I don’t pretend that my position, on the other hand, is easy. We are survivors, in this age, so theories of progress ill become us, because we are intimately acquainted with the costs. To realize that you are a survivor is a shock. At the realization of such election, you feel like bursting into tears. As the dead go their way, you want to call to them, but they depart in a black cloud of faces, souls. They flow out in smoke from the extermination chimneys, and leave you in the clear light of historical success–the technical success of the West. Then you know with a crash of the blood that mankind is making it–making it in glory though deafened by the explosions of blood. Unified by the horrible wars, instructed in our brutal stupidity by revolutions, by engineered famines directed by “ideologists” (heirs of Marx and Hegel and trained in the cunning of reason), perhaps we, modern humankind (can it be!), have done the nearly impossible, namely, learned something. You know that the decline and doom of civilization refuses to follow the model of antiquity. The old empires are shattered but those same one-time powers are richer than ever. I don’t say that the prosperity of Germany is altogether agreeable to contemplate. But there it is, less than twenty years after the demonic nihilism of Hitler destroyed it. And France? England? No, the analogy of the decline and fall of the classical world will not hold for us. Something else is happening, and that something lies closer to the vision of Comte–the results of rationally organized labor–than to that of Spengler. Of all the evils of standardization in the old bourgeois Europe of Spengler, perhaps the worst was the standardization of the pedantry of the Spenglers themselves–this coarse truculence born in the Gymnasium, in cultural drill administered by an old-fashioned bureaucracy.
– Herzog to his friend Shapiro from the Bellow novel Herzog
Dear Mr. Bellow,
I just wish I could write letters as interesting and crazed as the character you created. Of course, apparently you had a personal talent for writing letters yourself. I’m sure my readers will enjoy reading more from Herzog — I’ll be sure to include more as this blog continues.