I finally read the first volume of Peter Weiss’ The Aesthetics of Resistance this year (along with Marat/Sade which I may write about sooner or later once I beef up on my knowledge of theatre).
Before anything else, I think it would be best for readers to do without Fredric Jameson’s dense and circuitous introduction and go directly to the novel itself (as if the term novel can give full justice to the profound richness of the text).
Set amidst the rise of fascism in Germany and the Spanish Civil War, The Aesthetics of Resistance follows not just the lives, the political work, and intellectual discussions of a young German communist and his militant comrades.
The novel gives form to the development of the revolutionary party itself as its subject . . . by putting together a breathtaking mix of biographies of communists (both really-existing or otherwise), histories of the proletarian movements and the class struggles in Germany and Spain, powerful critiques of literary and artistic artifacts (from Heracles to Kafka to Picasso), and engaging discussions on the formation of a revolutionary aesthetics and culture.
The Aesthetics of Resistance does not only follow the development of a revolutionary consciousness on politics, history, art, literature, and culture as forged in the personal experiences and collective struggles of the protagonists but moreover depicts the broad sweep of history.
Readers will feel the creeping sense of danger amidst the assaults of Hitler and Franco, the debates and difficulties of advancing the correct line and forging unity within the proletarian and anti-fascist fronts, as well as the persistence of solidarity, courage, and hope among the oppressed and those who struggle by their side.
Peter Weiss’ magnus opus continues to be relevant not only as a testament to the high formal qualities that an overtly Marxist literary work can achieve.
More importantly, the proletarian struggles amidst the dark night of the fascist onslaught in the 1930s referred to artistically by Weiss gives us hope today of the possibility of overcoming another dark period when global capitalism seems to reign unchallenged.
This is the only volume translated into English. It is so good that I might even take the effort to learn German in the near future just to read the still untranslated second and third volumes.