Monday, 6 April 2020

Modernism's Rainbow

With the rainbow emerging as a symbol of hope in the coronavirus darkness – the children at the nursery opposite my house have painted a big one on a sheet of cardboard and hung it from their gate – we might recall modernism’s own rainbow, as articulated in the great utopian vision which Ursula Brangwen has in the closing paragraphs of D.H. Lawrence’s novel The Rainbow (1915).  Here it is:  

'And then, in the blowing clouds, she saw a band of faint iridescence colouring in faint colours a portion of the hill.  And forgetting, startled, she looked for the hovering colour and saw a rainbow forming itself.  In one place it gleamed fiercely, and, her heart anguished with hope, she sought the shadow of the iris where the bow should be.  Steadily the colour gathered, mysteriously, from nowhere, it took presence upon itself, there was a faint, vast rainbow.  The arc bended and strengthened itself till it arched indomitable, making great architecture of light and colour and the space of heaven, its pedestals luminous in the corruption of the low houses on the low hill, its arch the top of heaven. 

And the rainbow stood on the earth.  She knew that the sordid people who crept hard-scaled and separate on the face of the world's corruption were living still, that the rainbow was arched in their blood and would quiver to life in their spirit, that they would cast off their horny covering of disintegration, that new, clean bodies would issue to a new germination, to a new growth, rising to the light and the wind and the clean rain of heaven.  She saw in the rainbow the earth's new architecture, the old, brittle corruption of houses and factories swept away, the world built up in a living fabric of Truth, fitted to the over-arching heaven'.

So may we, like Ursula, catch glimpses of a juster society emerging from the current crisis.


Tony Pinkney said...

There is already a massive amount of thought and writing about how the world order will emerge from the current crisis. Here's a piece from the Guardian newspaper with - quite a long way down - some bleak thoughts from Slavoj Zizek. I don't know what the original Zizek source is:

Tony Pinkney said...

Ah, I see, the Zizek quote is from a new book 'Pandemic! Covid-19 Shakes the World' that he's rushed out. Here it is, in the blurb from publisher OR Books:

About the Book

As an unprecedented global pandemic sweeps the planet, who better than the supercharged Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek to uncover its deeper meanings, marvel at its mind-boggling paradoxes, and speculate on the profundity of its consequences, all in a manner that will have you sweating profusely and gasping for breath?

We live in a moment when the greatest act of love is to stay distant from the object of your affection. When governments renowned for ruthless cuts in public spending can suddenly conjure up trillions. When toilet paper becomes a commodity as precious as diamonds. And when, according to Žižek, a new form of communism may be the only way of averting a descent into global barbarism.

Written with his customary brio and love of analogies in popular culture (Quentin Tarantino and H.G. Wells sit next to Hegel and Marx in these pages), Žižek provides a concise and provocative snapshot of the crisis as it widens, engulfing us all.

Slavoj Žižek has asked us to make clear that he will receive no royalties from this book. With his agreement OR Books will pay all royalties to Médecins Sans Frontières.

124 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-301-3 • E-book 978-1-68219-246-7