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Rudolf Kayser, "Americanism" (1925)

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But literature follows Americanism only minimally at first. Its vitality is still too overpowering and uncultivated, so that it is still sensed as nearly antiliterary. Its intellectual potential is still problematic. Perhaps it marks an end or an intermission in the cultural history of Europe; but perhaps as early as tomorrow we will find ourselves confronting a surprisingly new flowering. It would be fruitless to pose and solve puzzles here. On the other hand, it would be wrong to want to recognize the epoch only in the external phenomena of economy and exchange, thereby passing over the new orientations of the spirit. The present clings to reality as the most powerful creative substance, as energy, as mastery of the world.

Now should we complain or rejoice over Americanism? Neither. We sense its vitality and should not measure its manifestations against false standards.

The jazz band, too, is force and sound, magical in the wild brilliance of its rhythm. But why, as we listen to the pounding of its instruments, speak of classical music?

Source of English translation: Rudolf Kayser, “Americanism” (1925), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 395-97. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Rudolf Kayser, “Amerikanismus,” Vossische Zeitung, no. 458 (September 27, 1925).

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