29 Jul 2020

Breeur (1.1) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.1.1, “Hieronymus Bosch”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1.

The Last Judgment

 

1.1

Hieronymus Bosch

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(1.1.1) We often assume that the truth of historical events lies in their factual accounting and recordkeeping, for instance, the records of the genocide of Armenian peoples. We find a fantastical depiction of similar acts of torture in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment,” in the part showing a woman getting horseshoes nailed into her feet. (1.1.2) The objective reporting of facts will always fail to do justice to the truth of many of them, because they will not be able to fully convey the affective intensity of those truths, as seen for instance in historical events of atrocity. Artistic depictions, even fantastical ones like Bosch’s “The Last Judgment,” are better able to do so. Nonetheless, (even though the imagination is employed in fashioning such artistic presentations of the affective intensity of the truths of facts), the imagination also dilutes facts into images in such a way that they “become weak and empty over time.” (Liars, who conceal the truth, thus employ imagination, although “that imagination moves the liar far beyond the lie.”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.1.1

[Fact as Truth. Bosch’s Torture]

 

1.1.2

[Truth Beyond Fact. Imagination and Lie]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1.1.1

[Fact as Truth. Bosch’s Torture]

 

[We often assume that the truth of historical events lies in their factual accounting and recordkeeping, for instance, the records of the genocide of Armenian peoples. We find a fantastical depiction of similar acts of torture in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment,” in the part showing a woman getting horseshoes nailed into her feet.]

 

Breeur begins by noting Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment.”

 

(source: wiki)

 

Breeur mentions the various tortures and points in particular to a scene where a figure is hammering a horseshoe into a woman’s foot. (It might be what is shown in the image below, but I am not entirely certain.)

 
 

 

This image reminds Breeur of acts committed during the genocide of the Armenians (see the Appendix). He continues: “But these facts are also told by historians and by witnesses whose ex­periences were recorded. ‘Hence, it was all true’” (12).

My eyes fell recently on a new reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment.” Above is Christ as judge sur­rounded by the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, and the apostles. Below, the punishment of the damned, painted in somber colors. These castigations are eagerly carried out by a rough crew of monsters crawling across the country like in­sects on a piece of rotten meat. We witness how the damned are burned, speared, impaled, hung on butcher’s hooks, forced to eat excrements or thrown into bizarre machines that look like gigantic meat mills, and more of that fun. But one specific scene caught my attention. In the midst of all this cheerful violence, there is discernible, at a crumbled brothel and in a place that probably should have housed a blacksmith, one of these crazy figures nailing a horseshoe to a woman’s heel. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I came across descriptions of this horrible or­deal in books talking about the torture that the Armenians had endured before and during the 1915 genocide.4 But these facts are also told by historians and by witnesses whose ex­periences were recorded. “Hence, it was all true.”

(12)

4. Edgar Hilsenrath talks about this in his great novel The Story of the Last Thought. See the Appendix for more on this novel.

(12)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.1.2

[Truth Beyond Fact. Imagination and Lie]

 

[The objective reporting of facts will always fail to do justice to the truth of many of them, because they will not be able to fully convey the affective intensity of those truths, as seen for instance in historical events of atrocity. Artistic depictions, even fantastical ones like Bosch’s “The Last Judgment,” are better able to do so. Nonetheless, (even though the imagination is employed in fashioning such artistic presentations of the affective intensity of the truths of facts), the imagination also dilutes facts into images in such a way that they “become weak and empty over time.” (Liars, who conceal the truth, thus employ imagination, although “that imagination moves the liar far beyond the lie.”)]

 

[Facts have a truth to them. Objective reporting of facts is less able to reveal the truth of those facts than art is. This is because an aspect of the truth of facts is their affective intensity and ineffable significance, as seen for instance in cases of torture. (We might read an objective report of an event of torture, but only by being shocked by depictions of it, no matter how fantastical, will we really grasp the meaning of these truths fully. In other words, no extent of objective documentation can capture the truth of such an actual event as well as an artistic “misrepresentation” of it.) Although our imaginations are not powerful enough to invent facts, it is still the case that “Certain facts may only appear through their embedding in the imagination.”  Nonetheless, “the imagination dilutes these facts into images that become weak and empty over time.” Thus imagination plays a role in lying, because it’s dilutive activity of facts is what serves to conceal their truth: “There is no concealment of the truth without imagination.” Nevertheless, “that imagination moves the liar far beyond the lie.”]

I assume that this vicious barbarity was already applied in the time of Hieronymus Bosch. But the presence of that particular scene in “The Last Judgment,” painted around 1485, reinforced the reality of what I had read about that form of torture more than four centuries later. This fact confirms the trivial idea that art is better equipped to reveal the truth about some facts, and with an intensity that objective reports can rarely match. There is nothing in the scene that could disturb or distract attention from this clear and distinct representation. This atrocity, as painted in this work, is charged with such an intensity, is packed with such profound meaning, that it compresses a whole world of indignation, persecution, and blatant cruelty. From now on, I thought, one can still deny and reject these facts, but no one can ignore their truth any more. It is not the case that there are only interpretations and no facts. Rather, there is no interpretation that does not relate to facts. We don’t invent the latter. Our imaginations are not powerful enough for that. Certain facts may only appear through their embedding in the imagination, but the imagination dilutes these facts into images that become weak and empty over time. This weakness and emptiness are the fate of the liar. There is no concealment of the truth without imagination. But that imagination moves the liar far beyond the lie.

(13)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page

 

Image credits:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Judgment_(Bosch_triptych)#/media/File:Last_judgement_Bosch.jpg

 

Detail from

Frans Vandewalle

https://www.flickr.com/photos/snarfel/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/snarfel/6499704783

Creative Commons license:

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

 

Thanks Frans Vandewalle!

 

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