In the first item of today’s Impromptus, I mention Oswald Spengler. (This column is the last in a series on Roger Kimball’s latest book, The Fortunes of Permanence.) I say that Spengler is better known as an adjective than as a writer and man. The same may be true of Orwell as well.
I do not happen to mention Spengler’s most famous work, The Decline of the West — and I thought I’d say something about it here. Something linguistic. In German, his title is Der Untergang des Abendlandes — that last word meaning, literally, “Evening Land.” The land where the sun sets.
I think of that chestnut from American history, where Franklin asks about the sun carved into Washington’s chair: Is it a rising sun or a setting sun? I also think of Cyril Connolly’s line, about “closing time in the gardens of the West.”
Whether the sun is rising or setting — or just hanging on — Roger Kimball’s book is exceptionally stimulating. It stimulated five columns from me, and I could have done at least five more. Barack Obama’s stimulus? More of a deflator, it seems to me. But that’s a whole ’nother post.
A final word, on the German language: Say what you will about the Germans — and, boy, is there a lot to say — their language is marvelous. When I was growing up, people said, “It’s ugly.” But then you hear a Schubert song and think, “Um, really?”
N.B.: This post has been amended.