I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Hardest Problem

The Hardest Problem

Martin Greene
Ulysses, by James Joyce, Vintage Classics, 672 pp, £10.99, ISBN: 978-0099511199 Sex and Character, by Otto Weininger, Forgotten Books, 356 pp, £12.85, ISBN: 978-1332464784 Otto Weininger: Sex, Science and Self in Imperial Vienna, by Chandak Sengoopta, University of Chicago Press, 256 pp, £34.50, ISBN: 978:0226748677 For most of the period 1904-16, except for an absence of less than a year in Rome in 1906-07, and again, briefly, in 1919-20, James Joyce lived in Trieste on the southern fringe of the Habsburg-ruled Austro-Hungarian Empire. This was a time of extraordinary cultural vigour in Austria-Hungary. Startlingly innovative work was under way across a broad range of the arts and sciences. The leading figures included Klimt and Kokoschka (art), Bartók, Kodály and Schoenberg (music), Musil (literature), Freud (psychology) and Wittgenstein (philosophy). The centre of this activity was Vienna, the Austrian (and imperial) capital, but Budapest, the second city of the empire, also played a part and the peripheral regions were involved to some extent. Fine studies of this phenomenon are available in Carl Schorske’s Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (1981) and Péter Hanák’s The Garden and the Workshop: Essays on the Cultural History of Vienna and Budapest (1998). Austria-Hungary’s cultural energy at this time, like the literary revival in post-Parnell Ireland, is sometimes seen as the consequence of a society turning away in discouragement from politics and instead investing its energies in cultural work – in Hanák’s phrase, an “escape [from political paralysis] into creativity”. In Austria-Hungary, the pessimism surrounding politics was due to the failure of the political system to respond effectively to threats facing it both externally and internally. Externally, the growth of Prussian power had ousted the Habsburgs from their traditional role as primus inter pares among the German states, culminating in their exclusion from the Prussian-dominated German empire established in 1871. Their position as the major power in their immediate neighbourhood was also threatened as the other great powers (Russia, Germany, France, Britain) were drawn into the region by instability – and the related opportunities – in the Balkans, arising from the weakness of the Ottoman empire. Internally, tensions among the empire’s nationalities meant that all the national groups were, for one reason or another, either disaffected from the state or ambivalent in their attachment to it – the Slav, Romanian and Italian “minorities” (majorities in their own areas) because of their subordinate status in both the Austrian- and the Hungarian-ruled parts of the empire,…

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