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New Left Review I/23, January-February 1964

Stanley Mitchell

Marxism and Art

Hard on the heels of Lukács’s two books, The Historical Novel (1962) and The Meaning of Contemporary Realism (1963), comes Ernst Fischer’s The Necessity of Art: a Marxist Approach. Divided between two publishers—Merlin Press and Penguin Books—the succession is yet a meaningful one, for Fischer, an Austrian Marxist, owes much to Lukács, and Vienna is not far from Budapest. That the debt is not immediately apparent—indeed, there are important divergences, and Lukács’s name is not mentioned once—may be due to the fact that the book was originally published in Eastern Germany where Lukács is out of favour. On the other hand, since the present translation differs in some significant respects from the original, being geared to an English readership, Lukács’s name could no doubt have been mentioned, alongside other Marxists, had the author wished. Previous studies by Fischer, such as Dichtung und Deutung [1] Globus Verlag, Vienna, 1953 ., lean heavily on him. However, that is not the point. What really matters in this book are the divergences from Lukécs, particularly those involving definitions and assessments of Romanticism and Realism. A real confrontation is needed here, now that we have this body of Central European literary criticism newly before us—and a further confrontation, indeed, between this and our own Marxist critical tradition. In the present article, I cannot hope to do more than throw out a few ideas and questions.

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Stanley Mitchell, ‘Marxism and Art’, NLR I/23: £3

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