William Pfaff is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) -- his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He describes the neglected sources and unforeseen consequences of the tragedy towards which the nation's current effort to remake the world to fit America's measure is leading. His previous books and his articles in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and his syndicated newspaper column, featured for a quarter century in the globally read International Herald Tribune, have made him one of America's most respected and internationally influential interpreters of world affairs.   [Read more...]
His books : THE BULLET'S SONG: Romantic Violence and Utopia, New York, Simon & Schuster 2004
on 2000/1/9 0:00:00 (23057 reads)

The publishers write: In this dazzling and unsettling narrative, William Pfaff – the prize-winning author of Barbarian Sentiments and veteran political columnist for The International Herald Tribune and The New Yorker – charts the rise, fall, and significance of utopian violence in the twentieth century through the lives of several revolutionary artists, writers, and intellectual soldiers, including T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), André Malraux (the world-famous French novelist and “Byron” of the 1930s), Ernst Jünger and Gabriele D’Annunzion, novelists, nationalists and war heroes; Arthur Koestler, Communist agent and propagandist, afterwards author of the immensely influential anticommunist novel Darkness at Noon), and others, including the Comintern propaganda genius Willi Münzenberg and the dissolute soldier and aristocrat become hermit, Charles de Foucauld, today candidate for beatification. The uprisings they led, the political styles they invented, the propaganda they created, and the intellectual and aesthetic influences they wielded changed a century in which an unprecedented barbarism killed millions. This book is of special importance because the last century’s commitment to the idea of redemptive violence has ominously re-appeared in the twenty-first century.

Pfaff finds the roots of utopian violence in the Romantic movement in the arts, philosophy, and political thought that reached its height in nineteenth-century Europe. Romanticism held that creation emerged not from reason but from emotion, from fusion following break and pain. It held that truth is not objective and that the great answers to life, and indeed life itself, need to be invented. This way of thinking was applied to political affairs and history as much as to art. Moreover, it seemed to the Romantics that the historical order in which people lived could itself be made into a work of art. This was the essential intellectual link that explains why so many artists, writers, and thinkers came to play such a critical role in the genesis of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Pfaff writes: “The individuals who figure in this book imposed themselves upon the author as living evidence of the inner history of the modern crisis – its moral history, so to speak . . . .”

     William Greider writes: “William Pfaff is brilliant, intriguing, and disturbing in this deep history of how our modern political civilization became a machine for massive killing.”
     Walter LaFeber says: “One of our most distinguished authors utilizes beautifully realized biographical sketches of leading and lesser known twentieth-century figures to warn that this terrible love affair has direct, tragic meaning for our post-911 world.
     Strobe Talbott calls The Bullet’s Song “a work that combines intellectual courage, passion and discipline...[that] helps make sense of the uniquely brutal century that has now passed into history and draws lessons for the one just begun.”

Buy this book through English-language bookstores everywhere, or from on-line booksellers.

See the special article on William Pfaff's works and influence in The May 26, 2005 New York Review of Books

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