Food for thought

This was an unpublished draft from somewhere around June this year. I gave it a second look and decided it’s publish-worthy…

Among other artists, he specifically condemns Wagner and Beethoven as examples of overly cerebral artists, who lack real emotion. Furthermore, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 cannot claim to be able to “infect” their audience, as it pretends, with the feeling of unity and therefore cannot be considered good art. Children’s songs and folk tales are superior to the work of Wagner and Beethoven.

– From Wikipedia (Article: ‘What Is Art?’, a book by Leo Tolstoy)

I remember the astonishment I felt when I first read Shakespeare. I expected to receive a powerful esthetic pleasure, but having read, one after the other, works regarded as his best: “King Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet”, “Hamlet” and “Macbeth”, not only did I feel no delight, but I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium… Several times I read the dramas and the comedies and historical plays, and I invariably underwent the same feelings: repulsion, weariness, and bewilderment. At the present time, before writing this preface, being desirous once more to test myself, I have, as an old man of seventy-five, again read the whole of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, the “Henrys,” “Troilus and Cressida,” the “Tempest,” “Cymbeline,” and I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings,—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius which Shakespeare enjoys, and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits,—thereby distorting their esthetic and ethical understanding,—is a great evil, as is every untruth.

– Leo Tolstoy, 1906

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