like Nabokov, Paul Hindemith seemed to love his new country, but didn't find the lifestyle agreeable and eventually moved back.

I like their work

Paul Zrimsek said...

Now comes ze time on Schprockets vhen ve gripe.

Two-eyed Jack said...

Krumhorn for some reason says that Berg wrote "truly horrible music." I found the Met Opera HD broadcasts of Lulu and Wozzeck really good. The action takes your mind off the music and after a while, you begin to appreciate how effective it is.

Grant said...

I agree with Two-eyed Jack. I saw both of those Berg productions live at the Met. They were excellent on the whole, minus some complaints I had about the specific productions. And Verklärte Nacht and the Gurrelieder—though not what people typically mean when they disparage Schoenberg—are astonishingly beautiful works.

And although I couldn’t bore my way through the Magic Mountain, as there’s only so much drama you can get from incessant temperature-taking, Dr. Faustus was worth reading. An interesting take on the legend, anyway, if overdone on that last Beethoven sonata.

Two-eyed Jack said...

I got through The Magic Mountain and, like Hans, that was seven years I'd like to get back.

Earnest Prole said...

You don’t need to imagine the cultural collision of the dour German and sunny Southern California sensibilities because we have an entire artistic genre, Film Noir, that documents it.

tcrosse said...

Some of the émigrés did OK in LA. Like Billy Wilder, Eric Korngold, Marlene Dietrich, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Conrad Veidt, Salka Viertel, etc. etc.

YoungHegelian said...

Essays like “The Coming Victory of Democracy” and “War and Democracy” remain dismayingly relevant in the era of Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán, and Donald Trump.

Oh, put a sock in it will you? These "nods to public virtue" are so tiresome.

In “Germany and the Germans,” a remarkable speech delivered at the Library of Congress in 1945, he argued that the demonic energies of Hitler’s regime had roots reaching back to Martin Luther. Mann did not exclude himself from the web of shame: “It is all within me. I have been through it all.” In the end, he said, “there are not two Germanys, a good one and a bad one, but only one, whose best turned into evil through devilish cunning.”

Mann was right about this. The reason, unstated by the author, that the Lefties such as Brecht wanted to separate the German people from the "Nazi clique" was because that was the Soviet Party Line. You see, the Soviets had a big problem on their hands -- they were now the occupiers of quite a few countries that had been pro-Nazi during the war, countries such as Romania, Croatia, Hungary, & what became East Germany. The Great Patriotic War had killed about 21 million Soviet citizens. It had brought widespread & profound suffering to the Soviet Union. What then, to do with the peoples who had wreaked such havoc on the USSR?

If the peoples of these countries were responsible then nothing short of genocidal cleansing could pay the moral freight. But, the Soviet Union didn't want Lebensraum (it was big enough). It wanted allies. It wanted buffer states. It wanted to spread the gospel of Marxist-Leninism. And so, a tale of moral absolution was born. The people had been mislead by evil cliques, some of whom had even fooled the proletariat by the adoption of ideologies friendly to the workers.

In the history of the European Left, it's actually quite rare to find an intellectual who spoke out against the Soviet Party line before 1956 without 1) being a target for death or exile by the Soviet regime or 2) breaking or about to break with the Left entirely (e.g. Arthur Kessler). Most of these huys knew which side their ideological bread was buttered on, and they weren't courageous about stepping on their livelihoods.

rcocean said...

A perfect example of these sorts of people was Hanns Eisler, he fled Austria and come to the USA and Hollywood and wrote some scores for Hollywood films. When HUAC began investigating it became clear that Eisler had connections with Soviet Intelligence. Eisler got deported with all the usual suspects (chaplin, Hemingway, Gellhorn, etc) screeching about how he was an innocent man and not a commie at all.

He later moved to East Berlin and wrote the East German national anthem. But remember, HUAC was wrong! LOL.

rcocean said...

Bertolt Brecht followed a similar path, ending up in Hollywood and then moving back to Europe in 1948. He was actually thanked by HUAC for his testimony. In 1949 he moved to East Berlin. He always denied he was a Communist party member just a "Marxist", but its distinction without a difference, since he toed the CP line in every respect.

Krumhorn said...

Any random selection of his work will support the statement that Berg's music is truly horrible. There are so many 20th century composers who have written magnificent works including Stravinsky, Hindemith, Shostakovitch, Duruflé Fauré, Britten, Tavener, Poulenc, Rutter...many of whom were not at all well-received in their time, but our ears have adjusted. In order to appreciate Schoenberg or Berg, one would have to adjust to the beauty of the sound and smell of a lugging diesel struggling up a 6% grade on a dirt road which is precisely how Wozzeck and Lulu sound (and smell) to me.

- Krumhorn

Two-eyed Jack said...

So, Krumhorn, I suppose you don't care for Moses and Aron either. You listen to it enough and you find yourself whistling along with the Sprechstimme. Some thing with diesels.

Krumhorn said...

I'd be reaching for a bucket of blood to squelch the screaming of the burning bush. Maybe I would like it better had he finished it.


- Krumhorn

Narr said...

I retrieve my own foul-- Tom Faulkner, sheesh.

Hardy? It's going to bug me all night now.

20th century greats-- can't leave out Nielsen IMHO.

Narr said...

Exile is one of the great themes of modern lit. A few like VN, Hindemith, Stravinsky, the late historian John Lukacs, were able to adapt without much bitterness, others not so much.

Those Krauts, good, bad, or indifferent went from being kings of kultur to broke doofuses in just a few years, many of them. From the proudest tower to grubbing along in NY or LA, where few knew your name and fewer cared . . . how well would we take an uprooting at 30 or 40 or 50 or older?

We may find out, in our way

Lurker21 said...

If England is part of Europe, they had Orwell, a leftist who rejected Stalinism. Ditto for Auden and his circle, though they eventually made their exit from the left. The Frankfurt School didn't much like Soviet Marxism either, and they weren't targeted by Stalin. I don't know if they spoke out against Stalin in the interwar period.

There also must have been Trotskyists in Europe who broke with Stalin. On the continent, in the Catholic countries, things were different and Communist Party discipline was stronger, but we do remember the anarchists and Trotskyists of Spain, who were repressed by the CP and its fellow travellers.

Here in the states, Trotskyites were attacking Stalin when the rest of the country was lauding him as a wartime ally. This produced a very confusing situation: people who called themselves revolutionaries sounded a lot like neoconservatives, and people who sounded a lot like neoconservatives were admirers of Lenin and Trotsky and had committed themselves to overthrowing capitalism.

The German emigres in Southern California never really came to terms with America - never really understood the country - because they thought that there was nothing important to understand in American culture. They interpreted everything in German terms, seeing Eisenhower as another Hindenberg.

mikee said...

Suffering all the way to the beach. Is that the west coadt equivalent of crying all the way to the bank?