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PRINT September 1992

THE LOSER THING

BEFORE MARCEL PROUST BEGAN the Search, he slavishly devoted himself (with the help of his mother) to the translation of Ruskin’s art-historical writings, even though his spoken English was not good enough to order chops in a pub. He worshiped Ruskin as the arbiter of esthetic value and even made slavish pilgrimages to the sites in Europe where Ruskin wrote about Gothic architecture. He wanted to drink in the spirit incarnate about which Ruskin wrote so compellingly; to pay a personal visit to those small figures carved by anonymous medievals on church surfaces to see how they embodied the eternal fine points about salvation and oblivion. Sadly, he was disappointed with what he found and eventually blew off Ruskin as a fetishist.

Nietzsche’s apprenticeship to Wagner was also abject if ultimately effective. He misrecognized his own genius as his mentor’s, projecting onto him the dynamic role

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