THE NECESSITY OF ART
By Ernst Fischer
With a new introduction by John Berger
“Fischer’s range is remarkable, his powers of evocation enviable. Here the magic of the word does not betray him. He enjoys art and helps you enjoy it with him … The non-Marxist reader will feel at home, though let us hope not too much so.”—Stephen Mitchell, New Left Review
Reissued with a new introduction, The Necessity of Art is one of the twentieth century’s most influential books on aesthetics. With its emphasis on the individual’s need to engage with society, its rejection of rampant consumerism and hypertechnology, and its ultimate hopefulness, this radical, affirmative and humane vision of the artistic endeavor remains as timely today as when it was first published sixty years ago.
A committed member of the Communist Party of Austria during the time when the reality of Stalinist Russia was first coming to light, Fischer was faced with a new crisis in Marxism, and chose to fight against the stale, archaic form it had taken on in his native country. By rejecting the ossified dogma of social realism in favor of a more generous consideration of humanity, valorizing Kafka, Baudelaire, and “decadent” art, Fischer was deemed a renegade and calls were made for his expulsion from the Party. More than Marxist criticism, Fischer’s work is relevant for all those who care about what it means to be human.
In his poignant introductory essay, John Berger (Ways of Seeing) describes the last day of Fischer’s life, an idyllic day spent together in the countryside with his wife and translator that ended, after dinner, with a sudden heart attack. An admiring reader of Fischer’s work as well as an old friend, Berger is the perfect author for capturing the concerns both intellectual and all too human around which his life revolved.
ERNST FISCHER (1899-1972) studied philosophy before working as a newspaper editor, radio commentator, and writer; in the years after World War II he became a leading cultural commentator. His books include Art against Ideology.
Storyteller, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, dramatist and critic, JOHN BERGER is one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years. His many books include Ways of Seeing, the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours, Here Is Where We Meet, the Booker Prize-winning novel G, Hold Everything Dear, the Man Booker–longlisted From A to X, and A Seventh Man.
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