Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Quote of the Day

with one comment

I am writing this manifesto to show that you can do contrary actions together, in one single fresh breath; I am against action, for continual contradiction…I am neither for nor against and I don’t explain because I hate common sense.

Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto”

Written by nevalalee

September 24, 2018 at 7:30 am

One Response

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  1. He sounds like an actual nihilist. Not in the derogatory sense used to dismiss leftists since the revolutionary era but as an accurate description. Interestingly, the first group to self-identify as nihilists might have been those in late 19th century Russia. They did so for other reasons than lacking belief for they did believe that something else was possible once the old was removed, even if that something else was as yet unknown and maybe unknowable until it came into being.

    Those nihilists, opposite of Tzara, were not against action or necessarily against common sense either. They simply embraced the unknown as a terrain of possibility and potential and did so with a sense of hope and optimism. They were true believers, yet lacking specifics beyond the longing for revolutionary change. But what they shared with Tzara might have been an acceptance of what others deemed irrational and incomprehensible. They felt no need to explain themselves nor rationalize their demands to those who defended the mainstream status quo. Instead, they took it upon themselves to do as they felt they must.

    That makes sense in the historical context. The period following the American and French Revolutions incited a sense of uncertainty, as the old order further decayed. And it was a long process of decline, the end of feudalism having begun in the 13th century and not having been fully demolished until the early 20th century. The nihilists and dadaists found themselves at the tail end of that historical shift with an entirely new era before them. For some, that was opportunity to be met with a sense of openness and expectation.

    Benjamin David Steele

    September 26, 2018 at 8:50 am


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