20 August 2009

A Picabia poem (to compare with Nietzsche)

Let chance overflow

Faithful to nature and incomplete!
In the end I write what pleases me
But what pleases me???
That which I think I know how to do!
If I was allowed to choose freely
I wouldn't choose anything
Perhaps a little spot for myself
in the midst of happiness
and for me still
and more willingly before its door
My quill scrawls
Who then reads what I write?
But you are from above
for you live even above praise
Predestined to your orbit
you acknowledge only a single law
Be pure!

This is an example of what Marc Lowenthal alleges is Picabia's plagiarism of Nietzsche. The sources he gives for all but the last five lines are a couple of posts below (numbers 55, 57, and 59). The last five lines are allegedly from:

60 Higher men

He should be praised for climbing; yet
The other men comes always from a height
And lives where praise can never get–
Beyond your sight.

63 Star morals

Called a star's orbit to pursue,
What is the darkness, star, to you?

Roll on in bliss, traverse this age–
Its misery far from you and strange.

Let farthest world your light secure.
Pity is sin you must abjure.

But one command is yours: be pure!

Considering that Lowenthal translated the Picabia poems, used the same translation of Nietzsche as I have, and would want to make the best case for his claim of plagiarism that he could, I think we can discount translation for the differences between the Picabia poem and the Nietzsche ones.

Lowenthal makes a big deal of being the first to discover Picabia's plagiarism. I think he's making a bid for art historical relevance that's not warranted. If he'd toned down his claims to borrowings, appropriation, or influence, that would be a different story.

You have the evidence. What do you think? Plagiarism or not?


s. said...

It seems similar enough that it's conceivable that Picabia was, as you are, getting stuck into some Nietzsche, had a kind of overwhelming "Eureka!" moment of inspiration | influence | whatever and at some point shortly thereafter regurgitated what he had just read back up in his own way and filtered through his own perspective.

That basically describes the creative process, to a greater or lesser extent, and call it "plagiarism" is a bit hysterical.

David Cauchi said...

'If the work of another translates my dream, it is mine' – Picabia

'242 Suum cuique [To each their own] – However great the greed of my desire for knowledge may be, I still cannot take anything out of things that did not belong to me before; what belongs to others remains behind. How is it possible for a human being to be a thief or robber?'

'245 Praise by choice – An artist chooses his subjects; that is his way of praising' – Nietzsche

'Picabia's understanding of Nietzsche was sometimes superficial and problematic ... It is questionable to what degree a transformation takes place – either stylistically or conceptually – in Picabia's new contextualisations of Nietzsche ... Picabia's later aphorisms and writings were taken directly from Nietzsche, the specific sources for which have not previously been documented. Providing such documentation should provoke .. a reassessment of Picabia's legacy as a writer – a reassessment that may shift attention from his oft-cited aphorisms...' – Lowenthal

It's a self-aggrandising hatchet job.

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