The first thing to be said is that to define Modernism in any way at all is to take a stand. In that it is like Romanticism. You cannot write a ‘history of Romanticism’ or of Modernism, because you cannot stand above it on some neutral vantage-point.
I understand why Freud at the end of Civilization and Its Discontents said that he couldn’t preach an alternative to the social order as it was, even as he saw it heading for total disaster. Once he jettisons the idea of the good, it becomes almost impossible to envisage political struggle. The political thinker smuggles it back in, even when she or he accepts its explicit rejection, because some idea of the good seems to be a necessary condition for the possibility of politics. But I wrote the book believing that the abandonment of the good still left a small opening for thinking politics. And I don’t see any other way of doing it than focusing on the opposition between the good and enjoyment. Once we accept that the good is antithetical to our enjoyment, is a barrier to our enjoyment, it becomes possible to think politics beyond the good.
If duende, the source of inspiration that Lorca sets out to champion in his essay at the expense of the Muse, is “in sum, the spirit of the earth”, a force linking body and soil through a struggle akin to death, then the Muse is a force that speaks to the head and inspires art that is, in the words’ most negative senses, cerebral and high-minded.
I’ve been writing a more or less monthly memoir of my life in the sixties and seventies when I lived with Doris Lessing, and my continuing relationship with her until her death last year at 94. It is also an ongoing portrait of my incurable cancer.