Courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art/Le Figaro
For all the shuttlecocks of the French Left, from Hollande to Macron, Mélenchon and Hamon to Valls and Cazeneuve, nostalgia of any kind is a crime of passion, a calculated political provocation, or a transparently mendacious use of art. And so philistinism, nostalgia’s natural predator, is drafted in all but name. Unlike nostalgia, it lacks all discrimination, and for that reason alone devoutly recommends itself to the Left.
To all of which one simply opposes, for example, Pissarro. Art is many things, but it is also memory, — memory of the best that has been expressed in colour, stone, sound or words; memory of ways of life and of feeling, with their references to lost refinement. The project of the cosmopolitan Left is to confuse or even erase memory, while that of the conservative is to rehabilitate nostalgia as a mature and stabilising sentiment. Philistine gauchisme can no more eradicate European art than could the Bolsheviks religious observance; but their respective motives are similar: a nation without a memory is a subjugated nation. ◼︎