The Invention of Politics in the European Avant-Garde (1906-1940)

By Sascha Bru; Gunther Martens | Go to book overview

The Rhetoric of Violence.
Avant-Garde Manifestoes
and the Myths of Racial Community

Laura Winkiel

The new man stretches the wings of his soul, he orients his inner ear toward
things to come, his knees find an altar before which to bend. He carries
pandemonium within himself, the pandemonium naturae ignotae, for or
against which no one can do anything. His neck is twisted and stiff, he
gazes upward, staggering toward redemption like some fakir or stylite; a
wretched martyr of all centuries, anointed and sainted, he begs to be
crushed, one day to be consumed in the burning heart, racked and consumed
– the new man, exalted, erring, ecstatic, born of ecstasy. Ahoy, ahoy, huzza,
hosanna, whips, wars of the eons, and yet human, the new man rises from
the ashes, cured of all toxins, and fantastic worlds, saturated, stuffed full to
the point of disgust with the experience of all outcasts, the dehumanized
beings of Europe, the Africans, the Polynesians, all kinds, feces smeared
with devilish ingredients, the sated "sic?" of all genders: Ecce homo novus,
here is the new man. (Huelsenbeck 1991: xxxv)

Oh! Maternal ditch, almost full of muddy water! Fair factory drain! I gulped
down your nourishing sludge; and I remembered the blessed black breast of
my Sudanese nurse "…". When I came up – torn, filthy, and stinking – from
under the capsized car, I felt the white-hot iron of joy deliciously pass
through my heart! (Marinetti 2001: 21)

The two epigraphs are from manifestoes of diametrically dissimilar avant-garde groups. The first, by a Dadaist whose avant-garde movement was dedicated to "an unconventional language, an unconventional art. Our search was for the deepest language, a language expressing man's deepest concern, his doubt" (Huelsenbeck 1991: xxxvii). The second, by the leader of Futurism, F.T. Marinetti, whose avant-garde group effused the wonders of modernity and aspired to lead the masses "excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot" (Marinetti 2001: 22). Despite their differences, each manifesto makes

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