Excerpt: The Emperor’s New Clothes

L returned to London late in 1972, as Dr Louis Zander, Ph.D. George
Loewinger drove him to Calais in the Mercedes, and they crossed on
the ferry to Dover on November 25th. The sea was rough, and L was
“horribly sick”, as he wrote shortly afterwards* to his mother, who
was accompanying her sister on a concert tour of the United States at
the time. The letter conveys other information about L’s thoughts and
feelings well worth our notice:
As you know, I hate flying, so took the ferry, but could
not have been more horribly sick than I was. And to make
matters worse, I found myself in the midst of such a crowd as
would have nauseated me even had the sea been calm. They
rise before my mind’s eye even now, against my will, and
the image turns my stomach. They were English of course,
all too English. Where do such people get the money to go
abroad? The sweaty fat pasty woman in the cheap flashy
clothes. She smelt of unwashed private parts. The puking
baby. Sharp-faced knowing little boys. A female child in
crinkly gold-lustre stockings and stained, cracked silver shoes
under an anorak and an uneven woollen skirt of the cheapest
quality. I think its hem had fallen half down. Another with
a livid birthmark on her cheek, her yellow pigtails tied with
what looked like brassiere straps. The men with clinking
dentures, patent leather shoes and lurid neckties. Their best
clothes no doubt! The gum-chewing pustular adolescents.
Loud grating voices and distorting accents – comprehensive
school at best. A tarty girl dressed in trousers that hung from
her hips exposed a yellow belly, and an elderly man poked
her in the exposed navel, upon which she screamed invective,
and her amorphous mum pelted the old lecher with a hail
of glottal (glo’al) stops. They all had plastic bags full of
disgusting food. That tasteless sort of white sliced bread that
only Anglo-Saxons would tolerate. Tins of some sort of meat
like cat-food. Apples sweating beneath stretched tarpaulins
of polythene. The kiddies smeared ice-cream, snot, chocolate
and dirty sweat from their palms on the vinyl seats (shampoo
blue) and the formica tables (denture pink). They called each
other “love” and “darlin”. They made no statement that
was not turned into a question: “It was this, wasn’[t] it?”,
“I don’[t] know, do I?”, “He got a win on the pools, din’[t]
he?”. There was no first-class accommodation on the ferry.
So I hired a cabin where I could lie down. But the sheets
were not clean and there was a used towel on the bathroom
floor. Fortunately Loewinger had brought a towel for me.
The experience has taught me never to cross the channel
that way again.
No reply from Lady Zander has come to light, and so we do not
know whether she expressed sympathy with her son for his suffering of
this ordeal. The want of evidence as to her views on whether travelling
on the same ferry as hoi polloi were the same as his, has allowed some
neo-Marxist biographers and historians to explain this letter – or rather
to explain it away, as they find it necessary to do – with the assertion
that L was trying to please his mother by pretending to share her values.
This seems implausible. No consideration of her judgments inhibited his
expression of the ideas which he was soon to publish to the world.
While L had been in Vienna, his father had sold the old house
in Hampstead about which L was to record his recollections in his
memoirs. The new house was even larger than the old. It stood on the
edge of the Heath. There Dr Zander, now aged twenty-six, installed
himself. He turned the top floor into a flat with its own front-door at
the top of a flight of wide stone steps which he had built on at the side.
He kept himself busy at his desk, writing.
He told his family that he was writing a play, and that they would
be able to see it in a West End theatre “within two years”.* He finished
it in the summer of 1973, and offered it to a number of producers and
agents, but it was rejected by all of them. L fulminated against their
stupidity, maintaining that what they had against it was that it was
violent; but if we look at the plays that were being staged at that time
we find reason to doubt this. There were productions in which babies
were (illusorily) stoned to death in their prams; and the performing of
rape and mutilation (again, as yet, illusory) was commonplace.
He also failed to find an English publisher for a revised version of his
dissertation on von Hofmannsthal, which he translated into English.
His sister Sophie has said* that “the hurt of those failures went very
deep. He wanted so much to be recognized as a great dramatist and poet
and thinker, and he couldn’t bear to be judged and found wanting by
people he despised as his inferiors. It’s not that he said so, but I’m sure
of it. I think he made up his mind then to get his own back on everyone
who had turned him down. I know that when he had his ‘purge of the
intellectuals’ in 1988, at least one of the producers who had rejected
his work then lost his life – and that was why. Or so I believe, though
I know the reason he gave was that they were all ‘standing in the way
of history’.”
However, L’s thoughts were soon to reach the public in printed
form. Within two years of his appointment as Lecturer in Aesthetics at
the Slade School of Art in 1973, the NLPP (New Left People’s Press)
published THE THIRST FOR REALITY, a collection of L’s critical
essays on certain novelists, poets, playwrights, and a fellow critic* – a
Structuralist, devoutly Freudian as well as Marxian. Structuralism*
had been strongly condemned by another academic* as “a terminology
in search of a theory”*. But it gained the qualified approval of L, for
which he received in return the qualified approbation of structuralists at
Cambridge, Berkeley and Strasbourg. The burden of the collection was
that destruction, “and that means violent destruction”, of “bourgeois
structures” in art was the only proper business of the critic and the artist
“in our time”.
In the introduction to THE THIRST FOR REALITY he is most
explicit. (The lack of capital letters is faithfully reproduced.)
it is imperative that we open our minds to the idea of murder
as art. the world is the gallery of such art. the young left-wing
terrorists of our time are the most inspired artists of our
time, and if we choose, as we may, to reconfine art in practice
back in our galleries and theatres, what happens will not be
faked, but happen in reality: murder, torture, surgery, coitus.
in our time our need is for destruction. we are bursting with
a desire for it. therefore we must have it, and we shall have
it. destruction is the only theatre worth staging, and the
destruction of the living, of animals and of people, is the only
truly therapeutic − because truly cathartic, truly revealing,
truly transforming − spectacle, to counter the spectacle
of brutality by the political, religious, academic, military,
commercial, family pigs, to reveal how great a lie liberalism
really is: brutality alone will cure brutality. only ours will
be overt, a holy ritual in which we shall sacrifice our own
appalled sensitivity in order to identify ourselves finally with
the wretched of the earth, and shock the capitalist employerlandlord-
extortionist torturers into a perception of reality to
which at present they deliberately blind themselves.

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