Monday, September 19, 2005

Adorno meets Charlie Chaplin

This fabulous Adorno quote on Croissantfactory today:
Perhaps I may justify my speaking about [Chaplin] by recounting a certain privilege which I was granted, entirely without having earned it. He once imitated me, and surely I am one of the few intellectuals to whom this happened and to be able to account for it when it happened. Together with many others we were invited to a villa in Malibu, on the coast outside of Los Angeles. While Chaplin stood next to me, one of the guests was taking his leave early. Unlike Chaplin, I extended my hand to him a bit absent-mindedly, and, almost instantly, started violently back. The man was one of the lead actors from The Best Years of Our Lives, a film famous shortly after the war; he lost a hand during the war, and in its place bore practicable claws made of iron. When I shook his right hand and felt it return the pressure, I was extremely startled, but sensed immediately that I could not reveal my shock to the injured man at any price. In a split second I transformed my frightened expression into an obliging grimace that must have been far ghastlier. The actor had hardly moved away when Chaplin was already playing the scene back. All the laughter he brings about is so near to cruelty; solely in such proximity to cruelty does it find its legitimation and its element of the salvational. Let my remembrance of this event and my thanks be my congratulations to him on his 75th birthday.

Anybody got a bibliographical reference on that?

4 comments:

-k said...

It's in a late 90s issue of Yale French Studies, but I'd have to go back and check the original reference at home. You could find it quickly though by searching Chaplin on Project Muse. Also see the YFS with Benjamin and Kracaur on Chaplin, quite good too...

-kaplan

-k said...

Translation:
The Yale Journal of Criticism 9.1 (1996) 57-61

Original:
"Chaplin in Malibu" in Neue Rundschau, Vol. 3, 75th year, 1964

Steve Evans said...

It's been years since I read it, but I believe Habermas opens with this incident in his "Philosophical Political Profiles" chapter on Adorno.

Steve Evans said...

It's been years since I read it, but I believe Habermas opens with this incident in his "Philosophical Political Profiles" chapter on Adorno.