How the War Will Change Art

Rising evil is concomitant with the destruction of art. Before anyone had heard of the Mullah Omar, NPR described to the world the obliteration of the Bamiyan buddhas. No vision of the Third Reich is complete without mountains of “degenerate” texts set ablaze, the deckled edges of Hemingway and Marx and Einstein curling into black as the printed words fade into ember. Yet though the dogmatist and the totalitarian and the theocratic would try to use violence to destroy art, as Bulgakov once wrote: “Manuscripts don’t burn.” Indeed, Orson Welles famously observed in a Carol Reed film that war can facilitate the conditions for great art. But during the act itself — of the squeezing of triggers and the releasing of JDAMs — art almost by definition cannot exist in those moments. War is the absence of art.

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