How we learned to stop worrying and love modernism (again)

James and his publisher Sylvia Beach Modernism all but retreated into its ivory tower – until the publishing world discovered readers aren’t frightened of “difficult” books after all. On or about July 2010 the literary world experienced a small but far-reaching tremor. was the month Gabriel Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism? was published. Much like the first Velvet Underground record, while it wasn’t a bestseller, it galvanised many of those who encountered it – in this case, to begin their own exploration of modernism’s legacy. critics claimed Josipovici’s quest was as quixotic as the art he lauded. His book is more personal than academic – it’s a love letter to the trauma and tribulations that, for him, were at the core of modernist art. Now, seven years later, modernism has slipped back into our lives, back onto the shelves of bookstores, and back into the vernacular of authors who are looking back in to look forward. The debate that Josipovici started was not dissimilar to in the past which briefly flared up and then settled down. James Purdon in a sympathetic review of Josipovici’s book that to answer why […]

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