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An Introduction

The Ridiculous Excess
of Mercy


Brunhilde's Act

The Portrait of a
Russian Gay Gentleman

The Young Woman
and a River

C Major or E Flat
Minor? No, Thanks!



C Major or E Flat Minor?
No, Thanks!
Busoni's Faust-Allegorie

Slavoj Zizek


[...]How does Busoni’s Faust fit these coordinates? As with every great mythic figure, each epoch invents its own Faust. Today, Faust is predominantly read in a Heideggerian way, as the symbol of the hubris of subjectivity, of a nihilistic pact with the devil the subject concludes in order to gain unlimited power. The lesson of this Faust is best rendered by the vulgar proverb “you cannot urinate against the wind”: a plea for moderation, for the proper measure. This Faust perfectly fits the postmodern celebration of human finitude: his failure can stand for the “Dialektik der Aufklaerung,” for the failure of all big modern projects, from the political totalitarianism into which the Communist dream of a fully self-transparent society degenerated to ecological catastrophies as the consequence of the dream of the human domination over nature. Although, in Goethe, things appear much more ambiguous—at the end, Faust not only finds peace, but finds it without renouncing his activity—he dies happy, in the middle of colonizing/reforming activity—, the basic coordinates remain the same.

With Busoni, however, we enter a totally different field: his Faust is not a “faustian” larger-than-life heroic figure who pays the price for his hubris; he is, to put it in Nietzsche’s terms, a slave pretending to be a master but not ready to pay the price for it. When Mephistopheles’s voice tempts him to conclude the pact, Faust is aware that he is exposing himself to danger: “Welchem Wahn gab ich mich hin! / Arbeit, / heilende Weile, / in dir bade ich mich rein.” However, he quickly succumbs to the temptations and abandons the heilende Weile of true knowledge. Faust does not stand for the hard work of science—science avec patience, as Arthur Rimbaud put it—, but for the cheap trickery of magic; he is not ready to heroically assume his Will, but wants others to do it for him. He is not a figure of unconditional Will, but a figure of the betrayal of the truly autonomous Will.[...]


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