"You know why these essays were written: because Icannot write poems -- and you know, too, to whom these 'poems' are addressed and who awakened them within me." (Georg Lukacs to Irma Seidler, 1911) |
Soul and Form, first published in 1910, is the great critic Georg Lukacs's first book. For readers of Lukacs, these essays on Novalis, Sterne, Theodor Storm, Stefan George, and other writers give insight into the pre-Marxist roots of both Lukacs's aesthetic theory and his prose style: dialectics that surge with life, and a passionate engagement with what in other hands would be abstractions.
But Soul and Form is also deeply personal: the product of Lukacs's tragic, unconsummated love affair with Irma Seidler--resisted by Lukacs, broken off by Seidler in1908, and followed by her unhappy marriage and suicide in 1911. In these essays on longing and evasion, tragedy and destiny, and what must be sacrificed of the soul to give a life form, Lukacs sublimates and explores his decision to reject Seidler and choose an intellectual career as his true bride. The centerpiece of the book is an extraordinary essay on Kierkegaard and Regine Olsen, the fiancee Kierkegaard rejected and deceived, arguing that all of Kierkegaard's writings are a gesture for her sake. Soul and Form is another such gesture: criticism as art, and as Lukacs argues in his introduction, "while science offers us facts, art offers us souls and destinies."