Books > Dictionary of the Arts
Despite-perhaps because of-its frivolity, today's art world is one of the fastest-growing areas of the leisure industry.
The twentieth century can be credited with dismantling the classical system of the arts. But the twenty-first century seems set to upset the status quo yet again: the much-vaunted "Death of Art" was not the end, but the beginning of something bigger. Once we get past the notion that art is about the artist-her skill, her personality-then the old saw "anything is art nowadays" is not a complaint but a joyful discovery.
In the guise of a dictionary, Félixde Azúa has written a general introduction to the arts and the problems that beset them today. Rather aptly, as Azúa says in the preface, the "dictionary" form allows the reader to explore the subject with anarchic abandon. A linear approach would suggest advocacy, a thesis to defend, yet all that is needed is to clear away old assumptions. So the book lets you leap from an overtly literary treatise on colour in painting, say, to a closely argued précis of Freudian attempts to appropriate Leonardo da Vinci. Like the arts themselves, the dictionary is a place of chaos. Walter Benjamin urged that the criticism of poetry adopt a poetic style.
This extensively revised and enlarged second edition includes an updated bibliography and a new preface.
Translated by Mike Escárzaga
(Barcelona, Spain, 1944). He holds a Doctorate in Philosophy, is professor of Aesthetics and he is a regular collaborator of the newspaper El País. He has published books of poetry including Cepo para nutria, El velo en el rostro de Agamenón, Edgar en Stephane, Lengua de cal y Farra. His poetry was compiled, until 2007, in Última sangre. He has published the novels Las lecciones de Jena, Las lecciones suspendidas, Ultima lección, Mansura, Historia de un idiota contada por él mismo, Diario de un hombre humillado (which won the award Premio Herralde), Cambio de bandera, Demasiadas preguntas and Momentos decisivos. He has a broad selection of essays: La paradoja del primitivo, El aprendizaje de la decepción, Venecia, Baudelaire y el artista de la vida moderna, Diccionario de las artes, Salidas de tono, Lecturas compulsivas, La invención de Caín, Cortocircuitos: imágenes mudas, Esplendor y nada and La pasión domesticada. His most recent books are Ovejas negras, Abierto a todas horas and Autobiografía sin vida (Mondadori, 2010). An expert writer in all genres, his oeuvre is characterized by its remarkable sense of humour and a deep analytical capacity.