On Late Style: Music And Literature Against The Grain

On Late Style: Music And Literature Against The Grain

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In his fascinating last book, Edward Said looks at a selection of essays, poems, novels, films, and operas to determine what late style may explain about the evolution of the creative life. He discusses how the approaching death of an artist can make its way with anachronism and anomaly into his work, as was the case in the late work of Thomas Mann, Richard Strauss, Jean Genet, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and C. P. Cavafy. Said examines Beethovens Missa Solemnis, Genets Le captif amoureux and Les paravents, Mozarts Cos fan tutte, Viscontis film of Lampedusas The Leopard, Euripides The Bacchae and Iphigenia at Aulis, and Thomas Manns Death in Venice, among other works.

He points out that one can also find an unearthly serenity, in last works, for example, in Sophocles, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Matisse, Bach, and Wagner, which, as Said puts it, crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavor. But in On Late Style he concentrates on artistic lateness as intransigence, difficulty, and unresolved contradiction. He also writes about Theodor Adorno and about Glenn Gould, who chose to stop performing, thereby creating his own form of lateness. Said makes clear that most of the works discussed are rife with deep conflict and an almost impenetrable complexity. In fact, he feels that lateness is often a form of exile. These works frequently stood in direct contrast to what was popular at the time, but they were forerunners of what was to come in each artists particular disciplineworks of true genius.

Eloquent and impassioned, brilliantly reasoned and revelatory, On Late Style is Edward Saids own great last work.

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